When is a gift not really a gift?
I am pondering this question after a small moment of unexpected euphoria crept in this week during a shopping expedition for furniture. Happily, this was not my shopping expedition, but one for a family member – I was merely the chauffeur.
Furniture shopping fills me with dread. It’s such a big responsibility. How many times in one’s lifetime do you buy a hall table, buffet, coffee table, television cabinet all coordinating to match? What happens if the wood grain or stain doesn’t match the rest of the decor? How do I tell the difference between my oaks, teaks and my walnuts and should one mix their cherry with their maple? Questions, questions….always questions.
Given that I was the not the major player in this expedition I was fairly relaxed. There were no decisions for me to make other than which voice would be barking directions from the GPS. I am happy to report that all went well and the furniture was dutifully purchased. The furniture though came with a “gift”.
The sales assistant proudly explained that she would provide a gift certificate for accommodation to the value of some thousands of dollars. Let me reassure you this was not the motivation for the furniture purchase as were unaware of the offer until the decision point had been reached. My family member advised that she would give the certificate to me as a thank you for driving her that day as she had no need for it. In my head I was off and running on my dream holiday to an exotic island location with hula boys, crystal blue waters, fine white sand, colourful alcoholic drinks with paper umbrellas, plastic monkeys and maraschino cherries.
Not so fast! The slippery slide into the realm of the ridiculous beckons:
Step 1: decent from overseas paradise to local – the accommodation is for Australia only. Fade out the hula boys, but OK, there is much of the country left to see.
Step 2: Decent from local to weekend whirlwind – the accommodation is for a maximum of two night’s stay. Well crumbs, who stays somewhere only for two nights unless it is for a family funeral or business trip? Maybe we could tack on some extra nights and make it a true getaway. That’s going to cost something, my wallet is starting to weep just a little.
Step 3: Decent from local weekend whirlwind to the ridiculous – to get the accommodation you have to pay for breakfast and dinner for each person for each night. Really? Have you seen the price of hotel food lately? Captive meal audience amounts to hotel funny money rip-off. And the gift requires the purchase of not one, but two meals per day!
At this point I feel I am looking the gift horse squarely in the mouth and can see not only its tonsils, but its digestive tract as well! And I haven’t even started with the registration, booking and administration required to claim the “gift”.
Of course, these sorts of schemes are designed with people like me in mind. The profit comes from breakage, meaning unredeemed gift certificates. These companies make the initial offer sound irresistible and then litter the path of redemption with obstacles to the point where the offer is only for the truly tenacious.
I don’t mean to be ungrateful, but this is just one asterisk too many. Whatever happened to the good old days when the gift was a real and tangible set of steak knives? Or better yet, no gift, but proper pricing?
Beware the horse bearing gifts for he shall put you to work. Maybe if I had the steak knives I could cut through all of those conditions…