Big gift of 2019

A new survey says 77 percent of shoppers are sure they'll get at least one. Then a lot of it will wind up in Delaware. Also, 7 other things worth reading.

I’m Bill Murphy Jr. Welcome to Understandably. Thanks for reading.
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It’s a short holiday shopping season this year, so let’s get right to it and identify the hot gift of 2019.

Ready? Gift cards.

I was so disappointed to hear this, but it’s true—at least according to a survey of 3,000 U.S. consumers that found:

  • On average shoppers will spend about $213.49 on gift cards this year (up 7 percent from 2018)

  • 77 percent of shoppers are confident they’ll buy at least one gift card

  • Across the board, gift cards will make up more than one-third of the total spent on holiday gifts (35 percent to be exact) .

Billions and billions

Now, not that I haven’t enjoyed a good gift card in my day — and certainly I’ve given my share — but it seems to me this is getting a bit out of hand.

Let’s zero in on the money that gets spent on gift cards but is never actually used for anything.

A professor at Harvard Business School (I didn’t go there, but I wrote a book about the place), used a weird example to describe the perfect business: a post office box that people simply sent checks to every month for no discernible reason.

It once sounded far-fetched. But now it’s not far off from what happens to a lot of people — they sign up for paid subscriptions, or buy gift cards, and forget about them.

It’s a giant amount: at least $1 billion a year from unused gift cards as of 2018.

Reportedly there is between $2 billion and $4 billion sitting around unused on the Starbucks and Amazon gift cards we’re all holding.

10 percent of the budget

This makes a nice boon for (of all places), the state of Delaware, which makes a claim on lots of unclaimed funds being held by companies incorporated there.

With so many incorporations there, “unclaimed property … [accounts for] about 10 percent of [the] state's budget and one of its biggest sources of income,” according to The Inquirer.

So, to guard against this, please follow my lead:

About 10 years ago, I went to a wedding. I knew the bride and groom pretty well, and let’s just say I thought that I got them a gift card to Williams Sonoma or someplace on their registry, they’d never use it.

Instead, I bought them $200 worth of margarita salt, figuring that they’d have to return it and get something they really wanted.

Better than being known as an uncreative gift-giver, and risking it all winding up in Wilmington anyway.

7 other things worth reading today

  1. An Airbnb rental turned out to be a New York City public housing apartment. Not allowed. (Fox 5 New York)

  2. President Jimmy Carter is in the hospital. (Associated Press)

  3. The Army has a new recruiting campaign that plays down the part about fighting and war.

  4. Google has an agreement with the second-largest U.S. health care system to capture private health data from millions of Americans. (Me on Inc.)

  5. Google Glass 9.0? Companies are racing to build the smart glasses to replace smart phones. (CNBC)

  6. People are going WAY underwater on car loans. (The Wall Street Journal)

  7. An Idaho library has a problem: Someone keeps hiding library books that are critical of Trump. (The New York Times)

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