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Friday, December 5, 2008

There goes that idea

We usually give people gift cards from various merchants as Christmas presents. This year, we're afraid that the merchants will be declaring bankruptcy at 12:01 a.m. on December 26, and the cards won't be honored. Are we missing something, or isn't this a serious risk?

Comments (23)

My understanding is that FDIC has decided to secure gift cards -- it started with the sharper image debacle. There are limits based on how the retailer treats the funding for the cards though: http://www.fdic.gov/news/news/financial/2008/fil08129.html

seems like the best bet is to buy a real gift, include receipt, and let them return it if they don't like it.

I ain't trusting that FDIC thing. It seems kinda sketchy.

Then again, so does a check drawn on a bank these days...

Yeah, if the merchant is separately depositing the funds in an FDIC institution, you're OK. But I suspect most of the funds are part of the cash flow.

Sorry this is long...but here's the list I got...

> I wanted to give everyone a heads up that if you tend to
> give gift cards
> around the holidays, you need to be careful that the cards
> will be
> honored after the holidays. Stores that are planning to
> close after
> Christmas are still selling the cards through the holidays
> even though
> the card is will be worthless January 1. There is no law
> preventing them
> from doing this. On the contrary, it is referred to as
> 'Bankruptcy
> Planning). Below is a partial list of stores that you need
> to be
> cautious about.
> Circuit City (filed Chapter 11)
> Ann Taylor- 117 stores nationwide closing
> Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug ,and Catherine's to close 150
> stores nationwide
> Eddie Bauer to close stores 27 stores and more after
> January
> Cache will close all stores
> Talbots closing down specialty stores
> J. Jill closing all stores (owned by Talbots)
> Pacific Sunwear (also owned by Talbots)
> GAP closing 85 stores
> Footlocker closing 140 stores mo re to close after !
> January
> Wickes Furniture! closing down
> Levitz closing down remaining stores
> Bombay closing remaining stores
> Zales closing down 82 stores and 105 after January
> Whitehall closing all stores
> Piercing Pagoda closing all stores
> Disney closing 98 stores and will close more after January.
> Home Depot closing 15 stores 1 in NJ ( New Brunswick )
> Macys to close 9 stores after January
> Linens and Things closing all stores
> Movie Galley Closing all stores
> Pep Boys Closing 33 stores
> Sprint/Nextel closing 133 stores
> JC Penney closing a number of stores after January
> Ethan Allen closing down 12 stores.
> Wilson Leather closing down all stores
> Sharper Image closing down all stores
> K B Toys closing 356 stores
> Loews to close down some stores
> Dillard's to close some stores

Radio finance guy Clark Howard says if you are going to give a gift card just give an equivalent amount of cash. I agree with him.

When you buy a gift card you are taking a secure asset (bucks) and exchanging it for an unsecured promise of merchandise.

If you are buying the gift card because the store will wrap it in a box and put a bow on it, just wrap the money and put a bow on it.

Laurelann, Snopes.com says your list of retailers contains a good deal of wrong or misleading information.

Are the gift cards really any riskier than cash? You might consider giving Swiss francs.

I was thinking canned tuna.

Dave J.-
Thanks for the correct information!

canned tuna

Good idea. Much more negotiable.

Dave J.,
Good point. Maybe Euros.

I understand that lead is a good choice in terms of precious metals and tin comes in a close second.
So the cans of tuna work but you also might want to stock up on ammunition.

Don't give canned tuna. Give canned mackerel instead.


Mike Fearl

While I'm hardly the barometer of the national, or even local economic condition, I'm having a hard time believing the direness of the economic situation as it's being played up on the main stream media.

I don't see anyone broke, homeless or without a job that weren't that way a year ago. And for the record, I'm strictly middle-class and have been my entire life, even dipping into the lower middle-class a few times, so this isn't a case of myself looking down upon those less fortunate either. In all honesty, I'm disabled with a spinal tumor and am living on a fixed income and still I just don't see, nor feel, the "depression/recession" that is being shoved down the throats of the general public, content to believe whatever the press or network news tells them.

Hell, I have liberal friends who keep telling me how bad off I am and I'm going "What are you talking about? Don't you think I would know it if I were in dire straits economically speaking?" I've been homeless before, twice as a matter of fact, so I should damn well know what's bad and what's good, economically speaking on a personal level.

And I too always give gift certificates every year, only because I hate to shop for others. I never know what they like, or want, so I let them decide for themselves and this year is no exception and I have absolutely no qualms whatsoever about their being honored when presented.

Things just aren't as bad as they're made out to be and while the economy isn't great - I'm not blind nor stupid; my savings have taken a dent but nothing catastrophic - it's going to be back to normal by this summer. I lived, as I'm sure you did too, through the REAL recession (to me what we're going through wasn't ANYWHERE as bad we had back in the 70's under the Carter administration) and I also remember sitting in gas lines for hours and at the time, the news was saying then that the end times were near. But as usual, they were wrong about that (it got better far faster than they claimed it would) and the main stream media (as opposed to what these days, eh?) is wrong about this as well.

Please relax Jack. It's the Christmas season and you should be enjoying yourself and your family. I know you care about your fellow man as I do, and I appreciate that, but relax and enjoy the things you do have.

Again, I'm wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas.


To paraphrase from an article in NY Mag: we must not allow the Dow Jones to become the national happiness index.

Turn off the tv, turn off the stock updates, and enjoy your lives.

Happy Holidays!

Powell's Books isn't going out of business, it's local and independent and its gift cards NEVER expire.

I don't see anyone broke, homeless or without a job that weren't that way a year ago.

I admire (envy?) your optimism, Michael, but I'm afraid it's a bit myopic, if you'll forgive my blunt honesty. Have you seen the job numbers out today? HORRIBLE! 1.9 million jobs lost just this year alone. The published employment rate is 6.7%; the actual rate is much higher. Retirees (and those about to retire) have lost a true fortune in the stock market. People can't get loans, and everyone's house is worth much less today than it was a year ago. One out of 10 mortgages is in--or is about to enter--foreclosure.

On the personal level, several of my good friends have lost their jobs in recent months, and none of them have been able to find work since. And these are good people, with marketable skills. My employer has instituted a hiring freeze, as have most others, meaning that if a company isn't firing, it sure as hell isn't hiring. It is bleak out there--very bleak.

I don't disagree Dave, but tell me this - how many of these people who can't get loans really qualify for them anyway? Isn't that how we got here, by bending the rules and tossing out regulations that restricted credit to those that could afford to pay it back? You're totally right about retirees and house prices, but you don't lose value in your house until you sell it and realize the loss. Perhaps we need to stop looking at houses as pure investments and equity-line piggy banks and remember that they are first a utility (housing & shelter).

Yeah, that'll help -- moralizing. Thanks, Mike.


I'm sorry but people buying houses that could barely afford to pay just the interest on the mortgage, betting that it would continue to over-appreciate and that they could re-finance it before the payments skyrocketed was just a plain bad thing. It isn't only their fault, they shouldn't have even been offered a interest only loan like that. If you can't currently afford the payments that fully pay back your mortgage over a standard amortization schedule you shouldn't be buying that house.

I understand that some people are in bad shape because of the loss of a job, or health reasons, but that is totally different, and has always happened.

What is even worse is all these creative loans with teaser rates and payments drove the prices of houses up, so the people that could normally afford a standard mortgage on a standard house couldn't afford to buy a house without opting for one of these stupid sub-prime loans. Some people were smart enough and said "this is just crazy, I'll wait until things return to normal" and didn't buy a house.

We were luck in that we were able to buy our house before the big run up, sure it has lost "value" in the last year, but it was fake value... It is still worth more than we paid/owe on it, so all is OK at this point.

If you were to rent a decent three-bedroom house in Portland, it could easily cost you $5,000 up front (first and last month's rent and a security deposit, pet deposit, etc.). So the people who bought houses with no money or very little money down essentially were renting from the bank. They aren't out much,if any, equity. And they still got a tax deduction on their interest. So why again should these people's mortgages be bailed out?

Who says they will be bailed out?

My guess on who won't be bailed out, regardless of the terms of the mortgage they hold:
(1) Anyone current on their payments.
(2) Anyone with enough documented income to make the current payments.
(3) Anyone with at least some equity in their home.
(4) Anyone with enough other assets that they could pull themselves out on their own, by dumping those assets at fire-sale prices

This sends out a terrible message, I guess, but that's what's happened to everyone and everything else in our financial system, from the corporate elite on down: Screw up a lot, get bailed out; screw up just a little, forget it. We need someone to keep the scam propped up.

What drives Mike and others like him nuts, I guess, is the intolerable thought that, in order to save some of the pain that the righteous are about to suffer, it may be necessary to help some of the less deserving.

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