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Got Gift Cards? Cash 'Em In, Like NOW

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Don't let those gift cards you got for Christmas expire just 'cuz you don't want to get off your tush and use 'em.

gift cards

Vivian Manning-Schaffel: Get a lot of gift cards this season? Stack 'em up and get to cashin' 'em in! A study cited in The New York Times says companies hang onto millions of dollars in merch because Americans are prone to procrastinating pleasure.

The authors of the study, Suzanne B. Shu and Ayelet Gneezy, distributed gift certificates for movie tickets and French pastries. Some of 'em expired within two to three weeks, while others were redeemable for six to eight weeks. Check the results in the article:

"The people who received the long-term certificates were more confident than the others that they would redeem the gifts -- a logical enough assumption, given all the extra time they had. But they just kept putting it off, and ultimately they were more likely to let the gift go unredeemed than the people who had received the short-term certificates."

I know, I know...why on earth would anyone blow off free goods? The researchers found found pleasure procrastinators are prone to thinking better opportunities will present themselves if they just wait a little longer.

"People can become overly focused on an ideal," Dr. Shu said. "Even if they know it's unlikely, they get so focused on the perfect scenario that they block everything else. Or they anticipate that they'll kick themselves later if they take second-best option and then see the best one is still available. But they don't realize that regret can go the other way. They'll end up with something worse and regret not taking the second-best one."

How to beat the pleasure procrastination syndrome? Get to shopping! And don't do it for yourself, do it for the person who gave you the gift card in the first place. In the article, Dr. Shu says the quicker, the better. " 'The biggest danger is that it will be forgotten and expire,' she said. 'One of the best presents you can give back to the giver is to use it quickly and then tell them how much you enjoyed it. The regret from not using it will be bigger than the regret from using it on a nonperfect occasion, for you and especially for the person who gave it.'"

I'm totally guilty of this grass-is-always-greener idealism and plan on spending those hot little gift cards as we speak. For my mom, of course!

What about you guys? Do you forget to cash 'em in sometimes?

next: The Holiday Aftermath
2 comments so far | Post a comment now
Lindy December 31, 2009, 9:51 AM

I hold on to it until I find something I really want to buy.

rosecityqueen December 31, 2009, 9:47 PM

It is illegal for gift cards to expire.

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