One more banana

Today’s assignment: burn up a gift card at the supermarket. Difficulty: I need fruits and vegetables, which don’t always come neatly prepackaged and/or prepriced.

Last time I was faced with a dilemma of this sort, I wound up sacrificing $1.60, so this time I vowed to do better, and to do the math in my head. The problem, of course, comes with the unofficial scale in the produce department, which is accurate to approximately zero significant digits.

And I did better, using up all but thirty-nine cents. It occurred to me that if I’d gotten one additional banana I might have come closer, though two might have put me over the mark. Yes, it would have been simpler to go over and pay the difference in cash, but that’s not how I roll.

There’s a service called Gift Card Giver which takes these unused balances and puts them to good use, but they require that you mail in the actual card, and I am for some reason disinclined to use a 41-cent stamp to send off a 39-cent gift card.

Maine, meanwhile, is considering a measure that would mandate cash refunds on balances of $5 or less. A representative of the Hannaford supermarket chain argued before the state’s Judiciary committee that such a rule “would negatively affect the economics of the gift card program,” which qualifies, I think, as duh-worthy.


  1. fits »

    1 March 2008 · 11:05 pm

    It is estimated that over a billion dollars a year go unclaimed in gift cards. Which is why the retail industry does love them so very much.

    Free money. Only in America, a land so very rich that such a vast sum can literally get swept under the rug.

  2. McGehee »

    2 March 2008 · 1:57 pm

    Whereas I would bridle at the notion of not using up every last penny on such a card, even if only to supplement cash payment on a much larger purchase.

    For Christmas I got a $25 gift card for Bass Pro Shops, and found nothing on the sales floor that really floored me so I ended up using it online — toward a $99 purchase of the only thing I ever did find there that I considered worth buying.

    Had I spent $24.97 of that $25, I would have kept the card and used it to reduce the total on a later purchase by three cents. But then, I have Scottish ancestry, and you don’t get the three and a half cubic acres of cash to fill your money bin, by wasting pennies on unused gift cards.

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