Every January I'm reminded of how much I like gift certificates. I like giving them, and I like getting them. Receiving presents from people who truly know your tastes is lovely. But, the next best thing is for family and friends to know where you like to shop and to buy you a gift certificate at that store. I've heard more than one school teacher express a preference for gift cards over gifts of food, crafts or wine.
No one has ever offended me with a gift certificate. If it's from a place I like to shop, I'm grateful and delighted to receive it. What I like about giving them is, I know for a fact the recipient will get something he, or she likes -- perhaps, something that was left out of his Christmas stocking. Plus, the person I'm trying to make happy has the option of adding money to my gift -- for a splurge on an expensive item that she can now afford without busting her budget. If your brother loves Apple products, a $50 gift card buys one computer accessory, or is a generous contribution towards software or hardware. So there are few downsides to gift certificates. [Frankly, I can't think of any!]
If the receiver is family or a good friend, we often plan a day of shopping together and catching up. So along with a gift certificate, you're also giving and receiving the gift of time. [These outings began when I was too young to drive and needed a parent to take me shopping. Now with adult friends and a new generation of youngsters, the tradition continues.]
I'm lucky to have my birthday in the summer, and Christmas in winter. When the bi-yearly sales hit, I take my gift certificates and make out like a bandit, often with markdowns of 50% - 75% off. And because I take friends and relatives with me to redeem them, I have a collection of warm memories. Clearly it's time well spent.