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Abstract

This study provides new insights into the meaning and value of gift cards in gift exchange among teenagers who gave and/or received gift cards during the Christmas/Hanukkah season. From their reflections of the reasons for giving gift cards and their feelings about receiving gift cards from others, the social roles played out in buying gift cards as a gift selection strategy are assessed and the values associated with gift cards explored. The results suggest that givers playing the roles of acknowledger and pleaser are heavy gift card givers when buying gifts for difficult recipients. Acknowledgers incorporate gift cards into existing strategies for gift selection (especially “settle,” “pawn off,” and “buy relationship affirming gifts”), but for pleasers, buying gift cards may be part of a new gift selection strategy—“play it safe.” Importantly, although gift cards can reflect economic, social, and functional value, the giving of gift cards seems to result in a new form of value for the recipients—the value of choice, which occurs when the control over gift selection is transferred from giver to receiver. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.