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This article was published 2/1/2012 (3550 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A S the gift-giving season winds to a close, one kind of gift is creating a booming business all of its own.
On the online classified site Kijiji, Manitobans have posted dozens of listings seeking cash or trades for gift cards that apparently missed the mark. For instance, one seller offered a $25 Cineplex card for under face value. "I got it for Christmas and have no intention of going to see movies," the seller wrote.
One Winnipeg woman — we’ll call her Jane Doe — found herself holding a $100 Walmart gift card, a Christmas gift from her boss. One small problem: "I don’t shop there," Doe chuckled. "Some people would just find it was a great gift, because who doesn’t shop at Walmart? But I try to buy locally."
So Doe decided to sell the card on Kijiji for a reasonable discount — although that has proved to be an adventure in itself. "I got so many different offers," she said. "One said ‘I can shovel snow for $110.’ How do you value that? It’s interesting some of the responses, but I just ignore the weird ones."
Across Canada, thousands of people are finding themselves in a similar spot. While almost $6 billion in gift cards are issued across Canada each year, one American study found as many as one in four cards goes unused.
That adds up to a whole lot of lockedup cash — unless, of course, folks can find a way to flip the cards, a demand that has paved the way for a bustling gift-card marketplace filled with big vendors such as Cardswap.ca — and for some, even a small business.
About three years ago, one Winnipeg man named Jayden started buying and reselling unwanted gift cards on sites such as Kijiji and eBay. At first, he was able to turn a respectable profit — but as other buyers crowded the market, he’s had to parlay it into more of a hobby.
"Now there’s too much competition, and the profit margins are relatively low," said Jayden, who said he’s had between 50 and 75 requests to buy unwanted gift cards since Christmas. "I buy them now for myself. I use some of them, trade some of them and gift some of them... I’ve seen many buyers come and go."
According to Jayden, among the most ubiquitous gift cards in the Winnipeg market are for iTunes — which don’t sell well — and the Keg. On the other end of the spectrum, Walmart and gas gift cards are hot sellers on eBay, he said, while Best Buy and Future Shop gift cards move quickly on Kijiji.
Despite the opportunity to get some cash for an unwanted card — or grab a wanted card for a good discount — Jayden noted buyers and sellers should be cautious when they take their gift cards online. Some of Winnipeg’s Kijiji sellers are sensitive to those concerns, pledging to confirm the gift card’s amount at the retailer or via a 1-800 number before any money trades hands.
Still, one American gift-etiquette expert cautions against taking risks when buying cards online.
"I don’t feel like there’s any sort of backup plan," said Leah Ingram, who blogs on the benefits of gift cards at Suddenlyfrugal.com. "I’ve received gift cards from legitimate people, and there’s been a problem… if you’re buying online, there’s no fail-safe."
While Ingram admits she’s a bit puzzled by the gift-card reselling trend — she’d prefer to re-gift cards she couldn’t use — she suggests gifters take care to find gift cards that are a good fit for recipients’ lives, such as a gift card for a university bookstore for students.
"I know it’s not sexy to say ‘I’m giving you a gift card to help you buy textbooks,’ " Ingram said. "But then you can feel confident that they’ll be able to use it."
Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.