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Eric Bergeson

COUNTRY SCRIBE: Christmas list

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Count me amongst the world's fortunate: I cannot for the life of me think of one thing I want for Christmas.

I walked up and down the mall the other day. It all bored me. Only the pet store drew me in with its cuteness and possibility, but five minutes of that thought was enough.

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The pet store is no place for impulsive decisions.

The book store carries fewer interesting books all the time. Perhaps the good books have been already written. That's why I like used book stores better than new book stores.

People give me gift cards for books stores and other places, and I give others gift cards, but I really wonder if anybody ever uses them. I don't. They sit in my sock drawer. I try to remember to bring them along, but I don't.

So the cards decay. Not literally. They're plastic. But their value can decline through fees. Or, if you never get around to using the cards, the company gets off scott free.

When a gift card languishes in the bowl by the washer where I put keys, markers, chewing gum, small change and munched up toothpicks, it gets dirty. Who wants to walk into a store with a gift card caked with spearmint gum?

I shouldn't care what the clerks at the store think, but I do.

"I am sorry, but this gift card was purchased in 2003," the clerk says, which was when she entered junior high and well before the invention of Twitter.

I can see her Twitter to her Twitter mates: "I had, like, this really weird guy come in today with, like, a gift card from before I was, like, born."

About $5 billion worth of gift cards go unused each year, according to a consumer publication. Recently, the estimated total value of unused gift cards sitting in the nation's sock drawers was $41 billion.

So, I am not the only one.

We millions of gift card hoarders should arrange to use our gift cards in one day and see what that does to the stock market!

Some people give me gift certificates for local businesses for Christmas. Local gift certificates are nice. I like to spend other peoples' money at local businesses.

But now it gets personal. What happens when the business changes hands? How must it feel as a business owner to have somebody walk in with a gift certificate that's not only from a previous decade, but from a previous owner?

Small towns being what they are, the business owner is also a friend, or at least they're trying their best. Do you really want them to think you are some sort of a jerk, bringing in gift certificates that are long off the books?

I have decided I won't use the 2004 certificate in 2013 if the business changed hands in 2008. You have to draw the line somewhere.

In fact, I have trouble using local gift certificates that are more than six months old. It just doesn't seem fair.

Why? I have sold gift certificates. Once you sell them, you forget you sold them. You spend the money. There's a record somewhere, but who looks at that.

When you own a business, nothing's more deflating than to watch a massive order advance towards the till--only to have the customer pull out a fist full of gift certificates to pay for it all!

Here I anticipated an increase in income, only to find out I had spent the money already and was now paying back the debt.

Of course, most shoppers end up buying a lot more than is covered by their gift certificate. That is why businesses love to sell gift certificates. Some customers don't use them, which is great, and those who do buy more than intended, which is also great.

Or, not so great, if you're the customer.

When it comes to Christmas gifts, probably the best thing you can buy me are socks. For some reason, I resist buying new socks myself, even though the last time I looked they cost less than 80 cents per pair.

I wear them until holes appear, and until they are so thin that they fill with gravel when you go up for the mail without shoes.

There's nothing better than slipping into a crispy, fresh new pair of socks. Yet, I never get around to buying them, just as I never get around to spending gift cards.

For your information, I like 100% cotton. My shoe size is nine-and-a-half. I don't need the socks to cover my knee caps, but I don't like those little anklet things, either.

Thanks in advance. Merry Christmas to you, too.

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