Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dating & The Gift Card Debate

Who knew a simple little thing like a gift card could strike fear in the hearts of men? A good example of this is a recent question on a dating advice blog, not mine, where a gentleman asked if he could use a gift card on a date. In his line of work, he receives several fine dining cards as a thank you for services rendered. He couldn’t imagine ever dining alone in the upscale locations and wondered if he could share one with a date.

Nine separate women felt compelled to tell him, “no way.” A few went on to say that he’s a cheap jerk to even think of using a gift card. Another went on to call him names that aren’t even printable. What gives here? If you are a meal whore (women who only go out on dates to mooch food), then why would you care if he used a restaurant gift card? Many people also give prepaid credit cards as gifts too. How would you know your date wasn’t using one of these? Would you demand to see the card, or just try to read it upside down to see if his name is on it?

The one word that jumped out at me from the responses is cheap. Women are afraid if a guy uses a gift card that he’s cheap. Even if you go out to a chain restaurant, a typical meal costs between $50-$60 for two.  Go to a better restaurant, double that price. If this is any date prior to number six, you can bet he’s dating more than one woman. The man may go out anywhere from eight to ten times a month spending from $400-$800 on dating meals alone. No matter how modern women consider themselves they still expect the man to pay for the date.

What if women paid? Gift cards suddenly seem appropriate. What is all this gift card nonsense about anyhow? It is more about control. I, the woman, can make you, the man, lay out so much money on me. Some women value their date by how much money he spends. If the man uses a gift card that negates some of the date value, it is also hard to tell how much money he’ll willingly spend on her, which makes it hard to decide on a second date.

If a woman uses this type of measurement, she uses money as a determiner if she’ll date him. Why not cut to the chase and ask him to list all his assets on a napkin or flourish his most recent check stub. Sounds rather crass put that way, but no more crass than being insistent on how much money should be spent on you during a date. A woman who eschews the use of a gift card is practicing this same behavior.

The gift card is also used to tell how serious a guy is. As I said before a man can be dating many women. He also may have a wallet full of gift cards. He could be in a profession where he is always getting gift cards. Women judge he’s not that serious about her because he’s using a gift card. That could be the absolute truth. Not every woman will be the answer to his dream; just like every guy a woman dates is not her dream man either.

It seems like there is no way a man can win when it comes to gift cards. Often a man, when in a quandary about what to buy for a woman, will resort to a gift card at her favorite store or spa. He’s accused of being an uncaring jerk for this behavior. Really, did the woman want an ugly dress, another terrycloth robe, or lingerie in a too small size? Women who have this reaction shouldn’t expect too many future gifts.

I used to work at an upscale women’s store. Whenever a woman would come in with a gift certificate, we assured her that someone must love her very much to know the perfect gift to get her, and also bless her with a shopping trip to pick it out. The woman, now excited she was so well loved, happily shopped.  She was a great deal better off than the woman stomping around declaring her man didn’t love her because he got her a gift card. Expect she’ll get something from the drugstore next year.

So ladies, and men, does it really matter if someone uses a gift card? Sometimes I think it is about setting a precedent. Men don’t normally like to drop a wad of money on someone they might not like. Expensive restaurants aren’t necessarily fast; do you want to suffer through a two hour meal with someone who doesn’t suit?

If you do have a gift card for a pricey, slow restaurant you might want to stow it until you find out the woman is actually worth your time. You’ll know by date three if she’ll freak out if you flash a gift card. It must be horribly humbling for a man to hear he is only valued for what he spends on woman. She’s not there for his company or his witty repartee.

On the other hand, these women who insist you can’t use gift cards, may not be going out that much. Some women have so many rules about dating them, it is almost like joining a new religion. Some men just aren’t eager or willing converts.  I’ll ask you once again. If a gift card is all it takes to tip a scales against a man, then you must be looking for excuses to stay home then.  

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