/ Money, Shopping

Millions of gift vouchers go unspent

Brown envelope with ribbon

Well, well – who’s sitting on all the gift vouchers then? Apparently there could be as much as £576m worth of unused vouchers gathering dust in British homes. So why aren’t we spending them?

Our very own Money Researcher Oli Smith asked whether gift vouchers were a ‘coward’s way out’ a couple of weeks back. He’d found that many vouchers went unspent, often expiring while they languished amongst other forgotten pieces of paper.

Well, it looks like he was right, with the latest research by website Groupola.com finding that most Brits have unspent vouchers. Of the 1,621 adults asked, almost three quarters said they had some at home. Deary me.

When asked how much those vouchers were worth, the average came to £20. Groupola did a little bit of maths and found that if you apply these results to the approximate 40 million adults in the UK, there could be £576m worth of unused vouchers. For the love of all nice things – go buy some books, CDs, clothes, or whatever else before the vouchers expire!

But the statistics get worse – half of those with unused vouchers said they probably wouldn’t use them, meaning they’ll all end up in the bin. When pushed further 66% said they just ‘wouldn’t get round to it’ and 13% that they’d often forgotten about them.

Yet, commenters on Which? Convo are quite taken with gift vouchers. G L Attaway was resolute that they weren’t a coward’s way out, saying vouchers were “an ideal gift for the ‘one who has everything'”. And Cathi said she loves getting a gift voucher, especially for online stores where she can “choose to spend [the voucher] as and when on what I like”.

This is reflected by 53% of Groupola’s respondents saying they often buy gift vouchers for friends and family, even though 66% said they personally prefer actual presents.

So if we’re buying them for others, why aren’t we spending them ourselves?

Sophie Gilbert says:
23 September 2010

Why people who are given vouchers don’t spend them is utterly beyond me (they must be better off than I am for a start), but maybe this raises this more important question: if we are buying vouchers with money, which doesn’t have an expiry date, why do we allow shops to give us vouchers with expiry dates?

I have/had a £10 voucher from a major Clothing Store for years – But the nearest branch will take me over three hours return journey to get there- There is little that I can actually buy with £10 anyway.

I’d far sooner a “voucher” of the same value with the Queen’s head on – that I can spend anywhere. In fact generally I give cash for presents because then the recipient can spend it on EXACTLY what they want.

Knit1Pearl says:
23 September 2010

In my view, gift vouchers are an excuse for a present. I’d rather have my ‘gift’ in ten-pence pieces – at least then we’d all be clear about the amount of thought that went into it…

Sophie Gilbert says:
24 September 2010

I agree that sometimes vouchers are given as an expedient, and giving someone a voucher to a store that’s an hour and a half’s journey away is rather unkind, nae luck there. However, vouchers can be useful if used judiciously.

If I didn’t mind giving my brother, who lives very far away, a big cheque for his 40th birthday (I couldn’t envisage sending him 10 pence pieces throught the post), I must admit that I’d find it very strange to give my friends money. A friend of mine got married recently and to cut a very long story short my parents, my husband and I all chipped in to buy her a voucher to a store near her where her husband-to-be had seen particular cooking implements that weren’t on the wedding list and that would have been difficult for me to buy. So my friends got what they wanted, thought did go into the process, and I didn’t give my friend just money. If that makes sense. Maybe it’s just me?

Gerard Phelan says:
25 September 2010

A friend kindly gave me a £20 theatre voucher, but it is not usable at the local theatre. I could use it at a Central London theatre, but that means going in ( £10 rail fare ) just to book in person and hand over the voucher. Since I rarely go to Central London except when another friend organises theatre trips via her discount scheme ( vouchers not available ), then the years are going by without using the voucher.

Another set of vouchers I have are for John Lewis. These my employer gives as rewards for various events like working for x years or achieving x years without an accident. These vouchers carry with them the moral imperative that they be spent on something significant. Well having furnished my house years ago, there are not so many things I need which would be “significant”, so these more valuable vouchers remain in limbo awaiting the right opportunity.

Mark Wain says:
20 November 2013

Why is it legal for stores e.g. amazon to sell gift vouchers with an expiry date? This is like your bank saying that if you don’t use the money in your account by a certain date they will be able to keep it!!!