Anonymous Financial Gift/Gift Cards
April 17, 2020 9:20 PM   Subscribe

We're a dual income family who received the stimulus yesterday. We've done donations to our preferred charities, and have a small amount left over that we'd like to give to friends who we know are in need. However, it feels a little smug to do this, and neither of us want to be like a jerk in Oliver Twist. Basically I'm looking for a way to send a few people $100 gift cards, but without them knowing it was us.

Local grocery chains have been attempted, they send virtual cards with subject lines like "Anon just sent you a gift card!" Paypal ties directly to one of our email addresses. Ideally I'd like to know from personal experience something like "hey, yes, when you mail a physical gift card from Target, there is no traceable information included in the package." (I've "chatted" with a Target employee online, they were not helpful.) I've googled, and most of the anonymous methods suggested prior to Covid are no longer accurate. I have physical addresses for postal mail, or email addresses. I'm not super picky about how they get sent, it just needs to be anonymous.

For those of you who may criticize this - we're genuinely attempting to help out friends who are in need. They've been given financial gifts from groups of friends, or from their religious institutions, and have been nothing but happy about it. We've contributed to those group gifts, and are just lucky enough in this instance to have a little more to share. The thought of their little ones not having food pains my heart, so please, don't judge me for our methods.
posted by anonymous to Shopping (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think your generous impulse is wonderful. I've been hearing a lot lately about supporting the postal service by buying stamps and sending things through the mail to keep their revenue going during this time when they are under attack by certain political factions, so I don't think that would be a bad way at all to get the cards into the hands of those who need them. A brief, anonymous card or note is all you need include.
I can't speak for Target, but I know that gift cards from the retailer I used to work for weren't traceable to the purchaser.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:36 PM on April 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Buy gift cards at the grocery store (every store has a display of every kind imaginable), pay cash, mail them.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:46 PM on April 17, 2020 [11 favorites]

If I received a random anonymous untraceable gift card/voucher I would assume it was one of a thousand COVID-related scams and throw it away/delete the email. There ain't no free. Not trying to dissuade you, just pointing out the very real possibility that your gift will be wasted.
posted by headnsouth at 11:54 PM on April 17, 2020 [24 favorites]

Please don’t do this anonymously. I know you’re trying to avoid the recipient feeling awkward around you, but by staying anonymous you’ll instead make them feel awkward and uncertain around *everyone* they suspect might have sent it. I’ve been in a position of significant hardship, and in a moment of particular crisis, friends left groceries on my doorstep. In better times, that might have been embarrassing. When I was truly desperate, I felt nothing but simple gratitude. I wanted to be able to say thank you and tell them what their kind gesture meant to me. This is not a time to be squeamish about talking about money or embarrassed to admit that you have more than your friends. That’s a middle-class hangup that quickly evaporates when you’re genuinely worried about keeping food in your belly and a roof over your head. Contact them and ask how you can help. They may prefer that you pay a utility bill or the rent rather than a grocery voucher. They may just prefer a bank transfer. Help in a way that they find most helpful, and please don’t put them in a position of awkward speculation and feeling confusingly indebted to everyone and no-one at the same time.
posted by embrangled at 12:11 AM on April 18, 2020 [52 favorites]

If you feel uncomfortable not doing it anonymously you could go for "Someone did this for us and we're paying it forward" (which, in a sense, is true).
posted by trig at 1:06 AM on April 18, 2020 [9 favorites]

I'm cut/pasting my previous reply to a similar question -

I definitely think the anonymous gift would leave me permanently uneasy.

I tend to think offers of significant help go down best if framed as: “I’ve been lucky enough to be the recipient of tremendous kindness in the past when I really needed it, and I promised the giver I would pay it forward when I’m able. I suddenly find myself in the position to do that, and I wonder if you’d accept this gift? I know you’ll pay it forward in turn one day to someone else, in your own way, when you’re able.” And accept gracefully if they decline. Doesn’t matter if the whole spiel is true, only that it depersonalises it and places you both as equals within a chain of giving, rather than unequally as giver and receiver.
posted by penguin pie at 4:07 AM on April 18, 2020 [20 favorites]

Loans are friendship ruiners, but gifts are fine. Honestly, if someone sent me an anonymous gift card, I would wonder if I were being stalked. I would use it, but I wouldn't feel good about it.
posted by betweenthebars at 4:18 AM on April 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Penguin's script is good. I think those words would suffice to allay stalking fears. Times have changed and people are in need. If some are able to share, it's in the general spirit of "in this together" to offer to others. I posted a similar question and ended up mailing anonymous gift cards, with similar wording. If the recipient doesn't want the card, they can easily pass it on to someone else. Or keep it on had as a last-resort resource. I'm planning to send a few more out this week. I can't do much, but I can do this. I've donated to several funds, but this matters to me - I have some friends who are legit struggling, and I want to help in a real way.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:36 AM on April 18, 2020

I would only amend penguin pie's suggestion to addWe are doing okay and decided our stimulus check should be re-distributed. and The enclosed Grocery card is legit, easily verified at Grocery.

I'm doing okay myself, though not so well as to be able to donate all my stimulus $, and if someone sent me this, knowing it was their stimulus cash would make me more likely to accept. My grocery would be able to verify it by phone or email, get the details, include them. And thank you for sharing.
posted by theora55 at 7:47 AM on April 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

I can see why you'd be awkward about here's money for you. What about approaching them with something like this instead: Friend, back before physical distancing, one of our favorite things was going out to dinner with friends. Now we're feeling cut off, so we wanted to try to recreate that. I wanted to see if you'd be available on Friday. I will plan on ordering some wine and dinner from restaurant to be delivered to each of our homes, and we can start up a Zoom video chat and enjoy a nice meal and conversation. We'd love having a chance to spend some time with you, and you can return the favor in the future at some point when things get back to normal.
posted by willnot at 8:34 AM on April 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Include a handwritten card and use a hand addressed envelope to make it less likely to appear like some weird scam.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:31 AM on April 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Any small business would bend over backwards right now to make this happen for you, in any way you wish. Stop trying to deal with Target and grocery conglomerates. Do your friends have kids? There must be a mom and pop toy shop close by. Local craft breweries?
posted by humboldt32 at 9:36 AM on April 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I don't think you need to bend over backwards with a shpiel. Something like, "I'm sorry for your bad luck. Here -- you deserve our stimulus check because we still have our jobs" makes eminent sense from a fairness point of view.
posted by slidell at 11:34 AM on April 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Those suggesting craft breweries and wine and delivered restaurant meals: if the OP is genuinely worried about kids going hungry, these are not appropriate or respectful options. People with access to money like to give in ways that allow them to pretend money isn’t involved in the transaction. This is almost entirely about the *gifter’s* comfort. For the recipient, what it can feel like is yet another unhelpful restriction on how they can use their already very limited resources. Imagine having plenty of craft beer but no breakfast cereal. Or a nice dinner once a week while the rent arrears notices pile up. Or a grocery voucher for a store you can’t easily get to, with no money to pay the utility bill. And feeling powerless to say anything about it, because you ought to be grateful, even though your most pressing problems are worse than ever. These situations are maddening, and they can make the recipient feel even more powerless. Unless you have a solid reason to doubt the recipients’ ability to manage their family’s resources, suck it up and have an honest conversation about what they need and how you can help. Or just give them money.
posted by embrangled at 4:31 PM on April 18, 2020 [11 favorites]

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