A gift voucher (sometimes called a gift certificate) has a couple of profitable features (from the retailer's point of view).

  1. If you receive a gift voucher you are forced to buy from that particular store. Had you been given cash instead you would have been free to spend elsewhere (despite this, people keep buying gift vouchers under the illusion that it's more thoughtful as a gift).
  2. The store profits whether you use the voucher or not. For example, say you receive a $20 voucher from a CD shop - if you redeem this voucher you take an item which has already been paid for, from the store's point of view this is just like a normal sale. Should you forget about the voucher or simply choose not to use it the store has not only made $20 for nothing but the CD you could have chosen remains on the shelves for someone else to buy.
You might be thinking "but who wouldn't use a freebie? You'd have to be a complete moron and not even worthy of gifts and/or survival." Remember though that the actual certificate (the bit you hand in to get your stuff) is usually just a piece of paper/thin card and can sometimes look like a phone bill or court order etc. Considering this it's quite likely that many vouchers get carelessly "lost" or thrown out. The result (from you, the recipient's perspective) is that you end up with no gift at all. Looks like the shop wins this round...

Corporate whores