That's a powerfully practical present

12/04/2007 12:00 AM

12/04/2007 3:25 AM

From the e-mails, voice mails and snail mail:

SHOCK VALUE -- Having trouble finding the perfect Christmas gift for that hard-to-buy-for friend or loved one?

Here's a possible stocking stuffer: A Turlock Irrigation District gift card. The utility is selling them in $25, $50 and $100 denominations. You can use them to pay the power bill any time of year, including when it spikes in the summer because you're running your air conditioner or in the winter to help pay for -- you guessed it -- your Christmas lights.

After all, nothing says "I love you" these days like a gift card from a utility or gas company -- particularly at $3.30 per gallon for unleaded.

You can get the TID cards online at www.tid.com, by phone at 877-770-4438 or by visiting the customer service offices in Turlock, Ceres or Patterson.

The TID might be on to something here. Generally, gift cards are from retail stores, gas stations, coffee vendors, restaurants and the like.

Other industries or agencies could follow its lead. Here are a few suggestions:

Health care. Granted, they'd need to come in larger denominations -- say, $100,000, $250,00 and $500,000. A $25 gift card won't go far toward an appendectomy. But imagine the look on your wife's face when you give her a gift card for a little face tightening or tummy tuck.

Likewise, husbands always can use replacement parts: knees and hips, worn out from trying to play competitive softball into their 60s; elbows from all the beer-drinking after the games; or gastric-bypass surgery (see elbow replacement). And a $200 gift card from your oral surgeon would cover the deductible for a root canal.

Income and property taxes. They could be sold at the federal, state, county and city levels, but they wouldn't be tax deductible.

Commuters. How about a gift card to pay the $29 fine when you forget to bring $4 for the Bay Bridge toll?

Auto body shops. Nothing like a $500 gift card to make a dent in the bill.

Churches. Help defray the cost of a wedding, or simply drop it into the collection plate.

Trash. Garbage haulers could sell gift cards good for the three-month collection periods. Mine was $65.27 the last time. When it's used up, just throw it away.

THE GREAT KISS-OFF -- They're talking out of both sides of their Mr. Goodbar at The Hershey Co., which is closing its plant in Oakdale and instead will make chocolate in Mexico.

In a company newsletter to retirees, Hershey spins the answers to its own questions.

One asks, "Is Hershey moving its factories to Mexico?" To which it answers, "No. Hershey has a long-term commitment to manufacturing in the United States ... (blah, blah, blah)."

The question next to it on the same page reads, "How is Hershey changing its U.S. manufacturing network?" Its answer: "As part of the supply chain transformation, Hershey is closing some of its manufacturing facilities. We also are building a new facility in Mexico ... ."

OK ... .

Not in the newsletter: The company will close the distribution center it opened in Redlands six years ago, when it closed the Western Distribution Center in Oakdale.

Wonder if that operation is going south of the border as well?

FINAL SALUTE -- Modesto resident Helen Woods was deeply moved by the two-part story of Army Spc. Michael Crutchfield, who took his own life while serving in Iraq. She found it disgusting that while the military provided a marker for his grave at Park View Cemetery in Manteca, no one had stepped forward to pay the $150 placement cost.

So Woods, who retired at

83 in September after 50 years at E.&J. Gallo Winery, paid the bill. The marker will be in place some time within the next two weeks, Park View's Dave Massey said.

SIGN OF THE TIMES -- The impacts of home loan defaults in the valley are evident in The Bee's legal notices, which are up 200 percent over last year. Monday, 53 default notices appeared in the paper, covering 3½ pages.

Compare that to Dec. 3, 2006, when there were none.

To comment, click on the link with this column at www.modbee.com. Jeff Jardine's column appears

Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at jjardine@modbee.com or 578-2383.

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