Bwah. Captain Underpants is a whole 'nuther etiquette topic entirely! I actually just googled the books because, while I have heard of them since I don't currently live under a rock, I have never actually leafed through a copy of any of the series. Apparantly, these books are more banned in the U.S. than even books like 50 Shades of Grey.
However, I can see how they would be of great interest to boys of the 'anythng scatalogical is hilarious' age!
Hey, don't knock the underpants! My eight year old son loves them, and has done since he was 6. (He also loves reading comics, mysteries, harry potter, zombie books, world war 1 books, fantasy books..) Reading is a lot more fun if not every book has to be literary Gold.
I will send an experience card (restaurant gift card, movie gift card, etc) but not a store gift card as a holiday gift. I do like looking around stores for ideas for the people I love, and thinking about ideas and sitting in front of the computer with a hot cocoa checking the top gift lists and store sales before going downtown and doing as good an imitation of Santa as I am financially able. (I feel like santa, when I go from store to store buying stuff. I tend to get all my shopping done in one or two excursions. Hopefully I don't look like santa.
). If I really don't know what to get someone, I will ask for ideas. But they are just ideas. If I don't like them, I won't buy them, and I won't go into debt to buy something either. But I WILL use the suggestions to make an informed guess. So no, I'm not going to buy you a dog bed (too many variables- sizes, colours, fabrics) but I will buy you a really cool set of dog bowls or a neat leash and dog toys, along with dog biscuits.
The few times I have gotten exactly what was on the list, they ended up not liking it anyways. I want a blue zip up sweater from X store, they said. So I buy the only blue zip up sweater in X store, and it's not the one they were thinking of, because the X store in their town had different stock. A white scarf and mittens would have worked out better.
In summary, if someone tells you they don't want to give you a gift card, and asks you what you want, give them a list at least five items long, in the price point or LESS that they spent last year. (If their budget is bigger this year, they might buy two items from the list. But if it is smaller than last year, and you have only asked for things above what they can now spend, they're going to feel bad.) make the list fairly generic ie, gloves, coffee, a teapot, flower bulbs for my garden, chocolate. You can then add a proviso- my favourite colours are blue and green, I really hate pink, chocolate with nuts makes my stomach hurt, to further direct them. If they end up coming across a craft fair and the cutest toque ever, they can then at least buy it in green and feel that it might be a hit, since you did ask for gloves and thus could probably do with a matching toque too.