Gift-giving seems easy, right? WRONG. Take it from me, the receiver of a few terrible presents in my time. With the risk of seeming like an ungrateful brat, I sometimes wonder what goes through a person’s mind when they are shopping for others. When unwrapping a terrible present such as an unwanted self-help book, only a Oscar winner can truly conceal the resentment that soon takes over. A bad gift can instill doubt about whether or not the giver knows you, dislikes you or put any thought or care at all into their offering.
Common sense and good manners would dictate that you err on the side of caution when presenting someone with a nice treat. If your friend is a diehard crazy cat lady, don’t buy her a dog calendar. If your girlfriend has specifically asked you for a bracelet from Tiffany, DO NOT BUY HER A CORDLESS SCREWDRIVER. And my personal favourite…and I also witnessed this firsthand, when giving a gift to a recovering alcoholic, make sure it isn’t The Art of Drinking. Idiotic. The person who received that last gift still wonders if the gift-giver was trying to undermine her and just looking at the book in her bookcase would bring back the painful sting of opening it. She eventually threw it in the garbage.
If you are shopping for an acquaintance, keep the gift giving safe! A nice bottle of wine is always appreciated, along with presents such as gift cards to popular stores. When shopping for a co-worker, I make sure that I know a little about him or her before hitting the stores. And steer clear of embarassing gifts – it’s never funny and why hurt someone’s feelings during the holiday season? For instance, I went to a Secret Santa work party where someone was presented with a pair of red lace panties…in front of everyone…in front of our boss. WHY?? Why would someone do that? I have seen it all – from my poor husband being gifted with one of those 10 cent plastic combs you buy at gas stations, to a beautiful fashionista being gifted with a freaking Dust Buster. NOBODY WANTS A VACUUM CLEANER GIFT (except me…who was thrilled when I received a hot pink Kenmore…I mean, hot pink!)
Here is my guide to being a great gift giver. Adhere to these rules and I promise you will not be subjected to stink eye, re-gifting or a revenge gift down the road.
- Give the person exactly what they asked for! Why is this concept so hard to grasp? My mother does not understand this tenet at all, bless her heart. You could ask her for a red sweater from Banana Republic in size small, and she will get you green pants from The Bay in size large because “it was a great deal and baggy clothes are in”. No. Nope. STOP…and hand over that gift receipt. Now, I know that shopping off a list that someone gives you is not the most thoughtful way to give a present, but those things will be greatly appreciated! There is a reason this person is asking for specific things. Think of it as shopping off a wedding registry. A bride wants a full set of china, not 12 of the same crock pot. Just stick to the list!
- Keep the person’s personality in mind. What would the person buy for herself? I have been guilty of this…buying someone something that I would love myself without considering what that person would really love. My dad is a diehard soccer fan and loves photography. Maybe I should have gotten him a soccer jersey or camera equipment instead of that terrible mug that said: “Lordy, Lordy, Look Who’s Forty.” I’ll never forget the look of sheer disgust on his face (our family does not believe is sparing one’s feelings – hahaha!)
- Do not go overboard. Most people really love easy, fun presents. There is no need to break the bank when it comes to gift-giving. You may think you are a hero for giving a Louis Vuitton bag to your loved one, but it may end up embarrassing her…especially if she only got you a box of Turtles.
- People love thoughtful gifts. My sister was once given a silver necklace with a rough, greenish-grey stone as a pendant. It wasn’t too much to look at…but when she was told that the stone was sourced from a meteorite that crashed into Earth, she was in shock. My astronomy-obsessed sister has yet to take that necklace off. Most people love gifts with a little story behind them. I would take a thoughtful present with an interesting story behind it over a Birkin bag any day. Ok – I just lied to all of you, but seriously…thoughtful gifts are awesome. A friend of mine gave his fiancé an opal engagement ring. The opal belonged to her beloved late grandmother. He scored some serious points…and the opal is so beautiful and set so perfectly in her ring that it is her most prized possession.
- How about gifting someone with an “experience” instead of a material object? A lot of people love great experiences like concerts or trips to the spa. Fond memories from being pampered or rocking out to one of your favourite bands is going to be remembered for life. That special edition Kat Von D lipstick that you lost promptly after receiving it? Not so much.
- At a loss for a great gift idea? Cold, hard cash warms the coldest of hearts. Seriously though, most people would love cash or a gift card so that they can buy whatever they want. So, instead of buying that poor person a miniature stapler wrapped in an iPhone box (how cruel), maybe $20 in a greeting card is a better choice.
Ever gotten a terrible present? Did it make you wonder if the gifter hated you? Please share your experience in the comments!