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How Not to Give The Worst Gift Ever

Nov 19, 2012 at 11:55 PM Chime in now

"Best" and "worst" gifts can be pretty subjective. I have, on more than one occasion, been delighted to receive bed sheets. But when a friend of mine moved into a new apartment and got a very practical tool kit for Christmas, she was disappointed. She wanted something fun, not something practical.
I’ve given bad gifts too. One year I bought a friend’s kid an inflatable radio; what part of “noisy inflatable thing” did I think would be a good idea? It was never spoken of again.
Personal taste aside, there are some easy ways to avoid giving a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad gift this season. For instance, don’t forget what you bought your wife last Christmas – giving the exact same sweater two years in a row, as lovely a sweater as it may be, might lead your wife to think that you didn’t give the purchase much thought.  Here are a few other dos and don’ts of gift giving (identities kept secret to protect marriages everywhere).
Don’t: Guilt trip.
A friend of mine got a spreadsheet outlining the costs from their recent renovation. For Christmas. From her husband.”
Do: Get creative if you’re strapped for cash. Make a gift certificate for a romantic evening at home (massages and home cooked meal included), or take the kids out and give your spouse a day off. You could put together a thoughtful photo album, knit a scarf, find her favourite book in a used shop — the possibilities are really endless.
Don’t: Show favouritism.
“Last Christmas I got a clothes steamer. When I asked why, mum said my husband had wanted it and he had too many gifts already. So basically I got a gift that was only given to me to ‘even out the presents’ from my own mother.”
Do: Be discreet. If you have a few extra gifts for someone, give them privately, or pack many gifts up as if they are one gift (the opposite works too).
Don’t: Get Smutty (unless you know it is welcome).
“I was once given a pair of homemade crotchless boxers. They were just boxers with the crotch cut out. My boss was weird.”
Do: Know your audience (and labour laws). Opt for a less-intimate gag gift - like the bacon tie.
Don’t: Give gifts that induce fear.
“My mother got a pressure cooker from my dad for their first Christmas. She’d already told him how much they terrified her.”

“My uncle gave me a clown doll when I was 18. I have a clown phobia. And who buys a doll for an 18 year old?”

Do: Listen. And did I mention know your audience? If you’re unsure of someone’s likes and dislikes, avoid obvious trigger items like clowns, spiders, snakes, or anything else that has ever shown up in a Stephen King novel.
Don’t: Send the one you love to the hospital.
“My husband, who I had just started dating, bought me truffles for Valentine's day, only they caused an allergic reaction.”
Do: Buy romantic gifts, but ask some questions first. Find out if they have any food allergies, or a sensitivity to chemicals or scents like perfumes. Bonus points if you can do it without giving yourself away.
Some other really bad gifts from some readers:

  • An electronic device for breast cancer screening, dryer balls and pepper spray over the years. All from the same person.
  • The Bacon Wave (depending on your audience, this might also double as the best gift)
  • A three-pack of Pears Soap with only two bars in it.
  • Lingerie – in much too large a size
  • A losing lotto scratch & win

The best rule of thumb is to think whether the person you’re buying for would ever buy a gift like that themselves. If the answer is no, keep shopping.

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7 Tricks to Getting the Gift You Actually Want

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