The Phoenix

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Gift of the Magi?

Tis the season...for getting really crappy gifts.

Why oh why do people give each other such junk?

Do you throw it away, or are you a re-gifter? No matter how you deal with the mounds of useless stuff, every year it never fails. It's as inevitable as the sun rising and Santa ho-ho-ho-ing. You will receive some gifts that make you think:

What the hell?

Why do people give crummy gifts to the ones they know and love? A recent study published this month in The Journal of Consumer Research suggests that familiarity actually makes it more difficult to figure out and predict what our loved ones prefer.

Dr. Davy Lerouge of Tilburg University, the Netherlands and Dr. Luk Warlop from Katholieke University,Belgium found that we buy crappy gifts even even when armed with lots of information about our loved ones. In fact, we have the most trouble understanding the tastes of those we know a lot about.

Lerouge and Warlop set up a bunch of experiments in which couples, who had been together more than two years on average, tried to predict which kinds of bedroom furniture the other would like. In the experiments, half the couples knew they were trying to predict their partner's preferences. The other half tried to predict the preferences of someone they were told was a stranger, but who was, in fact, their partner.

The results: Subjects were much better at predicting a stranger's preferences than their own partner's.


Lerouge and Warlop explained that when predicting what a stranger would like, we are forced to "rely on general and stereotypical information about the stranger, which can be quite diagnostic." But when predicting what our loved ones would like, we "ignore this valid information" and rely on more intimate information "that is often found to be invalid or irrelevant when predicting product attitudes."

In other words, you might remember the time when your significant other overslept because the clock's alarm was too quiet. And so you find an alarm clock with a louder alarm. Does this mean they will love their gift? Hardly.

Here are some gifts you should steer clear from for sure. Take my word for it, do NOT buy the following:

Hair removal: This includes nose hair trimmers, personal groomers, or ear hair shavers. Unless your loved one begs for one, just don't do it. Nothing says "You're a walking Sasquatch" like getting any sort of hair removal apparatus.

Stupid puzzles: If your loved one is under six year old, go for it. Otherwise, don't buy that 50,000 jigsaw puzzle. I don't care if it is the Taj Mahal. And no, it doesn't matter if it's a 3-D puzzle. This gift suggests that the recipient has too much time on their hands.

Used crap: OK, you cheap ass. Dont be going around the house looking for something to wrap and give away. You don't think we can tell? The seals on the box are all broken...duh! All the cheese popcorn in the tin is missing! Hmmmm.

Drug store perfumes/colognes: This stuff should be banned. Talk about tacky! Not only are you suggesting that your loved ones smells bad, but why give them something that would make them smell like a mix of potpourri and whisky? Hai-Karate anyone?

Weight loss products: Free weights, Tai Bo video, 6 Second Abs, Thigh-Master, or a treadmill might sound like a great gift, but guys - do NOT give your lady anything to do with weight loss. Nothing says "Babe, you're a fat ass" like getting her weight loss stuff. It's about as subtle as hitting them over the head with a Honeybaked Ham.

Why don't you just smack her hand when she goes for that Christmas cookie, moron?


Blogger Mimi said...

If someone gave me a excerise machine, it would become a permanent part of their head. That is where I would aim at least.

12/13/2006 2:45 PM  
Anonymous Bruce said...

I have an aunt who's a notorious re-gifter/bad gift giver. The last gift my mother got from her was a jar of Vermont maple syrup that had obviously been opened before. And she once gave us, as a family, a Yahtzee game for Christmas.

12/13/2006 3:08 PM  
Blogger AnonymousCoworker said...

I read about this the other day and wasn't really surprised. People who know me get me terrible presents, while people who don't usually get me really great stuff. It's why I ask to be bought nothing most of the time.

12/13/2006 3:37 PM  
Blogger OnMyWatch said...

I always thought familiarity bred contempt, which would explain the bad gifts...

but what's so wrong with whiskey and potpourri? sounds a lot like a country song in the making...

If you wanna get drunk as hell, but come out smelling like a rose, then come sit next to me so we can drown ourselves in whiskey and potpourri.


12/13/2006 3:55 PM  
Blogger Keshi said...

LOL funny post!

**Why do people give crummy gifts to the ones they know and love?

I think thats cos some ppl dun have the skill to recognise what their loved-ones wud really love. It's a talent of it's own u know :)

hahaha @hairy pic! Gawwwd is that for real?

Some ppl give old gifts that they got and u can tell LOL!


12/13/2006 6:52 PM  
Blogger angel, jr. said...

I once wanted a chia pet. I think I was in fourth grade or something like that.

12/13/2006 8:46 PM  
Blogger :P fuzzbox said...

When buying for Angry Joyce, I am smart enough to know to stick to jewelry. I would never buy her anything large enough or heavy enough to be painful if thrown back at me.

12/13/2006 9:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you can add sweaters with kittens on them to your list of crappy presents. Isn't that Grandma's favorite gift for her little ones? Oh I know I still have one somewhere at my parent's house.

12/13/2006 11:14 PM  
Blogger David Amulet said...

The perfect gift: Phoenix merchandise.

-- david

12/14/2006 6:18 AM  
Blogger Cari said...

looks like i need to take class 101 for gift giving...ouch!

i least i never ever give my used things though....

i on the other hand have recieved my own pair of glasses as a present! yes!!! i lost my glasses at a family members house ... later on my bday comes and she wraps it up....and i don't see it right away..but when i opened it...yup...there they were...hahahah

oh well.... :}

still love my christmas!

12/14/2006 7:31 AM  
Blogger Fated said...

You forgot fruit cake!

I suppose I'd better return the Thigh Master and Nair! After reading your post, somehow I don't think Mom would appreciate them.

12/14/2006 8:36 AM  
Blogger The Phoenix said...

There's an article I read titled;

"Gift cards are the new fruitcake."

12/14/2006 8:52 AM  
Blogger cube said...

I think the gift giving has gotten out of control. People feel compelled to buy something -anything & they often buy out of desperation.

12/14/2006 9:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bought my husband a hair-trimmer-thing as an everyday purchase & he didn't mind....for trimming in-between haircuts was my suggested use. I guess he didn't mind because I generally think that men should keep whatever hair they came with. Anyway it probably helped that I bought one for women too...eyebrows and so on. I don't think he would mind one for Christmas if there was a card with it explaining why...maybe it is one of those gifts that needs explanation. :-)

12/14/2006 10:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know people who would love to receive a jigsaw puzzle for Christmas...and yes, I think that they do have too much time on their have inspired me-one of the things that I am getting them is a jigsaw puzzle for Christmas.

On the other hand...I have seen many people....all of them elderly...who insist on buying their grandchildren jigsaw puzzles then have intense conversations as to whether they will like them. Maybe these people are buying it because they know that education/using your brain is important & they are giving the gift of a pretty picture...I suppose that is the mental process behind this. If it were not the only gift, I would enjoy a difficult jigsaw puzzle.

12/14/2006 10:09 AM  
Blogger mad said...

I used to get bottles and bottles of cheap aftershave, but only because I had friends who did their Christmas shopping at the 7-Eleven on the way to my house.

12/14/2006 12:01 PM  
Blogger KC said...

First of all, let me say that I love my mother dearly. That being said, she is the worst present-giver ever! She is addicted to shopping at flea markets and thrift stores. She finds stuff that she swears I'm going to love and saves it up all year to give to me at Christmas. You wouldn't believe the boxes and boxes of crap she's given me that I've taken to Goodwill throughout the years. I've asked her to NOT to spend her money in this way because I don't want to decorate my home with thrift store finds, but she continues to do it. I am not looking forward to this Christmas with mom. Oh well.

12/14/2006 12:05 PM  
Blogger Phats said...

haha this post was funny! I admit I am a regifter.

Gift receipts are the way to go my friend then they can simply take them back.

12/14/2006 12:17 PM  
Blogger Pixie said...

I don't know if I am a bad gifter, I always try to put a lot of thought in to what I am buying, However WP is one of the type of people you never know what to get. Maybe its because we haven't been together long enough or maybe I will never really know what he likes, its just easier to ask him what he wants.

12/14/2006 12:36 PM  
Blogger BrianAlt said...

I got her the first two seasons of Grey's Anatomy. I think she'll like that. She's watching this season and never saw the first two completely.

Oh, and I added a workout video with that, "Sweatin' with McDreamy." Wait, that's not a workout video! Ooops! Well, maybe she'll like that better?

12/14/2006 1:14 PM  
Blogger Jenna Howard said...

I asked for an ipod one year and I got a stupid kid's scarf with a stupid reindeer on it. The gift bag was just the right size too! I stared at this scarf and looked at my mom "WTF? Am I 6??" I gave it to my friend's daughter who was...6. I refuse to compare it to the groovy present my brother got because it just bums me out.

People also keep giving me bath stuff...I wish they'd stop. On the other hand I have all these neatly wrapped bath products to give away for birthday presents and such so if you get bath goodies from's recycled. Sorry.

12/14/2006 2:02 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

so, you don't want the car? well, how about socks?

12/14/2006 2:07 PM  
Blogger annie said...

Okay. So when it comes to gift-giving, familiarity causes people to be less accurate in predicting a loved one's preferences -- and more accurate in predicting those of a stranger.

Does the same principle apply to sex?

12/14/2006 2:27 PM  
Anonymous the weirdgirl said...

Shoot! Some loved ones are worse when you give them specific instructions! I asked my husband for a vacuum last year. I really wanted it! It was the robot one. And he wouldn't get it for me because he said it was too "June Cleaver".

(I had to buy it myself.)

12/14/2006 3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

May I add candles: The gift that says "I don't care."

12/14/2006 5:07 PM  
Blogger Big Pissy said...

I give fabulous gifts!

Well, I think they're fabulous.

12/14/2006 8:13 PM  
Blogger Sherri said...

Last year I got an electical repair kit for Christmas from my brother-in-law.

What the hell???

To be honest, I was completely pissed that someone could be that insesitive. It had been on clearance for 15$ and he didn't even bother to take of the price sticker.

12/15/2006 8:17 AM  
Blogger BrianAlt said...

I gave her Grey's Anatomy last night.

She loved it! She seemed so excited by the gift it almost brought a tear to my eye.

Alright, yes, I did bawl my eyes out, okay? Are you happy now?

12/15/2006 8:22 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

Great list and totally applicable.

I would add bottles of Sherry to that. I can't stand the stuff and know very few people who actually drink it, and yet I still get a couple of bottles every christmas.

12/15/2006 8:52 AM  
Blogger Mr. Friendly said...


I think nose hair trimmer make the perfect Secret Santa gift at the office party.

Thanks for the idea. My boss will love it. I mean, come on, he's got one straggler reaching for his upper lip.

Hey, did I ever tell you the story of the chick I use to work for? Yeah, she had a olfactory hair problem too. I tried to help her by rubbing my nose alot whenever I was around her.

She never caught the hint.

12/15/2006 9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you throw it away, or are you a re-gifter?

neither! if it's food i don't like, i send it with my daughter to her workplace; they'll eat anything!!

other things i give away to goodwill.

12/15/2006 2:30 PM  
Blogger Phats said...

By the way they now make a Scooby Doo Chia Pet!

12/15/2006 3:28 PM  
Anonymous Tasa said...

I don't think I've ever gotten anything really crappy.... except when I was a kid and my aunts that I never saw got me stuff that I didn't like. I just wouldn't use it and my parents would give them away to GoodWill or whatever. My parents always know what I want, and Nick sometimes wants suggestions, but when he guesses he does great =)

12/15/2006 4:08 PM  
Anonymous Tasa said...

Forgot to add this earlier, but I think give terrible gifts to the people they love most because (and I find myself doing this sometimes too) "Oh, I really like this, and I think he will too" for example I was shopping with my mom for Nick and she wanted me to pick out a tie. He likes ugly ties, so I picked out one that I liked..... he might like it too, we'll see in a week or so =)

12/15/2006 4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about a lottery ticket in your stocking ?
The odds of this gift having any real value is , 1,256,211 to 1 .

12/16/2006 7:26 AM  
Blogger The Phoenix said...

The best thing you can do is to really follow trends. Unless the loved one specifically asks for something, pay attention to product reviews and such.

The worst gift I received: a Hot Wheels. I was 16 and I told my parents I wanted a car. So they gave me a "car."

12/16/2006 9:03 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Holy crap, please tell me that hair on that guys back was photoshopped on to him!!

12/17/2006 1:52 AM  
Blogger goddess said...

That would explain why I have no clue what to get most of my family. Hmmmm, take a step back and look at it from a broader perspective. Ok, going to work on my christmas list.

12/17/2006 9:20 AM  
Blogger phlegmfatale said...

You know, I LOVE Chia pets.

12/17/2006 11:44 AM  
Blogger vani said...

you are so right there is so much crap out there, but as my old boss used to can wrap a box of shit all nice and someone out there is going to buy it.

12/17/2006 9:29 PM  
Anonymous delmer said...

I've been watching NewsRadio reruns recently.

In one Jimmy James asks Matthew to help him buy Christmas gifts for Jimmy's rich friends, as he did such a good job last year.

Matthew admits he doesn't know any of the people he's shopping for, which may be why he's so good at it.

As I recall he told Jimmy to buy Bill Gates a ball of string.

12/17/2006 9:31 PM  
Blogger Phats said...

HAHA that's funny your parents gave you a hot wheels, you did ask for a car you know

12/18/2006 12:19 AM  
Blogger DaBich said...

I don't understand the slack given to gift cards. I LOVE receiving them. Oh well, I'm just a little wierd LOL

12/18/2006 4:42 AM  

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