When it comes to shopping for gifts, you'd think that most of us would pretty much have it down to a science by now. After all, it's something that pretty much all of us are required to do, and we've bought gifts for holidays and birthdays for almost our whole lives.
Sadly, many people couldn’t find a decent gift with both hands and a flashlight. Most of us suck at getting gifts, so much so that the more logical beings among us often suggest that we should do away with gift-giving altogether and simply use the money to buy things for ourselves, that we are more likely to use and appreciate anyway. But if you're intent on continuing your gift-giving lifestyle, you might want to at least try and avoid these seven gift-giving gaffes.
Weight Loss Gifts
There's nothing that says "joyful holiday season" quite like being told by your friends or relatives that they think you're fat. Even if that's not how they meant this kind of a gift to be interpreted, they really should realize how it's ultimately going to appear.
It's kind of a shame, really. With an obesity rate in the US that's hovering around 70%, it's likely that you know quite a few people who could possibly be in better shape. You want to help them! You want them to lead long, healthy, and prosperous lives! You want to make sure they're around for plenty more holidays to come! Yeah, well, next time you go for a run, invite them along. Don't burden them with the baggage of thinking that the entire world is staring at them and wishing they'd lose weight.
Potentially Deadly Gifts
You probably know better than to get someone a venomous reptile or insect or a chainsaw for a gift. First of all, you don't want to get involved in any sort of legal disputes when your gift inevitably backfires and leads to injury and/or death. Second, you don't want to have to hear the following for the rest of your life: "Don't accept gifts from Gary! He's the reason that Ann sawed her hand off after the office party last year!"
The problem is, gifts that might accidentally kill the recipient can come in harder-to-spot packages than you'd think. For example, nut allergies have become somewhat of an epidemic in recent years (if the banning of an entire dining hall at our school from peanuts is the norm, at least). And if you've ever read the Darwin Awards, then you know that people can find remarkably odd ways to kill or injure themselves. For some people all it takes is a few balloons and a lawn chair. It basically means that you have to reconsider everything, even something as innocuous as a pillow, in an entirely different light.
If we could ask one thing of the creators of new and innovative technology, it would be that they please make their devices as compatible as possible with the things that we already own. Is that really too much to ask?
Unfortunately, the creators of new technologies are often kind of jerks; they think that in order to be innovative, their device needs to be as different as possible, and so they do things like inventing new types of power-cord adapters and data-transfer technologies. Do we really need eight different types of cell phone charging plugs? Of course not! But that won't stop designers from making themselves feel special by inconveniencing the rest of us.
This becomes a problem during gift-giving occasions because you might assume that your friend has one type of technology, when they don't, in fact. If they use Rhapsody for all of their music needs, buying them a gift card to iTunes is not only useless, it's kind of offensive - basically like saying that you know how to do technology better. This kind of faux pas can also occur when you get memorabilia from the wrong sports or political team.
If you're anything like us, you spend an inordinate amount of time looking at the puppies and kittens in the pet store window. You know that your life is far too busy to bring a pet into, but maybe if you bought one for a friend you could have all the benefits without all of the responsibility...
Stop. Right. There. Giving a person the gift of responsibility for another life is like clamping one of those old-timey ball and chains onto that person's leg and throwing away the key. It's just not a cool thing to do. Sure, the person might squeal and love you for the first thirty seconds, longer if he or she has very little concept of future consequences. But the first time the pet pees on the rug, the honeymoon will be over.
Even something as innocuous as a potted plant should be given after careful consideration, if at all. Some people actually feel really badly about killing plants, and it's easy to do. A good rule of thumb is that a gift should not require that the recipient change their lifestyle in dramatic ways to accommodate it.
Sure, the idea of giving gift after gift month after month for the same one-time cost can be enticing. More is seen as a good thing, so twelve gifts are definitely better than one, right? And those gift baskets simply look so appetizing in the pictures!
The first bad thing about this gift type is that you won't have anything to hand over at the gift-giving occasion. No amount of "wait until your gift finally arrives, you'll be blown away!" can make up for arriving at an event empty-handed.
The second bad thing is that this is another responsibility-laden gift. If the person doesn't like it, they get the pleasure of looking forward to its arrival every month with dread. And if they can't use/consume your gift by the expiration date, there's even more guilt, month after month. See if you can remain friends through that sort of torment!
We've all been there before. The minutes are ticking down to the gift-giving occasion, and try as we might we simply can't think of an appropriate gift to get.
And then suddenly, our gaze lights on the "perfect," "unique" gift. In reality, it's the exact opposite of perfect, and there are a million others just like it, but our addled brains simply refuse to acknowledge these facts. The item in question might be a paperweight shaped like Mount Kilimanjaro, a black light USB cord, or even glow-in-the-dark boxers. Two things are for sure. One, the recipient would have never, ever, chosen this thing for him or herself, not because you've somehow managed to stumble on that one thing he or she really wanted without knowing it, but because it is absolutely useless in a normal person's real life. And two, you will think that it's a good gift for approximately fifteen minutes after buying it, after which you'll slowly descend into a haze of buyer's remorse and introspection into what formative life events turned you into such a terrible gift-giver.
Serious Hobby Gifts
When someone declares interest in a hobby, be it fly fishing, Ultimate Frisbee, kite boarding, or anything else that's even remotely outside of the norm, other people automatically assume that the hobby will provide a source of excellent gift-giving opportunities for years to come. "I know, so-and-so is into basket weaving," they'll think. "I'll get them something to do with that!"
The problem with this type of gift is that someone who is into a hobby is automatically 100 times more qualified to buy gear for that hobby than anyone who is not. Pretty much every hobby you can think of has highly specialized accessories that go along with it, at a variety of different price points. And you can guarantee that within this plethora of items, only one or two will be what any given participant actually wants, and chances are they own those items already.
Even if your friend or relative is just starting out with a hobby, tailoring your gifts to it isn't a good idea. Most hobbies don't stick, and once they give up the hobby, they'll have the items lying around and making them feel guilty until they decide to regift it… right back to you.
Have experience with horror gifts of your own? Post about it in the comments below!