Background: my husband is one of four, all four siblings are married. Three years or so ago, we agreed that rather than buying presents for everyone, we'd do Secret Santa and just buy one, more expensive, present. My husband and I had understood that part of the motivation behind this was so that you could put more time and effort into this - though I'm not sure that anyone else took this away so it may have been us misunderstanding. /end background
Everyone else involved in this supplies an Amazon wishlist every year. One of my SILs this year even went so far as to make a special Amazon wishlist especially for Secret Santa that added up to the exact amount that we've agreed is the limit so that her Secret Santa doesn't have to make any decisions at all on what to buy her. Neither my husband nor I are keen on wishlists. For me, it's really that I don't want to choose my own present, I want a surprise, and (sorry if this sounds special snowflakey), I want someone to put some time and thought into my present, not just pick things off a wishlist and hit "ship", I just don't see the point in that. For what it's worth, I am more than happy to put time and thought into the presents I give.
In previous years, I've supplied an Amazon wishlist but said in my e-mail round that I would rather have a surprise but am supplying the wishlist in case inspiration is needed. Every time I've just had stuff off my wishlist. This year, I've decided to go for not supplying one at all and just providing some general thoughts on things I like (e.g. anything in Y category would be great, e.g. I like the style of things in these two shops). My husband has done a similar (though slightly different) thing.
I sort of get the impression from the tone of the e-mails that everyone else is a bit grumpy with us for not making it easy for them. In general, I gather that wishlists are now the norm for Christmas presents but I just don't like them at all. I'd honestly rather opt out of the whole thing, if the others insist on just doing wishlists. Are we rude for not going along with the majority?
Also, are we rude not to buy presents in return exclusively from their wishlists? What I'm going for for my SIL (not the one mentioned above - I wouldn't dare deviate from her list!) is a mixture of wishlist and non-wishlist stuff that I think she'll like. I think my husband is planning something like that for his Secret Santa. In previous years, I've mostly gone with wishlists because I've been allocated someone I didn't know that well.
Sorry if I am being too literal, but at the beginning of your post I got the impression that the idea was to buy a single, more expensive present for someone. But later you mention buying several
, less expensive presents for the same person. To me this makes a difference because I think it takes more effort to come up with multiple presents for one person (especially someone you may not know well) than to come up with a single present. If the idea is to get multiple presents for one person, I think it's much more reasonable to ask for/want wish lists--it's not just a matter of having one, carefully thought-out idea, someone has to come up with several
carefully thought-out ideas, and that may seem too overwhelming to people.
Disclaimer: I love wish lists. I always make one on Amazon every year. But, I always tell people that they don't HAVE to buy from the wish list, I'm happy to receive anything at all. I love gifts (both getting and giving) but I know they can make some other people anxious, and a wish list might help me to reduce their anxiety. For example, my mom feels that I'm difficult to buy gifts for, and she relies heavily on my wish list for gifts.
On the other hand, my friend Amy also loves wish lists. But woe befall you if you dare to get her something original, that was not
on her list. I have heard her crab about that so much (regarding gifts from other people) that I don't dare deviate from her list myself. It's not as much fun for me to get her gifts--not because of her wish list, but because of her attitude
about the wish list and gifts.
I think the general suggestions you mentioned ARE a wish list, just not an item-specific, Amazon wish list. If you emailed your general suggestions to the group (the same way they emailed the link to their Amazon wish lists to the group), I don't think anyone could reasonably accuse you of being rude or difficult. After all, if you told them the name of a store you liked, someone could just get you a gift card there, perhaps even buy it online, and that would be very little work for them (if they get anxious about giving gifts, for example).
As a side note, you can set up a wish list on Amazon that has ONLY general things on it. There's a box where you can type in something like "a red scarf" (that's one of their own examples, I think). You get a link to hand out to people, they get a list of items, and when they click on "a red scarf" in your list, it's like they typed "red scarf" into Amazon's search engine, and all kinds of red scarves sold by Amazon come up. Then they can pick the one they want to buy. So, if they like the convenience of buying things from Amazon, perhaps you could set up a general wish list like this for them. However
, I think you are perfectly fine to not provide an item-specific wish list, or to use Amazon at all. I think you are perfectly fine to not
buy SIL items from her wish list, if you have original ideas for her gift. People have different comfort levels with buying gifts; some like wish lists, some don't. I think people are rude when they pressure others to conform to their
ideas about gifts.
ETA: TYPO, grrr.