Author Topic: How to avoid "bad" gifts?  (Read 5590 times)

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Isilleke

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How to avoid "bad" gifts?
« on: December 18, 2012, 05:57:13 PM »
BG/. For Christmas at my house we do a Secret Santa kind of thing. We all get one person we have to buy a gift for. Since doing this we also upped the amount spent so to make sure everyone gets something they want, we make a list.
My mom does still buy everyone a (little) gift. END BG/.

My mom came home today and told me she bought my gift for Christmas, but that she was afraid I wouldn't like it. I asked if it came from my list and she told me it didn't. I asked what it was and she wouldn't tell me. Fair enough, but then don't tell me I'll probably won't like it.
After about 5 minutes she asked me if I still wanted to know what my gift was and I told her yes. So she showed me. It's an infinity scarf.

Now, I do have to admit, I'm a pretty bad gift getter. I try to avoid lying when I don't like something and just say that I appreciate the gift (which I do, because it does show they thought about me), but my face almost always gives me away. I was raised to believe to always say thank you and never show ingratitude and it's not that I would ever tell someone what a horrible gift they gave me, because most of the time they didn't. It just isn't me. Which is why I try to avoid giving gifts to people so they won't feel obligated to gift back.

But I do feel with my family that they always put me on the spot. Just last year I had at least 5 or 6 different things on my list (all under budget) and my sister (actually her husband, but she bought it) gave me books. Don't get me wrong, I love books, but I usually lend them from the library because I will more often than not just read it once. They know this and not only that, she gave me books from an author she (and my brother) collects. The first thing my sister said was "I can exchange them if you want" and she had to because I already had read all 3 of them and she already had 2 of them.

And now I feel just awful because I made it pretty clear that although I thought the scarf is pretty I will never ever wear it. I already have a pretty big bosom and in my eyes an infinity scarf only attracts even more attention to it.

But at the same time I feel that every time they just ignore what I want and give me things I don't need nor want. And then make me feel bad about not being happy with the gifts.

Can I tell them I would much rather not have anything if they don't bother listening when asked? Or do I suck it up and be grateful I get anything at all?
I'm getting pretty tired of always being the bad guy when I feel that I give them lots of (asked) options that they always tend to ignore because it's not a gift in their eyes. (Last year I asked for empty DVD discs for example, which I would have loved because it's quite expensive and it would have been a little less I would have had to spent on it.)

And how do I apologize to my mom if I have to? I didn't say "oh my god what did you buy?" but I did say something along the lines of "ooh, wauw, I, this is pretty, but it's not really me is it?"


bah12

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Re: How to avoid "bad" gifts?
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2012, 06:04:00 PM »
I don't think there's anything that you can do about it.  You already give them a list and they choose to ignore it.  I think you can try to exclude yourself from the "Secret Santa" ritual in the future, but is it worth it?

It may be easier to suck it up and say "thanks" than try to fix it.  Also, I don't think it's fair for them to hound you about gifts when they purposely choose not to gift you from your list.  I doubt they are being intentionally cruel, but it is a little mean to put you on the spot like that. 

turnip

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Re: How to avoid "bad" gifts?
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2012, 06:11:00 PM »
Let me put it this way - I think the ability to graciously thank someone for a bad gift is a worthwhile skill to be practiced and cultivated.   I plan on practicing this skill with my daughter before gift giving events.    I remember a Terry Pratchett book where a woman was described as being able to "Graciously accept a bag of rats" and I think that's someone to emulate.

So I don't think you should try to avoid bad gifts.  I think you should see these interactions with your family as an opportunity to develop a new skill.   

SiotehCat

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Re: How to avoid "bad" gifts?
« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2012, 06:16:29 PM »
Let me put it this way - I think the ability to graciously thank someone for a bad gift is a worthwhile skill to be practiced and cultivated.   I plan on practicing this skill with my daughter before gift giving events.    I remember a Terry Pratchett book where a woman was described as being able to "Graciously accept a bag of rats" and I think that's someone to emulate.

So I don't think you should try to avoid bad gifts.  I think you should see these interactions with your family as an opportunity to develop a new skill.

I completely agree with this.

I think that when your mother asked if you still wanted to know what she got you, I probably would have responded with "I'm sure that whatever you got is fabulous".

Tea Drinker

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Re: How to avoid "bad" gifts?
« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2012, 06:23:42 PM »
I don't think the real problem is that she's getting you things you don't like.

The real problem is that she's putting you on the spot. If she had just handed you a wrapped package and said "Merry Christmas!" or even "I got you something unusual," you'd be okay to just say thank you if it wasn't what you wanted.

"I got you something, but you probably won't like it" is either Eeyore-style "nothing ever goes right" or a passive-aggressive attempt to make you say you liked something that she expected you not to like. And it's not even the sort of PA where the person doing it is making their own life easier, or trying to get their own way in an argument. It looks as though she has gone to at least as much trouble to get you something she expected you to dislike--and make it hard for you to just thank her and quietly regift it or give it to charity--as it would have been to get you something from your list.

The closest I can come to an etiquette answer here is to suggest being passive-aggressive right back, and smiling and saying "Mom, guess what? You were right!" after opening the gift she says you probably won't like.
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Susiqzer

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Re: How to avoid "bad" gifts?
« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2012, 06:57:57 PM »
I'll be watching the advice in this thread, because I have the same problem! I have a cartoon face, I swear... it's immediately evident what I'm thinking.

And, my mother is an "almost but not quite" gifter, which means that she'll select a certain item off the list, but if they don't have it she'll get a different size/color/pattern, rather than just checking out the next thing on the list. I'll always remember the year that I returned literally everything she bought, because it was all waaaay off. Her feelings were hurt, but I didn't have much use for a pair of men's XXL pajamas.

After a while, it's depressing to think that someone either knows you so little or doesn't care. I know that's not the case with my mom, but it starts to feel that way!


Softly Spoken

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Re: How to avoid "bad" gifts?
« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2012, 08:29:37 PM »
Just wanted to express me sympathy for your situation and POD with PPs on just about everything. Yes, the idea that your wishes/wants regarding gifts are being misconstrued or outright ignored is aggravating. Yes, when people who are supposed to know you give you gifts that you feel are obviously not "you," it can be hard not to take it personally. And yes, there is very little you can do about the situation - besides adjusting your attitude. Rise above as best you can. Try to balance tact with honesty. Give them credit for trying, without measuring the actual amount of apparent effort. In a situation like your mom and the scarf, I think she shares some blame in the vein of "if you don't want to know the answer don't ask the question." If she had doubts she shouldn't have bought it. She obviously did (have doubts that is) since she broke the santa secrecy to show it to you. Her shopping clueless-ness is not yours to absolve.

I don't know if etiquette requires you to lie and say you like something when you don't - regardless of what you get, you can express gratitude for the thought and effort. Period. Maybe the shirt is ugly, or too big, or the wrong color, and maybe you will never wear it - but no one has to know that. Gifts aren't (or at least shouldn't be) given with a contract of usage. Use it, give it away, throw it away - once it's given, IMHO, it is yours to do with as you please. In the meantime, just try to smile and say "Thank you." ;D
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StarFaerie

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Re: How to avoid "bad" gifts?
« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2012, 08:46:11 PM »
I feel that gifts should be accepted the best way you can. Once it is yours though, you can do what you like with it as long as the giver never knows it's final destination.

Last year for Christmas from various family, I got 2 things I do not eat (coffee flavoured) and 3 scented things that give me migraines and hence could not even be allowed to enter my house. I smiled, thanked the people and then got rid of gifts (the scented stuff went into the first charity bin I could find). I have never and would never return or swap a gift, unless it was merely a swap for the same item in a different size, as I do not believe that a gift is something that is fungible.

Gifts are exactly that, a gift. Some are bad, some are good, but they are all something that is dicretionary on the part of the giver and should never be expected or dictated (although it is fine to suggest).

But that's just my opinion on them.

Hmmmmm

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Re: How to avoid "bad" gifts?
« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2012, 08:48:00 PM »
I can understand how discouraging it is to always receive gifts that you will not enjoy.  Everyone has given you good ideas on how to deal with the gifts. 

I sort of understand your family's desire to not give just practical gifts.  I would have had a hard time giving someone a box of blank DVD's.  Yes, I know you wanted them and they will be extremely useful but it just doesn't feel like a gift to me, especially if you had asked for them.  I know the gift is supposed to be about the recipient and I have really tried to adopt to giving the more pratical gifts but sometimes my own personal bias's can overshadow my common sense.  I also think it is especially hard if one person in the family has different expectations from the others.  In our family practical gifts were hardly ever given, even to our Dad, who really would have probably preferred some more pratical gifts over the crazy things we used to come up with.  (I'll never forget learning a HS boyfriend was giving his Dad a box of shotgun shells for Christmas.  I thought it was the worst gift ever.  Of course, his Dad thought it was an excellent gift since he was an avid hunter.)

Maybe you can meet them halfway.  Is it possible to start coming up with a few items that do seem more personal?  One's that they will feel is more "gifty"?

Deetee

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Re: How to avoid "bad" gifts?
« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2012, 12:21:42 AM »
A gift isn't about the physical object you obtain. A gift gives you an insight into the gifter and what they enjoy and how they think of you (often different than you view youself).

Maybe you will never wear the scarf or hang the picture or wear the sweatshirt or use the lotion, but that's not the point. If there is something that you want, that is what your money is for. Gifts are to get something that you would not buy for yourself.

And then sometimes the gifts are also thoughtful and perfect and that's great, but I don't think that is the essence of the gift giving.

Iris

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Re: How to avoid "bad" gifts?
« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2012, 01:10:28 AM »
Let me put it this way - I think the ability to graciously thank someone for a bad gift is a worthwhile skill to be practiced and cultivated.   I plan on practicing this skill with my daughter before gift giving events.    I remember a Terry Pratchett book where a woman was described as being able to "Graciously accept a bag of rats" and I think that's someone to emulate.

So I don't think you should try to avoid bad gifts.  I think you should see these interactions with your family as an opportunity to develop a new skill.   


I agree with this. I don't like lying either but I can accept a gift with the best of them, though I say it myself. My MIL gave me a pot pourri thing for Christmas the other day. I would no more put pot pourri in my house than I would fly - I'm not at all a 'flowery' person and I much prefer to freshen my house by opening windows. However, I could smile and comment on the pretty smell and say thank you. None of that was a lie - I do appreciate that she got me a gift, it did have a pretty smell (though not to my taste) and I like to smile. I think it's a skill everyone should learn.

Though I don't know that I could manage it with a bunch of rats  :)
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violinp

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Re: How to avoid "bad" gifts?
« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2012, 03:09:21 AM »
A gift isn't about the physical object you obtain. A gift gives you an insight into the gifter and what they enjoy and how they think of you (often different than you view youself).

Maybe you will never wear the scarf or hang the picture or wear the sweatshirt or use the lotion, but that's not the point. If there is something that you want, that is what your money is for. Gifts are to get something that you would not buy for yourself.

And then sometimes the gifts are also thoughtful and perfect and that's great, but I don't think that is the essence of the gift giving.

I agree that one should thank people for gifts. However, I don't have to be grateful for a gift merely because someone took the time to buy it. If the gift is not useful, then I don't feel grateful for it.

In addition, gifts, in my opinion, are not about the giver of the gift, but rather the recipient. A gift will tell you something about the giver and what s/he thinks of the recipient, but the main goal of a gift is to please the recipient. I wouldn't buy a DVD of Game of Thrones for someone who didn't like fantasy, because that's a rather thoughtless gift of me to give. Just because I enjoy watching Game of Thrones doesn't mean everyone else in the world has to, and giving Game of Thrones to people I know don't like that kind of thing is egotistical in the extreme to me - as if I know better than the recipient what s/he likes.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this: I may appreciate that someone took time out of their busy lives to get me a gift, but that does not obligate me to appreciate and like the gift itself, if the gift was thoughtless and ill - chosen.
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blarg314

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Re: How to avoid "bad" gifts?
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2012, 04:15:19 AM »

If someone has tried to get me a gift I would like and has missed the mark, then I'm grateful for the thought, and can do a pretty good job of faking appreciation, particularly if I'm someone they find hard to buy for. It's not always easy to pick out a good gift for someone.

However, there's a huge different between missing the mark on a gift when you have bought something you genuinely think the recipient would like (but doesn't), and buying something that's meant as an insult, a passive aggressive jab, an attempt to further your own desires instead of the recipients, or an attempt to educate or reform the recipient (like a diet book, religious stuff from a religion they don't practice, tickets or materials for an activity the you like and the recipient doesn't....) In both cases it's the thought that counts, it's just that the thought in the second case is mean and/or selfish.

I think it would be much harder if someone presented me a gift after telling me they thought I wouldn't like it. It's hard not to be thinking "Why on earth did you get it for me, if you thought I wouldn't like it?", plus you've been primed to be disappointed.

If at others' request I've provided a wish list or list of suggestions for things to get me, and they still buy something that they figure I probably won't like, that isn't on the list, I'd be kind of puzzled. 

For the OP, though, I can't really blame your relatives for not wanting to give you blank DVDs for Christmas - it does sound like a very impersonal gift. If you give a list with multiple items, some of which are more interesting, though, I think you've done what you can.



QueenofAllThings

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Re: How to avoid "bad" gifts?
« Reply #13 on: December 19, 2012, 06:49:47 AM »
A wish list is just that - a list of wishes. It is not a list of requirements. I often deviate from wish lists.  If I didn't, I would have given my father socks for the last 25 years.

Your mother is trying.  For whatever reason, she saw the scarf and thought of you. Be gracious. Say "It's lovely" and set it aside. Do not say " It's not me, is it?"  Return it if you'd like or bite the bullet and wear it once or twice when she's with you.

Gift giving is an art. Not everyone is good at it, but I'm sure your mother has other redeeming qualities. And for the record, I disagree with ViolinP - I do think we should be grateful for any gifts given.

25wishes

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Re: How to avoid "bad" gifts?
« Reply #14 on: December 19, 2012, 08:56:21 AM »
I don't see anything wrong with removing yourself from the gift-exchange scenario. I have done so many years ago in my family. I explained that I have all that I need and do not want to accumulate any more.

If someone from another planet could come down and read all the agita about giving and getting gifts, they would be scratching their tiny green heads. IMO it has strayed FAR from the original intent.