To offer an alternative perspective on gift giving, let me tell you about my family.
For my immediate family, asking 'what do you want for Christmas/birthday/whatever' (and yes, we do ask it like that and expect to be given a few actual items) is the norm. To us, the meaning behind it isn't I don't want to bother looking for something, but rather You have very specific tastes and I want to get you something that you will actually use/like. So we do specific items.
To me, personally, getting the exact item that I wanted (but never got around to getting, couldn't justify spending money on, etc) means that the gift giver cares enough to not only try and find something that I will like but also to search for that specific item (for example, making a specific trip to get brand X paint that I love but is only sold in the city vs brand Y paint that I don't use but can be purchased anywhere). We are multiple present buyers, so often we will give a much cheaper 'surprise' item so the giftee gets to unwrap something that can be a surprise. We will also come up with present ideas, and run them past the giftee before buying.
I do realise not everyone likes doing it this way, and adjust my expectations and buying practices accordingly, but considering the current turn of conversation, I thought it might be interesting to offer a different perspective.