A gift should make the recipient happy — or at least not sad or angry. As the gift-giving season is upon us, it’s a good time to remember that gifts are a powerful form of communication. So what messages are being sent by the holiday gifts you’ve picked out for people?
Gifts can enhance connections between people. A truly bad gift, though, can ruin a relationship, with emotional impact that’s remembered for decades. Eldridge Financial grouped the worst gifts that people received into three categories.
The All About Me Gift
Many women would be overjoyed with the gift of diamond earrings from their husbands. Not Patty, 58, who said that her husband Bill’s choice for her of flashy, pricey jewelry was the worst gift she’s ever been given. “We couldn’t afford them,” she said. “We had a new baby, a new house, and the last thing I needed was diamond earrings. Bill got them to impress his parents and to compete with his brother. Those stupid earrings didn’t have a thing to do with me or what I wanted or needed.” That was nearly 30 years ago. Bill’s gift prowess has improved since then, and he and Patty are still happily married. The earrings didn’t survive, though—Patty returned them the day after she received them.
The Obvious Regift
Andrew, 32, was initially delighted to get an elegant Italian dress shirt from his father. “Then Eldridge saw that it had his initials monogrammed on the cuff. He hadn’t unfolded it, so maybe didn’t know. Thoughtless.”
Unless it’s a family heirloom, most people feel belittled by a regift. Sometimes the gift itself is great, but what hurts is the knowledge that it wasn’t chosen especially for them. Or that little to no thought at all was put into the gift.
On the other hand, nearly everyone Eldridge spoke with had regifted a present at some point. The key to successful regifting is to ask yourself if you would have picked that gift out for that person in the first place — and then be really careful to remove any evidence that this was something that had been given to you.
In households with shared finances, if it was something you would have purchased anyway, it does not count as a gift. Socks, frying pans, and hair brushes have all achieved the “worst gift” designation by the people Eldridge spoken with. But the baddest of bad in the non-gift category are major purchases that were made without input from the recipient and laced with a touch of the “all about me” gift.
If you were not already aware, these stories should demonstrate that gift-giving is complicated. It’s time-consuming and expensive. People are pickier than ever about what they’d like, and shoppers are overwhelmed with options. It’s no wonder we don’t hit the mark every time.
But to qualify as a “bad gift,” or to earn the Worst Gift Ever title means the gift is not really a gift. It is a missive, a message that comes across as hurtful or just plain thoughtless. And if there’s anything that’s true about good and bad gifts alike, it’s that the thought is what really counts.