Gift-givers: Surprise or sure thing?
NEW YORK — Count Cynthia Gibson among gift recipients not interested in being surprised.
“Most of the time it's a disappointment, and I'm one of those people who don't hide their emotions very well,” said Gibson, in Los Angeles. “The best gift is getting what you want.”
Natalie Caine begs to differ. She has a holiday ritual with some women friends: They do a surprise giveaway of something they have at home and want to pass on. Life is busy enough, she said, without having to hunt down your own gifts.
And besides, what about the magic?
“We already have too many to do lists,” said Caine, a fellow Angeleno. “Let's enjoy bringing out our creative surprise giver and take a chance it is well received.”
Welcome to gifting 3.0, when we can — and do — make our own dreams come true with a click or a list or a trip to the mall. That sounds just fine to Gibson.
“A lot of people regift,” she said. “If they didn't like it, what makes them think that I would like it?” And gift cards? Pffft. “That's for the truly lazy.”
While gift registries, online and off, abound, along with old-fashioned list-making that you just turn over to mom or Santa, a couple of new websites are looking to bring back the surprise while also pleasing the picky, like Gibson.
According to the 2009 book “Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays,” by economist Joel Waldfogel, buying gifts is a lousy allocation of resources because givers are ignorant of the true preferences of their giftees. He estimated that about $12 billion a year in the United States and $25 billion a year worldwide is misallocated on giving at the holidays.
That is one reason Jessica Jessup decided to co-found Giftovus.com in San Diego, Calif. At Giftovus, a recipient puts together a list that loved ones can pluck from, if desired, while talking things over on a group page without the giftee seeing their activity.
So, for example, if a gift recipient lists “bike,” her group can drill down together, picking each other's brains on color and style, Jessup said.
“A lot of other sites are focused on just pulling off of a list,” she said. “We found among our own experiences and talking to other people there's definitely a group that wants to contribute their own ideas and personal touches to a gift. When people get back to that surprise, they realize what they've missed.”
At CheckedTwice.com, giftees can form groups and share lists in one place. It allows for “secret gifts” to be added to lists by anybody in the group, hidden from the view of the list-maker but visible to everybody else. There's a comment area as well.
“You still get the thrill of surprise when you rip into the wrapping paper,” said co-founder Andrew Swick, who recalled a particularly vexing Christmas for one loved one in 2002.
That's when his sister and site co-founder, Rebecca, unwrapped three identical volumes of Robert Frost poems she had coveted. The sentiment was in the right place — and then some.
“She had emailed out a wish list of ideas that people could get her,” he said. “Then she came up with this idea. It was really designed to organize and stop that duplicate gift problem without ruining the surprise.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- If you get this letter from the IRS, it’s legitimate
- Home appraisal is below sales price — now what?
- Venting online about job protected
- Falling demand for steel not likely to reverse any time soon
- Increased credit card use reflects confidence, flat wages
- Canadian company centers its Marcellus push in Southpointe
- Corporate missteps hurt reputations, profits, sometimes in long run
- Stafford: Hirers bemoan wasted time with some applicants
- Farmers fund research on gluten-free wheat
- Stop foreign dumping, U.S. Steel CEO Longhi tells Congress
- Pa. Gas & Electric agrees to $6.8 million settlement of polar vortex claims