Thursday, December 22, 2011

Giftless and Giddy

I really can't stand it when someone bestows on me a box topped with dangling ribbons. 

While some would happily squeal, "Yay, presents!" I force a smile and make some noises to appease the beaming gift-giver.  

I can probably account on all of one hand the best gifts I ever received, that really, truly, hit the spot. The rest . . . meh. 


Gift giving is more for the giver than the recipient. If the receiver doesn't like it, she is met with furrowed eyebrows and scandalized comments until she is guilted into pretending better. 

Presents may be a sign of consideration, but if it doesn't achieve its purpose, then what is the point? The recipient, along with getting an unwanted item that she has to make room for or go through the effort of exchanging is also required to make the giver "feel good."  

Is the gift for me or for you? Consider the worst gift of all time: the Trojan Horse. 

In this holiday of gift-giving (I mean Christmas, not Chanukah; I'm old school) presents are becoming a discussion. Especially now, when times are tighter; receivers want the money to be spent on items they actually need/want rather than another Singing Bass.

Enter the NY Times
. . . now this idea has been tested not only in the lab but also at, and it looks as if the zealous shoppers have been kidding themselves. Spending extra time and money for the perfect gift may make them feel better, but it’s not doing much for the objects of their efforts, according to one of the experimenters, Francis J. Flynn, an organizational psychologist at Stanford University. 
Gift giving, despite placing time, effort, and money, gets one nowhere.

Price matters not to receivers, but it does to givers. 
Why would price matter more to givers than receivers? Dr. Flynn and his Stanford colleague, Gabrielle Adams, attribute it to the “egocentric bias” of givers who focus on their own experience in shopping. When they economize by giving a book, they compare it with the bracelet that they passed up. 
Because the giver knows about another item to spend more on, they think price matters. But the receiver only knows of no gift versus gift - so they would be happy with the book. 
Similarly, the recipient usually doesn’t know how much time and effort you put into finding just the right thing, so it doesn’t necessarily strike them as particularly thoughtful.
You know you spent time and thought. They don't. So why kill yourself? Ask them what they like instead.
“With a gift registry,” Dr. Flynn said, “they’re telling you what they want, and you’re saying, ‘No, you want something else, because I know more about you than you know about yourself.’ ” The result is not joyous gratitude, as Dr. Flynn found in a series of studies with Francesca Gino of Harvard. 
People like MONEY. 
When married couples were asked about the wedding gifts they’d received, they reported liking the ones from the registry more than the unsolicited ones. When people were given money to buy presents for one another on Amazon, the gifts chosen from the recipient’s wish list were more appreciated than the surprises. Cash was better still — recipients liked gifts of money even more than something of equivalent value from their wish list.  
There is a reason why Purim and Chanukah is celebrated with GELT, people. It is a long standing minhag; let's not mess with it. 

Show me the MONEY.


Anonymous said...

Maybe this is written tongue in cheek...

If it isn't, I need to ask (because I'm not Jewish) is there a concept of gratitude in Judaism? That when someone goes out of their way to do something nice for you, you should be grateful for what you are given?

I really hope the people who purchased the "oversized, badly styled etc" hoodie don't read your blog, or the person who made you go to all the trouble of buying makeup for yourself that you ultimately didn't like.

Princess Lea said...

There is very much a concept of gratitude; it is one of the most basic things in our culture. It is called hakoras hatov, and being ungrateful is called kofoi tov, and considered a terrible transgression.

I, personally, cannot stand waste. Waste is also a concept in Judaism, called baltashchis. We try to avoid it.

Those gifts happened to have been given to me after I had done the givers major favors. Meaning, they were trying to express their gratitude to me. However, if I don't like what I am getting (it happens to many a receiver) then what is the point? Then it is baltashchis.

I have received gifts that I absolutely love - like dangling earrings from the hoodie giver. But ironically enough while I loved those earrings, she was constantly second guessing herself with them.

The best time I had was when I went shopping with her and she said to pick something out for my birthday. Then I was able to choose exactly what I needed/wanted - and she was second guessing me then too, because she only could see what SHE would like.

I shouldn't have to be held hostage to a gift. If someone kills themselves buying me something, I can't help it if I don't like what they ultimately get me. If this present is being given to me out of consideration for ME, shouldn't I have a say?

And, referencing the article, those who celebrate Christmas feel the same way. In these times, they don't want waste. They want money well spent.

Anonymous said...

OK, but surely the horrible hoodie didn't have to be a waste-- once it belongs to you, you could have donated it to a battered women's shelter for someone who would genuinely have appreciated whole, new clothing. You could have used the gift card to the makeup store to buy trial size toiletries and donated them to a shelter (they're always looking for those btw) so a gift that you don't happen to want--and you're right, that isn't your fault-- is not a waste, necessarily.

Should you have a say? Well I guess that depends. Do you have physical needs such as for food, clothing, and shelter that are going unmet? I'm assuming by the fact that you have a makeup blog that that is not the case, but if you did I could see saying "Aunty Lynn, I am having a hard time making rent this month, I would really appreciate money instead of a gift" Otherwise, the gift giver knows they are giving something extraneous to your actual needs anyway, and it is up to them (the giver) whether they want to ask for your input in the actual item extraneous to your needs you will be getting, not for you, the theoretically grateful receiver, to demand input. Now, whether it is money well spent or not rests on you, really. If you like it and keep it, it's not wasted, if you donate it to someone who needs it, it isn't wasted either. If you choose to throw it away? Wasted.

Princess Lea said...

I don't throw anything away. Hello, my name is PL, and I am a hoarder. And whatever I mention to part with I give to a charity.

Waste can also be classified in terms of wasted time and effort. She went to a store, went through the racks, asked salespeople advice, and after some time made a choice. While hypothetically someone less fortunate could appreciate it, the gift wasn't meant for her. The giver was killing herself for me, and she didn't have to.

If I spent time and effort to get someone a gift, I would be offended if the receiver decided to give it away. A giver wants to feel that they got it right, that they gave something to someone and that they appreciated it.

That was the premise of the NY Times article - what is the most appreciated gift?

Every year for my birthday my grandmother sent me a check for $50. I dutifully placed it in my bank account. It was awesome. By the time I was 15 I was eagerly stuffing whatever money that came my way into the piggy bank. It never occurred to me that Bobby should have gotten me a gift instead - the cash was perfect! And I chose to save it and let it earn interest (in those days there was actual interest to be earned).

I am perhaps more anti-gift than my fellow coreligionists, but our holidays don't really focus on them. Chanukah presents is a new invention - I'm thinking Christmas influence. One can be immune to the ads for only so long. Even the concept of Afikoman is not necessarily for a bribe, but for blessings.

Princess Lea said...

That was "manage to part with" in the first sentence.

Anonymous said...

But PL, you're not anti gift, you just want your gift to be money.

When your future husband brings you flowers for the Shabbos table, are you going to say he "wasted" his time and money because he got you flowers you didn't especially want (you hate carnations or something) and really he just should have given you the $25 dollars? Or is the investment of that time, and the fact that he thought of you, part of the gift that he is giving?

Also, as a recently married woman, a thought. When you do get married, you will get gifts that are not on your registry, you will get gifts that are not money. You can call them a waste, or you can appreciate that someone thought of you for more than the thirty seconds it takes to write a check.

One more thing. One of our wedding gifts was antique silver punch cups. They're beautiful but a huge hassle because I do not like to polish silver. But they were given to us by someone with not much money, and they are a family heirloom. Do you just want the biggest check someone can write you? Because that might be a number so small that it embarrasses the giver. I know you think that as the recipient the gift should be about you, but are they allowed to keep their dignity?

Princess Lea said...

I happen to like carnations. They are inexpensive and last for, like, two weeks. They are a great flowers to get.

I'll confess . . . I hope my husband doesn't buy me flowers every week. Money like that really adds up. If that cash was saved rather than spent every week, I could probably get something much bigger - like furniture, or bling (gold is through the roof right now so maybe I have to hold off on that), or to a house. $25 x 52 weeks = $1,300.

But there is also the dreaded regifting - sometimes it is obvious that someone wasn't thinking of me, they were simply passing on a present they didn't like. It does happen.

Such a gift like antique silver is really very nice; but not everyone is that generous with family heirlooms.

I never said that I would prefer a lot of money, just that money, no matter what amount, is better not to be spent on something useless. Even $5 badly spent is a waste, in my view.

I don't currently have any gifts coming to me (not a Christmas observer) so this conversation is hypothetical, so I'm not exactly hitting up my great-aunts for cash.

Anonymous said...

Totally unpopular opinion here: I dislike registries immensely. I think they are tacky, and I don't care for my recipient to know how much I spent on their gift. As the recipient, I really don't care to know how much the giver spent on my gift, either.
Plus, honestly, where's the fun when you know exactly what gifts you are going to get?? (And I've seen many a kallah/expectant mother express annoyance that "nobody got me X,Y, or Z" from my registry--as though it is coming to them. It sets people up to expect things which only leads to a lack of proper appreciation.)
Unpopular opinion, but I stand firm in my beliefs.

Princess Lea said...

Last post: are you the same Anonymous, or another Anonymous?

Princess Lea said...

Last Anon: I happen to agree with what you are saying, every point; but the alternative is 15 challah knives.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #2 here (the registry hater)--well, if you do end up with lots of duplicates, you can usually return gifts to the store/get store credit to get something else. Or you can regift--just because you regift something, it doesn't mean it's a dud of a present, just that you don't need it.

To be honest, I don't usually express my opinions in front of others IRL because I find they tend to get defensive and all "just wait till YOU get engaged"!!!

Princess Lea said...

Which opinion? That you hate registries?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, just the registries (I'm not that spineless of a person)-- I guess it's like religion & politics--people fall on one side or the other and you're not going to change anybody's opinion, just get people annoyed at you.

Princess Lea said...

In some ways, it doesn't pay to rock the boat.