Think back in time to when gifting went wrong in your life. Maybe it was the time you received a gift you didn’t want or didn’t ask for? Or the time you dropped a thousand hints yet still didn’t receive the item you really wanted. Or the time you received an already spent gift card. We’re cringing just thinking about all of them.
We turned to our colleagues and co-workers, asking them to share the most absurd gifts they’ve ever had the pleasure of receiving. If you’ve ever received a less than stellar gift, scroll down and know you’re not alone. Here are their confessions:
True stories told by real recipients
“A couple of years ago, my mother-in-law gave my husband a bunch of random tools. Not tools he needed. Not tools he asked for. Not tools he could use for his hobbies or DIY house projects. Just random tools she picked out from Lowe’s because ‘guys like tools.’”
“After helping a friend-of-a-friend set up their Shopify platform, they sent me a bottle of wine and two really nice wine glasses… but I don’t drink! This person would have no idea that I don’t drink since we live on opposite sides of the country, we aren’t connected on socials, nor have we ever met in person. It was so kind and much appreciated, but I felt bad passing off the wine to my roommates to enjoy. I’m just glad they actually didn’t ask if I liked the wine when I sent them a thank you note.”
“My grandma got me a subscription to Nickelodeon magazine when I was 10. She kept renewing it every Christmas until I was 17. After that, she switched it to Golf Digest. Years later, I don’t even like or play golf and I still get them every month.”
“I have two gift card stories: First, I had a friend that received a gift from another friend of ours. It was a gift card to a restaurant. When he went to use it, there was nothing on it. I mean $0.00. It was really awkward. Second, I once received a $10 gift card to Olive Garden. I was 15, couldn’t drive, and the nearest Olive Garden was at least 25 miles away. That gift felt like a total afterthought.”
“One year I won a TV at my company holiday party. I had just purchased a much better TV for my living room so I returned my gift to Target in exchange for store credit. I used the credit for my own last-minute holiday gifts and wrapping paper.”
“When I started working full-time, my department manager gifted everyone a small bag of beans and seasoning plus a recipe for bean soup as a holiday treat. I guess I would have seen it as thoughtful except for the fact that she knew I’m allergic to lentils. Um… thanks?”
It’s about more than just the thought
A gift isn’t just a gift. It’s a powerful symbol of who we are, what we value, and how others see us. In an ideal world, each unwrapped box would elicit smiles and a sincere appreciation of the thought and attention invested in each gift. But since we don’t live in a perfect world, festive celebrations occasionally end up with forgotten gift cards, forced smiles, hollow thank-yous, and the air thick with disappointment. For many, there’s the uneasy knowledge that their new gift will either be re-gifted, returned, or donated to the local Goodwill bin. Ouch.
The most important thing to remember is that gift-giving should bring us closer together, not drive us apart. By giving our recipients a choice to pick a gift they love, it helps us create mutual respect and cherished memories. Choice helps us recognize the recipient as an individual and places value on their wants and personal preferences. After all, gifting should help us recognize and grow to appreciate our differences. Not make our recipients feel like afterthoughts or easily forgotten.
Bad gifts happen, but they don’t have to. The key to ensuring your gifting goes right is simple: let your recipients have a choice. It takes the guesswork out of gifting and ensures they receive a gift they want, will enjoy using, and remember who gave it to them later. It really is an all-around win for the giver and the gifted.