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Sick Of Getting Bad Gifts? How To Get The Message Out Without Offending Anyone


You can find plenty of advice online about how to buy gifts for people. We're now entering the phase of the year where the gift guides start to come out, and most are worth casting an eye over. We all want to find the right thing to buy for the people we care about, which is why these articles have an enduring popularity.

But no one ever talks about the other side of the holidays, of gifting. It's perhaps even vaguely embarrassing to discuss. We have the idea that the point of a gift is the meaning behind it, but that doesn't help when you're faced with a gift you can't use. Or worse, that you flat out don't like. It feels almost ungrateful to be confronted with the realization, like the mere thought of expressing a preference makes you selfish. Or the major buzzword: ungrateful. We want to think of ourselves as kind and considerate people, so we do our best to love everything we're given.

Jeesh, it sure is hard sometimes, though.

It seems that some people just don't understand how to give a good gift. No perusing suggestions or combing through prior conversations for them, oh no! They grab something they see and decide that you'll like it. Or there is the worst of all the gifting personalities: they think if they like it, you will as well. So you're forced to grit your teeth when handed a jersey of the local football team you know they love, but you generally forget exists.

The situation is especially difficult if your children are given gifts they don't like. They are devoid of social etiquette, and you can find yourself flustered trying to cover for them. It even makes you doubt your parenting - have you brought up ungrateful brats? Of course not, they're just being honest. Some might even go as far to say it's a virtue - but that doesn't stop the risk of it happening again being concerning.

So with the holidays approaching again, is there any way to prevent the barrage of shame that comes with accepting bad gifts? Zone in on the person you think of as The Bad Gifter and see if any of the ideas below might help.

#1 - Dropping Hints

You're going to have to be subtle about this. Really subtle, to the point that even an outside observer doesn't notice what's going on. This is your time to don the sunglasses, take a deep breath and indulge in a little subterfuge.

There are ways to deal with making suggestions for gifts that don't involve being outright rude.

For example, take the following way of addressing the issue:

"Hey, Bad Gifter, can you buy me this particular present please? I'd like it."

Sometimes a little more subtlety is required...

That's not going to go down well, and it's got a whiff of the entitled to it as well. Instead:

"I adore this specific item. I can never justify buying it, though, even though I know how much I would love it."

Then change the subject and move on. You've laid the breadcrumbs, and it's up to them to follow them.

#2 - Suggesting Stores You Approve Of

This should always be done in a conversation already regarding shopping. If necessary, you can manufacture this topic of conversation. Mention an order that you've had go wrong and lament the problem. Lead with something like:

"I bought my child a personalized notebook online from this store," you begin. "But it was such poor quality; I was so disappointed and so was she..."

Leave it; hopefully, they will engage in the conversation. You then need to drop in the second part:

"That's why I always stick with [store you approve of] for great toddler gifts, they're so reliable and I love everything on there."

If they pick up on the suggestion, then you're narrowing down the possibility of a bad gift to a store you already like.

#3 - Making The Matter General

This one works as you don't have to address the issue specifically to the Bad Gifter alone. You can make it a general note to all friends and family by registering a wishlist on an online store. You then just send an email, or a set up a social media post, with the following text:

Online group chats can be a good place to get the message out

"Hi guys, I know this might seem a bit impersonal but there're a few finishing touches for the house/me/whatever I really would love this year. I know it's a hassle trying to guess what someone wants, so I thought this might make everything easier for us all. If you have a wish list, I'd love to see it too - might as well all have something we need, right?"

Keep it light, friendly and hope that everyone gets the hint. You might need to make reference to the wish list in conversation with the Bad Gifter, just to make sure they saw it. A mere drop in of "oh I want a [item], that's why I put it on my wishlist" followed by a change of subject will suffice. But what if, despite all of the above, you still end up being confronted by something you dislike?

Option One: Tell Them

This goes against our yearning for social graces, but think about it another way. If you had gained a reputation as a Bad Gifter, would you not want to know about it? Would you not want to be able to correct it? After all, you're spending money on something that people don't want - it's a colossal waste. You have to be polite, but sometimes your friends and family are going to want to know if their gifts are not what you desire.

Option Two: Make The Most of It

Find a way to embrace your bad gift. If it's a tacky ornament, relegate it to a room in the house you don't see often. Tell yourself it is the thought that counts and try to muddle through. It's not easy, but it is the path of least resistance.