With the holidays here and Black Friday having wreaked its usual havoc, I thought it would be nice to share some gift giving advice.

I’m sure we all have that one person in our family or social circles that gives lousy gifts every single year.  The cat shaped pot holders for the business executive that despises all things cute-sy.  The barbie doll for the tomgirl who dreamed of dirt bikes.  The super-mega desktop computer for the technologically challenged.  You get the picture…
Well, while we may not be able to do anything about the gifts we receive but we can make sure those on our own list will be nothing less than completely happy.  Here’s a few tips to make sure that happens.

Know your audience

You don’t have to be a stalker to learn what your friends and family’s interests are.  But what about our co-workers or neighbors?  The members of our outer circle might be a bit trickier to know how to shop for.  That’s when you turn your mind’s clock back and remember past conversations and encounters.  There are many times throughout the year where conversations about dream vacations or that need for a new gadgets or clothes has come up.  You might have been at fellowship and overheard your neighbor mention to someone else, their love of video games or their preference of potted flowers over cut ones or a need for new gardening tools.  And their you have it.  Or maybe your boss mentioned at a company picnic what they’re favorite restaurant of all time is and now you have a great excuse to buy them a gift card without looking tacky.
I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying, “It’s the thought that counts” but it means nothing if those thoughts weren’t about the person you’re getting the gift for.  And with that in mind, we move onto my next tip:

Forget about yourself

I recently had a birthday (November 21st in case you were wondering) and my roommate gave me these hand written birthday cards that were so sweet, my teeth hurt reading them.  I loved the fact that I got a card but if she had recalled, I don’t like overly mushy things, so the discomfort I felt put a damper on my gratitude in a way that it left us both feeling pretty bad.  I knew where she was coming from.  She’s a very touchy-feely type of person.  She loves all things mushy and sweet and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  I wouldn’t have her any other way.
But therein lies the problem with so many of us buying the wrong gifts for people.  We concern ourselves with what we think is nice and looking to achieve that good feeling we get from giving that we forget that the whole purpose of giving a gift has nothing to do with us and everything to do with the recipient.

Do research.  Ask questions.

Okay, so you have no idea what makes a great video game or what makes one power tool superior to another.  It’s alright.  All you have to know is what the recipient would do with it.
For example: If you know that you’re co-worker builds bird houses in his spare time and sells them as a second income, you can ask the friendly people at Home-Depot what kinds of tools are necessary in that process and what you could get them to make that process easier.  Or you can get them a gift card to Home Depot and save some time.  With that in mind remember this next tip:

Don’t panic.

If you’ve already followed the steps and know what kind of gift would be perfect for your recipient but it turns out to be something you know nothing about, relax.  Don’t panic.  Gift cards are for just such an occasion.  As long as you know where they can acquire their much sought-after gift, then you can’t fail.  Just as long as you heed my final tip:

Gift cards are to be a last resort ONLY.

I know it’s tempting to simply buy a stack of gift cards, write a bunch of To’s and From’s on them and call it a day, but that’s because we’ve forgotten the whole purpose of giving presents is to make someone else happy, not yourself.  As long as you remember tip #2 “Forget about yourself” this shouldn’t be a problem.

I just remembered another VERY important tip for buying gift cards:
Know the merchandise 

By this, I mean, to know what the recipient would want to get with their gift card and purchase it in an appropriate amount.  I remember when I worked at Bath and Body Works and having to help one unsatisfied customer after another try and find something worthwhile to buy with their $10 gift cards.  Their complaints were all the same; “What did thy expect me to get with $10?  The cheapest thing in here is $10.95.  That is unless they wanted me to buy a whole bunch of trial size bottles.  In which case, why didn’t they just buy that in the first place and save me this headache!?”  And that’s the cleaned up version of what they were saying.  A lot of them felt unappreciated and told me they wished the person had not even bothered getting them anything.  A few of them tried to give me their gift card.  My heart went out to everyone involved.  The gift givers and their recipients.  It was made my heart hurt seeing the disappointment and hurt feelings.  It may not seem like a big deal at the time of purchase, but the if the recipient knew that before Christmas, the store had gift sets selling for as low as $9.95 and the gifter still opted for the $10 gift card, the usual complaint I heard was “Well, why didn’t they just get me the gift set?”  And I would tell them “Well, maybe they didn’t know what fragrance  you would’ve liked.”  They agreed that’s a good reason but they always retorted “Well, that’s what gift receipts are for.”
With so many people in the store exchanging their products in their gift baskets, I couldn’t argue with them on that point.  But then, I’d tell them that our gift sets go so fast, we were probably out by the time they got here.  They accepted it but still weren’t happy.
Now, in my opinion, this is just another symptom of our society based on “I want what I want when and how I want it!” and these people should be happy they got something in the first place but that’s not my place to judge.

The only exception were children.  They were happy just having the freedom to go shopping with their own card, they didn’t care.  That always warmed my heart when they proudly presented their gift card and took their bag of goodies and left the store walking tall and on top of the world.  ^_^

And there you have it.  My two cents about how to give great gifts this and every holiday season.  Happy hunting!