Dec 17, 2015

Gifting - Is There Such a Thing as a "Bad" Gift?

I was reading Holly's post about Christmas gifts and her list of things she'd like.  At the beginning she links to this awful post someone wrote about what not to get her for Christmas.  Awful because it's all petty stuff, and she sounds like such a spoiled brat.  BUT it did get me thinking, is there any gift I could genuinely say is bad without sounding like an ingrate?

I know I've given gifts that have fallen flat.  But there haven't been any I've received that I didn't at least pretend to be grateful for.  So here's my list...

Gifts I Had to Pretend to Like

1. Hair Puller Outer (aka Torture Device)

So you know how some people always want to give you something "useful"?  In my experience, it's been primarily boyfriends.  This particular fellow thought he was doing me a huge favor and it never occurred to him that a gift to alter my appearance could be perceived as an insult.  I'm a pragmatic sort, so I was willing to overlook this and indeed, the hair puller thingy did seem to have some potential for usefulness.

For about 15 seconds.  And then, eyes watering and skin flaming red, I realized I'd rather leave my body hair completely intact than ever, ever use this thing again.  It was more painful than the time that I decided to try to wax my lady bits with a kit at home.  It felt like it was ripping your skin, rather than just yanking the hair out by the roots.  It was bad.

2. Clothes

This is always a risky prospect.  My sisters have (what I consider to be) excellent taste, know my size, and even what shapes will be flattering on my body.  But anyone else... yeah, it's just a total toss up.  And then you add grandmotherly forgetfulness into the mix, and you've got triple X shirts and XS panties and making a show of enthusiasm is very difficult.  When my mom was teaching us to write thank you cards, she told us to say something nice about the item and when it's something you can't even physically fit on your body that gets difficult.  So... we got creative: "the color was so pretty," "what nice lace detailing," "how funky and interesting!"

3. Bath Sets

Not a fan in general, but I have a particular memory that really reinforced this for me.  A group of friends and myself would exchange gifts every year and most of us didn't want to.  So each year we'd wait until the last minute, hoping we just wouldn't do it until that one friend would pipe up, "I got your presents today!"  Then we'd sigh and trudge to the mall to buy something meaningless for her because we felt obligated to.  The best year (and by "best" I mean most pointless) was the year I got her a bath set from B&BW.  Not the kind of thing I liked, but probably the kind of thing she liked.

When we exchanged and I opened her gift, lo and behold!  Another bath set.  Yes, we basically exchanged bath sets.  I don't know if she liked mine or not, but if my money HAD to be spent on overpriced hygiene products, I'd rather have picked my own scent.  Although what I'd most prefer is to not do the exchange and just save our money.  None of us had very much of it at that point and my bank account would have been a lot happier.  To be fair to this friend I should probably mention that we did our exchange a couple more times before growing apart, and the very last one was probably the best - we actually bought things with each other's interests in mind, rather than our own.

4. Keychains

As a kid I kind of liked these.  I had keychain collections hooked onto my backpack and it was all very "cool."  But as a practical adult, I only need the one for my actual keys, and I don't like clutter, even sentimental clutter from people's trips and stuff.  I feel like an ass just writing this, but it's honest.  The only trip souvenir I've ever really liked was a piranha skeleton that my grandmother brought back from the Amazon.  THAT was pretty awesome!  Everything else?  I didn't go on that trip, so it's hard to treasure your memories that I don't share.

5. (Some) Giftcards

I don't actively dislike these, and sometimes they're genuinely useful.  But how well do you know me?  Do you even know if I've ever been to that store?  If it's a restaurant and it's within 45 minutes of my house - yes, thank you, I will definitely be using this!  But if it requires me to physically go somewhere I've never been to pick out stuff I probably don't need?  Meh.  There's a pretty good chance I won't ever actually make use of it.  Someone got me a giftcard to Target once (sorry Target supporters!), and at that point in my life I'd never been there.  I remembered it 2 years later, tried to use the card, and discovered these things come with a time limit.

OH!  And I'm terrible at remembering them.  Currently sitting in my purse, giftcards for: Catherine Rooney's (over a year old), Barnes & Noble (few months), Water Works (2 years-ish), and Dogfish Head (1 year).  And these are places I like!  I made a special trip to Water Works twice (it's a restaurant by the Philadelphia art museum) and forgot the card both times (Sorry, Sister3, I'll remember next time!).

Edit: I used the Barnes & Noble card after writing this so I wouldn't forget about it again.  Haha!

So anyway, I don't think any of these are "bad" gifts - they were just things I didn't appreciate the way someone else might have.  So I say thank you and then quietly regift or donate to Goodwill later.  Thanks for the sentiment!  I care about you, also.

I still haven't thought of a bad gift unless it's something openly judgemental, like "Parenting for Dummies" to someone whose kids are out of control or... I don't know.  What do you guys think?

Is there such a thing as a "bad" gift?  What's the worst gift you've ever received?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design


  1. I actually loooove gift cards. To anywhere, I'll find a way to use it! john hates them though. Partially because he hates using them, like it cheap or something (my dad is the same way... your waiter is still making money so I don't get it...) and partially because he's a man-child and likes having 'things' to open on Christmas. But me? give me all the gift cards! I don't like getting anything that would be considered clutter - so clothes, accessories, home decor, etc - stuff I can't use up quickly. I'm so minimalist that it's guaranteed not to stick around because I just don't need any more stuff.

  2. i am the opposite with gift cards, they barely last 5 minutes, even if i have never shopped at the store before.

    the worst gift we ever got was for our wedding.. kc's family (who had almost gotten divorced 10 times, have 8 kids and have had more affairs than hair on their heads) gave us a book on staying faithful to your spouse. like, really? for our wedding!!!! it went to goodwill the next day.

  3. Give me allll the gift cards! I'd rather pick out something that I love rather than something you think I may like, maybe. Bath sets are boring, and I actually hate baths, so they're pretty useless to me. I agree that clothes can be tricky- my mom got me clothes for my birthday and I had to fake liking most of the items. I'd add jewelry to the list as well. I had an ex who bought me this hideous necklace the first Christmas we were together- it was not my style at ALL.

    I'd say an torture device counts as a horrible gift! My coworker got a razor and some lotion in a white elephant gift exchange. The gifts were supposed to be limited to $20. I'd say that was a pretty terrible gift too!

  4. Yeahhhh I think #1 is a super rude gift to get anyone ever. Especially from someone who's presumably seeing you in any state of undress. I also hate getting clothes, but that's some people's default gift to give. Scarves and winter hats are pretty much the only thing I've been okay with wearing that I haven't picked out myself. Yeah, I'm particular and kind of a pain in the ass to shop for :( (honestly that's why I tell people not to get me things. Just don't, it'll be better for all of us.) However, I do like getting gift cards but I hate buying them for others or asking for them specifically...

    I don't think there are "bad gifts" per se, just...not as welcome gifts. But really, I hate getting any gift that's given out of obligation, because it's usually a filler gift. I don't usually like receiving gifts to begin with, but if I am going to I'd rather it be a gift that someone thought of or saw specifically for me, and THAT's why they felt compelled to get it for me. Not because the calendar says we're supposed to spend a lot of money on stuff this week.

    Annnnnnd /tangent.

  5. Yeah #1 is not cool. But maybe he was just clueless. When my work suggested exchanging gifts I piped up and said please lets not. I don't want another obligation to think about. She made a joke about me being scrooge and then took a vote anonymously and I was right no one wanted to do it.


Talk to me! I'm friendly. I won't bite.

P.S. If you use Blogger and you want to get email replies to your comments, use your blogger profile instead of Google+ and make sure the box is checked next to "show my email address."