Buyer Beware: Worst gift ideas


Let’s face it.  Christmas shopping can be challenging, particularly when you grow older and can’t remember what you gave last year.

Then, there are those family members  you might not know so well.  So you give them a set of blue dishes and turns out you hear they despise blue!


One year a relative gave me a $50 bill which she specified should be used to hire a cleaning service!

The hidden message seemed clear – I needed to clean my  house more thoroughly.  What you think might be filled with good intentions could ignite deep resentments.

That wasn’t it at all.  She just wanted to make my load a little easier.  At the time I was working two jobs and raising three children: two teenagers and a totally helpless husband.

Here are a few ideas to avoid:

1. The “Good Intentions” Gifts

Gifts which target a specific short-coming are generally not appreciated.

  • A gift certificate to the newest diet craze.
  • Coaching tapes on how to be successful to someone who is unemployed or in a dead-end job.
  • A month’s supply of Nicorette to a chain smoker.
  • Hypnosis tapes for overeaters, smokers, aggressive Type A personalities.
2.  Hot gadgets

There are a million worthless gadgets out there that you may be tempted into believing will make the perfect gift for someone on your list who has no hobbies, no particular talents and who doesn’t seem to need a thing. No doubt, such an individual is hard to buy for, but don’t believe for a second the Orb Mood-Detection Device will end up anywhere but in the bottom of a drawer or more likely, the trash.

3. Gifts with messages

xmas messages If you spy a sweat shirt imprinted with the words “I sue, therefore I am.”  Your friend, the lawyer, will probably take offense. Ditto for all the other cheesy messages on t-shirts with the possible exception of the one that reads “How’s your Momma an’ em?” I saw that one in a store the other day and considered getting it for my friend, Linda,  until I read this advice.

4. Themed Undergarments

As tempting as it may be to buy the cute reindeer boxer shorts for your significant other, ask yourself where he can wear them? The gym? Nope. The office? Nope. At home? That’s about it and for about three weeks out of the year. And for guys, avoid the impulse of buying the tiny slinky baby doll nighty unless she specifically pointed it out as something she would enjoy.

5. Framed Pictures of Yourself

Loving yourself is important, but sending framed pictures of yourself is an odd gift. Including a photograph in with a holiday card will keep everyone updated on how you look, without making them add on a new room to the house just to display your pictures.

6. The Re-Gift

Before you even think of wrapping up that unwanted present you’ve had hidden away, be very careful.

I gave someone a box of Alaskan salmon two years ago and got it back last year – Still had the CostCo sticker on it.

I was horrified because I thought it was a very thoughtful gift. Of course, I threw it away because, well, it was more than year old and had probably been hanging out in the recipient’s attic had for the past 12 months.

I wish I had hung on to it and I could give it back again this year!

7.  Thoughtless Gifts

I have a friend who buys a ton of gifts at the beginning of the season because he thinks they are cool or neat. He figures he will match the gift to the person as the season rolls in. Obviously it should be the other way around – you think first about the type of person your cool friend is, consider their particularities and then try to find a gift to match.

Examples of Thoughtless Gifts:

  • Giving a country CD to a person who loves the blues.
  • Giving alcohol to someone who doesn’t drink.
  • Giving perfume to someone who is allergic to perfume.
  • Giving coffee to someone who never drinks coffee.
  • Source: Donna L Montaldo, Guide

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