gift-giving is for chumps

how’s that for an action title.  bain experience in action!  sort of.  okay, no manager would accept the following slide. 

gift giving

The indisputable fact is that cash is the most economically efficient gift.

my latest poll question that i ask when i’m grasping for conversation straws is what exactly people do with respect to gift giving, because in my mind, it is this clearly antiquated tactic that violates all laws of rationality in my book.  general consensus is that most people do “christmas lists”.  sean and angeles are going for the experience angle, with a surprise plane ticket to a close friend’s graduation in may or tickets to book of mormon in new york.  my sister and i shuffle money around, buy my mom something (she’s one of the few people i know who doesn’t buy things she wants even though she can afford them), and don’t buy each other anything.  otherwise, i’m not giving gifts.  ANYWAY.  various thoughts on gift giving:

thought catalog – a meditation on gift giving. appropriately clever and quirky and wonderful.  in my mind, what makes thought catalog awesome: well written, humorous pieces about everyday experiences that also have a touch of heart/morality.

As the story goes, they give the baby Jesus (but really his parents, only that’s never stated) three presents: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. No one can argue with gold — that’s the no brainer, the iPad of the ancient world. And while frankincense isn’t as impressive, it was apparently a must-have item back then and, besides, its name makes up for what it lacks in bling. Bringing up the rear, though, was myrrh, which sounds less like a gift and more like a sound you might make when you get a gift you don’t want. Myrrh, although apparently highly valuable in those days (courtesy Wikipedia), was the most utilitarian gift given by the three kings, as well as the least flashy. It was the practical cardigan, the steak knife set, the American Express gift card. I imagine it being the type of gift that you might second-guess and deliberate over while standing in the middle of a crowded store aisle. Do you think he’ll use the myrrh, though? Is this myrrh better than that myrrh? I don’t know what to do. Mer.

However — spoiler alert — myrrh does get a shout-out about fifty pages later. So despite its quietness and modesty, in the end, myrrh proves to be lasting and meaningful. A homerun for King #3.

But the point is, gifts — whether perfect, practical, or kind of pitiful, whether gold, frankincense, or myrrh — are ultimately just things, so what does it matter if they go over with a bang or not? Because if the holiday season reminds us of anything, it’s that sometimes the things we like the best about our lives and the moments we enjoy the most aren’t filled with whoops and hollers, but simply quiet myrrh-murs.

okay, not 100% sure on the takeaway, but clever wordplay?!?!… don’t stress out over gifts?!  meaningful things in life are not necessarily the flashy, expensive things. meaningful things in life aren’t even physical things, most of the time?! (does beg the question, what exactly the meaningful things in life are, but i will settle for the above.  iPad’s of the ancient world!!  hahahaha….)

jimmy kimmel live – i gave my kids a terrible christmas present. i know, annoyingly mainstream, but absolutely cute and hilarious. 

nyt – in defense of holiday gift-giving.  article is so-so, but includes one of my favorite stats that gifts are worth 75 cents to the dollar (albeit not at all a representative sampling). 

slate – do not buy dad a tie (via patrick).  gifts are worth 70 cents to 90 cents to the dollar.  the article brings up some really awesome, clever points that i had never heard before:

1) gift giving can be viewed as wealth redistribution.  gift giving should flow from the richest to the poorest.

2) gift giving in some ways is like gambling–you’re destined to lose and give a crappy gift.  however, the only chance you can “beat the house” is if you go risky.  riskier presents are the only way you can hope to give gifts that people will value more than cash-value. 

The problem with presents is that you’re never going to do a better job of satisfying the gift-recipient’s preferences than she could do herself. But preference sets aren’t fixed. If someone had handed me $10, I never would have spent it buying the Cults album, for the simple reason that I hadn’t heard of the band. When it was given to me, I immediately checked it out and loved it. When you step outside the circle of things you know for sure your gift-getter likes, you risk creating a massive deadweight loss. (You give her a ticket to Las Vegas, without knowing that she hates gambling.) But with the greater risk comes a greater potential reward. You may introduce the recipient to something marvelous she would otherwise have never encountered. Giving stuff rather than cash is a way of saying you know better than the recipient what she really wants. The riskier the present, the more likely it is to generate significant benefit. (So, not a sweater.)

3) giving experiences is sometimes better than giving physical items.  people often will derive more pleasure from experiences than from physical objects.  (okay, not that new of an idea.  i’ve actually read conflicting literature on this.)

4) give throughout the year.  gift giving is, in the end, meant to be a sign of affection, and why restrict it to the culturally mandated 4 days of the year or whatnot?

5) another way you can “beat the house” in terms of giving a gift that doesn’t suck is if you incorporate some sort of surprise element.  something they weren’t expecting, when they weren’t expecting it. 

john lewis christmas advert 2011

somewhat controversial/unrealistic and fodder for creepy re-cuts

For gifts you can’t wait to give


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