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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gift Value?

So maybe you read it too? There's this guy in the news talking about the value of Christmas gifts. He reasons that at least 20% of all the Christmas gifts given are things that people don't want. Moreover, he reasons that if they don't want them, they don't have value to those people who receive them.

The logic is that if I pay $50 for a gift, but you don't appreciate it $50 worth, then value could be lost. So, for example, if you only care about $30 worth for the gift (assuming that your appreciation can always be measured in dollars) - then I'd have to find at least $20 of value in the satisfaction and joy I have in giving you the gift - in order to be getting full value for the price I paid for the gift. Of course, if I got more than $20 worth of satisfaction and joy from giving you the gift, then the $50 was quite a bargain.

Are you following this? The theory is that a gift only has value to the extent that the giver and the receiver value it. In other words, the value of a Christmas gift directly correlates to how much the recipient cares about the gift plus how much the giver cares about the gift. Does that make sense to you?

Now what about re-gifting, that timeless tradition of taking a perfectly good gift someone has given you (but which you don't care for) and giving it as a gift to someone else. We've already established that you-the-recipient of that gift care nothing for it ... so it has no value to you. Of course that would also mean that you-the-giver of that gift (in the re-gifting equation) obviously don't care about the gift ... so it has no value to you here either. So the only possible value proposition that this gift has is to the person who originally gave you the gift and/or the person to whom you re-gifted it. Are you following me here?

So the problem is in the gifts that don't have value. And it seems that there are quite a few gifts like that. The author of this study I read says at least 20% of the gifts given fall into this category. How does a gift come to have no value? Isn't it in the heart of the giver and in the heart of the receiver that casts such a harsh sentence on a poor, helpless gift?

What if everyone only gave gifts because they cared? What if nobody bought gifts because they were expected, because they wanted to impress, because they didn't want to show up empty-handed, etc? I don't know about you, but we have a closet where we keep the "re-gifts." We actually get so much crap that we don't care about --- often from people we hardly know, that we don't know what to do with it. Quite frequently we donate it to Goodwill or another non-profit that might be able to sell it or put it to good use. But even then we feel guilty. As a recipient of unwanted or useless gifts, it's hard to know what to do. (It's a terrible curse?)

So what's the solution here? A government bailout? Should we convene with President Obama and have Congressional testimony about the terrible gifting crisis in America? Or should we get serious about the whole notion of gift giving? Maybe we could use our hearts to love the people we want to give gifts to. Maybe we could challenge our own motives and sentiments when it comes to giving gifts?

One thing I've learned to do as a recipient is to ask for "consumption items." In other words, when my family asks what they can get me for Christmas, I've learned that "nothing" isn't going to work as an answer. The family has a desire to give to me, so I need to receive graciously. The question then becomes what I can receive graciously. I've learned that I can be much more sincerely gracious about shower soap or work gloves than I can about peanut brittle or a statue that says "World's Greatest Dad." So that's what I ask for. Every year, I send my family a list of things that I would appreciate. Mind you, many of them are things I can easily buy for myself. But this way I put the folks who love me and plan to gift me in a situation where they can be assured that the gift they give will actually have value to me. I think in that way, we both win.

I've long been turned off by weddings and the whole concept of giving at weddings. But I think I want to invent a new tradition. I think everyone everywhere should get involved in gift registries at their favorite stores. We should all maintain a "wish list" on-line with our favorite retailers. That way when someone wants to gift us they could simply go to the registry and buy us something from our list. They'd be certain to get us something we want. They'd eliminate the risk of their gift being stashed in the re-gifting closet. And most of all, they'd get the satisfaction of knowing they gave some that was actually cared about. In other words, both the giver and receiver would win.

So how about it America? How about a Father's Day registry at Home Depot? Or a Mother's Day registry at Bed, Bath & Beyond? Maybe a Christmas registry at WalMart or Target? Let's start something new --- a crusade to stamp out unwanted gifts and restore the value to giving!

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