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Ten Worst Gift Ideas

How to Avoid Giving Really Bad Gifts


We all mean well when we buy gifts for friends, family and co-workers, but sometimes we convince ourselves that something perfectly awful, is really a good gift for someone on our list. To avoid becoming the subject of family whispers, or the reason friends suddenly glance sideways at each other, take a look at the list of 10 Worst Gift-Giving Mistakes.

1. The "Good Intentions" Gifts

What you think might be filled with good intentions could ignite deep resentments. Gifts which target a specific short-coming is generally not appreciated. Such gifts could include:
  • 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. Worthless 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. Expert Advice to Experts

Some people know a lot about a particular topic. They may excel in a sport, pride themselves on their deep knowledge of wine or they could be an expert tailor. Buying expert-related gifts is chancy because they already own it, already know it, or really do not need it.

4. Gifts With a Message

When the impulse hits to buy your pregnant sister-in-law the t-shirt with the huge arrow pointed at her stomach and the words, "bun in the oven" scrawled on it, just keep walking. If the over-whelming desire to get lawyer Uncle Bob, a t-shirt with the words "I Sue, Therefore I Am" printed on it, do not do it. Unless the person you are buying for is under the age of 16, chances are your wordy gift will end up as a dust rag.

5. Artwork

I am the proud owner of a huge framed graphic of buffaloes roaming the wilderness. Get the picture? Unless someone has specifically requested a particular piece of art, it is best to not assume you know his or her taste.

6. 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.

7. Framed Pictures of Yourself

Every year my niece sends us a big framed picture of herself. I'm running out of display room, and to be honest, the shelves are beginning to resemble a shrine.

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 picture.

8. The Re-Gift

Before you even think of wrapping up that awful present you've had hidden away, check out what the experts say about regifting and see if you are up to par with this now accepted trend in gift-giving.

9. Hostess Gift Blunders

Last year I invited friends to a small holiday dinner. One friend, a recently divorced guy, handed me a gift as he came through the door. I had a feeling it would be interesting because of his lack of eye contact. Sure enough, it was a dead-on last minute grab and run hostess gift - two giant bags of M&Ms. I didn't care, but I worried about him going to his new girlfriend's parent's house the next weekend. Avoid embarrassing yourself with last minute hostess gifts and stock up with a few nice bottles of wine.

10. 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.

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