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Gifts. - I know it's wonky and I don't care [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Kake

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Gifts. [Oct. 8th, 2006|10:34 pm]
Kake
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I have a lot of posts queued up that never seem to have a good time for posting; it always seems like someone's going to think it's purely about them. Luckily, a situation[0] arose today which sparked some potentially interesting thoughts but without being anything anyone would get their knickers in a twist about, so I can post the thoughts now without upsetting anyone.

[0] For the curious: I wrote some code a while ago — unasked — for a project that I'm not directly connected with, and sent it over to someone who was connected with it. I found out today that they don't want it. No big deal.

Anyway, on to the thoughts. They're about gifts.

If I give you something, it's yours. It's so thoroughly yours that you can do whatever you like with it. You can love it and cherish it for the rest of your life, or you can throw it away the next day. It's yours. The gifts I give don't have attached conditions; I wouldn't consider them to be gifts if they did.

I would be more upset by finding out that out of guilt you'd held on to something you really didn't want, than by finding out you'd got rid of it.

I rarely give presents at “expected” times. You're extremely unlikely to get a $religious_holiday present from me, and you're not all that likely to get a birthday present. What you are likely to get is an “I saw this and thought you would like it” present, or an “I thought you needed something nice to happen” present.

Sometimes, of course, these occasions coincide (and then circumstances conspire against my actually delivering the thing — for example, I still have an undelivered birthday present for jvvw, somewhere; oh, and a Christmas card for rejs written in about 2001).

So I wondered how the rest of you feel about this sort of thing. I made a little poll, but I would love to hear more in comments. This is also a rare public post, so feel free to point people at it. If interestingness ensues, I may make more public ones.

Apologies to mahogany and rjw1, who answered the first version of this poll; I didn't realise until I looked at your answers how difficult the commas in the first version made it to read. Please please fill it in again!

Note: in this poll, “I” refers to you, the person answering.

If I gave someone a present, I would be unhappy if they:

threw it away without telling me
0(0.0%)
asked me if I minded them throwing it away
0(0.0%)
threw it away and told me they did
0(0.0%)
gave it away without telling me
0(0.0%)
asked me if I minded them giving it away
0(0.0%)
gave it away and then told me
0(0.0%)
put it into storage without telling me
0(0.0%)
asked me if I minded them putting it into storage
0(0.0%)
put it into storage and then told me
0(0.0%)
kept it but would have preferred not to
8(22.2%)

If I gave someone a present, I would think less of them if they:

threw it away without telling me
1(5.9%)
asked me if I minded them throwing it away
0(0.0%)
threw it away and told me they did
4(23.5%)
gave it away without telling me
0(0.0%)
asked me if I minded them giving it away
0(0.0%)
gave it away and then told me
0(0.0%)
put it into storage without telling me
0(0.0%)
asked me if I minded them putting it into storage
0(0.0%)
put it into storage and then told me
0(0.0%)
kept it but would have preferred not to
1(5.9%)
LinkReply

Comments:
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[User Picture]From: ceb
2006-10-08 09:45 pm (UTC)
I'd be unhappy if they threw it away (absent it having broken/been used up) because I try to give people presents of things I think they'll like and it would mean I'd failed in my aim. I might or might not be unhappy if they gave it away, depending on whether it was because they didn't like it (sad) or because they'd found someone who would like it more (happy).
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[User Picture]From: nou
2006-10-09 06:10 pm (UTC)
That makes sense. I like the idea of a gift I'd given being handed on to someone else who'd appreciate it more; it's like little tendrils of happiness wandering out into the world.
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[User Picture]From: nou
2006-10-09 06:32 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure that anything related to a present I gave would make me think less of them, except in the unlikely instance that they made hurtful comments about my taste.

I still feel guilty about a compliment katyha gave me some time ago; I didn't accept it very graciously because it focused on something that I didn't feel was a good thing. Sorry Katy.

As has having the present used as an occasion to point out that I had missed other present-giving occasions.

How annoying. And ungrateful.
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[User Picture]From: redcountess
2006-10-08 09:52 pm (UTC)
While I understand that there will be occasions when people will want to exchange or give away something I've given them (as in shop bought), I would rather not know —my mother is chronic for not using stuff given to her, but then not giving it away, and leaving it around the house.
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[User Picture]From: nou
2006-10-09 06:36 pm (UTC)
I hope your mum has a big house :)
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[User Picture]From: caramel_betty
2006-10-08 09:57 pm (UTC)
It would probably depend on the present. Like, if it was a book I got them because I thought they might like it/we'd chatter about it and it was 2 quid in a charity shop, I'm not going to get my knickers in a twist what they do with it, come what may.

If it's something I've spent ages tracking down for them, something meaningful, something given for a particular reason then it's possible I'm going to get frustrated or upset if they throw it out. And probably not for the item itself, but for the emotions invested in the giving.
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[User Picture]From: nou
2006-10-09 06:42 pm (UTC)
That makes sense, yes. Something that means something, something you've spent a lot of time over; that's not just an item, it's sort of a little piece of yourself.
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[User Picture]From: duranorak
2006-10-08 09:59 pm (UTC)
Unless it's broken, telling someone "I threw/am throwing your present away" is just crass. I mean, "I'm so sorry, but it got broken and I had to throw it away", obviously, is the opposite of crass, but otherwise, really. I'd be so upset and so furious that the person hadn't given it to someone else who might want it, or back to me, instead. But then I don't like the idea of throwing things away anyway, y'know. Which is why I'm now packing up more stuff than can possibly fit in boxes.

E.
x
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[User Picture]From: nou
2006-10-09 06:52 pm (UTC)
Yes, I hate wasting things too. I think it would depend on circumstances whether I minded someone throwing away something I'd given them. If they were genuinely drowning in stuff, I'd completely understand them feeling too overwhelmed to find good homes for the things which were suffocating them. (I do try not to give non-consumables to people who're drowning in stuff; but not everyone talks about this kind of thing, so I'm sure there are some cases I just don't know about.)
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[User Picture]From: taimatsu
2006-10-08 10:01 pm (UTC)
I'd be unhappy with *myself*, because I would have intended to get them something that would give them pleasure, and if they had to get rid of it I have probably got it wrong. I would probably prefer not to hear that they had decided to immediately dispose of something I had given them. I think my upbringing has meant my gut says it's rude to tell someone you don't like what they got you - I was brought up to express unalloyed gratitude for a gift unless there was an extremely good reason not to (e.g. you keep buying me food I'm allergic to and pressing me to eat it).

This does not hold if I have, for example, bought a book and explicitly said 'If you have this already let me know and we can swap it for another'.

If I were to buy presents for someone and kept on getting it wrong, I think I would prefer them not to tell me bluntly but to find a way of pointing me towards things they did like which would suit them better.
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[User Picture]From: taimatsu
2006-10-08 10:04 pm (UTC)
Incidentally, while I think it's rude to say 'I binned/got rid of that thing you gave me', it's also rude for the giver to ask pointed questions about the whereabouts of the gift and so on. 'Oooh, why aren't you wearing those lovely gloves I knitted you?' etc.
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[User Picture]From: nou
2006-10-09 07:09 pm (UTC)
Yes, makes sense; I think this is roughly what caramel_betty was saying above.

Thoughtful and customised gifts which are subtly wrong are really, really hard to deal with. I mean, you know the person's put some effort into it, and they want you to be pleased with it, but it's just not the right thing to give you. It's almost as if they've made a little picture of your soul, and shown it to you, and made a huge glaring mistake. I'm not at all sure how to deal with that - try to pretend they actually got it right? That would be the "polite" thing to do, but it closes off the possibility of the person being able to learn something more about you, and correct their mental model.
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[User Picture]From: mahogany
2006-10-08 10:52 pm (UTC)
I'm not really in the habit of checking up on people to make sure they're using the gifts I've given them, or enjoying the gifts. Besides, I usually try to get an idea of what a person likes before hand, and if I don't know them, I usually give consumables or gift certificates. So if someone were to tell me that they threw away my gift, it would have to be out of spite.
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[User Picture]From: nou
2006-10-09 07:31 pm (UTC)
Yes, I like giving consumables too!
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[User Picture]From: lovingboth
2006-10-08 10:53 pm (UTC)
I usually ask what people want, and if I don't, it's disposable without offence.
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[User Picture]From: nou
2006-10-10 02:09 pm (UTC)
That seems a very sensible attitude to take.
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From: hatter
2006-10-08 11:24 pm (UTC)
I'm much like you in both aspects, I buy gifts when I see cool things for people, and I buy them because I think the recipient will like them and because I do too. It's theirs to do with as they please, though I'd rather know if they didn't like it, because that might stop me buying something else for them that's not something they want. And I'm hopeless at coming up with gift ideas for people at obvious times, too, and would rather get nothing from someone than get some junk that I've no desire to keep, and have no desire to waste my money and a friends space by getting them items that will quickly be discarded (whether formally, into the bin, or informally buried in the rest of their possessions). Ultimately though, it's yours, and I understand if something, however much thought I put into it, no longer fits into their life, then ideally someone else will have some use for it, but if not, then it should go.


the hatter
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[User Picture]From: nou
2006-10-10 02:12 pm (UTC)
Oh, gosh, yes, I hate that whole "buy presents at obvious times" thing too. Though I suppose it could be overcome to some extent by keeping a list of people's birthdays and things, and starting looking for things a long way in advance - but that would end up getting somewhat expensive, since you'd end up getting things for people who you didn't actually end up seeing on or near their birthday after all. I mean, there are over a hundred people who I could potentially feel obliged to buy a birthday present for; and buying two birthday presents a week is not really financially feasible.
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[User Picture]From: rjw1
2006-10-08 11:58 pm (UTC)
i just dont normally uy gifts. its a lot easier that way.
if i do buy gifts its normally soemthing the person has asked for.
the only people who i just guess at are my immediate family.

i would never think less of anyone for doing any of the things in the poll.
although i suppose telling me would be crass. but im surei could let it slide.
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[User Picture]From: nou
2006-10-10 02:13 pm (UTC)
Well, if I gave something you gave me to a mutual friend, I think it would be less crass for me to warn you that you may at some point see it in their possession.
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[User Picture]From: truecatachresis
2006-10-09 07:00 am (UTC)
I'd be unhappy if someone threw a gift away without telling me because I'd rather know why they didn't like it so I can do better next time; I'd be unhappy if they kept it without liking it for the same reasons as you. Not being upset by being told about the throwing/giving away/putting in storage og gifts is dependent on the telling being done productively rather than rudely. "Your gift sucked, so I set it on fire" for example might cause upset, whereas "I'm sorrry, I get freaked out by hand-knitted monkeys ever since I was mugged by a gang of them when I was 5" is more likely to cause sympathy, and a resolution not to hand-knit monkey muggers again.

These are my ideal answers; in a real-world situation it's entirely possible that I would get upset at other outcomes also, but if so I would think less of myself for doing so. I would possibly think less of someone if they threw a gift away IN MY FACE or something like that.
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[User Picture]From: truecatachresis
2006-10-09 07:00 am (UTC)
This all said, I'm actually pretty rubbish at getting gifts for people anyway.
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[User Picture]From: julietk
2006-10-09 07:16 am (UTC)
I'm with you that I'd much rather people didn't keep stuff they didn't want. (I am anti-clutter! And trying to get better at this sort of thing myself...).

I'd be kind of upset, though, if someone threw something away, just because it's a bit wasteful. If they didn't want it & couldn't think of anyone else who did, I'd rather they gave it back to me & I could find another home for it (at least, if it's something of that sort - if it was, I dunno, something like a compilation CD then no prob, it's reproducible anyway & it's just the plastic being wasted). I do quite often say this when I'm giving people presents; especially as it's not uncommon that what I've got them is also something I think is good myself :-) (not because I'm buying for me not for them, but because it's unsurprisingly not uncommon that I share tastes in things with my friends; and I think one is more likely to buy a present for someone related to a thing-that-you-share, because you know more about it than you would about thing-of-theirs-that-you-don't-share. e.g. I would never buy dogrando anything camera-related without a very specific written down request :-) ).
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[User Picture]From: nou
2006-10-10 02:17 pm (UTC)
If they didn't want it & couldn't think of anyone else who did, I'd rather they gave it back to me & I could find another home for it [...] I do quite often say this when I'm giving people presents

Hm, yes, maybe I should start saying this too! Though no doubt there are some people who'd take offence at it.
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[User Picture]From: bopeepsheep
2006-10-09 08:09 am (UTC)
My brother went through a phase of selling presents for very little money at car boot sales. The whole family was more than a little annoyed at this (not least because he also sold some things he'd just borrowed); if he had told us in advance we'd have given him (more) money for the items and kept them ourselves. I'd be marginally less upset if he'd given them to charity, to be honest.
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[User Picture]From: nou
2006-10-10 02:23 pm (UTC)
Gosh. Is this selling them soon after he'd been given them, or a substantial amount of time later?
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[User Picture]From: j4
2006-10-09 10:00 am (UTC)
I don't think it would make me think less of them-as-a-person in any of those cases. I'd feel they were being a bit daft if they'd kept something they didn't want to keep, because I think I feel the same way as you do about gift-giving: it's a total transference of ownership, it's yours to keep or sell or break or whatever, you don't have to ask the giver of the gift.

The exception that's just occurred to me too late to include in the poll (bah!) is that if I'd given something with a lot of sentimental value and made that sentimental value explicit as part of the gift (e.g., oh, I don't know, giving my daughter my engagement ring or something, "I want you to have this because it was special to me and so are you", that kind of thing) then I'd probably be hurt if they'd thrown it away. But really I think that hurtness would be a failing on my part, and I don't want to give emotionally-loaded gifts like that, it's like giving somebody a bomb and telling them (or, worse, not telling them!) that you might blow it up at any point. Or something.
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[User Picture]From: nou
2006-10-10 02:26 pm (UTC)
Yes, agreed. See also: things that you give to people because you can't bring yourself to throw something away but don't want to have to have it in your own house, so you lay on the guilt to make sure they won't throw it away. (Not thinking of any particular circumstance here, but I'm fairly sure it's happened to me.)
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