Tuesday, December 9, 2008

gift me, and gift me again

May I advocate intelligent gift giving this holiday season? An online gift registry that allows the listing of items from multiple retailers is ideal. It could even allow several people to contribute money towards the purchase of more expensive gifts that are often passed over by gift buyers with a fixed price range and no means of contacting others with whom they could collaborate.

Here are the features of one application, Family Gift Exchange, available on the Internet:
View and manage your:
Wishlist - The items you want
Non-wishlist - The items you don't want
Recommendation list - The items other people think you want

Have your own individual login
Indicate relevent website or purchase location for gifts.
Make recommendations for other users.
Choose whether recommendations are visible to the person you are recommending a gift for.
Approve or unapprove the (visible) recommendations made for you.
Indicate to other users that you have purchased an item on someone's list (without the recipient being able to see that you have purchased it).
Customize site colors, logo, and family name for your own family or group.
Easy to use. Even has a HELP page.
No longer just for weddings and baby showers, gift registries are for any gift giving occasion, including Christmas and birthdays! Why not? Wikipedia has pages with descriptions and examples of gift registries and online gift lists.

1 comment:

Keir said...

An offline commenter sent me the following comments which I have have been given permission to post here; I have included my replies to each:

Have to say sounds like a horrid idea, I mean, aren't gifts more along the lines of "it's the thought that counts" - meaning that thinking of a person is what really matters, right? Marriage and baby registries, on the other hand, are more meant to get you set up for an event that you aren't prepared for otherwise without help. This is all to say that your gift isn't gonna be something you asked for - I mean, what's the fun in that?

I can appreciate a spontaneous and completely unexpected gift just as much as the next person - if it wasn't supposed to be a surprise we wouldn't put it behind gift wrapping would we?

On the other hand, we rely on cues and clues from people to know what they might like or need. The more we know and think about someone, the better we are able to give them a gift that they would like. I'd like to know what my family and friends want so that I can be sure that my gifts put a smile on their faces as much as theirs put a smile on mine. And if they have been pining for that new 2000 dollar doo-dad, maybe I could help them reach their goal by contributing 50 dollars toward it along with 39 other of their web-capable friends so that they can get it. Otherwise you'd have to buy it yourself, because I can assure you all my gifts have a price limit. Does knowing what you are getting take all the fun out of it? I don't think that is necessarily true. Anticipation can be just as exciting as a completely unexpected surprise.

I think that having good friends and close family who gives you gifts often inherently means that they know you and love you and would therefore often also give you a gift that you either desire or are happily surprised to receive. And that also means that if these people want to give you something you need, they'll ask you and contribute as you suggested. I still must say that a gift registry is there to buy things to prepare a person or couple for an event, stemming from long held traditions. People could use it for self fulfilling reasons, but that in my mind trivializes it and defeats the original intention.

Is this all just about self fulfillment? No. Here's why:

Scenario 1) I want to buy a present for a friend I haven't talked to in a long time, but I don't know what she wants. She lists her gift registry on Facebook and I see it, buy her something listed there and she gets the gift on Christmas and is pleasantly surprised. Not possible without a gift registry.

Scenario 2) John said that he needs socks on his birthday. So even though he only needed five pairs he gets socks from everyone. On a gift registry, items are removed when purchased, preventing everyone from getting the same thing.

Scenario 3) Gifts can be anonymous. I can buy a gift that someone has identified they need/want and send it to them without ever letting them know it is from me, if I don't want them to know. Creepy? Maybe.

Scenario 4) The only people who get a fruitcake are the ones who REALLY WANT a fruitcake (likewise with membership into the fruit of the month club, etc. etc.) No matter how much people love you, nobody knows you like you know yourself. What could you possibly buy for the person who has everything that they would genuinely appreciate? And if it is the thought that counts, then why bother with the gift? Really, a card would be easier. Or sending the money to someone who needs it more would be even more thoughtful. In fact, you can make donations to a charity of your choice something to list on YOUR gift registry, if that is what you want. (They make those kind of requests at funerals anyway. Ever see "In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made to [fill in the blank]).

Bottom line, if you want to be selfless and super generous, there are ways to do this with a gift registry and let everyone know that there are people out there who could use your gifts much more than you can, and by the way, thanks for thinking of me when you make that donation to Cancer research! I mean if you don't tell them, who will?