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Christmas Cheer

Gift Service Exchanges Online Gifts 135

Santa's little helper writes "According to this story on New Scientist, it will soon be possible to exchange unwanted Christmas gifts before they are even shipped." I just find this amusing, my favorite part is the line 'instead of unwrapping presents, we might take turns logging on to a computer'. Click here for merry christmas.
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Gift Service Exchanges Online Gifts

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  • Mail me! (Score:5, Funny)

    by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Friday December 28, 2001 @01:27PM (#2759340) Homepage Journal
    If anyone has an unwanted RealDoll (preferably unused) feel free to mail me! :)
  • by Violet Null ( 452694 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @01:27PM (#2759341)
    RichFX, based in New York City, is developing the "virtual gift exchange". The service allows someone to send a virtual greeting card with details of the gift. If it is not up to scratch, the recipient can exchange it for another one at the same store, before it ever gets shipped.

    In other news, it was determined that if you told someone what you were going to get them for Christmas before actually buying it, or, better yet, brought them along when you bought their gift, returns and exchanges could be reduced to almost nil.
    • ...if you told someone what you were going to get them [or] brought them along...

      Funny, that's what my parents did with us since I was about 10. Well, not so much the take us shopping bit, but giving us a target amount and requesting a list which met that target. They'd throw in a few random stocking stuffers for that "personal touch".

      19 years later, the system is still in place, and my wife and I have done the same for each other the last 7 years. We still get one or two surprises, but the main gift is definitely wanted. We've even gotten our close family/in-laws into it.

      This approach not only cuts returns down, it speeds shopping tremendously!

      - Sony still owes me a PS2 Linux kit...

      • What I try and do is to PAY ATTENTION to the likes and lives of my family members and that way I can get them gifts they want without having to ask them!

        No returns and plenty of smiles!
        • Well sorry, we're not all mind-readers, and we have better things to do than spend hours every day stalking people and putting mindprobes in their brains to find out what they want.
  • Kinda crass (Score:5, Insightful)

    by billmaly ( 212308 ) <(bill.maly) (at) (> on Friday December 28, 2001 @01:28PM (#2759353)
    This, while being a good idea, reduces the whole "spirit of Christmas" down to a gift exchange only. It forces people to miss the point of exchanging gifts, getting together with family, big greasy meal, the whole bit.

    Still, from a purely economic standpoint, I'd use it. Imagine, Uncle buys you a $20 widgit, yet, if you will put in $10 of your own money, you upgrade to a $30 widgit which only costs you $10, not $30. In many ways, this is more of an online gift certificate.
    • Imagine, Uncle buys you a $20 widgit, yet, if you will put in $10 of your own money, you upgrade to a $30 widgit which only costs you $10, not $30...

      after this holiday, i think i might like to trade my family and $10 to upgrade to a new one. anybody interested?

    • I agree wholeheartedly. Sometimes I think I'm old-fashioned (particularly when reading here.) It seems that people are turning into some pretty crummy self-oriented acquisition, criticism machines. Or maybe I'm getting old.
  • Where's the suprise? That's the point of gift-giving. No thanks for me. I already tell people what I want. This service is pretty useless to me, as nobpdy gives me advance suprise warning.
  • How about my email:

    I send you this advice....
  • by Bowie J. Poag ( 16898 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @01:33PM (#2759381) Homepage

    Happy Birthday, Jesus! Here's a book on C/C++ with an emphasis on AI design!

    Somehow, I just don't get it. What is it with people who want to exchange or return gifts? I grew up in a house where you appreciated such things. My first instinct upon getting a present that didn't quite fit or wasn't exactly to my tastes was that I could still find a use for it, not "Hmmmm.. I wonder I can pawn this off and get an XBox!!"

    Gifts are gifts. And if youre buying a gift just to throw money at someone in lieu of actually giving a shit about them, you suck in my book. Similarly, if you don't even bother to consider the thought and effort someone else put in to giving you something they felt you'd enjoy, you also suck. Hard.

    • When I give a gift, I make sure to tell the person that I have the receipt, and if there's anything at all that they'd prefer or if this isn't the correct size or OS platform or whatever, that I'd much rather exchange it for them to ensure they get maximum enjoyment from the gift. To me, this is common sense. (Otherwise my gift becomes a burden on them, which would suck.)

      In my opinion, if someone just dumps a gift on you and doesn't care enough to ensure that it's the correct size or useful, or whatever, then exchanging or giving it away is quite reasonable.
    • Great point, every year, my girlfriend gets quite a bit of clothes from her father, mother and grandmother (who she sees once or twice a year).

      This year she got a real nice sweater from her father, she said that it didn't look perfect on her and I told her it looked great (really... it did) and then she mentioned she might return it. I asked her why and she said that she could get a couple less expensive shirts/sweaters that would fit perfect in exchange for the one her father gave her. And I was like trying to convince her not to because it wasn't nice to return gifts, but she felt it was absolutely normal and adequate.

      She also returned the turtle neck her grandmother gave her. She says she does this all the time and she also complains that her parents don't put much thought in her gifts.

      I never once returned a gift and I'd be embarassed to do so, but there must be a bunch of people who don't mind since I saw a poster at the entrance of a big retail store yesterday saying "Christmas returns to the right".
      • I agree with you and the parent poster. It's one thing if you return something that's defective or doesn't fit right, it's another thing to automatically "cash out" anything you get. That's a sign of a selfish person who doesn't give any thought to other people's feelings. [no offense intended to your girlfriend, although I personally would take that as a sign to look elsewhere. I bet looking closely, that's only one symptom of an overall disease.]

        there must be a bunch of people who don't mind since I saw a poster at the entrance of a big retail store yesterday saying "Christmas returns to the right".

        All that proves is that there are a lot of selfish, thoughtless people in the world, which really should come as no surprise.

      • Don't marry her.

        The wedding industry is a million times worse than Christmas. One of my "friends" said she registered at Crate and Barrel because they do CASH RETURNS. She plans on returning every gift she gets.

        Back on topic...I bet she'd LOVE virtual returns. I, personally, find it incredibly tacky.
    • Sometimes you fully realize that the gift-giver was trying their best to give you what you wanted, and you *do* appreciate that. Still, there's no reason I can fathom not to exchange the item for something more useful to you, if you can't use what you've got.

      For example, when we got married, my wife and I picked out a China set we really liked. Only problem is, nobody bought us any of it except for a couple pieces. (It was a very expensive set, and as we thought more about it later, we realized it wasn't practical. Most of our friends wouldn't have the kind of money to be able to afford to give us that type of China.)

      We ended up exchanging the odd pieces we had, and got a complete 4 person place-setting of a much cheaper set instead. This seemed like the best thing to do under the circumstances, and gave us a useable/complete set.

      Now, we received one more piece for the original China set from my parents, as an Xmas gift. They didn't know we changed our China set decision - so they really thought they were doing us a favor. Still, I'd be silly to hang onto the piece they gave us. It doesn't go with anything else we have....
      • It seems to me you missed out on a grat opportunity, and short changed yourself.

        The China collection is something you could gather over time. It gave your parents something to get you if they couldn't think of anything else.
        Your parents remembered that you wanted it, and got you something for it. Thats is a GREAT gift and its what gift giving should be about.

        Of course this is entirely formed from one post, and there could have been(and probably were)details I don't know, but I've got to call them like I see them.
    • Troll? Wow. My previous post (people are selfishness and criticism machines) isn't looking as cynical as I thought it did. It's depressing to be right, sometimes.
    • Perhaps relatives would suck less if they knew what you had already, and didn't try to buy you the same steamer-pot set that someone else gave you 2 days ago, or an identical sweater to the one they gave you last year, in the wrong size, or even feces in a can.

      I have certain relatives who always include a gift receipt because they don't have time to know what I have, or what I wear. That's why online wish lists and gift certificates have such benefits.

      • I hear you on that one. I just wish that those members of my family (extended) that still buy me (thankfully none this year) gifts would just realize I really don't need baby books anymore, or a dozen other assorted crap-ass-gifts that for some reason they feel compelled to purchase that provide absolutely no use or entertainment. If they actually purchased the gifts instead of re-wrapping gifts (that really pisses me off) it would work awesome, and I don't see anything wrong with a gift exchange idea.

        I will put the same amount of thought into returning the gift as they did giving it to me. The small portion of my family that does care about me always gives me gifts, while it may not be something I asked for/wanted, is always something I can use because they thought about who I was.

        The spirit of giving has gotten so bastardized by commerce and greed that instead of giving a gift to show the person you care about them you give them shit to show them they acknowledge you are part of the family. Save it, stuff it, I don't give a shit.Proof is that this place exists. If people actually sat down and cared there would be no market for this. Morally I hate that this place is here, but I think it is highly justified. Unfortunately I also believe that this will spawn more feelings that it's ok to give stupid-ass-fecal-matter-gifts. I'm ok with that.. Christmas has been fucked since Coca Cola.
    • you make very good points.
      I really appreciate the thought, but sometimes I get things that are SO way off base there just going to sit in a box in my attic.
      I recieve things that are just bad. I know they where thinking of me, and trying to get me something I would enjoy, and I appreciate that, really, but I don't need and won't use another SAMS book on programming.

      My favorite gifts are things that I've never done. I got a book on cooking a few years back, I never cooked but I gave it a try, now I cook regularly.

      People who get something they like, or would be usefull, and trade it in for 'something better" do suck, and Hard.
    • My first instinct upon getting a present that didn't quite fit or wasn't exactly to my tastes was that I could still find a use for it, not "Hmmmm.. I wonder I can pawn this off and get an XBox!!"

      With an attitude like this you should look into fat, ugly chicks. Unlike the hot, fit women everyone is chasing they really appreciate the attention.

    • Gee, one of the very few times I agree with you. :-)

    • Similarly, if you don't even bother to consider the thought and effort someone else put in to giving you something they felt you'd enjoy, you also suck. Hard.

      Gifts are like code. If the situation is bad, sometimes you can make the best of it. Then there are times when no matter how much thought and effort went into something, it's just wrong - start over.

      If a gift is so inappropriate that it's going to go unused, or be thrown/given away, then it's a waste of money to not return things. The clothes that don't fit, the items you already have (and don't warrant the space for two), the things that don't fit your home or lifestyle - why accept a gift that can become a burden?

    • My first instinct upon getting a present that didn't quite fit...was that I could still find a use for it

      You would keep a sweater or pair of pants that doesn't fit? To speak from my own experience, my wife received a pair of pants this year from my parents that were too small. She liked the pants, but felt it was better to exchange them for a pair that fit rather than walk around with a severe wedgie.

      ...wasn't exactly to my tastes...

      I can definitely agree with that. I know I put a lot of thought into gifts I buy, and I feel bad if I exchange a gift, even if it is sized wrong, or not usable by me. Another real-life example: Last year my folks got my wife and I an 8mm video camera. I returned it, and spent some of my own money to upgrade it to a more feature-full model. Why? I need the feature that Sony calls "Steady-Shot", otherwise everything I film is very jittery. I certainly did feel lowdown for doing it, but I felt that it was a waste of my parent's money to use a video camera that will produce crap because I can't hold the sucker still enough.

      But, I certainly would not exchange a gift just because it isn't exactly what I wanted.
    • Gifts are gifts. And if youre buying a gift just to throw money at someone in lieu of actually giving a shit about them, you suck in my book. Similarly, if you don't even bother to consider the thought and effort someone else put in to giving you something they felt you'd enjoy, you also suck. Hard.

      Come on....someone CAN put some thought into a gift and still give me something I don't want, can't use, or already have. Are you telling me I should keep the sweater someone gave me if I already have the same sweater, or if it doesn't fit me ? This Xmas, my aunt gave me a package of flavoured beef jerky. I don't eat meat. Should I keep the gift instead of exchanging it or returning it ? Do I suck if I do exchange or return ? Come on....most people want to give gifts other people can use and enjoy. If that means returning/exchanging, most gift-givers I know would be happy.

  • target kids with this! You know they'd love that! But the plain and simple fact is you can't throw a 3 year old infront of a monitor and say 'Is that what you want'? Regardless, I'd still rather see my 3 year old's face when hes ripping off that paper and is like 'WHEEEEEE!'(Flash Animation) [], and you can't deny how funny it is when they realize its clothes and just throw it aside.

  • C'mon... dont you love standing in line at the stores arguing with the salespeople about your unwanted gifts?

    I imagine this would work, but I would want to see something in my hands before I say I don't like it. For some things it would be good, like computer type stuff - like the time my family got me the mac version of a computer game - when I had a PC. However, for most non-techie type stuff people would probably want to hold something in their hands.

    Just my thoughts...

    -RickTheWizKid, disgruntled retail manager.
  • Interesting idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by the_rev_matt ( 239420 ) <> on Friday December 28, 2001 @01:37PM (#2759406) Homepage
    I'd use this only as a last resort. Regardless of the "it's the thought that counts", I don't have room in my life (or apartment) for anything that I don't actually have a use for. As Tom Lehrer said
    Relations, sparing no expense'll

    Send some useless old utensil,
    Or a matching pen and pencil.
    "Just the thing I need! How nice!"
    I don't get into the whole commercialism anyway, but if someone feels they MUST give me something, go to my amazon wish list and pick out something I actually want. Or better yet, donate to some worthy charity in my name.

  • "You can't use Technology to solve a Social Engineering problem"

    I don't know who said it, but I heard it from a professor at college, and remembered it 'cause I realized it was one of those nuggets that should be remembered. Just because you can exchange that ugly sweater your mom got you doesn't mean you should.
  • by scott1853 ( 194884 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @01:39PM (#2759414)
    When I had to look through my parents bedroom to find out what I was getting for Christmas.

    My son will be able to find out what he's getting if I forget to clear my cookies before I go to bed.
    • Re:I remember... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by spudnic ( 32107 )
      Yeah, it was really annoying buying a gift for my brother from his Amazon wishlist. He knew I was the only one who would be buying something from the list. The things on it ranged in price from cheap to pretty expensive. It was hard picking one from the list that matched what I wanted to spend without looking cheap. And the worst part was that he could go look at his wishlist the next day and see what was missing and know what I bought.

      Kind of frustrating.
    • My son will be able to find out what he's getting if I forget to clear my cookies before I go to bed.
      and if you forget to logoff or your son knows the password or your son can crack your password or you are using a single-user OS for shopping.

      My children will have separate accounts.

  • hey, why not? I got 3 copies of Crouching Tiger on DVD anyone wanna trade?
  • I'm waiting for the RichFX dating service to launch. What a time saver that will be.
  • by eris_crow ( 234864 ) <> on Friday December 28, 2001 @01:40PM (#2759427) Homepage
    "The idea is to let someone give a more personal gift," says RichFX CEO Tal Kerret.

    So shopping online, sending someone an email, having that person "exchange" the gift through a web site, and eventually receive it in the mail is somehow more personal than carefully selecting an appropriate gift, getting together for a holiday meal, sitting around talking and laughing, giving the gift from your own hand, and watching the (hopefully) happy expression on the recipients face as the gift is opened.

    Did I wake up in the wrong Universe today?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Quotes from Charlie Brown Christmas:

    Sally: "All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share."

    Another favorite:

    Lucy: "I never get what I really want for Christmas. I always get a bunch of stupid toys and junk like that..."

    Charlie Brown: "What is it you really want?"

    Lucy: "Real estate."
  • Until you send the card to the wrong email address.

    Imagine sending ordering two presents like this, you get your brother an XXX rated DVD, and get your mom some flowers, and switch the cards up.

    "Gee son, thanks for the "Hot'n'Horny 18 year olds collection, it's what a mom always wants for Christmas. (Brother in background) "Oh, tell him I said thanks for the flowerth! I didn't know he cared. *sniffs flowers* And oh my goodness, these flowerth are fantathtic! *waggles wrist*

    The article also didn't say if you (the buyer) get to see if they (the receiver) changed the gift or not.

    "Hey Tim, man, I sent you a case of deoderant because you stink! And you trade it in for some cologne? C'mon man, cologne only covers up the smell! Now you smell like funky Hugo!"

  • The thing that makes getting presents nice is the fact that someone took time out of their routine to do something for you. I know American culture demands that we buy more stuff faster, but I don't know how much I appreciate getting gifts that someone ordered on-line at work without even getting out of their chair.

    This has been my whole argument against e-cards. It's too easy, I'd much rather get a card that someone spent some time looking for.

    Of course, if my grandparents sent me an e-card I would probably appreciate it more than a paper card, because for them it would be more work (and possibly more expensive) :)
  • by raulmazda ( 87 ) < minus city> on Friday December 28, 2001 @01:47PM (#2759463) Homepage

    The concept of the article seems like a weird way of solving the problem to me.

    I have a big family (I'm 1 of 8 kids), and we do a gift exchange thing every xmas. We ran into troubles with duplicate gifts being given and slightly wrong gifts ("I wanted a small red one but you bought a big blue one instead").

    So last year I hacked together some php to maintain online wishlists for everybody. Each person gets an account and maintains their own wishlist. Other people can check off items from their list to mark them as being purchased (eliminates the dupe gift problem). You can't see what's checked off on your own list, but everyone else can.

    It worked out well last year, I hacked it a little more this year, and have plans for a better wishlist system next year (generic event wishlists plus some other nice frills).

    (There's also giftweb at sourceforge [] which I originally looked at (and sent a patch), but later scrapped it as I was too far along on my own hackish solution.)

      • So last year I hacked together some php to maintain online wishlists for everybody. Each person gets an account and maintains their own wishlist. Other people can check off items from their list to mark them as being purchased (eliminates the dupe gift problem). You can't see what's checked off on your own list, but everyone else can.
      So, what's the url, dude? Don't just dangle the carrot ;).
  • I predict that a lot of people will not mind shoping on-line since returning gifts on-line now has just as much hassle as returning somthing Brick and morter places.

    I could not get my money back from marshall feilds because I had a gift recipt, so I went to get the original from my mom and then they would only give me what the sale price was (since this is the day after christmas and everything is now on sale). that is out right stealing!!!!!

    sorry but On-line is looking better every day now.
  • I never exchange *unwanted* gifts, that's not what returns are for, IMHO.

    A gift says as much about the giver as the recip and should be kept as a memento at least (for a while anyway). The only reason for returns is if it the wrong size or something.

  • This is an iota less personal than a gift certificate.

    Thanks, but next year, just send cash.
  • for your xmas gift, please look to the attachment!
  • Then let me tell you about my Christmas gift giving experience this year. A couple months ago my parents said they'd get my fiance and me a coffee table for our new apartment for Christmas. We'd have to go with them and pick it out. It was actually in our apt a week or so before xmas. OK, fine and understandable because it's a big ticket piece of furniture.

    Then, my mom goes "well, we got you the coffee table but we want to get you some other stuff so we have some presents to give you on Christmas. why don't you and your fiance pick up about 10 things you'd like and we'll give them to you."

    So what we have here is not a holiday reduced to an exchange of gifts, but an exchange of money among checking accounts. The upside is that I got SimCity 3000 for Linux ($10 at EB, btw), but the downside is that the whole thing rather plays down the spirit of giving. In past years I've always been asked to make a list of things I might want because my wish list is a moving target, but at least it was just a list.

    Next year I'm going to let my parents fly solo on buying my Christmas presents. I won't even make any suggestions or hints. So I'll probably be getting a lot of clothes next year.
  • Yeah right (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Asic Eng ( 193332 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @01:53PM (#2759504)
    If all we wanted from a gift was flexibility, we would just give each other money, right?

    Something like this would rate even lower then a gift certificate, it basically amounts to "I can't be bothered to spend any time thinking about you and what you might want, so instead I give you money - in a nice frame."

    The only difference this system will make, is that now you take away the nice frame. If you give this to anyone you like, you shouldn't be surprised of the consequences. :)

    Providing a service nobody wants - via the internet - wooohoo - sounds like a future failed business to me.

    • I wish I could send my dad cash. The man has everything, and giving picture for xmas,fathersday, birthday, is getting old.
    • I bought presents for everyone in my family except for the nieces and nephews in the 15-20 year range. I gave them money. It wasn't because I didn't want to be bothered picking out something for them, I just knew that I wouldn't get them something they would like. You see, I'm old and out of touch with today's youth at the age of 31.

      Also, I remember how much I preferred getting money to use for going out and stuff rather than some tacky shirt that I would never wear when I was that age.

      Yeah, I gave them money, but I did put a lot of thought into it and decided that was the present they would most likely enjoy the best.

  • Christmas was three days ago.
  • At this point why not just give a gift certificate. It's the same thing.
  • Things (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zen Mastuh ( 456254 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @02:00PM (#2759552)

    We're just too occupied with them. That's why gift giving (and gift receiving) is so hard. We're supposed to know what we want on this arbitrarily-chosen day, and we're supposed to know what others expect.

    Each and every year, deficit consumer spending increases unfailingly. The level of desperation increases as the Big Day comes closer. People argue, fight, kill, steal, lie, and defraud in order to have a Merry Christmas. Now the human element can be removed completely with a service that allows for automated exchanges.

    All this to commemorate the birth of the man (the God?) whose life was an example of salvation from the concept of "mine". This is why I don't cringe or lash out with anger when Usama ibn Laden calls us the Great Satan.

    • And that is why he dosent cringe and lash out when we call him a murderer.
      Seems at lot worse than greedy capitalists to me. You need to keep things in perspective.
  • by YouAreFatMan ( 470882 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @02:13PM (#2759608) Homepage
    Here's a test case:
    Jack buys Jill a $500 bracelet for Christmas. Jill buys Jack a $500 arc-welder. Jack decides he doesn't like his arc-welder, and goes online and switches his gift for a PS2 and 4 games. Jill decides she doesn't like her bracelet and switches it for a gucci handbag.

    What's the point of giving a gift at this point. They might have well exchanged $500 gift certificates. But even that would be pointless, because it's just an even swap. They might as well keep their money and just spend it on themselves, and save each other a whole bunch of time.

    That's the problem with gifts in a society such as ours. I prefer to have gifts be things that no one else can provide. I created a video for my family this Christmas. I have made cookies, and burned CD's of the texts of ancient books for people. Something unique, something I had to put my own effort into creating.

    And with Jack and Jill, what's the need to know anything about what the person *really* wants? After all, they can just exchange it for whatever they do want. So I don't have to muck about getting to know them so I might be in touch with what they like.

    These days, gift-giving is a form of commerce. It is a business transaction, carried out not in a boardroom, but a living room. But it requires "fair exchange". It requires that we get what we want, otherwise the gift is useless. "It's the thought that counts." But that is a cliche. It's the love behind the thought that counts. Because where there is that love, the gift can be given and received with joy and freedom. Then, I don't need to receive anything back, I don't need to exchange it, I don't need to feel cheated.

    The Gift Of The Magi, by o'henry

    One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

    There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

    While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

    In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name "Mr. James Dillingham Young."

    The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

    Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling--something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

    There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

    Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

    Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

    So now Della's beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

    On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

    Where she stopped the sign read: "Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the "Sofronie."

    "Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.

    "I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it."

    Down rippled the brown cascade.

    "Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

    "Give it to me quick," said Della.

    Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim's present.

    She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation--as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim's. It was like him. Quietness and value--the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

    When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task.

    Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

    "If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do--oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?"

    At 7 o'clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

    Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."

    The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two--and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

    Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

    Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

    "Jim, darling," she cried, "don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow out again--you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!' Jim, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice-- what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for you."

    "You've cut off your hair?" asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

    "Cut it off and sold it," said Della. "Don't you like me just as well, anyhow? I'm me without my hair, ain't I?"

    Jim looked about the room curiously.

    "You say your hair is gone?" he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

    "You needn't look for it," said Della. "It's sold, I tell you--sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?"

    Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year--what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

    Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

    "Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you'll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first."

    White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

    For there lay The Combs--the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims--just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

    But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: "My hair grows so fast, Jim!"

    And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"

    Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

    "Isn't it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."

    Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

    "Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on."

    The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

    • by Zen Mastuh ( 456254 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @02:19PM (#2759644)
      This is the parable from Cruel Shoes by Steve Martin:

      The Gift of the Magi Indian Giver

      Carolyn wanted so much to give Roger something nice for Christmas, but they didn't have much money, and they had to spend every last cent on cancy for the baby. She walked down the icy streets and peered into shop windows.

      "Roger is so proud of his shinbones. If only I could find some way to get money to buy shinbone polish."

      Just then, a sign caught her eye. "Cuticles bought and sold." Many people had told Carolyn of her beautiful cuticles, and Roger was especially proud of them, but she thought, "This is the way I could buy Roger the shinbone polish!" And she rushed into the store.

      Later at home, she waited anxiously as Roger came up the steps of their flat. He opened the door and wobbled over to the fireplace, suspiciously holding one arm behind his back.

      "Merry Christmas!" they both said, almost simultaneously.

      Roger spoke. "Hey, Nutsy, I got you a little something for Christmas."

      "Me too," said Carolyn, and they exchanged packages.

      Carolyn hurriedly opened her package staring in disbelief. "Cuticle Frames?! But Roger, I sold my cuticles so I could afford to buy you some shinbone polish!"

      "Shinbone polish!" said Roger, "I sold my shinbones to buy you the cuticle frames!" Roger wobbled over to her.

      "Well, I'll be hog-tied," said Carolyn.

      "You will? Oh, boy!" said Roger. And it turned out to be a great Christmas after all.

      Truly heartwarming!

    • Wish I had some moderation points for you.
      Gifts are supposed to mean something. This christmas shopping spree crap is making me more depressed every year, this is supposed to be celebration of light. (That what it was, until the christians took it over), but have become the worshipping of Mammon, the old god of greed and money. Well, it's over now, PHEW!

    • That's the problem with gifts in a society such as ours. I prefer to have gifts be things that no one else can provide. I created a video for my family this Christmas. I have made cookies, and burned CD's of the texts of ancient books for people. Something unique, something I had to put my own effort into creating.

      Can You get me a gift next year? ;)
    • They might as well keep their money and just spend it on themselves, and save each other a whole bunch of time.

      Which is exactly what my sister and I have taken to doing. Every year we agree to buy ourselves a CD, give it to the other to wrap, and then open it on Christmas morning to please our parents. I love her to death, but she knows as little about the techno I listen to as I do about the indie rock she listens to. If it were up to us, we wouldn't exchange gifts at all.

      Well, maybe that's a little strong. I'd like to have a gathering where everybody brings something from a very specific category. Cheese is my favorite food - what if everyone picked out a cheese they'd never heard of and we all shared them? This would work well with beers, wines, cigars....

      Too bad I'm lazy.

  • Bah Humbug (Score:2, Informative)

    by CyberGarp ( 242942 )
    Xmas has it's origin the great Yule feast of the Norsemen and Roman Saturnalia. It didn't have anything to do with gift giving until the Victorians got ahold of it. It wasn't really until 1890 that Santa Claus got twisted into the tool of unbridled consumerism that he is today. The majority of current Xmas traditions are less than 100 years old.

    What's wrong with all the giving? I like to give presents to people who need them or are particularly suited to them. So now once a year I'm supposed to go out and do it for everyone I know all at once. A near impossible feat to do.

    This summer I was eating steak at my Uncle's house. He didn't have a decent steak knife in his house. I went out and bought him a set of steak knives that day. Xmas rolls around, and I don't know what he needs and I haven't seen anything that suits his character, but I'm coerced by a capitalist society to go and do the american thing and "buy" him something.

    Point is I buy my friends and family things all through the year, when I see the need or find something particularly suited to them. Should I hoarde it till Xmas? Odds are my Uncle would have gone and bought some steak knifes before Xmas or he wouldn't have got to use the ones I got him for 6 months.

    Also about half the stuff I get is worthless to me and of no value but the occupation of space. What's the point in that? Objects that don't work as advertised that people bought in haste to complete some ritual developed by industrial marketing.

    Same for Xmas cards. If you don't have time to write me a letter, don't bother. In eastern Europe it's considered insulting to send a card that's just signed without a long letter. Let's people know how little you think of them. A bunch of cards with signatures is interesting decoration, but worthless to me in terms of contact. More fodder for the card industry.

    I moved recently and inventoried everything I own. Many items I still hang onto as momentos of old friendships and times long gone. Almost none of those items with sentimental attachment came at Xmas.

    It's fun as a kid to get a bunch of toys under a tree and I have nothing against this whole Santa Claus thing for a bit of play and fun. But as adults, this exhange before receipt is just another wake up call to the bogusness of this holiday tradition of "giving."

    Xmas is about having a big feast with your family and recapping the year. You get to watch children get overstimulated by too much excitement and toys.

    P.S. Xmas was considered so pagan that it didn't become a legal holiday in the U.S. until 1836. In the 1600's armies were sent around to pull down the pagan Xmas trees.
  • "The idea is to let someone give a much more personal gift," says RichFX CEO Tal Kerret

    You see, this way, people don't need to know anything about the other person. Just pick a random gift, and let them exchange it for whatever they want. Very personal indeed!

  • This has to be one of the most idiotic things on the consumer end. Here are some things that come to mind. Keep in consideration that this idea is only stupid because the idea of Christmas is giving not recieving and exchange/upgrading cause the present somebody got you sucks.

    1) About 1/5 of the gifts given* are joke gifts. The idea of a joke gift isn't to exchange them. They're dumb and that's why they are there. American consumers suck but we buy stupid things cause they're funny.

    2) 1/6 of the gifts given* are gift certificates anyhow. As the article states you might as well just give people gift certificates.

    3) 1/4 of the gifts given* are clothes. I do see where somebody might want to exchange clothes. They are meant to be worn and if they don't fit right or that style doesn't suit you I can see an exchange. But if you get the clothes online you have to try them on usually anyhow to know if they fit.

    4) It just plain defeats my purpose of Christmas. If person X gets 20 pairs of pants they should end up with 20 pairs of pants not an XBox, an extra controller, and some games. If that person really wanted an XBox he/she shoulda told all the people to pool their money together to get them one.

    All-in-all I really don't see how the gift certificate doesn't handle this already. Essentially you might as well get them a gift certificate and say "Please buy item X if you like". But they can use it for anything. All that getting them a "gift" that is to be used as store credit does is make them think that you thought of something when really you just wanted to give them a gift certificate. I don't see this as being some nifty new system at all.

    (* - all statistics were made up on the fly using the latest in nano-technology, pre-algebra, and Floam(tm))

    • I do see where somebody might want to exchange clothes. They are meant to be worn and if they don't fit right or that style doesn't suit you I can see an exchange.

      These are preventable problems which, of course, are resolved by exercising a certain amount of care and thoughtfulness regarding the person you're getting a gift for.

      You can ask their spouse, children, parents, or siblings what size they are. You can even ask them what size they are and write it down so you'll always know. (I find that if I ask six months in advance, they generally forget that I ever asked.) You can observe what styles and colors they wear and think hard about what would look good on them. You can ask them what their favorite color is. (Really, it tells them nothing about what you're getting them that you asked that.)

      Family and friends make great resources for helping you determine the perfect gift for someone you care about.

      I wanted to give a gift this year to a woman whose tastes I don't know too well. I visited her son and asked "I'm making a lot of people hats this year. Do you think she'd like a hat? What's her favorite color. Oh, blue, do you think she'd like a light blue? How about this yarn, is it the right color? Do you know if she wears an average hat size or do I need to make it small or large? Do you think she'd like a pompom on the end to make it look fun or no pompom to make it look dressy?" I ended up with a hat that she liked enough that she put it on as soon as she unwrapped it, and I felt great that I was able to do that for her... thanks to her son's help.
  • ... anyone who offers me this. I mean, the most important thing it's not THE gift, but what surrounds the idea of giving someone something she will believe it's worth. Or more, to show your friendship and respect and admiration and your love to someone else.

    Where's the fun to know what you are going to get? I for one like to receive gifts, okay, but it's more important that the person remembered me, thought about me. And vice-versa.

    It's like your grandma giving you money on Christmas. They rarely know what you want, who you are, different generation, etc... (be with me, on most cases anyway). So she gives you money.

    Now, from someone who should be my friend, who should know my tastes, what I like and dislike, it's like if they were my grandma.

    That's a regression of a relationship, really...
  • I watched a special on the history of Christmas as it evolved over the years. The earliest image of santa clause was a skinny monk/saint. It was a cartoonist that invented the current big belly santa. Early last century, corporate america took over christmas and made it a shopaholics nightmare.

    As some people mentioned, America is a gift giving culture. The insideousness of the whole gift giving culture is it de-values intangible things like friendship, love, loyalty and appreciation into 1 or several objects. Though I doubt our culture will change over-night, I hope more people resort to making their gifts instead of buying it. I would rather cook my family a gourmet meal for christmas, than buy some stupid gizmo.

    On the recieving side, I prefer something that is memorable and not an object that will break and be thrown away.

  • In a somewhat related topic, I wonder if December 26th is eBay's highest listing day? I mean, you would think that there are millions of people who undoubtedly got stuff for X-mas that they didn't want right? Well, what better place to dispose of it than through eBay.

    Even if it isn't their highest listing day I bet it is one of the highest...

    Take care,

    We only have a few FREE Palm m100's left... []

    • Pawn shops etc (Score:3, Informative)

      by freeweed ( 309734 )
      Go visit your local pawn shop, and ESPECIALLY places that deal in used video games, during the last week of December. Stores get absolutely flooded with stuff. Hell, one year I saw a kid selling 10 unopened SNES games that he received for xmas. He got all of 1/3 retail for them. I'm sure his aunts/grandmas/parents/etc would have been happy to know that 2/3 of their money went in the toilet.

      Having said that, for those of us who hate paying full price for anything, the weeks immediately after xmas are a goldmine! Now am I part of the problem or what... :)

  • I've got this aunt. She lives in New Jersey, which should explain a lot.

    So, one xmas, when I was about 12, me and my brothers all get similar looking presents. I opened mine first. Removal of the paper revealed a Pringles can (I forget the flavor).

    "Oh," I thought, "she used Pringles cans as shipping containers." Already a little nutty, but sort of resourceful.

    So I open my can, expecting anything but what was inside: Pringles. Pringles that had been shipped from NJ to CA. Pringles that had been pulverized into Pringle dust.

    I guess maybe she thought we didn't have prigles here or something. Maybe that New Jersey air was to blame. I never had the nuts to ask what the hell she was thinking.

    If I could have tossed that $1.25 or so at a shipping fee for something non-pringles online, I would have. It's not that I'm an ingrate, it's that some people are genuinely insane.
  • On christmas morning we unwrap all of our gifts in a wild spree of flying gift wrap, and end up with our piles of new treasures that other people picked out for us. How on earth do they think they're going to get the public to accept the idea of having nothing under the tree to unwrap? Who do they think is going to go for this?

    My crowd has a few obsessive shoppers in it who insist on getting started with their christmas shopping very early (this year it was in early July but it gets earlier every year - we're waiting for it to span to prior to the previous christmas) and want a complete list of everything you want for Christmas so they can coordinate lists with each other and ensure that you get what you want. Even that bugs the heck out of me because I get things I like but not necessarily what they would choose for me on their own, so the gift doesn't say anything to me about them. (As soon as I'm done unwrapping I have no clue who got me what because I picked it all out.) Also, it means you know precisely what you're getting for christmas. This year I made a point to give them an enormous list so they'd have to choose stuff because they couldn't possibly get it all.

    For most of my friends (*), I made christmas gifts this year. I knit hats and scarves and I sewed hats, scarves, and mittens. I also bought chocolates. They can't return anything if they don't like the color, but dammit whenever they put it on they're going to think of me because they know I made it just for them with my own two hands and that I did it because I care enough to want them to be warm and comfortable.

    If someone tried to give me a gift that wasn't even there with a big option to exchange it in advance, I'd be grateful for their willingness to spend money on me but try to politely encourage them to please just exercise their own taste and get me whatever they feel like whenever they may feel like giving me anything. I've never returned a gift, and would rather get an occasional dud (and there have been very few) than turn christmas any further into a celebration of consumerism instead of family, friendship, love, and religion.


    * I have two friends that I always give something made of glass. They didn't get anything handmade, but I do spend a lot of time trying to choose the perfect piece of glass for them. They've never returned anything I've given them.
  • This is probably the lamest thing I've ever heard. What is sad is that it costs money to come up with these ridiculous ideas (see dying business model and dot com crash of 2001).

    What will be under the tree, URL's?

    Imagine the surge of web traffic at 5:00am when the kids get on to see what they got.

    And, what will they play with Christmas morning? A printout of their gift?

    What does Santa have to say about this malaka?

    Games, information, audio, and someday video, that is what the web gives us. It is a tool for media and communication. As for the online store, it is a simple extension of the mail order catalog. People try to sensationalize the web store as the next great marketplace, when all they really have is a new turn on the catalog. Actually, it's worse, as jpeg and gif resolution on your screen never approaches photo resolution on your catalog. Also, unless its the site for a legitimate and reputable store, you'll never know who you are dealing with. Web stores save paper and the cost of printing, but as a business model, they lack a way to get people interested in your site vs. countless others. Customers have limitless options, thereby diluting your customer base. This article is pure fantasy, and certainly not news-worthy.

    How many people give you a catalog for Christmas and point you to what they got you, telling you that you can change it if you don't like it? I'll bet none.
  • Every year millions of people go out and buy each other gifts, because it is "the thing to do" for one day of the year.

    How sad.

    I will speak of America, because it is what I know, because I live here.

    We go to malls, to stores - many of them identical to each other. Even malls in different states are identical to each other (I was truely saddened when I went to the "Mall of America" for the first time - and "Tada!" - it looked like all of the malls here in Phoenix - only bigger - BFD!). So, gifts are bought and exchanged - gifts that could have been bought nearly anywhere in America - so identical.

    Sometimes, when the giver doesn't know what the givee wants or needs - a gift certificate is given: Red Lobster, Chilis, Black Angus, Dennys, McDonalds. And that is just the food! For others, it is B&N, Amazon, Home Depot, Sears, Frys Electronics, CompUSA, etc. And for the truely challenged: cash.

    Whatever happened to the love? Did it get bought and sold too? I have a sneaking suspicion it did...

    I made a comment on an earlier /. posting about what I got for Christmas this year. All of it was well received, don't get me wrong. Of it all, the clothes were really what I needed most. The other stuff I got, I had asked for. One of the items seemed to be a thoughtful thing (the key fob thing) - which is something I like. And the stuff I bought myself? Well, was it really for Christmas...?

    And the things I gave in return? Some of them had thought - but many were things asked for. What does that say? It saddens me...

    Next year I want to try something harder, and I hope others do the same for me. I want to give a gift that when looked upon, it reminds the person of the thought and love that went into it, in either selecting it, or making it. Indeed, I may make gifts next year...

    I once got a gift from a friend, that to this day means a lot to me. My friend told me he made it in shop class for me (long time ago in high school) - it was a little wooden incense box/burner. It is something I cherish to this day (recently I thought I lost it - I wasn't sure if I had, but I thought I did - the thought was nearly unbearable - I found it not too long ago).

    I recently gave a friend of mine a handmade gift for his birthday - an origami "puzzle" box, with various small gifts contained inside (thus, the gift was both the container and wrapping in one). I spent several days thinking of what to put in it, and on it, and several hours constructing it. I hope he appreciated it for what it is (I think he did - he showed it to everyone it seemed).

    I want to do that next year - use my skills to create unique gifts...

    It won't be easy, but labors of love rarely are.
    • With my family, it's almost always cash or cash equivalents. As I noted in a previous post [], pringles are a rare exception.

      Why? Simply put, we don't like eachother. It's enough that most of us are in the same room at the same time, we're not going to go so far as to give thoughtful gifts.

      I know, that's dysfunctional. It's fucked up. It ain't right at all. I agree, things should be different.

      Video games, television, and now the internet have managed to turn what was a family into a group of people who have nothing more than their gene pool in common.

      The thing is, nobody's willing to give up the chattering cyclops. We love our televisions far more than our relatives. The television is perfect, and, given enough channels, will never let you down. The television is always ready to devote it's full attention to you. Add the internet, with 24 hour a day hardcore anal action and plenty of no strings attached easily escapable instant message "relationships", and human interaction just can't compete.

      What you're asking is a fundamental change in our societal structure, and as long as living rooms glow tv blue, as long as the dsl guy can be here next week, as long as the show goes on, it isn't going to happen.

      Merry xmas, see you thanksgiving.
      • I know what that is like.

        At Thanksgiving I was invited to my sister's. No one talked to each other. The only family activity was to watch videos. Three movies, one after another. Then the children went to bed and the rest of us went home.

        Really sad.
  • So, basically, it's like giving a gift certificate tied to a "suggested gift". Seems like if you're going to ruin the fun of opening a present, you might as well just give them the gift certificate in the first place.

    It's much better to think of the perfect present for someone and then watch them open it. Or at least imagine them opening it. I got my boyfriend a Jumbo VI Reference Mug ( for Christmas. That went over really well even though it was the cheapest present I got him. (Good exchange rate with Australia) What he liked best about was that I know him well enough to know that he uses the VI editor, even though I don't know jack about programming. Gift certificates are fine if you just don't know the person that well, but in that case why bother to pick out a present.

    Anyway, they're just doing it so they don't have to deal with returns. Makes their life easier.
  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @03:57PM (#2760127) Homepage Journal
    Ok, it's off-topic, and a bit late, but it is in the Christmas department: I found these at the local grocery store on clearance for $2 a set! LED Christmas lights [], how cool is that?

    I like how they're labeled "Rated For 200,000 Hours (more than 20 years of continuous use)" Seems like just the think to jazz up the workstation anytime of the year at an el-cheapo price tag.

    Just had to share. Ok, you can now mod me to off-topic hell.

  • How sad is it when your own father (who should, of all people, know you best) buys the almost-perfect present - and you know it could've saved half a day at the returns counter if he'd tried just a little harder? My dad got me an inflatable PFD, but didn't know which safety features to look for. I would've been MORE thrilled to open an email from West Marine with a "gift suggestion", signifying that he tried but wasn't sure, than a package under the tree.
  • Every year, I find myself disliking Christmas more and more, exactly because of the impersonality that seems built-in to the model. I think this year was particularly bad because of the exhortations to spend out of patriotism (buck up the economy and all that). The modern goal of Christmas is to spend, spend, spend and get, get, get, and to be honest I find myself, in that final shopping rush, looking for what I call 'respectable' gifts, instead of the kind of personal, lovely gift I really do want to give. What I call a 'respectable gift' is one that costs about the 'right amount of money' -- not so much that I am uncomfortable with it, but not so little that the recipient will think I am cheap. It seems impossible to hit the target correctly -- probably (to take a metaphor a couple of steps too far) because the arrow is bent, and hitting the target with a bent arrow would be pure chance.

    I don't think the system mentioned in the article will make this phenomenon go away. I think it will make the phenomenon worse. It becomes even easier to put less thought into the gift. It makes it easier to 'scorekeep' monetarily ("Damn! He bought me a $50 present, and I spent a lousy $15 on him... I better get him something else"). It turns gift-giving and gift-receiving into a commodities market, where you buy futures ("I think Joe will like a CD this year!"), watch whether the recipient bargains up or down, and finally whether the recipient finally orders what you bought... for delivery a few days later, of course, pre-wrapped for them at the factory.

    The root problem, really, is time. Do you have the time to make truly personal gifts for all your gift recipients? I'm not talking cookies -- I've discovered that homemade cookies don't cut it as a Christmas gift, unfortunately ;) I'm a divorced mother, and I'm doing well some nights to find time to make myself dinner. Americans on average put in more hours at work [] than any other industrialized nation, and it's only growing -- just about everyone is feeling a time crunch.

    I'd also bet most of us live hundreds of miles away from most of our relatives. Once upon a time, most of your family would live in one town, and you would know much more (perhaps too much) about all of them. Now, you might see relatives a few times a year.

    Be honest -- how much time do you spend with your friends that is comprised of more than LAN gaming, shop talk, or non-interactive movie-watching? How much time do you really spend with your spouse, your parents, your aunts and uncles? Given this, on what basis would you select a really appropriate gift for him or her? Hence 'commodity giving' and 'respectable' gifts -- and gift receipts, and gift certificates, and online gift wish lists.

    The effect, for me, is a lingering dissatisfaction with my own efforts (or lack thereof), which leaks over into dissatisfaction with the season and the shallowness of the way we celebrate it.

  • The article is just too much.

    What's more important for you? To get a present from someone who think about you? or what is it you get from anyone?

    When my family and friend send me a present, I really don't think the important thing is what they are sending. It's the feeling that someone thought about me and put time choosing something for me. In one way, it is not MY present. It is THEIR present. I wouldn't want anything to change about that.

    PPA, the girl next door.
  • This is an odd idea. Persona;;y, I don't like it because I hate gift cards and certificates.

    You see, this year for Christmas one of my presents was a $15 Electronics Boutique gift card. I could have gotten that same amount in cash, or in a MALL gift certificate at the very least, but didn't.

    I'd love to use it toward buying a new video card to replace my Voodoo 3, but I have a dilemma. EB only has a GeForce2 PCI at 64MB RAM for $100. Wal-mart, right across the road, has the cheaper 32MB model for $70. Now, I'll have to wait even longer.

    The real question is whether the 'gift exchange' would fix my problem. Would I be stuck in that store, or across the service's network of stores, or could I get it applied to any store?

    Furthermore, what would stop me from using it to buy someone else a gift, or to pay a bill, etc... A gift may not be perfect, but the thought put into it can and will make up for that shortcoming.

    The only graceful option at this point is the Vise Buxx card, but it's been advertised as something to give teens (I happen to be one, but still...). Also, it still isn't personal enough.

    I could buy my brothers, who are 8, 7, and 3, gift certificates to KB Toys to buy video games, but instead I spend the time with them, notice that they love Sqaresoft RPGs (even though they are a bit hard for them o_O), and pick up Legend of Dragoon.

    They love it, I'm playing it with them, and everybody is happy.

    Had I bought the gift card, it would have gone to action figures or some side-scroller that they would play for ten minutes and decide they hate. Then, I would feel that I had not only let them down, but actively betrayed them, since they depended on me for a present.

    They bought me a watch. A cool watch, one that I had picked out. In fact, they weren't there when my mother and I picked it up. But I needed a new watch, and hated boring watches. They knew that, and asked my mother to pick it up.

    You might get the gift you want, but you'll realize, probably when exchanging your gift right before Christmas, that while you shoved some shoddy quick gifts on your loved ones, they did the same to you.

I use technology in order to hate it more properly. -- Nam June Paik