What do you do with unwanted gifts?
That cheerful old adage "It's the thought that counts" can be a hard one to reason with when you're presented with a tablecloth embroidered with dolphins, or a great big spice carousel. You may have loved your trip to Sea World, and you're probably a whizz in the kitchen, but it doesn't mean you want to live with these things.
It sounds disgustingly first world to complain about gifts not being wanted. Bottom line, a decent person should be grateful to receive any form of gift. Giving, after all, is voluntary and not an obligation. Or is it? Certainly, the more random or unexpected the gift, the lower our expectation is. When a present comes from someone we've only known a short time, we're usually surprised and flattered. Conversely, it's the people we're closest to, who come under pressure to deliver, especially when it's a customary time like birthdays or Christmas (how many times did you hint about the Deadly Ponies bag!). For those fortunate enough to live in first world circumstances, receiving gifts is undeniably an expectation.
In some scenarios, people are actually accused of not putting enough effort into their gift, with the guilt-stabbing conclusion "you obviously don't care about me". How much this is true is a matter of how self-centred and neurotic 'Anal Annie' is. But even at a mildly hormonal level, many boyfriends, partners and children learn to tread the gift waters carefully. It's no wonder that they eventually avoid buying gifts for Annie at all costs. Forgetting is sometimes preferable to epic failure.
My advice to people who have unwanted gifts is simple: get a hold of yourself and embrace the fact someone made the effort to acknowledge you. Be sure to thank them, graciously. Get over the disappointment that something doesn't match your colour scheme. A house is not a home anyway without some conversation pieces. Same applies to your wardrobe (wear the rainbow poncho that Aunt Janet sent you, even if it's just when she comes to visit).
For those who want to avoid buying unwanted gifts: try to think of it as a small speech. Be appropriate and consider your audience. A gift is an opportunity to make an impression - think about the message you want to give and what it says about you. The more familiar you are, the more open, or personal you can be. Just as a speech is more effective when put in your own words, a gift will have much more meaning if it is relevant and identifies with you and the receiver. At Gift Saint we enjoy helping our corporate customers find ways to put authenticity into their gifting. One travel agent gave bags to her VIP clients, selecting out designs that related to the travel destinations they had booked with her. We loved hearing her feedback and the validation the customers in turn gave her back for her work.
Gifts have the power to convey very powerful messages. At one end of the scale are the courtesy ones: the pen, the calendar or the packet of mints as you might get from your insurer. At the other end are the very personal ones: perfume, watches, underwear, art. Somewhere between these is a vast array of choices. It's mind boggling and yes, at times it feels like a test of how well you know someone. Take a risk at the chance that you'll be better remembered for it. People love to feel like individuals and it's just so much more fun giving things that set you apart from the rest. Maybe at some point some rude person will say "Thanks, but it just doesn't go with my house", but so what - a whizzy spice carousel might be just what they need to get over themselves.