Wow – you shouldn’t have. Really. You shouldn’t have.

From stocking fillers to garbage can fillers: Some of the best and worst gift ideas.

They say gift giving is an art. Very true, but receiving a crap gift gracefully is also an art. “A mermaid teaspoon set! Well I certainly wasn’t expecting this!”

Saying something, anything, is generally better than gob-smacked silence.

To avoid such horror we need some tips as to what kind of presents actually go down well. Especially if the special person has frustratingly failed to offer any hits whatsoever as to what they might want, which can lead to a set of mermaid teaspoons.

Asking someone what they want directly is cheating and even though everybody likes cash, it shows zero thought.

Here are some pointers for presents that will pleasantly surprise the lucky somebody and can be used time and time again. As usual, the following good and not so good are all compiled with the benefit of experience.

Guaranteed winners:

Tickets

To anything, anywhere, anytime. Great for several reasons.

Whether it’s to a Morbid Angel concert, a football game or Maggie Mac and her Juggling Dogs, the point is you thought about the person. You don’t even have to like the event or even bother going, although who’d want to miss out on juggling dogs?

Of course giving just one ticket not only seems cheap but suggests the recipient would have nobody to go with – “Disney on Ice! I love you! Wait…one ticket?” Tears, fights, etc.

At least two is advised.

The other advantage in giving tickets is that you’re providing someone with an experience. A memory that will stay with them, much longer than a thoughtless pair of oven mitts.

Get out here

Photo by Shawn Lee on Unsplash

A getaway gift or paid trip is another experience-based present and generally more expensive than a concert ticket. Big thumbs up.

This time it’s advised that you actually accompany the recipient, unless it’s for a boys/girls only weekend somewhere which would be a truly selfless and odd gift. “Please go to Las Vegas with your dubious pals while I stay home and look after the kids” is not something a sane person would suggest.

The getaway present works especially well if: (A) you decided the destination and (B) if it’s a surprise. Make sure the calendar’s clear then suddenly announce it’s time to start packing suitcases.

It ticks all the boxes – consideration, excitement and most importantly – spending money.

If you can’t afford to go to a beachside villa in Fiji, never mind. A night at a decent or modest hotel can be a hoot, married or single, with or without the kids. Probably without, bless them.

The point is to get away somewhere.

Long-term gift, long-term love

Photo by Victoria Shes on Unsplash

Surprising someone with a quirky gift is massively overrated. Once the initial chuckles of opening a talking Sponge Bob bottle opener are over, you can bet the quirky gift will never be used again.

While maybe not eliciting gasps of joy when opened, a gift that can be used for a long period of time will be a big hit.

Services work especially well here as you should know a little about what they’re into or interested in trying.

Pay for a music/language/cooking/kickboxing/whatever course. Buy them a 12 month gym membership or Netflix subscription.

Physical products are also great but you’ll be gambling a little more on whether they actually need it. A trumpet or a samurai sword do last a long time, but does the special person actually need them?

Think about how they go about their daily lives and what would make things easier or more fun. If they’re into cooking then a new wok or knives might work. If they hate cooking, then no.

A caffeine addict would get a lot of mileage from an espresso machine while a slob might do cartwheels (if they weren’t a slob) when gifted with a reclining chair.

If you give it some thought and filter ideas with subtle questioning you could strike gold with some of these. “A friend at work bought an amazing massage chair, can you imagine one of them? For you?”

A good gift will bond you even closer to the recipient however a dud gift could see friendships, relationships and marriages put to the test or even terminated.

Try to steer clear of these gift giving cardinal sins.

I thought it might look good on you…

As a rule, buying clothes or jewelry for someone is fraught with danger. You shouldn’t have to be told this. Such items are extremely personal and most people, believe it or not, have a very clear idea about what they want to wear and feel good in. Even babies – who simply can’t voice their preferences – have clear ideas.

You may think you know better and in many cases you probably do, but it’s safest to let them choose for themselves. The doomed unworn leopard print skirt becomes the elephant in the relationship.

Even if they have bad taste, it’s their bad taste.

Coupons? Really?

When Claire in Modern Family gave her husband 5 “hug coupons” for his anniversary present he was massively underwhelmed. “She sucks at giving presents” he grumbled and he was spot on.

Coupons are basically the same as cash, but more restrictive. This especially applies to coupons for a department store where someone has no interest in visiting. They basically say you have absolutely no idea what the special person is into and don’t really care to find out.

As for Claire’s effort with free hugs – she was hoping to get away with the romantic, “I made it by myself” angle but it’s lame. Shame.

At least you’ll use it!

Some people confuse mundane daily items with gifts that make our lives easier and brighter. As a result they give truly uninspiring presents that while practical, offer absolutely no acknowledgement that the recipient is a human being.

Pizza over – yes, bath towels – no. New headphones – yes, new vacuum cleaner – what were you thinking?

Giving a gift should be a happy time for both parties. With a bit of thought and clever questioning you should be able to nail it.

And if someone ever gives you a set of mermaid teaspoons, just graciously accept them and think I can help them. Before discreetly throwing them away.

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