Does the meaning of a gift to the giver affect what it means to the receiver?

I haven’t really come across this situation in real life, but I was thinking about it - if someone gives someone else a gift of something that they don’t care about, does it diminish the joy the recipient might get in receiving it? How about if you give someone a gift that you actively dislike (for example, something you inherited that you think is incredibly tacky, but the recipient said they thought was cute, so you gave it to them)? If the recipient likes the gift, is that all that matters? Would you be well-advised to keep your mouth shut if you didn’t care about or didn’t actually like something you were giving to someone else? Is there any etiquette on commenting on how you feel about something you’re giving?

Then there is the sad flip-side where the giver gives something that is extremely meaningful or takes a lot of sacrifice to give, and the recipient doesn’t give a crap.

In elementary school (4th grade, I think) at the Christmas “secret santa” thing my mom wouldn’t give me $5 to buy a gift for a classmate, so I wrapped my Rubix Cube, which was my favorite toy. I didn’t have it solved at the time, but I figured they wouldn’t mind, since the whole point is solving it anyway. The person who got it was disgusted and LOUDLY protested the “piece of shit” gift they’d gotten. Meanwhile I was out my favorite possession :confused:

I got a gift card for Long’s Drugstore for a b-day present once. At first I was incensed, wondering how much thought could have possibly gone into it. But I ended up getting some sunscreen and other stuff that I really needed. I figured: what the hell? Saved me the trouble of handing over cash or swiping my credit card.

The moral of my particular story: don’t look a gift[card] in the mouth.

I think it would be rude to say something like, “I think these things are tacky, but I know (or worse, “thought”) you’d like it.” But otherwise, it seems perfectly acceptable to give someone something that they like, even if you don’t. I might even go so far as to say that some people I know would be disappointed if I gave them only things that I like.

If the other person already knows you hate the thing yet tells you they think it’s neatoriffic, I think it’s better to say, “Oh, would you like to have it? Here,” on the spot, rather than, say, wrapping it up for their birthday when they already know it’s a white elephant.

I think the worst you can permissibly say about a gift you’re giving that you dislike, and then only if you’re pressed for your opinion, is something along the lines of “Oh, they’re not really my style” or “I don’t really get into them, but I know lots of other people do.” Something acknowledging that it’s perfectly OK for other people to like the hideous thing (even if you’re lying :smiley: .)

(Please don’t ask me to bring those sentences up to snuff editorially. It’s been a long day and I’m off the clock, dammit!)

My aunt gave me a Demdaco Willow Tree figurine the other day. She won it in a drawing or something and she doesn’t like them (she’s more a Precious Moments or Hummel kind of gal). She knew that I do, so she brought it to me. Doesn’t bother me a hoot. I’d pass something like that on in a heartbeat and not worry about it.

Now, wrapping up a lamp that you got for your wedding but you think is hideous and giving it to your co-worker as a birthday gift just to get rid of it is different, I think.

It depends on the giver’s intent, doesn’t it? If the intent is sincerely to please the recipient, then I’m not sure it matters if the giver particularly likes the item being given. Best to avoid discussing how much you hate the item in question, though. :smiley:

Well, my mother gave me a bottle of perfume that she had bought, used a couple of times, and decided she didn’t like it, so she wrapped it up and gave it to to me for a Christmas present. I had been pleased with the perfume, until she told me later how much she didn’t like it, that it smelled cheap and nasty, but was sure that I would like it. That sort of diminished the pleasure of the gift, and while I actually like the perfume, every time I look at the bottle, I get a cold feeling in my stomach. Maybe I should toss it. I don’t think I would mind so much, if she’d just given it to me later, unwrapped, and not as a Christmas present.

Well, that was very silly of her. Do remember, though, that perfumes often smell radically different on different people. It may have really smelled cheap and nasty on your mother, and smell quite classy on you.

My SIL gives me HER favorite thing for every birthday and holiday. I mean, it’s not hideous, but it would be nice if she bothered to find out what MY favorite thing is.

That’s a twist I hadn’t thought of; if you’re going to give someone something you don’t care about (or actively dislike), make it a casual gift rather than an official one. It’s interesting how we look a the two things so differently.

I think the meaning of the gift means a lot *more *than the physical item. That doesn’t mean that I keep all the crap people give me - but I certainly keep the warm fuzzies of knowing they cared enough about me to give me the crap they thought I’d like or use. If they’re giving me crap *they *like but I don’t, that’s still nice because the meaning is there, but not as many bonus points as giving me something they think I will like even if they don’t.

What I don’t like is crap that was given without meaning at all (other than, “Oh, is WhyNot going to be at Grandma’s for Christmas this year? Better get something for her…here, this set of 4 juice glasses will suffice.”) Really, I’d just rather sit there and enjoy watching other people open stuff than have to open crap I don’t care about AND you don’t care about, just so’s we can all pretend to be a close family. Basically, if you wouldn’t have gotten me something if I wasn’t there, then don’t get me anything, period.

Or if she had given it to you, but said nothing about why. Did she really say “cheap and nasty” to you, BTW? Because following that with “But I was sure you’d like it,” sounds like a line from Mean Girls.

The year I got my ears pierced, my sister gave me five sets of earrings for Christmas. I was overjoyed! She’d just doubled my earring collection! And they were so cute! Right up until she started saying that they were “nothing much, no big deal, just something she found at the register…” Over and over on a loop. Now this may have been her way of saying that she wished she could give me something nicer. (Plus, who knows what she was on at that time.) But the thing is, to me they were nice. I was more than content with them, until she started basically saying, “I’ve given you crap.”

So to answer the OP, yes, all that matters is whether or not the recipient appreciates it. Think of it this way: From the moment you decide to give it to someone else, it is no longer yours. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what you thought of it, because you don’t own it at the time you’re giving it. And if you’re ashamed of the fact that you bought it at a register rack (and really, where did she think I got my own earrings, Cartier?) then don’t call it to anyone’s attention.

My wife and I just got a $3000 Black Forest cuckoo clock from my mother-in-law. One of those really fiddly, lavishly handmade ones, with leering little clockwork barking dogs, cheerful peasants who chop wood, and sturdy burghers who pop out on the hour and oscillate Teutonically. It was a birthday present for our son. He’s five, and can break anything more delicately constructed than, say, an anvil. However, we spent a pleasant evening imagining how $3000 could have been better spent, and ended up laughing ourselves sick at the sheer inappropriateness of the gift. So I guess it wasn’t entirely wasted, although he’s not getting it for at least another 35 years. And I’m not hanging it on the wall, because it looks like Wagner’s arse.

I am impossible to give to. This means that 99% of presents I get are eventually regifted. This means that I am normally giving presents I don’t like (which is much against my rule of don’t buy anyone a present you don’t like yourself). I would never just tell the recipient that I am giving them something I think is crap. Even for casual regifts, where the recipient knows it is a regift, I make some excuse about it not being my size, not having any room for something like it, already having a similar one, or whatever. Never say you are giving someone something because you didn’t like it.

What a stone-cold bitch! I know she’s your mom and all, but damn!

My mother-in-law is an elementary school teacher, so around the holidays she gets lots of bath salts, smelly lotions, and such. She re-gifts them as stocking stuffers for her daughters-in-law. It’s more amusing to me than anything else, but she never makes editorial comments.“This smells like ass. You take it.” I’m also fairly certain she doesn’t know I know that they’re re-gifts.

Yes. It implies that the person you’re giving to has lousy taste, but that you’re condescending to get something they’ll like anyway.

This almost made me cry. :frowning:

There’s also the phenonenon of someone giving you a gift because they think it will “improve you” in some part of your life you are currently happy with, eg, clothes because they think you have no style.

I once got a HUGE box of dollar store mugs for a secret santa exchange at work, and one was so hideous, so HORRIBLE that I brought it to my friend’s house to see it. We were in the kitchen laughing about how horrid it was and amazed that someone produced such an awful thing, even for the dollar store.

Lo and behold, our friend D walks in and stops dead in her tracks. She LOVES the mug. She COVETS the mug. She WANTS the mug. I told her that I liked it well enough, but seeing how much she loved it made me so happy that I really wanted her to take it. She did and seriously months later squeed over how much she liked it still. I have NO idea what trigger it tripped, but it made her so happy.

So heck, it had zero meaning to me but it meat a lot to her. Of course we never told her that we made fun of it before she started loving it.

And that, my friends, is how it’s done. :slight_smile:

I’m interested about your rule that you don’t buy people presents you don’t like yourself. Could you expland on that? I certainly have bought people presents where it would not be my taste, but I know that it is theirs and that they would love whatever the item might be. I’ve always thought that it was more important how the receiver would view the gift than how the giver did. So, in short, sometimes I’ve “held my nose” and bought a gift.