I have to admit I’m pro-list. Part of the issue I always have with gift-giving is that if you’re giving gifts for even someone you know, you tend to want to get them things that involve the things they’re passionate about. Failing that, something that they will appreciate and/or find useful. Which is the way it should be, right? Problem is for a lot of hobbies, it is goddamn difficult to find things that are appropriate and desired. Depending on the hobby, it can also be amazingly complicated to find what they actually want.
Some examples might help. One of my nephews is super into Legos - Legos are always a welcome gift, but if I’m standing in the Target in front of the Lego kits, I have no realistic way to know without extensive investigation which of them he already has (or which his grandmother has purchased, or his parents, or his sister. . .) Without a list from his mother naming a specific kit, I’ll have to guess and hope not to miss (and be damn sure to include a gift receipt). Missing means that I have accidentally given his parents the additional Christmas gift of a trip to Target to exchange things.
Then there’s my oldest niece - who is 14. Her hobbies change almost hourly these days (which is totally normal and natural at her age). If I’d purchased her a gift in, say, October, there’s a solid chance that it’s no longer relevant.
My brother is a gas-powered remote-control vehicle buff. He builds the damn things from scratch. There’s always some bit or bob he wants for his hobby - but I will be goddamned if I could correctly select it from an array of possibles without specific guidance. I know what his hobbies are - it’s just since I don’t know a damn thing about the hobby itself, selecting a gift that’s useful and he’ll want isn’t really something that’s feasible without a list.
How about for me - I’m an avid and eclectic reader. But I do the vast majority of my reading on my Kindle. Even people who know me well, unless they live in my house and can therefore get their hands on my Kindle to check to see whether or not I own a particular book, there’s no solid method of telling whether or not I’ve already got a book. Amazon gift cards are just as thoughtful and much less likely to accidentally miss the mark.
If I’m buying clothing items for the kids, I could not tell you what size they currently wear. A list tells me what size they are today
It’s not that I’m not putting thought into what I get for people - it’s more that I lack appropriate information to maximize my ability to delight the recipient. A list helps me out with that. Also, in my family, we view lists as guidelines more than checklists - a list gives you inspiration and technical information you might otherwise lack. If I see, for example, a particularly awesome Lego-themed thing that calls out the Lego-loving nephew’s name then there won’t be a single thought if I go that way instead of picking up the kit his mom listed for me.