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Keeping Our Gift Giving Heads

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You’d have to be living under a rock (or someplace wonderful that I’d love to hear about) to not sense the holiday retail desperation/frenzy. The sales and offers are coming in multiple chaotic waves. Online prices are jumping up and down like an untrained puppy. This curated and cultivated frenzy is designed to be contagious. There is nothing as frightening to retail as a cool, calm and collected shopper. List makers with moderate blood pressure and blood sugar are kryptonite to retail. So bring on the confusing and conflicting offers and the wonky gift items. (Is there really anyone with candy cane scented body lotion on his or her wish list?) It’s the time to convince shoppers that strangers know best. “Gift” items are positioned strategically in and around key areas of shops. Reindeer corkscrew? Who wouldn’t just love to have that in their junk drawer? Sugar plum flavored lip gloss? Okay, but does anyone even know what a sugar plum is? Personally, I’d prefer partridge in a pear tree scent.

The items being pushed as ‘perfect’ for every and anyone on your list aren’t merely Christmas themed. The latest (excruciatingly distasteful) fashion trend seems to be apparel usually seen on people very down on their luck. A torn sweatshirt with a ragged and fringed hem is being sold for $185. This is a garment you would not allow your partner or child to be seen in. You would wrestle it from their hands and relegate it to the rag bin. The full page newspaper advert showed this pathetic piece of cloth draped over the sharp and glossy frame of a highly styled young woman otherwise dressed for a night out. Ordinarily this would just be stupid and ridiculous, but five weeks after a devastating natural disaster which has left many people choosing their clothes from mounds of discards, it is just distatesful. Distasteful, but not unique. Today’s full page newspaper advert shows a similarly glam model wearing a pair of shredded jeans. The jeans are not decorated with strategically placed signs of distressed. No, the holes are stringy and show pronounced areas of skin. These can make that special person on your gift list happy for just $205.

Not sure if $200 rags are the perfect gift? Fear not, you can now pay someone to tell you what your friends and family would like. These clairvoyant personal shoppers will advise you as to what will make someone who means enough to you to warrant a gift, happy. Nifty, no? Keep in mind, they don’t purchase the gift or even wrap the gift. No no. They ask you the recipient’s age and gender and tell you what to buy. It’s like paying Santa to sit on your lap.

No matter how good our intentions not every gift will be perfect or even happily given. It’s inevitable that we will be socially forced into a grab bag situation or find ourselves spending the holiday with someone’s new partner. The important thing is not to panic. Let us not focus on checking off the list, but of keeping our heads. As we get closer to the big day keep your resolve. Write a little message to yourself if you think it will help; “Would I want to receive a glitter embossed cardboard box shaped like a gingerbread man?” For grab baggers consider something edible. If the spending parameters allow, how about something edible and a modest gift to a food pantry? Now how about that niece, colleague, stranger who you don’t know well enough to select a nice gift but feel compelled to give them a gift nonetheless? Money works. Money always fits and can’t be returned. Gift cards are usually to benefit the store/business and are no less crass than money. They are no less crass and more offensive. “I’m giving you money and telling you where to spend it.” isn’t the most giving sentiment. Still feel that cash is cold? How about giving an equal amount (in the recipient’s name) to a local charity or not for profit organization? Who wouldn’t be touched by that thought?

Less landfill more goodwill.

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Posted by on December 3, 2012 in Holiday, Style

 

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Please To Put A Penny*

My mailbox (and inbox) have been stuffed to the gills with donation requests since November. Cashiers in chain stores have been asking me if I’d like to donate to their company’s favorite charity for months now. The sidewalks are dotted with bell ringing charity workers (every time a bell ring and angel writes a check?) A person might suffer a wee bit of wallet fatigue by the time the holiday actually arrives.

If you find the notion of holiday tipping repugnant, I would encourage you to reexamine your stance. Whether one celebrates Christmas or not, we live in a country which considers the day to be a national holiday of sorts. Many traditions have developed in support of this practice. It is customary (when possible) to give employees the day off on Christmas Day. It is also the time of year in which people express their gratitude for work done throughout the year. Hence, the Christmas bonus. For those of us who are not a C.E.O. of a grand financial institution,the Christmas bonuses we dole out are more like, uhm, tips.

It is customary to tip anyone who regularly provides a valued service to you or your family, such as:

  • Grooming Professionals (hair stylists, manicurists, etc.)
  • Babysitters (for humans or canines)
  • Tutors
  • Cleaners
  • Home Health Aide
  • Handy-people
  • Newspaper deliverer
  • Mail Carrier**

Where one lives determines another list to be considered:

  • Assisted Living & Nursing Home staff
  • Apartment Building Superintendent
  • Doormen

I have often heard people grumbling about tipping their building staff. I would just like to point out that you probably were not forced to live in a doorman building, anymore than you were forced to eat food served to you by a waitress. It is implicit in the service sector that not all compensation comes from an employer.

There may be others you would like to acknowledge during this season. I would caution however, to consider a gift (versus a tip) if the individual is not a service professional. **And while mail carriers are not to accept cash gifts, I am a scofflaw in this regard, as my mail carrier is too lovely to me to be the recipient of baked goods (despite their indescribable deliciousness.)

How much one gives is entirely up to the individual. There are no hard and fast rules, there are only guidelines.  Never give more than makes you comfortable or than you can afford. Give the amount which makes you happy. Yes, happy. Tipping, like gift giving, is not the result of extortion. It should be a genuine expression of your thanks. And why in the world would you say thank you unless you actually felt gratitude?

Hee Haw and Merry Christmas.

* …in the old man’s hat. (“A Round About Christmas”-The Kingston Trio)

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2011 in Holiday

 

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