General chatter - How do you tell someone they're bad at buying gifts?

06-23-2011, 10:19 AM
I have a good friend who is very bad at choosing gifts. Most of the things she gets me end up being unused or given to charity shops. Now, I know this makes me sound like an ungrateful cow, but I have spent a lot of time and effort in the past, in choosing gifts for her and I am starting to feel that it isn't worth the effort.
For example, for Christmas I went out and found her a ceramic egg-holder that she had mentioned in conversation. She gave me a toiletry bag. Not just a toiletry bag, but a particularly hideous one that would be used by an ancient auntie. I'm 45 - I already have more toiletry bags than I will every used and have never mentioned needing one, so I don't think a lot of thought went into that one.
For her birthday last year, I got her a jewellery roll, as she had mentioned she was looking for a new one. This again took time and effort, as I had to visit a lot of shops before I could find one. For my birthday a few weeks ago, she gave me some body lotion. Not an unwelcome gift in itself, but this one is very strong-smelling, so I can't use it as I have perennial rhinitis and it would set off my sinuses (it takes me forever to choose a new face cream, as I have to take off all the lids and smell them!) I told my friend that, unfortunately, I couldnít use the gift she gave me because of my sinuses. She said that she didnít know. This is strange, because Iíve deliberately made a point of mentioning it when we go into a pharmacy or drugstore, specifically to avoid this type of situation happening again (sheís bought me some bath oil in the past that I couldnít use either). Instead of offering to replace the lotion, as I would have done, she said that she didnít have the receipt any more and I should give it to someone else! So Iím stuck with something I canít use, which feels like I didnít get a present at all. When you add this to the amount of time Iíve put into choosing her gifts, Iím starting to feel very miffed.
I donít know what to do about this. Iíve tried dropping hints about giving each other gift cards or vouchers, so that we can each choose something for ourselves, but that obviously fell on deaf ears, along with my comments about my sinus problems. Iím starting to wonder whether sheís Ďre-giftingí things to me that sheís been given by other people, as none of her presents shows any thought. If it was just a one-off, I could ignore it, but this seems to happen every time and Iím feeling more and more resentful Ė to the point where Iím thinking of buying her chocolates for her next birthday just to make a point (sheís type 1 diabetic).
Having typed this all out, I do feel very selfish and Iím sure thatís what some of you will think. Itís not just the quality of the gifts, itís also the fact that she doesnít seem to be hearing anything I tell her or suggest. Another mutual friend has joked to me that she has Ďselective deafnessí. So, I guess my question is: ĎWhat would you do in this situation?í

06-23-2011, 10:35 AM
My immediate response was to take the gift back to the store - all the things you already do.

I don't think there's anything you can or should do, unless you want to save her time and money. I think saying something is more rude than returning something.

Maybe you can save yourself time and money and agree to not buy gifts for each other for any occassion. Maybe tell her you'd rather spend the money on a coffee date with her instead.

06-23-2011, 10:37 AM
My aunt is like this and I think it is because she is cheap and likes finding 'bargains' so you are subject to one of her bargains.

Personally, I'm a bad gift giver so I don't give gifts for events but if I see something that fits a person, I'll buy it and give it to them. I also don't want gifts for events. So I don't do birthday or christmas gifts.

I would suggest forgoing gift giving with this friend but that is just me.

06-23-2011, 10:45 AM
If it’s something that is very hurtful to you (seems to be), for whatever reason, you should try to have an actual conversation with her. You’ll let your feelings be known, and you can gauge whether or not she has any idea that she’s being negligent. If this is a good friend, and someone you trust, be as straight forward and honest as possible. “My feelings are hurt that you gifted me lotions that I can’t use because I thought you knew about my sinus problems. It makes me feel like we’re not as good of friends as I thought we were.”

Don’t blame, but clearly state the problem and how you feel. Be prepared that she might get defensive. Sorry about this, not a fun or easy problem to have!

06-23-2011, 10:49 AM
Some people just really aren't good at gift giving or maybe they don't read other people that well or maybe it's just more important to you than it is to her. I know I get kind of...competitive? About gift giving. My mom keeps telling me, it's Christmas, no one wins at Christmas (or everyone wins I guess, depending on how you look at it). No one's holiday hinges on MY gift to them. It's ok if I don't choose the perfect thing that is more clever and perfect and original than any gift they've ever gotten before. I mean really, who do I think I am?

I don't think you can tell someone their gifts aren't good enough. Really, no one owes you a gift, or even a particularly good gift. Your choices are a. continue to do what you do and be resentful of her pitiful efforts, b. learn to see it with a sense of humor (what kind of crazy thing will she find THIS year), or c. suggest you do something together instead of buying gifts. My friends and I started this years ago - for birthdays and Christmas we have lunch or dinner or a show or SOMETHING without the husbands and kids. It is now one of my favorite things.

06-23-2011, 10:51 AM
I agree, if gift giving puts a stress on the relationship for either side just forgo it. Why now go out for lunch on each others birthday and a nice dinner sometime during the Christmas season, there would be far less stress. Hope it all works out.

06-23-2011, 10:56 AM
I don't think she likes to listen? Thats what I get out of all of this plus she seems to intune with herself and enjoys getting good gifts yet is too selfish to go out of her way to spend the money on someone else.

Tell her not to bother buying you a gifts anymore that you don't need anything unless it's a gift card and see how that goes. She may start buying you gift cards or she'll probably stop buying gifts at all, either way the crappy gifts will stop coming.

06-23-2011, 11:03 AM
It is a gift, a present, not something she owes to you. You simply say thank you. Perhaps you can reevaluate the amount of time, effort, and money you put into her gift and adjust it to something that makes you feel less resentful, but you cannot tell someone they are bad at buying you gifts.

06-23-2011, 11:09 AM
Have you ever heard of the five love languages? It might be worth reading a quick summary of them online. Probably "gift giving" is your love language but clearly it is not your friend's. You have a lot of other decent suggestions above for what to actually do about the situation but I just thought that this concept of people having different modes of expressing love might be illuminating for you.

06-23-2011, 11:24 AM
I am both a terrible gift-giver AND gift-receiver. There was book that came out a while back here in the States called "The 5 Love Languages" that talked about how people give and receive love, and while I didn't agree with the entire book it did help me realize that tangible gifts mean pretty much nothing to me, and are often more trouble than they're worth. It doesn't make me a bad person, or mean I don't care about someone, or that I'm not listening - I just stink at gifts. :)

Maybe this is the situation with your friend? It sounds like you're a "gifts" person while she might not be. Is this the only area of your friendship that's a big issue? Only you can decide if it's worth it to have a conversation, but it would be terrible to resent her if it's simply a difference in personality.

For reference, the other "love languages" mentioned in the book were:
- Words of affirmation (encouragement)
- Physical touch
- Quality time
- Acts of service
(Again, I'm not shilling the book, but it presents an interesting, different perspective.)

Do you think your friend is showing her love for you through one of those, or in another way? It could just be a difference in communication styles.

ETA: ERHR - Posting at the same time, I see. :)

06-23-2011, 11:26 AM
It is a gift, a present, not something she owes to you. You simply say thank you. Perhaps you can reevaluate the amount of time, effort, and money you put into her gift and adjust it to something that makes you feel less resentful, but you cannot tell someone they are bad at buying you gifts.

I agree.

06-23-2011, 11:53 AM
Someone already quoted aimeebell but I also agree. I think if you maybe want to spend less effort then go ahead and do so. The difficulty in saying something, is she may not know that it isn't good. Some people, don't value gifts the way others do. I personally believe the 5 love languages does have some truth, maybe you could read it a judge for yourself? Like for me, I think gifts are nice but not necessary. To her maybe a real judge of the friendship may come from the time and conversations you have rather than the presents. She may have no clue it hurts your feelings, and hurting hers in return may not give the result you want.

06-23-2011, 12:03 PM
Don't sweat it. return her gifts if you can, and if you can't, donate them. Try to suggest things like gift cards gently, but if that doesn't take, don't worry about it. She doesn't owe you anything, even bad gifts!

Then try to relax with your gifts. Not be mean about it, but don't go out of your way either.

Then maybe you can relax about it all.


06-23-2011, 12:39 PM
"How do you tell someone they are bad at buying gifts?"

Uh, you don't.

As Aimeebell says "It is a gift, a present, not something she owes to you".

I have a friend who buys the same gift for a number of her friends ....... whereas I always take trouble and time to pick a gift to suit her personally. That's just the way it is .....

I think this could be putting a strain on your relationship and is it worth that?

Perhaps you should get her a toiletry bag for her next birthday or wrap up and return the cream she gave you :)

06-23-2011, 12:52 PM
I agree, she's probably just someone who is uninterested in gift-giving. Get her something cheap and easy for you to source, donate presents from her to friends or charity shops, and take her off your mental list of people for whom you spend time lovingly sourcing gifts.

My partner is a keen gift-giver, while I am completely sporadic about gifts. I will sometimes give someone nothing for years on end and then spend months making them a quilt. It doesn't mean I care about people any less, and I pride myself on being a supportive friend. I make much more effort with my partner, I start fretting about two months before his birthday, especially as it's right by Valentine's Day and we give each other presents then as well. He always finds me the most amazing cards, often connected to our little pet jokes, and I think he must be popping into card shops regularly for months in advance. I'm housebound and hopeless at card-shopping, so I make him cards instead and have fun attempting to draw silly pictures and such.

His mother is an even more keen gift-giver, and loads both of her children down with presents at Christmas. Many of the presents would be more suitable for children, I think she just gets carried away having fun. I don't see much of her, but I get presents at the same time; very little compared to what her kids get, but it's still a nice surprise as my family doesn't do Christmas presents. However, I am struggling to think of one that I've actually used! The quilting fabric was kept, although much of it was turned into quilts for friends, as it wasn't quite to my taste. And oh yes, there was a lovely peridot pendant that is perfect with a pair of earrings I have. She seems to think that I'm madly girly though, I get things like that hot pink jewellery box which was smuggled away to a charity shop a tactful amount of time later. I just laugh, as she means well, and I really do appreciate her generosity. I haven't got her as many gifts as she has me, but then I'm more broke and I have made her a couple of very nice quilted items, which tend to count for more as they're hand-sewn, so I think it balances out overall.

I also have problems with people buying me food or toiletries. I'm vegan, which is tricky since the main food people buy you is chocolate and most of them don't stop to think that the vast majority of chocolate, even dark chocolate, contains milk. When it comes to toiletries, even if they were cruelty-free (hasn't happened yet) I wouldn't be able to use them due to dermographism and eczema. I think I may try to get a hint through to my partner's mother that toiletries are a bit pointless, bring up the eczema and how I love to make my own moisturiser or something, but it won't be the end of the world if it doesn't happen. You can usually find a home for unopened toiletries, and you can always find a home for chocolate!

06-23-2011, 01:09 PM
I'm going ALL Miss Manners on this on. No leeway.

You graciously accept the gifts with a smile, and a heartfelt "Thank you!"

A gift is never to be expected.

However once the gift is YOURS, you are free to do with it what you will. Be that donate it, or, if it's particularly awful and no one can use it, toss it in the trash.

Feelings matter more about gifts than the actual things. A person who gives a gift should never be made to feel badly.

Thank her, and then do whatever you'd like with the gift privately.

06-23-2011, 05:25 PM
This is a toughie - I also consider myself a pretty great gift giver and I'm sometimes disappointed by the gifts I get in return. I had to ask myself - why do I like to pick out thoughtful gifts? Is it to GET thoughtful gifts in return or is for the joy of picking out just the right present to make someone happy.

I realized, I get a lot of happiness out of being thoughtful and picking out the right present. It doesn't matter what *I* get.

I don't GIVE presents to GET presents. I GIVE presents because I enjoy the act of GIVING.

Sometimes, I do have to repeat this to myself several times ;)

06-23-2011, 05:53 PM
I have a friend that would always tell me exactly what to get her kids for Chirstmas/birthdays. Some times it would be a $50 video game!
She is one of those 'power shoppers' who shops all the time and buys up toys that are on clearance sale. Then when something comes up that she needs a gift, she goes to her gift closet and chooses something for the person. Most of the time it is something that my kids would never play with.
Finally one year I told her that I could not afford to buy Christmas presents for her three kids anymore and that I would rather not exchange presents anymore. It took alot of stress off of me (cause I hate to shop).

So, like others have said, maybe you could just make a lunch date or girls night out and forget the presents. Good luck :)

06-23-2011, 07:15 PM
I agree that you don't tell people their gifts suck. If it's important to you, that the gift be "equal" then stop putting so much effort into her gifts.

I will suggest though that it's possible that your gifts aren't as great as you think they are.

I don't mean that meanly, I mean that some people may be faking their enthusiasm for your gifts, out of courtesy to you. You may be truly talented at gift giving, or you could be missing the mark, and your friends and family may just be polite.

You never know 100% with gift giving. You can put all the time, thought and effort in the world into a gift, and have it still be a complete miss. If you need the gift you give or get to be of a specific quality, you're setting yourself up for disappointment and resentment.

I think I'm pretty good at gift giving, but I may be deluded. People may just reacting politely. If I started complaining about their inadequate gifts, that would open up the opportunity for them to slam my gifts, too and I might learn that I'm not nearly the gift-giving genius I think I am.

And it's hard to tell, because some people don't like getting gifts that aren't surprises. So if they say "I need a new purse," they don't want anyone to go and buy one for them, because they want to pick it out for themselves.

Likewise other people don't like getting gifts they didn't specifically want. The, "It wasn't on my list," folks. (my hubby's step-mom is like this. She wants to give and receive based on specific request. She not only wants everyone to provide her with a list, she wants it to be a list we haven't provided to anyone else. She also asks for very specific gifts. My preference is to get a gift I never would have thought to give myself - something I didn't even know I would like. So it's hard for me to provide a wish list).

We've made social obligations out of gift-giving to the point that all the fun gets sucked out of it. I'd rather give and receive no gifts, than play the social games that come with it (whose gift was better, more thoughtful, more appropriate, more appreciated....)

You can be spiteful if you want to, and buy a truly awful gift for her, but what will that accomplish? Will you really feel better, being so petty? If so, hey go for it, but it might not end the way you hope it will. Will she be chastened and realize she's a horrible gift giver? Probably not. She'll probably just say thank you and regift or trash your gift. And if she responds in a very appreciative manner (even though you know she can't use the gift) you'll feel like a jerk. Who will have won?

I'd recommend that you suggest "no gifts" from this friend or that you cut back the effort you put into her gifts so you don't feel so cheated by her less than stellar gifts.

I wouldn't recommend telling her that her gifts are imperfect unless you want to end the friendship.

06-23-2011, 08:15 PM
I would be more on the polite side of the crowd and not say anything about the gift giving or suggest no gifts. I have gotten gifts that I am not sooo crazy about, but I am always flattered that that person even thought of me in the first place! I like it when giving gifts is more of a fun thing. I like getting gifts for people, but the best time I ever had with exchanging gifts was doing a secret santa on this ferret forum I frequent. It was supposed to be just for fun, handmade/cheap/under 20 dollars and because it's for the love of a common thing, it was very lighthearted. I did spend time and effort picking out stuff/making stuff, but no matter what it's all good because ferrets like everything as long as it is safe for them (and then they still like it...). It would be nice if it were that easy to get for people-maybe she really does try but just isn't a good gift giver. I wouldn't really want to hurt her feelings. She obviously cares enough to buy you a gift. I know that could be frustrating, but I still wouldn't want to hurt her feelings.

06-23-2011, 08:56 PM
I think it would be extremely rude to criticize someone for giving you a gift that is "not good enough". Jmo.

I found it interesting that you have mentioned to her several times that you do not like strongly scented things, yet she got the lotion for you anyway. You tried to avoid that EXACT scenario. She should have known, right? Now, you are thinking of getting her chocolate to make your point. Hmmm, sounds like she got you first. Just a thought....

Maybe, in her opinion, you are difficult to shop for? I don't know if you are, of course, but something to consider.....Maybe she already knows that her gifts will never live up to your expectations and she just doesn't want to play this game. How will she know when her gifts do measure up?

I would suggest going easy on her. If gifts are something that she doesn't take as seriously, then you shouldn't feel so obligated to spend so much time and energy on her gifts. Unless, you are really giving them for the pure joy of giving. In which case I say go ahead and shop like a pro. ;)

06-25-2011, 12:04 PM
This thread was really interesting to me. Not sure I have much insight for the OP, except to add that I am not a great gift giver either and have realized this more by reading through this!
I hate what gifts have come down to, you give me a gift card and I give you one in return. Why don't we all just skip it and save our money.
Or, another favorite of mine, give me a list of ideas and I will in return. I have an idea, why don't we all just shop for our own gifts and save the hassel of exchanging lists, or again, skip it and save our money?
If I am going to give or get a gift, I personally think it should be not expected and the idea of the giver, not the receiver. Makes me not want to do gifts at all. I hate thinking about Christmas or Birthdays, it just stresses me out.
I love the idea of an event rather than a gift, but maybe that is just because I don't like gift giving. Someone who loves shopping and gift giving might not like that so much.
Oh, and I hate cards, I think they are a total waste of money, someone elses words on an overly priced peice of cardstock. DH picks out lovely cards for me, but not just one, usually one from him and one from each DS! Three cards!!! I have complained enough that now my kids make me cards a lot instead and I like those so much better. Is that just me?
So I guess gift giving is definately not my "love language"! Don't know if that helps explain your friends problem with gift giving or not, but knowing there are people out there that truly dislike it may be eye opening for someone like you who loves it.

06-25-2011, 12:22 PM
My friends and I agreed to stop exchanging gifts several years ago. It's a huge effort for all of us to physically be in the same place at the same time, so being together is a gift in itself!!

06-25-2011, 04:58 PM
I wish I could convince my family to stop doing gifts for birthdays and Christmas for the adults, or do a more limited gift exchange, but they love making Christmas especially a huge production: obscene amounts of food and money spent on gifts.

Hubby and I don't have the money (and my parents really don't either, but they spend it anyway), so I've been making most of the gifts. On one hand, it's fun to plan and make a gift especially for each person, but I have to start planning in January to get them all done by December - and it's getting harder and harder to be original. And with handmade gifts you never know if it's going to be a hit or a miss, and it's frustrating to miss and realize you put 100 hours into a gift that went wrong.

Thankfully, most of my family and my husbands' have absolutely loved the handmade gifts (or they've been extremely good actors), but I'd rather do RAK gifts (random acts of kindness). Because I'm spending so much time scheduling in giftmaking for Christmas, I get almost no opportunity to give "just-because I thought of you" gifts with no expectation of a gift in return.

My husband and don't really want "stuff" because with his game collection and my crafting supplies, it's a challenge to keep our apartment clutter-free. Friends and family say it makes us hard to buy for, and we'd rather do away with the gift-giving altogether, or at least the formal gift-giving. One year I persuaded my family to do gift baskets. Instead of buying for everyone, we just bought for the kids and for the adults drew names and each put together a gift basket for the person we drew. I thought it was tons of fun, but I could never persuade them to do it again.

I don't like giving obligation gifts, especially for people I don't know well enough to choose or make a special gift for. I don't know some of my husband's family well enough to buy or make a personal gift, so no matter what I choose, I feel awkward about it.

I think gift-giving, especially for Christmas and birthdays have largely become a ritual of social politics rather than an expression of caring. Feeling and keeping the spirit of giving can be tough.

06-25-2011, 05:11 PM
I agree with whoever said find the humor in the gift giving. To take the pressure and shopping stress (i'm the only female, probably, that hates shopping) away when my bf's b-day is coming up, we have adapted a way of buying gifts/presents for each other.

It's a competition for the whackiest/funniest/craziest/silliest thing you can give. Birthdays are a little more serious -- since he doesn't want to get kicked to the curb -- but out of nowhere he'll wrap up a box of tampons or tear out a colorbook page from the kids books and color it, write a note, put it in an envelope, and mail it to our address...

I think it'd be funny to start this trend by regifting the lotion back to her. The goal is to make light of the situation and have gift giving be fun for BOTH of you.

06-25-2011, 09:18 PM
Smile and say thank you.

Maybe you could go out for a nice lunch together instead of exchanging gifts.

06-26-2011, 01:49 PM
I say regift the gift back to her on her birthday or Christmas, lol

06-26-2011, 01:56 PM
Been in this situation and all one really should do is smile graciously and accept the gift.

I have finally reached an agreement with my friends that we no longer exchange gifts but do donations to the Food Bank or another worthy cause and send each other cards. I think most of us older folks are past the Christmas morning or birthday excitement that children have. Or are we?

PM me and I'll send you my address and a list of gift suggestions. :lol:

06-27-2011, 07:53 AM
It's a competition for the whackiest/funniest/craziest/silliest thing you can give. Birthdays are a little more serious -- since he doesn't want to get kicked to the curb -- but out of nowhere he'll wrap up a box of tampons or tear out a colorbook page from the kids books and color it, write a note, put it in an envelope, and mail it to our address...

Ah, I think that is lovely ;)

06-27-2011, 08:33 AM
I remember hearing this speaker talk about the 5 love languages. One of them was gifts and it sounds like gifts is a strong one for you. She probably doesn't look at gifts the same way you do so she does not put as much time or thought into it. If I were you I would stop putting so much effort into your gifts because it is upsetting you that she does not reciprocate. It will hurt your friendship if you say something because either she has it or she doesn't and every birthday she will remember that you were dissatisfied with her gift choice. I think this is one of those things you just have to blow off.

06-27-2011, 10:07 AM
Oh, and I hate cards, I think they are a total waste of money, someone elses words on an overly priced peice of cardstock. DH picks out lovely cards for me, but not just one, usually one from him and one from each DS! Three cards!!! I have complained enough that now my kids make me cards a lot instead and I like those so much better. Is that just me?

Definitely not just you! My husband hates cards so much that he flat out refuses to give them. I still buy cards because it's expected, but I always get ones that are blank inside and write my own message. And it's almost always cards that have paintings or photography from local artists on the front (I buy them at festivals or the farmer's market) so at least the money is supporting the local art community.