Monday, November 16, 2009

LOVELY SHOPPING TIPS: Safe and Easy Gifts for People You Don't Know Well

Replica edition of Betty Crocker's Easy Entertaining, at Amazon

Safe and Easy Gifts

When in doubt about what to buy for someone you don't know well, buy a safe, easy gift.

Things like calendars, blank journals, books, and pretty but unscented candles are more likely to please someone than a particular item of clothing, perfume, or jewelry. Those types of items are really hard to gauge, especially when purchasing for someone you aren't very close to.

You could keep two brand new generic pairs of soft warm inexpensive gloves from Target - one set masculine and the other feminine. But I imagine going to someone else's family Christmas and receiving gloves (however colorful and soft and warm) would be sort of boring.

Even food can be risky, since you don't know the person's likes and dislikes or allergies.

A lot of people give an empty frame as a gift, but I find it too hard to choose which frame might be aesthetically pleasing to someone. Wood? Metal? Embroidered? Silk?

If you select carefully, "safe gifts" won't offend, cost much, or be inappropriate. A carefully selected book is probably a safer bet than a carefully selected music CD. When buying for someone you don't know well, a candle should be unscented. The person might be sensitive to fragrances, or you might pick a fragrance they really don't enjoy.

Buying a calendar? Try to buy a generically pleasing one. If you're not sure what style of art a person enjoys, don't buy them that Salvador Dali or Picasso calendar. Get a beautiful one of wildflowers or scenic landscape instead. Maybe that's too boring though. Try to avoid specialty-interest calendars like dolphins, dogs, cats, trains, or calendars based on specific movies or TV shows unless you're positive the person likes the show, movie, or animal in question. A calendar with views of a famous city might work - Paris, London or Venice. I give wall calendars instead of desk or tear-off calendars. They look nicer wrapped - they're larger and look like a better present, although the two kinds of calendars cost the same. To people who I suspect might enjoy writing, I like to give the kinds of desk calendars you can write in.

If the person lives nearby and doesn't have to travel on an airplane or road trip to get back home, buy a nice houseplant. Be careful to avoid poisonous plants and flowers with a scent (again, what if the person has allergies?) Wreaths for the door can be nice too.

One of my favorite safe gifts to give is a nice Christmas tree ornament. (Obviously check first to see if your recipient is Jewish or Muslim and won't be putting up a tree). I wouldn't really give any ornaments from Target, Sears or other inexpensive places. I'd put those on my own tree (they're pretty and stylish) but you run the risk of the person recognizing the ornament from Target and knowing you only spent $2.50 on the gift. Instead, I give ornaments from Pier 1 Imports or Crate and Barrel - you can find gorgeous ones for around $6 or $8. Of course, pay attention to detail and don't give anything that might offend. (That topless mermaid ornament is dazzling but might not be appropriate). For a business associate or client, a more expensive ornament from Macy's or Nordstrom might be a better idea.

Avoid sexual humor, or anything political or religious.

I like giving tea or coffee - almost everybody drinks one, the other or both, and your recipient can easily give your gift away if they don't like that particular flavor of tea or coffee.

No comments :