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Economics of gifting "Stuff"

Stuff, clutter, shopping, gifting--all of this has been on my mind this year. It's nothing new. I've had years of "I'll give wonderful HANDMADE gifts this year" (am I insane?) and "I'll donate to a charity for you" and "everyone loves gift cards." But for this, my first self-employed year, I think enough is enough and I've bought no gifts.

In light of that attitude, it might seem odd that I've created a giftable option for JCP Books, but I think of that option as more of an experiment than anything else, since I've become fascinated with behavioral economics. I offered two choices, a 99¢ gift-pack to give a little token gift to five friends, and a "choose your own." So far, everyone who's purchased has chosen their own, have given their friends specific books rather than dollars-off coupons, and have spend significant money per gift (i.e. given bundles of 5-10 ebooks to their friends).

Interesting! It would suggest to me that the givers are trying to gift a specific experience with their present, and maybe even that they want to then discuss the stories they particularly loved with their good friends and further the experience by sharing it in that way. I would also say that the fact that the buyers are willing to spend into the double-digits to get their friends some ebooks would indicate that they value a piece of electronic content as much as they value a physical item, and that they think of an e-gift as being just as substantial as a physical gift, not just a little, token, "I was thinking of you" throwaway item.

I thought these statistics on gifting and value perception were fascinating (and maybe a bit disturbing.)

Collect money online, girl scouts, boy scouts, fraternity dues

I would be totally cool with receiving a fruitcake (see "The Fruitcake Contradiction" in the right column) and I've never understood the bad rap it usually gets. They are very expensive to make. Then again I think the money-time-value equation in my head probably skews differently than it does for most folks.

One of my friends bought vanilla beans and brewed up a homemade vanilla extract this year that she gifted with recipe cards. How cute and clever! I was very impressed. I also thought it looked like a hell of a lot of work :D

So I've been putting vanilla in everything...

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
cdn_tam
Dec. 24th, 2010 05:35 pm (UTC)
I too love fruitcake. I used to love it in the olden days when everyone in my family would make one and then every Christmas package had a little bit in. Now most don't make it because it is very expensive and we no longer exchange gifts. My Grandmother told me that that tradition was you would get one month of good luck for each different fruitcake you tried, so you would go and visit all your friends and neighbors so that you could get to try 12 different cakes and have a whole year of good luck. A very cute tradition from back in the day when EVERYONE made one and each recipe was unique.

I'd heard that about gift cards. I don't usually buy them. I only buy for my kidlet, my parents (one mail order thing) and my grandmother (a plant), oh and something small for ex, but I know in the past when we all exchanged gifts you spent more on shipping than the gifts were worth, so a gift card makes sense.

A colleague at work said he makes up a variety of spice rubs. He finds the recipes on-line, then buys all the different ingredients and mixes them up and puts them in small containers which I thought was a cool idea. But requires much forethought. LOL
jordan_c_price
Dec. 24th, 2010 07:01 pm (UTC)
It would be so much fun to get all those samplings of different homemade fruitcakes from various family members! (Wouldn't it suck to be the one who made the crappiest fruitcake? Ha ha!)

That spice rub idea is really cool! I'd love to receive that. I loved the vanilla my friend made, too.
neyronrose
Dec. 25th, 2010 12:39 am (UTC)
My grandmother -- Mom's mother -- said that even though people make fun of fruitcake, she liked it. I like a little at a time every so often.

The students in the university GLBT organization I volunteer with still seem more into print books. I bought certain e-books for S., the student I call my "secret love child," when I was trying to get him into reading gay romance e-books. I haven't really heard from him about them. I lent him the paperback of Channeling Morpheus for Scary Mary, and he loved it. We talked quite a bit about it.

I definitely had specific reading experiences in mind for S. I want to share the books I love when I buy copies for people.
jordan_c_price
Dec. 25th, 2010 09:29 am (UTC)
I can't think of a single person I've bought a book as a gift for, how funny. I have a Wisconsin gardening book my friend (intrepid Amy from the abandoned houses field trip) gave me and I love that.

I'm very pleased to hear S. enjoyed Channeling Morpheus!
lou_harper
Dec. 25th, 2010 01:10 pm (UTC)
I declared years ago that I don't want gifts from anyone, and that I only give gifts to kids. It saves a lot of unwanted, to be unused items from passing hands, not to mention the money not wasted. I break my rule occasionally, when I feel it's called for. Years ago I got the first season of Doctor Who for my friends brother, because I knew he liked scifi. He's a total DW addict now. Job well done, I'd say.

I like fruitcake too, especially if there's some sort of alcohol in it.
jordan_c_price
Dec. 25th, 2010 03:37 pm (UTC)
That sounds a lot more fun, gifting only kids.

It's hard to give gifts to adults--I figure that if they want something, they'd buy it for themselves, and in fact 99% of people I know are more in love with shopping and buying things for themselves than I am. So it's hard to shop. Kind of harrowing for me, in fact. And even harder to go for a visit and see my gift sitting there unused.

That's so cool that you shared your fandom with your friend's brother. It's so fun to turn someone on to a show/book you love. Which I guess is the rationale behind gifting a specific book rather than a dollar amount, as I'm seeing in my store.

I think the dried fruit is my favorite part of the fruitcake, but the booze and nuts are good too.
ephemera
Dec. 25th, 2010 05:06 pm (UTC)
I pretty much don't recognise anything in that infographic, which is, I guess, why I still like the sharing of gifts :D (and I love fruitcake - persuaded my mum to make fruitcake instead of Christmas pud for dinner today, and very tasty it was too.)
jordan_c_price
Dec. 25th, 2010 06:46 pm (UTC)
You got homemade fruitcake, YAY! I'm happy for you. So far I'm still confused about fruitcake's bad rap. How can anyone dislike a dessert?
egret17
Dec. 25th, 2010 06:24 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I found that infographic disturbing, too.

My dad is really hard to buy gifts for. One year when I was in college and very poor, I made a gift certificate for him that was good for baking several of his favorite kinds of Christmas cookies for him. (He was single at the time.) He loved it and definitely collected on the gift certificate. :)
jordan_c_price
Dec. 25th, 2010 06:49 pm (UTC)
That's a really creative gift certificate gift! I heard on a podcast recently about a woman who bakes for the guys at her company who do the gruntwork (like the mechanics, the guys who run the forklifts) and they WORSHIP her baking. I thought it was so cute how she could blow 'em away with a cake.

I'm not good at cookies, other than bar cookies. They're too fussy for me.
hel_
Dec. 26th, 2010 01:31 am (UTC)
I don't do commercial holiday gift giving. When I see something that makes me think of someone and smile I will frequently buy it for that person. If someone asks to borrow money and I have enough to share (no more than $20) I'll gift it to them.
I don't care for fruitcake, I'm sensitive to citrus rind, but I know lots of people who love it.
jordan_c_price
Dec. 26th, 2010 12:12 pm (UTC)
I love the idea of gifting small amounts of money rather than lending. I'd forgotten about that candied citrus rind--which I actually kinda like because it's got an interesting bitterness--because I was so focused on the candied cherries. Mmmm. Cherries.
angelwolf2003
Dec. 26th, 2010 02:42 am (UTC)
The gift card statistics make me cringe but I don't find them surprising. My nana has probably over a thousand dollars worth of gift cards that she won't spend because she's saving them in case one day she doesn't have the money to do something. One in particular is $400 to the Hotel Del Coronado that she's had since they used to use gift certificates instead of cards. My left eye twitches every time I think of them sitting in her box, unused.

On the friend's front, I never give presents, only experiences. One friend of mine told me that he had lived in the area his whole life and had never been to Santa Monica so I took him to the pier for dinner for his last birthday. Another one told me that she had never seen the Golden Gate Bridge so I shoved her in the car one weekend and we went for a really long drive. I find things like that to be better presents then anything tangible I could have given them.

My family, on the other hand, does give presents but they're always pretty well thought out. I always end up coming out of Christmas with a stack full of books that'll easily last me for the next few months. One year my grandfather was saving up for something and instead of giving him an envelope with money, I ended up giving him $50 worth of $2 bills, all folded up into origami paper cranes, and in a jar.

Then there's the boyfriend and I. We've been together for 10 Christmases and aside from the first one and this year, we've never done presents on Christmas. The first year was because we were 16 and 18 and we figured that's what boyfriends and girlfriends do. This year was for looks. We were spending Christmas morning with the mom and we figured we had to give each other something! But for the most part we've operated under the opinion that why should we wait for a special day to give gifts when we can do it all year long?

And I think I shall end this wall of text by stating that I kinda hate fruitcake. I don't like candied or dried fruits and I don't like nuts. Now, if I could have the cake without the fruit and nut part, it would be good. But I'm not interested enough to go through and pick out all the things I don't like.
jordan_c_price
Dec. 26th, 2010 12:20 pm (UTC)
And you can't exactly force your Nana to spend the gift cards, ya know? But I always worry about things like that expiring. When I worked at the library they always gave us our holiday bonuses (like $50, nothing to write home about) in chamber of commerce gift certificates so we'd have to spend it locally. And they also taxed us! But the things expired in a year, so I've got expired gift certificates lying around that I paid tax on. It always felt like company scrip to me. They also gave me a $100 gift certificate for a fancy restaurant as a bon voyage that I'll probably never use. I mean, I'm supposed to go eat there alone or what? Most of my friends have families and we only get together and do stuff during the day when husbands are at work and kids are at school.

And I think I shall end this wall of text by stating that I kinda hate fruitcake. Hah--more for me!!!
jordan_c_price
Dec. 26th, 2010 12:26 pm (UTC)
And that paper crane gift is the cutest thing ever!
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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