Thursday, December 1, 2011

Careful Gifting

As we wade through the holiday morass, we should stop and reflect about why we give gifts. It is a gesture that should be based on good intentions - kindness, thoughtfulness or appreciation. We remember a neighbor, a teacher, someone who means a lot. Giving a gift should mean something, not merely that you drew a name or want to keep your job.

Every year advertisers bombard us with what has deemed as the "must have" item of the holiday season. It varies, of course, dependent on what item is either left over from the previous Christmas season or was overproduced in China due to some language translation error. "50 crates of widgets? I thought you said 500."

Just because every department store or electronic warehouse features an item in its holiday catalog does not mean the recipient will be overjoyed. Consider: Does the item serve an actual purpose? Will it last? Does it require some refill item/maintenance that will prove more inconvenient than practical? Does it provide a service that will be appreciated?

Based on television and print advertising and judging from prominent placement in stores, it appears that everyone should have a coffeemaker that brews one cup at a time. I saw these gizmos last year and thought nothing more about them. Then a few weeks ago my 12-cup coffeemaker died suddenly and I found myself at the local discount store knee-deep in coffeemakers. There were dozens of models with varying features and in several colors. The trick is to find one that suits the consumer's needs.

It was then that I explored the features of the one-cup brewer and decided that they didn't make sense for me. I like coffee and have been drinking it for most of my adult life. But as a coffee fan, I often drink the brew slowly, like on Sunday morning while consuming multiple newspapers. That often results in the coffee in my cup cooling off before I finish it. Consequently, I refill my cup of coffee before it is completely empty. According to what I have read, that trick is not possible with a single brewer. If that feature is possible, my error. But it seems to me that having a coffeemaker which makes one cup at a time has a limited audience, even if the product is kitschy and cute.

Technology has allowed the production of many new items including key chains that store photographs, auto-changing photo frames, animated and/or singing Christmas figures, etc. These are likely wonderful items for the right person. But giving someone an item without thinking it through does an injustice to the recipient and to the gift.

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