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How to look for the right gift
K S Shekhawat | January 28, 2006
Everyone knows the usual gaffe: If your friend (for whom you're buying a gift) likes reading, buy him a book. If he's a birdwatcher, get him a pair of binoculars. If he's a foodie, maybe a set of dishes, or recipe planners, will fit the bill.
All wrong. Chances are, if your friend is a bookworm, he'll probably already have the Grisham, or Naipaul, or Rushdie you're picking up on discount.
An avid birdwatcher will probably have stronger and better binoculars than you're planning on buying (if you can better what he has, you're a fairy godfather!). And foodies like to be indulged, not patronised. Get the picture?
Gifting is trickier than many of us realise. Yes, even when it comes to passing on the gifts you've accumulated over the years from your friends and wish to recycle, it needs to be done with certain consideration.
The bedcover that's been lying in your gift-bag for the last few years will make a terrible anniversary gift because, as every discerning person knows, the design is no longer current - so, clearly, it's a hand-me-down gift. While everyone passes on gifts, no one wants to be at the (obvious) receiving end of passed on gifts.
Therefore, the Bizarre shirt that didn't fit you, recycled in gift-wrapping paper (or an Adidas bag) is a dead giveaway that it isn't a first-hand gift.
Even when actually buying gifts, you need to be careful that you won't either tread on corns or give something that your friend probably already has. An amateur photographer might appreciate a disposable camera - but again, he might not.
The obvious thing is to ask what you can get someone as a gift, but then there is the whole issue of a budget. If you know someone well enough, you might be able to suggest that he/she buy a pair of shoes (for instance) and give you the bill.
With an acquaintance, it's usually tougher:
Is Rs 500 for a gift too little or too much? Since there is no right amount, you should have no hesitation in saying: "I'd like you to pick something that you like within a budget of Rs 300" (or whatever).
The advantage of something like this (once you're over the initial embarrassment of putting a price on a gift) is that your friend might actually be able to buy something that's expensive by putting in his own money, and actually cherish it a whole lot more.
"Safe" gifts are usually boring gifts. A bottle of wine makes a standard gift - but does your friend even drink wine? Is it a wine that he/she might like? Will it keep? Even though it's less romantic, frankly if you're being practical and know what your friend drinks, it's better to take a bottle of that along.
A bottle of vodka may not sound great, but it sure as hell is more practical than a bottle of wine that will slowly turn into vinegar.
Music CDs and film DVDs are usually ideal gifts. And it's easy to check that you aren't duplicating a collection simply by calling and asking: "I'm at the music shop and thought I'd pick you something of your preference."
And since prices tend to be more or less standardised, there's little chance that a requested CD/DVD might be more expensive than your budget.
People who've newly set up home might be easier to please - they'll settle for glasses, crockery, cutlery, sheets, almost anything that a house swallows up. But those who've been running their own homes for ages are tougher to please, if only because storage space keeps shrinking.So, finally, if you're up against all odds, and aren't considering cash or a cheque, deos, perfumes and after-shaves are always a good bet because, no matter how many someone already has, everyone still wants more.