In no way am I trying to sound ungrateful, but I hate being wasteful. I also don’t like clutter. So, I’ll be quick to tote unwanted gifts off to the return desk or thrift store donation bins. This makes me sad because dollars were simply wasted and I wasn’t left feeling honored, just dejected. A little seed called, “You Don’t Know Me” starts to grow, and grow until have to I kill it with some kind of emoti-cide, usually in a prescription form.
Are my tastes so hard to clock? I wear black. Lots of urban black. I wear scarves and berets. I love quality scented candles, almost always have one burning. I wear artisan sterling jewelry. I read a lot. I collect childrens books. I garden like mad. I camp. So why do I get a floral flannel robe festooned with ruffles and cheap, itchy lace? Because the person who bought it for me was thinking of themselves. I won't even wear that thing if I make it to 80.
We do think of ourselves, a lot. Especially when we wait until the last minute to buy a gift, often during the holidays. This is exactly what retailers want because you are unknowingly lost and most relieved to discover that fork in the retail road. To the left is “I Like It Avenue.” To the Right is “Impulse Buy Boulevard”. Most take the Boulevard because it's broad and wide and the stores are piled high with easy-to grab-items of construction that would give the smallest Pyramid of Giza a run for its scale. The sales associates tell you this impulse buy is the hottest thing this season, least that's what management said. So how do these associates really know? Next time, ask them if they have a [inset impulse buy here]. Chances are they cannot afford one or wouldn't want it if they could.
Impulse items eventually land on the shelves of thrift stores where they end up not selling and are thus crated off to third world countries. So I wonder if there is a person in Bolivia in a hut with no electricity staring blankly at a chocolate fountain at this very moment. Where do impulse buys go to die? I mean, how many fondue pots does this world need? Since the '60's there are fondue pots from just about every decade sitting on the shelves at thrift stores. Is there an artist out there who can turn these fondue pots into art? Now that's a challenge! If you bought a chocolate fountain or a fondue pot please don't feel bad. We've all bought impulse buys and must find a way to break this cycle.
Whoops! I'm stepping up on soap box! America needs some serious retail reform! I'm talking hard core, urine test, stress test, blood test get a new personal trainer, doctor and diet reform! Consumers have but one major problem, uh, we've been jobless for months, some well over a year, and therefore no income which basically translates to, WE HAVE NO MONEY! The only change consumers need in our lives at this moment is employment.
So far, retailers keeps pointing their fingers shouting like Gilbert Gottfried, "They're not buying items at a rate that satisfies our profit expectations! Hey Feds we need a bail out!" This becomes national news in print, radio and TV. We watch it nightly. Sigh. Did you know the pornography industry sought a bail out? Another sigh.
Well, a nun (even though I'm not Catholic) told me when I was five that when you point your finger there are three more pointing back at you. I guess the thumb isn't considered a pointer.
Okay, someone's thinking, "Damn! She's being hard on retail!" In the words of my family's matriarch, "Someone's gotta be!"
Okay, off my soapbox and back on point: Impulse items are mostly given by people who feel like they have an obligation to give. Now that sucks. Shouldn’t giving be fun?
There’s another crowd, those who want to honor people on certain occasions with reminders that we love them and give them things that might make them feel a little spoiled or make their life a little easier. I like to hang with these guys. But to do this, you have to be smart and think ahead and shop year-round. And, you have to know your family and friends. Really size them up and be selfless. And you know what's really cool about these people? They are not giving to get. They are just giving, no hidden agenda.
It’s not so hard to learn your friends' likes. Look at how they dress. Do they wear solids, prints, wool, cotton, urban, conservative? What is the style of their home? What are their hobbies? What kind of food do they like? Do they entertain? Do they travel? When they are chatting, what books do they mention they are reading? What are they listening to when you ride with them in their car or visit their home? Isn't this what friendship is about? Listening and learning about your friends? Knowing them?
Want examples? Fine. I have a family member or friend who:
- Could give any French baker a run for their money. She gets unusual cookie molds and copper cookware.
- Can BBQ, smoke, roast, saute anything pork, beef, chicken or lamb to sublime measure. I give him tools to assist with his art.
- Was in the Peace Corps in Thailand, has a cabin in the mountains and her home has walls painted a delicious pumpkin color. She gets items in a combination thereof.
- Is a major bibliophile. He gets rare and vintage books.
- Is a Franco-phile. He gets anything French.
- Enters more flower shows in a year than the number of countries in Central America. She gets unusual vases, anything that might provide an advantage over her competition. Hey, they don’t call her “Blue Ribbon Betty” cause she takes honorable mention.
- Loves anything manly, as in "Dogs Playing Poker" and manly BBQ trays.
- Has a home that looks fresh out of the pages of Victoria. She gets items that enhance that image.
- Has just about everything he wants. He asks for and gets written letters.
- Loves a spot of red. She gets things with a spot of red.
- A friend who collects scales and wants more cowbell.
You’ll be fighting back the urge of giving their gift early because you’ll be so excited. It’s true. Ask Mr. Golightly. I do it to him all the time, poor guy. “Honey, here’s your birthday present two months early!” He hates it when I do that. I even have to physically corner him to release my selfish urge. But I don’t think it’s so bad because I find something else to add on to his birthday booty. So it’s not like his birthday arrives and he is left giftless. And, since I thrift, I spend about$20.
Thrift now. Up on the top left of this page, there is a “Thrifting Gift Guide” slide show full of over 200 items of thrift to whet your whistle. Below that is a “How to Thrift" section of posts that should help the novice along their path to becoming thriftmasters.
Here's one more incentive to go. Maybe, just maybe you'll make restitution with all those gifts that you had to be polite about. I assure that on your adventures, you'll find many things that will make you declare, "Oh! This is so me! I love it! Thank you!" And, it will most likely fall in the $0.99-$4.99 range.
Given all that I have just written, you should be a good two months into your holiday shopping and have bought a few birthday gifts early. You're with me, right? If you're not, don't come to me in January, 2010 and ask, "Why am I broke?" While all the gifts you gave are on the shelves at Goodwill. Godspeed!