Sunday, December 19, 2010

Take away the packaging!

If you have children or if you care about how a gift if presented, take away the product packaging before giving the gift. Please.

I loathe most all manufactured packaging.

Are Santa’s elves going to craft and present a doll strapped down by 20 wire cuffs in some plastic den of hell that says “Made in China”?

Think like a kid for a moment. Santa’s elves lovingly created that doll with a specific child in mind. Then they paint a smile on it’s face only to force it into a chamber of torture where this doll will surely suffocate before the child can resuscitate it on Christmas day? If this is how you’re going to present gifts from Santa, why go to all the trouble of developing his story?

Again, think like a kid. You’ve wanted this gift for months, maybe a year. So you finally unwrap it and Daddy must whip out chainsaw or hunting knife to break through the plastic and Mommy must pull out the tweezers to undo all the knots. Then all the pointless tiny pink plastic filler is immediately lost in the new carpet of wrapping paper and everyone tries to ignore the possibility that the toddler might find the tiny plastic shoe first and possibly choke on it.

It might take an hour to liberate that doll, so your parents tell you to open more gifts as a distraction while they're all off in the corner cursing and arguing how the hell to spring the it from its plastic prison. Wow. That sounds enchanting, and so relaxing.

I wonder how many families spend Christmas day in the ER getting stitches from using a tree saw to get to those heavy duty poultry cutters cocooned in industrial plastic, the very same material used to make car bumpers.

Well, I’m not getting stitches for Christmas and neither is Mr. Golightly. If I must incur hospital stitches, I want a good story to go with them. Like I saved my family from a mother grizzly about to ruin my outdoor vacation. Or I broke through the glass of a second story window to bust up a mugging of a mother and her infant triplets (all in a row in their custom designed Italian pram). Some event that might be embellished such as to require a mask and utility belt in it's retelling. When I go to the ER or check into the hospital, I want a legend.

Let’s get one thing straight. Santa’s elves do NOT work at Mattel. I've no doubt that any true elf would ever work under these conditions. I'm also certain Santa’s elves don't manufacture petroleum-based plastic products. No doubt they are fighting oil companies this very moment from attempting to build deep-water oil rigs near the North Pole. Imagine a farm of blowout preventers, right behind Santa’s castle! Could it come to pass that we're cleaning off oil from elves?

If we're to embrace the enchantment, we must really put ourselves into the scene to get it right. Besides, it's fun scheming honest to goodness enchantment for your kids. When I'm asked if I think Santa is true, my answer is always, "Who doesn't want to believe in a person who rewards the children of this earth for good behavior for just one magical night during the dark of winter?"

My daughter asked for a bell from Santa’s sleigh a few years ago. Below is what she received; antique sleigh bells nestled in reindeer moss in a birch wood box.

Contrast this to Hallmark’s (keepsake) packaging of Santa’s Bell. Wow. I wasn't aware that Santa uses Hallmark's Trademarked sleigh bells. I figured he had elves that forged them with some magical metal unknown to the Periodic Table.

As a child, which would you believe to be the real deal from the North Pole? Uh, how many graphic designers work for Hallmark? This is what they thought kid's would believe? Or is this what they thought parent would buy?

The wasteful product packaging sitting on store shelves is not designed to be pleasing and delight the consumer. It’s designed to outshine the competition, or to not be an easy item to shoplift. So, DON’T wrap it, put it under the tree or in a stocking.

A side note on stockings: Santa does not have a contract with any candy company. His elves make the candy onsite - best to go with wax paper wrapped candy like salt water taffy. Though I do suspect that if he did go with a candy brand, it would be something that has an old world look to it like classic Mary Janes.

Ever gone to Crate and Barrel? It has a fantastic atmosphere. Why? The products on display are all removed from their packaging. A newcomer to the store is delighted by a display of pots. The customer excitedly picks just the right pot to place in their shopping basket. Stage left, enter the sales staff to kindly note that they'll pull the merchandise from the backroom. At the register, a box is presented with the manufacturer’s name plastered on nearly every surface. The pot that was so appealing is lost in a mess of cardboard, plastic and paper.

Funny story. I bought my first coffee maker at Crate and Barrel. When given the model I carefully selected now hidden in a Krups box, I was tempted to say, “Can I just have the one on the shelf?” The actual product had much more appeal without the packaging. That damn packaging took the fun out of my whole purchase experience!

Packaging often does this. It steals the fun out it all and serves as a reminder that the item was not made especially for us.

Ever buy something in a box only to bring it home and find half the contents missing? I once bought two boxes of barware only to get home and discover the items filthy from another person who bought them, used them and returned them. On that same shopping trip I scored a new, vintage-inspired jacket from Banana Republic, it’s $99.99 store tag directly contrasted to the Goodwill tag for $4.99.
So I went to the thrift store and bought new merchandise for a thrift price and went to the chain retailer and bought used merchandise for a new price.

A plus on thrift shopping, more often than not, is that I don’t need to manage excess packaging. I get to actually touch the product I buy with my very own fingers! With thrifted clothing, you are often witness to how the product washes and wears. Ever bought an expensive new sweater only to have it pill on the first wash? I have. Tell ya what, I really don't enjoy shaving my legs. How do you think I feel about shaving a $100 sweater?

So, as you wrap the gifts you have so carefully scouted out for those you love, don’t forget to take care in how the gift is presented. Take it out of the box. Get creative.

If you’re afraid to take it out of the box because you suspect the recipient might return the gift, perhaps you should return the gift yourself and think a little more about what might genuinely make those you love happy. If you’re having a hard time with ideas, read the post below. The perfect gift just might not require any shopping at all.

For those who've followed this blog, I will note that my youngest daughter, Little Pie, asked Santa for a record player, a quill pen and a plush horse. We have a family tradition to ask for three items. Anything more might appear greedy. Santa's gifts are usually not wrapped and prominently displayed for immediate use. Should you need to wrap a present from Santa, don't use regular wrapping paper. Remember, Santa is very old and resourceful. He doesn't shop for wrapping paper and pre-made bows. Use craft paper and twine or a tin. If your child asks why Santa didn't wrap his gift, tell your child, "That's only on TV".

If you're curious as to what Little Pie asked for last year, refer to the post, Santa's elves shop at thrift stores too!


Anonymous said...

My kids are 26 and 24. Santa still leaves them a gift of two in addition to their wrapped gifts. He never wraps anything. (He doesn't have time.)

Shopping Golightly said...

"Doesn't have time."

That's my new strategy! Makes perfect sense!

Alex M said...

What strikes me as truly pathetic in regard to the sleigh bell, was not just the over-designed Hallmark version, but that it was an advertising effort too. Hallmark doesn't sell anything for it's intrinsic value -- it has to be related to a book, movie or project currently being marketed.

Hallmakr is one of those places peddling keepsakes that are guarenteed not to be worth keeping!

Laura said...


Rebekah said...

This year my 4-year old daughter has asked for a yo-yo and a kite. She doesn't watch commercial television or spend much time in toy stores, so she is blissfully unaware of the latest battery-operated holiday "must have." I love that. I want her to stay that way forever.

I made the kite myself, and found a small painted wooden yo-yo for her. There will be no packaging under our tree. Just dreams come true and wishes fulfilled. Merry Christmas!

Shopping Golightly said...


My family has not had cable in well over a decade and I say, "Bless those rabbit ears". The girls have asked for things like: a big bag of jelly beans, a little bag of jelly beans, magnetic rocks, a plush butterfly...

My oldest had but one wish... to fly. Maybe that's one reason she's seriously tough competition in the pool. She's so graceful, it looks like she's dancing. Aquatically, she got her wish.

Kites are so much fun, we have one in the car at all times. Just in case. Don't want to miss an amazing wind and never know when it will come along.

As for the TV toy commercials we're missing, I am still in PTSD over getting what I asked for, Hungry, Hungry Hippos. That game was NOTHING like the game the kids played on TV. No matter how we tried, my friends and I always ended up tossing that box back under the bed. What a waste of a Christmas wish from Santa. Shame on toy companies for marketing boring toys that end up on Christmas lists and are met with the hollow feeling of, "I've been suckered".

Anonymous said...

Is a "tip" in order here? I live in upstate NY with cable as well as FIOS available. I pay under $10 each month for service so I can see PBS shows and a few, short-term favorite programs on the networks. I had to as four times to get true "BASIC" cable; I got offered 'extended cable,' yadayadayada. I finally said: I want the service that old people on a budget get. Kapowie. I can afford $10 for this service and it's also a great value. I also have a lifetime reading plan.

Willo said...

We also do three items...although one is a gift to charity. It's nice to hear someone else who doesn't feel the need to go overboard with their kids. And news wrap will be covering everything under out tree this year.

Shopping Golightly said...

As far as I'm concerned, PBS is one of the great American Blessings!

We watched "Christmas in Yellowstone" from Nature last night. It's an annual tradition.

suzieQ said...

When my children were home, oftentimes I would give them their presents, "in the bag it came in." As I would explain to don't know what it is, do you? Why waste money, time and resources to hide it when the bag has the same result? I did this when they were older, not when they believed in Santa, but I love your idea of wrapping so that the gift looks like it came from Santa. Wonderful!
Items do look lovely when they are wrapped, but to throw all that creativity away just doesn't compute with me.
It is wonderful to read postings that resonate with me.

Daisy said...

I gave gift baskets to extended family this year. Baskets came from Goodwill, the contents came from my kitchen (jam, mixes in a jar, banana bread, apples, oranges), and the "filler" was old packaging paper put through the shredder. I was rather proud of the results, and the recipients enjoyed their gifts.
Thrift rules. Every year I thrift a little more.