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In Gift Giving, It’s Neither The Price Nor The Thought That Counts


In today’s media it is difficult not to hear/see about a study’s findings saying coffee will kill you in nanosecond or that red wine will give you longer life – only to hear/see six months later those findings to be proven dead wrong.

So with trepidation I read about research that finds that it’s neither the price nor the thought that counts in gift giving. What? The folks at Amazon, Apple and Saks aren’t going to like this one!

In an article in yesterday’s New York Times, John Tierney reports that research conducted by Stanford University turns gift giving etiquette on its head. The survey says:

  1. You don’t have to spend any time looking for thoughtful gifts
  2. You don’t have to spend much money, either
  3. Actually, you may not have to spend any money

Yikes! Could it be? Does that mean my slovenly gift giving style is actually “OK”? Guess so.

1. Recipients rarely know how much time and effort was put into finding just the right thing, so it doesn’t strike them as necessarily thoughtful.

2. Recipients, while preferring a gift to no gift were equally appreciative when receiving a CD or an iPad. However it was the expectation of the giver that changed dramatically. Givers have, what the researchers called “egocentric bias” by focusing on their own shopping experience as opposed to the receiving experience of the recipients.

3. Re-gifting can be just as positively meaningful to recipients as receiving new gifts. The goal here is for the giver to put themselves in the mind-set of the recipient.

It’s likely a retailer such as Tiffany’s will come out with a study that refutes these points. Stating that spending more is indeed essential in giving the perfect gift. Until then, I’m squarely behind the findings of this research.

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