Monday, February 04, 2013

Things They Should Invent (or not): reverse gift registry

The way a gift registry normally works is you make a list of all the things you want and people buy them for you.

The problem with that is you still have to shop.  For me, shopping is the worst part.  I hate having to go out and look at stuff and figure out which thing best meets my needs.  The fact that other people are paying for it is very nearly negligible compared with the tedium of having to do the actual shopping.

If I had a gift registry, I'd want the opposite. I'd want to make a list of everything I need or want - simply describing it in words without having to provide any information on style or model or where to buy it - and as their present to me people would go out and shop for it.  They wouldn't even have to buy it, I'd be happy to use my own money.  It's the shopping that's the hard work.

Problem 1: There's nothing to stop people from just picking out any old thing without regard whether it meets my needs. For example, I want an desk chair that is ergonomically perfect for my body.  When I mention this to people, they tell me the name of a store that sells desk chairs and suggest I go there and sit in some chairs.  But that doesn't help me at all. I already know the way to get a desk chair is to go to stores and sit on chairs, and for me that's the difficult and annoying part.  They're basically restating the problem as though it's a solution.  And there's nothing to stop people from doing that with the reverse registry - not actually doing proper shopping, just naming a product that exists and declaring the job done.

Problem 2: I'm never going to be on the receiving end of a gift registry, so with this invention I'm just making my job harder.

13 comments:

laura k said...

Same here. I hate shopping. Hate hate hate. Spending the money is not the problem, it's the drudgery of shopping.

Shopping online has helped me a lot, reduced the pain considerably. But some things cannot be shopped for online, the ergonomic chair being one of them.

I would sign up for this reverse gift registry, if such a thing would ever exist, and if other people could be trusted to make decisions that I should be making for myself.

Lorraine said...

Problem 3: The whole ritual is just so damned contrived, isn't it?

For me, shopping is the worst part.

I get it. You hate shopping. So do I. For some people, shopping is the best part. Also, for some people, shopping for others is more fun than shopping for self. I myself despise the entire commercial culture around gifting, from the December holiday cluster, to the upcoming Valentine's Day, to all the other Hallmark holidays, to all the (inevitably "prescriptive") "life transition" events that have taken on a softball extortion almost akin to the childhood ritual of "school pictures" that includes a session with a commissioned salescritter....

Nevertheless I think gifting culture serves a real purpose of encouraging people to get inside the heads of their friends and relatives. A significant-enough fraction of the population, I think, find that it helps with "bonding." Sure it's hit-or-miss, but that's one way one learns, and that's why the invented re-gifting. Perhaps they should invent something with some of the psychological characteristics of gift registry and an economic component more akin to potlatch. The chore-in-a-jar concept seems to have merit, though I must admit I've never been involved in that.

I'm never going to be on the receiving end of a gift registry...

Not even secret Santa???

Arguably, secret Santa is a little different from gift registry, but that leads me to a "thing they should invent" of my own: Child-free and spouse-free analogues of weddings and showers and the like:

Solution 1: A real bachelorette party, in which you make a lifetime commitment to the single life, without necessarily swearing to celibacy, poverty, obedience, or some other component of a seemingly authoritarian or sectarian code of conduct. Or celebrate a divorce anniversary.

Solution 2: A Snip Award, available in two strengths. An occasion worthy of celebration, I think.

Solution 3: Reverse the direction of gifting. Throw a hobbit birthday party for yourself. Throw your hat in the ring in the vote for chairperson of the board (as in Monopoly®). Score a hole-in-one.

impudent strumpet said...

In my corner of the world, Secret Santa is whatever people end up buying for you. There's no such thing as registering, or even expressing preferences because you don't know who's buying for you.

In any case, I'm never going to be on the receiving end of a gift registry because I don't want to do all the shopping that making a gift registry entails.

In any case, I wouldn't want a huge party to be held in my honour for any reason because I don't like attention. My dream wedding is popping in to City Hall one day and then nonchalantly sending out a general email informing people of my name change.

laura k said...

For some people, shopping is the best part. Also, for some people, shopping for others is more fun than shopping for self.

I'm aware that many people love to shop. And I hate shopping only for myself. I enjoy buying gifts for other people, when I am freely choosing to do so.

I dislike having to buy obligatory gifts. But I enjoy making (for example) my mother happy because I can get her something she will absolutely love.

Secret Santa, in my experience, is crap on both ends. Crap giving, crap getting.

Re snip awards, both my partner and I have been sterilized, and I find the idea of being celebrated for that completely repugnant. We made a personal choice, as does everyone who chose to have children. There's plenty of room on the planet for both types.

Imp Strump, I love your wedding idea, although I eschew legal marriage for myself. I'm surprised, though, that you would change your name. Maybe something to blog about one day, something I just can't seem to understand on any level.

impudent strumpet said...

My given surname is my father's, and I share it with the family members I'm least proud to be affiliated with. Should I get married, my spouse will be someone whom I'm far, far, far prouder to be affiliated with. (Anything less wouldn't get as far as marriage.)

I'd most likely append (like Courtney Cox Arquette) so that people can correctly call me any combination that occurs to them. It would be professionally inconvenient to abandon the name I've been using so far, but I would never want to pass up the opportunity to bear my spouse's name either.

CQ said...

A former very racist Secret Santa office gift I received one year, in pseudo-posh Toronto, was bad. And it wasn't even of my race. Nor could I obtain any information or follow-up action for it.
(It was a watermelon topped utensil set and a small African-American holiday cookbook. There wasn't a black employee anywhere on the premises either.)
Although, the never-quite-right gifts from a list also irritate.

laura k said...

Thanks for the explanation re changing your last name. I know many women who feel similarly.

In a way it's surprising that I don't, since I didn't like or respect my father or his side of the family. For me, despite how my last name was passed on to me, it is my name, and no one else's.

The only name-changing I get is when both partners hyphenate to form a new family name.

This might be a ridiculous question, and I apologize if it's too far off topic. If you married a woman, would you change your name? Part of my problem with name-changing is it is usually unidirectional (woman changes name, man does not) and usually hetero only.

In general I don't get why we need to change names when we choose a life partner, but there are layers to my lack of understanding.

Lorraine said...

The only name-changing I get is when both partners hyphenate to form a new family name.

There's the similar case of Jennifer Mulhern Granholm and Daniel Granholm Mulhern.

impudent strumpet said...

It's totally gender-irrelevant. I'd want to append regardless of my spouse's gender, and (if I were the boss of such things) I'd want my spouse to append my birth surname to their name, regardless of their gender. (I don't like my surname, but I like the symmetry of both people appending the other's birth name.) Just like the example Lorraine gave, but I prefer the names to go the other way around. (Courtney Cox Arquette and David Arquette Cox.)

laura k said...

I know many couples, both same-sex and opp-sex, who've done what the couple in Lorraine's example have done.

impudent strumpet said...

Most married people in my circle do it with their facebook names, even if they only use one name IRL.

Clay Brooks said...

I'm totally late to this conversation but many of the comments resonate with me. So much so I actually did something about it. It's not perfect but you all may find some value in it. See gifttruck.com. I created it to help people eliminate the risk of giving unwanted gifts while still allowing for the personal touch. It is essentially a reverse registry and it's a free service. Just went live last month. For now Amazon is doing the retail part but hoping to bring on additional retailers in the near future. Thanks for sharing!

Clay Brooks said...

I'm totally late to this conversation but many of the comments resonate with me. So much so I actually did something about it. It's not perfect but you all may find some value in it. See gifttruck.com. I created it to help people eliminate the risk of giving unwanted gifts while still allowing for the personal touch. It is essentially a reverse registry and it's a free service. Just went live last month. For now Amazon is doing the retail part but hoping to bring on additional retailers in the near future. Thanks for sharing!