Casual Fridays: Christmas procrastinators' edition

So it's December 22, and you are one of the few people who hasn't already bagged out of work to get ready for the holidays. You've been absolutely deluged -- swamped with work -- the entire month of December. You've hardly had time to think about Christmas, let alone shop. But now, with the holiday just a couple short days away, you're faced with the shocking truth. You'll be attending three different Christmas parties (or whatever alternative you prefer). Gifts will be exchanged. What's an overworked procrastinator to do? Would gift certificates be appropriate? What about cash? Everyone can use cash, can't they?

Well, maybe they can, but what will "everyone" think of your thoughtfulness when it's obvious that you spent very little time thinking about what to get them? That was the subject of last week's Casual Friday study. You know, the one you were too busy to even think about participating in.

Fortunately, 192 readers took enough time off from holiday shopping to respond to our survey, and their responses about the appropriateness of a wide range of gifts were remarkably consistent. Read on to find out what to give (and what NOT to give) for Christmas:

We first asked readers to tell us how they'd like to be told what gift recipients want. Here are the results:


As you can see, providing a list is seen as the best way of telling loved ones what you want -- though it's not significantly different from requesting a single item, or asking for no gift at all. The worst thing you can do is to refuse to indicate your preference. We were curious if the age or spending budget of the gift-givers was related to how they want recipients to tell them what they want, but we could find no significant relation, though there was a trend for older gift-givers to prefer a list.

But what about the gifts themselves? If you've waited until the last minute, is it okay to give a gift certificate? Apparently, it is:


In 20-20 hindsight, I probably should have included "a specific item requested by the recipient" on the list of choices, but among these choices, gift certificates of all kinds were rated as "appropriate." A donation to a charity on the recipient's behalf was somewhat less appropriate, and cash was, though still appropriate, the least appealing gift of the bunch. While again there were no significant differences between age or budget groups, there was a trend towards older respondents rating a donation to charity as more appropriate -- though still not as good as gift certificates.

Finally, what's an appropriate way to get rid of an inappropriate gift? Here, our respondents were quite opinionated:


Simply throwing the unwanted gift away was nearly universally disliked, while exchanging for the proper size was almost unanimously approved. However, though trashing a lousy gift was unacceptable, donating the same gift to charity was seen as relatively appropriate. There was a trend for older givers and those with larger budgets to approve of both exchanging gifts for another item and returning them for cash, but otherwise, there were no significant differences in the responses to these questions either.

Other than tomorrow's usual podcast announcement, this will be our last post before Christmas. So let us take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas, and the happiest of holiday seasons. We will have a few posts next week, so if you have a few spare moments after you're done exchanging / donating your unwanted gifts, be sure to stop by.

In the meantime, why not use the comments thread on this post to exchange holiday greetings, or to let us know what your favorite / most appreciated gift was?

More like this

[Originally posted in December, 2006] So it's December 22, and you are one of the few people who hasn't already bagged out of work to get ready for the holidays. You've been absolutely deluged -- swamped with work -- the entire month of December. You've hardly had time to think about Christmas, let…
With hundreds of seemingly worthy charities out there, how do we decide which ones to donate to? Even if we eliminate charities that aren't effective, there are still too many choices, and too little money, to donate to all of them. In the Donors Choose campaign, bloggers are going to impressive…
Hand-picked for your delectation. From Cognitive Daily, Casual Fridays: Christmas Procrastinators' Edition. Christmas is over, but there's still time for holiday faux-pas. CogDaily readers weigh in on last-minute gift giving: "Are gift certificates appropriate? What about cash? Everyone can use…
Last week's Casual Fridays study started out innocently enough: A contact on Twitter asked if most women would prefer fresh fruit or chocolates as a romantic gift. That's a fascinating question, I said -- maybe even interesting enough to merit study on Casual Friday. With Valentine's Day coming up…

I'll start the ball rolling on the "most appreciated" presents.

If you've got teenage kids, as we do, it's hard to miss with the gift we gave ours this year: cell phones. Greta and I both absolutely despise cell phones, but somehow we haven't managed to inculcate that sentiment in our offspring. They loved them, even though one condition of the gift was that we get to use them to monitor their behavior.

Here are links to the specific models we chose, both huge hits:

For Nora: the Snapper.
For Jim: the Switchback.

I got a laptop as a graduation present, THAT sure was appreciated!

Otherwise, I love getting things that are considered treats, but that I wouldn't normally get for myself. Like a really great bottle of wine, or a dinner out somewhere nice that my student budget can't normally afford. And though I usually hesitate to buy gift certificates for others, I must admit that I love getting them. Nothing wrong with free money!

Happy Christmas, Dave & Greta! Thanks for bringing us these posts, and for making me seem a lot smarter and knowledgeable than I am! ;)