The Trick To Buying Gifts For Those Who Hate Surprises
A Guide For Gift-Givers Who Need Some Help
I write this, as one of those people who hate surprises. Well… thats not quite accurate. Its not actually the surprise that I hate per se. Its my inability to give the appropriate reaction (“Ooooh I Love it! Its amazing!” *kiss* *hug* *happy dance* *excited squeal*) when a gift isn’t the surprise it was intended to be. My facial expression fails me when the surprise goes awry, and what I hate is the ensuing awkwardness and my ability to upset the gift giver, not the effort they made, or their thoughtfulness. With Valentines Day just around the corner and all the gooey emotions tied to the day adding to the angst of gift giving, I thought I’d share a trick or two on getting the gift right, without giving away the surprise.
Its a complete time-suck that some of us don’t mind loosing entire days to, and what are we pinning? Ideas of things we want to buy, things we want to cook, experiences we want to have, memories, aspirations, inspiration. Its a GOLD MINE for a clueless gift giver and the best place to start. Go stalk their Pinterest for ideas.
I’ve taken things a step further though. Knowing I am a gift-giver’s worst nightmare I have a pin board I keep updated as a gift wishlist. I’ve sent the link to the board to Mr CC so if my birthday or some other occasion is coming up all he has to do is take a look at the list, make his selection, click the picture that takes him to the online store and check out. The Charlotte Tilbury x Norman Parkinson makeup that I own came to me via Mr CC stalking my Pinterest wishlist and surprising me ‘just because’ one day. We’ve used this same idea at Christmas where the entire (grown-up) family play “Not So Secret Santa.” Its just like Secret Santa, except you know who will be giving you your gift. There is a set budget for everyone, you pin things you want within that budget, then send them the link to the pin board like a grown up letter to Santa.
There are several benefits of having a dedicated Pinterest Wish List. It instantly stops you from buying everything you want yourself. It takes the pressure off people around you if you’re a difficult gift recipient because they know if the gift comes from your list they are guaranteed to get the correct size/colour/style – so long as you were specific when pinning. You can have your cake and eat it too: Your gift can still be a surprise, but you know its going to be exactly what you wanted.
Do keep the list up to date though. If you know things on your list are no longer available or you now own them, take them off the list. Don’t limit yourself to ‘objects’ either. Pin ideas for holidays, restaurants, hotels, activities and other ‘experiences.’ Valentines Day in particular for me is not about gifts but setting aside time to spend together. Also, pin directly from online stores or websites that provide the service/experience you are interested in rather than repining other’s pins. Lets make it easier for the gift giver and not send them on a wild goose-chase to a ‘404 error’ because the page the original image is from no longer exists.
Use Your Smart Phone.
As someone who has worked in retail for a quite a while now, there is nothing like having a visual cue when helping a customer choose a gift. A sales assistant can ask tons of questions of their customer about what sorts of things the gift recipient might like, but if the customer is not very communicative or articulate in their description, they could still end up suggesting something completely off the mark. A photo of the person answers questions about age, personality, style and better yet, a picture of things they already own and love can direct a good sales assistant toward just the right suggestion, while avoiding giving the same gift twice.
Having worked in cosmetics around Christmas/Valentines/Mother’s Day I’ve seen countless men with their phones out scanning the fragrance shelves for the right shaped bottle to match the sneaky pic they took from their partner’s vanity. We used to love this kind of preparedness. Yes, the customer could buy the exact same thing and be safe in the knowledge of a correct choice, but we could also make suggestions based on what we saw and help that customer score extra brownie points for choosing something ‘all by themselves’ that, somehow, was just the ticket!
These are gifts that cannot fail. An everyday item, but from a luxury brand, or made from a luxury material, something someone wouldn’t necessarily buy for themselves, but selected on their behalf and beautifully wrapped will never fail to impress. They can be token sized or extravagant.
Some of my picks:
- Imported Magazine supbrcriptions (see further below)
- Expensive Champagne
- Leuchtturm1917 Journals (get them personalised with a debossing service)
- Chanel Fragranced Bath and Body Products (Coco Mademoiselle for the chicest looking packaging and widest fragrance appeal)
- Small Batch Single Malt Whisky – Preferably from a distillery local to you. I love Limeburners which is from my home town.
- Artisanal Craft Beers – Mr CC’s pick is Pirate Life IIPA
- Fancy undies – Mr Porter has a excellent selection for the boys, and likewise their partner site Net-A-Porter has the girls tastefully (un)covered
- For more gift suggestions, take a peek at the W’s/M’s Wishlist Pinterest Boards I’ve set up and displayed on this page. They’re both shop-able – dependent on your location.
For the Hopeless Gift-Wrapper.
The following brands/online stores have seriously lovely gifts and offer impressive gift wrapping:
- Maria Black – Modern minimalist jewellery. You can’t go wrong with a Danish silversmith. Wrapping is classic black, luxe, yet understated.
- Chanel – Fragrances and Makeup – go in to your nearest department store. Ask for what is new /limited edition in the Makeup line, or what has the widest appeal from Fragrance (Coco Mademoiselle, Chance Eau Tendre, No 5 would be my starting points.) Tell the sales assistant you would like gift wrapping. The wrapping is unmistakably Chanel, and very chic. You will need to hide your gift until its time.
- Bellroy – Men’s Wallets of all shapes, sizes and functions. Minimal and beautifully crafted, inside equally lovely packaging – just add ribbon.
- Net-A-Porter – Anything designer, extremely excellent returns policy, and extremely fast and efficient delivery. Everything is boxed and ribboned even if it isn’t a gift, but you can have a gift card written and have the order delivered to the gift recipient if it is. If you’re gifting in-person, you will need to hide the gift, as every female I know can spot Net-A-Porter’s iconic ribbon from a mile away.
- Mr Porter – By the creators of Net-a-Porter for equally design-oriented men
- Jo Malone – Fragrance for the body and the home appropriate for both men and women, all beautifully boxed.
The Gift That Keeps On Giving.
The 12 month magazine subscription. Especially great if your gift recipient has a special interest as they will get a reminder every month that you got them an awesome gift. There are tons of sites that provide subscriptions but if you’re after something truly unique, I like MagNation for hard to find, foreign language and imported covers. The price can be up there, but does include delivery. Just make sure you have something token you can give on the occasion as the magazine will arrive via mail when the next issue is due.
A Final Word On Winning Hearts…
I can 100% guarantee that your meticulously chosen gift won’t mean half as much if you don’t spend a moment putting some heart felt words into a card. I have never welled up over a gift. Most of the time I had a hand in choosing them. An unexpected, handwritten card full of the mooshy stuff that makes us feel silly when we hear it, but is ever so nice to read? Yes. Definitely. Make sure you do hand write it. Practice first if you need to.
Oh, and use the L word.