Is it just my ungratefulness or does everybody find it excruciatingly frustrating to receive expensive and useless things when there's a long list of basic necessities that they, well, need?
With the season of giving quickly approaching, it's the perfect time to lure your friends and family out of their familiar patterns and into the giving of spirits. But, to lead these gift horses to water, one must first identify the reasons why well-intentioned people give lame presents:
1 They don't know what you like.
2 They were in a hurry, and couldn't find what you like.
3 They think plaid cartegan sweaters are always in fashion.
4 They're under the mistaken impression that you're difficult to buy for.
5 They saw something similar in your place and assumed you liked whatever it is. (A classic case of compounding misfortune perpetuated by a sense of obligation to display other useless gifts you've been given).
6 They have trailer park taste.
In order to get what you want, one must first condition the givers. This is easier than it may seem because givers are usually eager to please -- they just don't always have the good sense to recognize the glaring solution to their gift-giving dilemma. Here's how to help them help you:
1 Keep a running list of things you want or need. Think of the things you would buy yourself if you found a twenty, fifty or a hundred dollar bill on the ground. Every once in a while you luck out and get asked what you'd like. Be prepared, and be specific. There's no such thing as too specific -- size, store and even stock numbers help reduce guesswork.
2 Become unabashedly obsessed with a particular store (i.e., Williams Sonoma, Ikea, etc.), then endear yourself to someone on the sales staff so you can discretely exchange gifts without a receipt.
3 Develop a reputation (or perpetuate the myth) of being an aficionado or collector of something that's relatively easy to find. Wine and food lovers are already one step ahead of the game. You can never have too much fine wine or extra virgin olive oil, or too many cookbooks. Prominently display your cache, or create a shrine from the empty bottles to act as a constant reminder to potential gift givers. And once again, be specific about your tastes (e.g., Bordeaux from the St. Emillion region). If the giver is a militant teetotaler, embrace another collectible. Just be careful not to be perceived as fanatical about something that is too general (i.e., golf or cows) or you may open up a Pandora's box of useless novelty gifts. As part of the conditioning process, be expressive when receiving gifts you like (think: The Price Is Right), and restate your appreciation like a mantra each time you speak to the giver -- "I made a salad dressing last night with your olive oil, and it rocked my world."
After you graduate from this simple three-step program, you'll discover you can always get what you want. In fact, you just might find that you get a lot of it. Be sure, however, to let me know when you have too much Burgundy wine.