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DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

Would you rather be surprised with a holiday gift? Or would you rather ask for something you really want/need and forego the surprise element?

Asked by DarlingRhadamanthus (11250points) December 14th, 2009

When I was a girl, my parents asked us to write down what we wanted every holiday and birthday. Not that we would get everything on the list, but we used to not ask for a lot, either. One year, all I wanted was a telescope. Another year, I wanted a toy buffet (!) set by Marx. I would write down my list, cut out pictures, it was all very specific. :)

As an adult, I have sometimes received gifts that I would never in a million years use or want. If it’s the thought that counts, what thought comes with another spice rack filled with spices that don’t have a flavor anymore? Or a box of Moonpies and a six-pack of Pepsi because the 7–11 was the only store open after 6 pm on Christmas Eve? The worst thing is when someone (an S.O.) buys you something that was expensive…but really tacky. You know they spent a lot of money, but you will never wear the diamond studded earrings shaped like bananas with tiny monkeys hanging off the end.( Not when sober, anyway. ) I just think that is such an enormous waste of money when I would have been happy with fair trade costume jewelry and a good book. I’ll get more use out of the two.

No doubt, the members of this board have partners that are thoughtful, caring and very observant of what their loved ones want/need. I have not had that privilege. Not since high school. I had a boyfriend in high school that always bought the perfect gifts. He was a real romantic. One birthday, he gave me a beautiful bracelet and then surprised me further by renting the reel-to-reel of the Wizard of Oz and borrowing the school projector to show me the movie on the wall of my house. (Yes, this was before the video cassette…how cool was that??)

So, after years of having to pretend that something was “perfect”, or grinning woodenly at gifts that were like a shot in the dark, I just let my close friends/family and especially S.O.‘s know what I want…because there are things I really do need and some I just desire and I often feel guilty (sometimes) buying them for myself even as a treat. Recently, my family asked me to fill out an Amazon Wish List. I like that idea—- that way, the gift is put to good use right away or is cherished and not in danger of being re-gifted. I wouldn’t tell a work colleague or someone that I wasn’t close to, though….unless they asked me.

I don’t in any way mean to sound ungrateful. Sometimes, I have received lovely things from thoughtful people and friends who just saw something and “knew” I would like it….and they were right. Usually, it was my good girlfriends…or my gay male friends.

In general, though, if given the choice, I would forego the surprise element and receive a gift I can use.

So, would you rather be surprised by a gift chosen at random? Or would you rather make a list and/or ask for something you really want/need?

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39 Answers

MrItty's avatar

(Sorry, I’m not reading that whole details. So to answer just the question…)

I create my wishlist for a reason. I’d much rather receive something I know I want than have people buy me crap they think I’d like that I have no desire or use for.

Very annoyingly, some people use my wishlist as a list of things NOT to get me, under the logic “I can’t get you that, you won’t be surprised!!”. Oy.

CMaz's avatar

Forego the surprise element.

I get too many of those during the year.
Pay a bill, buy me dinner, give me a hug.

erichw1504's avatar


JLeslie's avatar

I would rather get what I want. If you don’t know I’ll take money.

erichw1504's avatar

If I don’t get my Turbo Man action figure this year I will bust a nut.

nicobanks's avatar

I’m exactly like you. I grew up in a wish list writing family. I’m bothered whenever I get a gift I don’t like: it saddens me to think of the money they spend, it makes me very uncomfortable to fake liking it, and it annoys me to think of how long to wait before getting rid of it and where to store it until then and how to get rid of it when the time comes etc etc. I’ve had some excellent surprise gifts but the majority of them are wasted on me. And I like getting people things I know they’ll like. If I see something I think is perfect for someone, I’m happy to get that and I think even if they don’t like it, at least it is personal. And I can tell when someone gives me a gift like that and I do like them more than others. But when a gift is given simply because it’s time to give a gift, and you don’t have an idea of what the person wants, I don’t like that at all. So I’m all for wish lists over surprises!

Supacase's avatar

It depends. One, on whether or not there is something I specifically want or need that year. If there is, I’m fine doing without the element of surprise.

Two, on who is buying it. Some people do try to find that perfect gift while others just buy something to buy it. I would rather they buy a gift for for someone who needs it in my name than to buy me junk. Send a sweater to the women’s shelter or rescue mission – honestly.

seeing_red's avatar

I enjoy surprises. What thrills me most of all is a gift that was extremely thoughtful, perhaps homemade.

Snarp's avatar

I don’t mind being surprised, but it better be a good surprise. I would rather get nothing than get some piece of garbage that I don’t want. Why fill up the planet with cheaply made crap just so you can “surprise” somebody for Christmas. Word to the wise: if it is promoted as a great Christmas gift, it probably isn’t. I don’t care if it’s a surprise or not, as long as I like it. And yes, it’s the though that counts, but the thought should indicate some level of knowing and caring about the recipient.

DominicX's avatar

Depends. Sometimes there are things I do want specifically. As a little kid, I only remember hinting at things I wanted and if my parents knew that I wanted it, they would probably get it for me for Christmas. Sometimes I would even forget about the item, so it was definitely a surprise. As I got older, though, I wanted more specific things so it was just easier for me to mention exactly what I wanted. There’s no point in getting things I can’t use.

Still, there are things that my parents or friends could just assume I would like and it’s fine if they get them. I might not outright want it beforehand, but who cares, I might end up really liking it, which has happened many times. Then there are those other times, like when my boyfriend (before he was my boyfriend) got me a CD that I already had. In that case, I didn’t even care about the item, it was just the most adorable thing anyone had ever done for me.

Mavericksjustdoinganotherflyby's avatar

As much as it sucks getting some useless widget or a sweater knitted by grandma with Rudolph on the front, and who apparently forgot you are 23 and not a XXL, mostly the intentions are good.
People have a tendency to purchase so much stuff these days it’s hard to buy them something they need. I guess a list would be good, but personally I like to be surprised getting something I need and never got around to getting it because I don’t like to spend money.

dukeG's avatar

I hate surprises. Id rather just have you get what I need. Nothing worse than a present you won’t use and feel guilty tossing away.

Mavericksjustdoinganotherflyby's avatar

@dukeG Re-gift or goodwill is usually the route I go.

Skippy's avatar

Practical gifts were always on the forefront growing up. I kept that tradition with our boys for all to understand that Christ was a gift to us.

There are surprises, and as they have gotten older, there are more and more practical items. There is always one fun silly, surprise. Wish lists are perfect. They the person you are buying for appreciates that they received something the need/want and you know you’ve not wasted your time and money.

With the economy the way it is, I will be happy seeing my friends, exchange a hug or plate of cookies. There really isn’t anything I want that I don’t already have. I NEED tires, and I’ll just buy them because I need them.
Now, if you all want to chip in one dollar each on a gift, I’ll get my tires and consider them a wonderful gift! :)

Notrom's avatar

My mother always asks me what i would like or need, and my mother-in-law asks my wife, who in turn asks me…so i always get something of use.
Then my wife goes and gets me something i dont need…last year it was a book i’ve never read.

ShanEnri's avatar

Both really! I love surprises, but sometimes I prefer things that I ask for over the surprises!

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I usually go out and get what I want.It’s good to be thought of and gifts are always nice but I don’t feel anyone owes me anything.Besides,the things I want can’t be bought :)

mrentropy's avatar

This will never, ever happen to me but I’ll answer it anyway. I would like to get something I want, but if I got it I would be surprised.

Generally I leave a ton of hints about things that I want. So many, in fact, that I’m told to shut up about it (literally). Then, when holidays or the birthday come around I’m told that nobody can figure out what to get me and that I’m impossible to shop for.

I guess I’d like to be surprised by someone who actually gives a damn.

tinyfaery's avatar

My wife’s family does gift lists. It was so weird to me in the beginning, because my family just gives you whatever. I hate the stress of coming up with the list, but it’s nice to get what you want.

Still, surprises are always nice. I got a nice surprise from a jellie last week and it might end up being my favorite gift this year.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I will tell people what I want – or a list.

BraveWarrior's avatar

My hubby & I exchange “wish lists” for birthday & Christmas gifts (originally his idea). The lists are long enough so that we don’t get everything on the list, and we always get a few small additional gifts outside of the list that are based on our knowing what each other likes. So, this way, we have the best of both worlds… we are guaranteed to get items we really want (although there is still some surprise since we don’t know which items) from our wish list as well as a few surprises that are linked to our known interests.

My sister will ask me if there is anything we want and I’ll give her a few suggestions. So, again, we’ll get something we’ll use from her & my bro-in-law, but won’t know exactly what ‘til we open the gift.

Spirit_of_the_Nomad's avatar

Gifting is a sign of affection and good will not an assignment that must be completed by December 25. If someone is inclined to buy me something I would rather that it be a surprise and something that they pick out. I can’t really think of anything specific to tell people and for me the sentimental value of the gift is what really counts to me and if I assign the gifts they become really practical.

janbb's avatar

I love to be surprised by something I really want and need.

seekingwolf's avatar

I too say forgo the surprise. I mean, I know the “thought counts the most” but it’s a real waste of money to just buy me something that I won’t like or won’t use.

When/If I get married, I’m to ask my husband in advance what he wants…no matter how rare or expensive. And then I’ll buy it. My family has done that…I usually get 1 BIG gift a year with a couple smaller ones. Last year, I got a Kindle (LOVE IT!) and this year, I asked for some pricey, high-end headphones since I’ve always wanted a pair and I need something to muffle out the dorm party noise on the weekends.

ubersiren's avatar

I like a combination of both. If I don’t get a few things on my list and get surprises instead, I consider it a successful gift getting year. Anyone who buys or makes me a gift obviously does it with love and good intentions and all are welcome. :)

butterflykisses's avatar

I want very practical things and my family hates it. I want towels, a sweeper , and shelving. I have everything I want and need but a few things need replacing. I doubt they will listen and I will end up with something I will like but never use. sigh

jca's avatar

to me, if i’m going to get exactly what i ask for then i may as well take my own money to the store and just buy it (and if i do want or need something bad enough, i will buy it). people have given me stupid gifts over the years, and people have given me great gifts that i may never have thought of buying for myself. sometimes they give me things that they have or enjoy using, or they give me something unique that they saw and it reminded them of me. to me, that’s worth the gamble of the occasional gift that is stupid.

i have a friend that always specifies what she wants. one year she told me she wanted socks, but she said they were a specific kind of socks. to me, that knocked out me buying her something unique or fun. if i were her i would have gone to the store and just bought the socks and left open the possibility of receiving an incredible gift.

Snarp's avatar

@jca I very rarely get incredible gifts that I didn’t ask for. My wife is pretty much the only person who could accomplish that. I do get an ungodly number of terrible gifts that I didn’t want or ask for. The waste involved in that makes me terribly sad.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I’d rather not recieve gifts but get what I need for myself. People who know me know this. A card is sufficient.

Foolaholic's avatar

I find it helps to give people general guidelines. My family does the same list as you, and as I get older, I’ve found that if I mention 2–3 really specific things in a list of general commodities, that I’ve generally been content with what I receive. Give them just enough to point then in the right direction; fantasy novels, tea supplies, colorful socks, things like that. While you may not really be looking for colorful socks, it meas you have a little more control over those surprise gifts.

master_mind413's avatar

I always ask for stuff I need other wise I have this guilty feeling because why spend the money on some thing you dont need when it could be put to good use especially since money is not so easy come by these days

HighShaman's avatar

I have very few surprises in my life ; THUS if I was going to even get a gift , I would prefer it to be a total surprise….

WilAthart's avatar

Well, I like getting what I want. Who doesn’t? But the surprise of ACTUALLY getting what I want? Priceless.

Seek's avatar

I don’t like to ask for things.

When I was younger, it wasn’t really acceptable for we kids to ask for things. If we did make a Christmas List, you could bet dimes to dollars we wouldn’t see a thing on the list. I’m really not accustomed to getting gifts that are thoughtful or useful in any way. This year, if I get anything at all from anyone, I’ll count myself lucky.

You really want to blow my mind? Remember my birthday. It’s the 27th. No one does that.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I’ve got an Amazon wish list. If you’re going to get me something, it would behoove the giver to make sure I’ll like it.

JONESGH's avatar

I don’t like when people are unhappy or rude about getting gifts they don’t want. If you’re going to take time to get me a gift, I’ll be grateful no matter what it is. On the other hand, if someone asks I’ll tell them exactly what I want.

toomuchcoffee911's avatar

I think I’d be fun to be surprised. You can always return the gift!

XOXMSperfect's avatar

Something i need, i mean i could be surprised by a pair of sweatpants but if they dont fit it kind of ruins the whole thing.

YARNLADY's avatar

I like being surprised. My husband believes in giving gifts whenever he feels like it, and not on designated gift giving days, so I get surprises from time to time throughout the year. It’s even more of a surprise, because it’s not tied to a day on the calendar.

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