Skip to content
Culture & Religion

Always Obeying Gifting Etiquette Results in Bad Gifts

Scientific studies show that people like gifts that contradict the holiday giving etiquette.

Getting the same gift for more than one person, buying simple presents ahead of fancy ones, giving the gift of cash: these holiday behaviors contradict gift-giving etiquette but scientific studies show people actually like them.

Identical Gifts: Last spring, University of Cincinnati marketing professor Mary Steffel found that when people went shopping for more than one person at a time, they placed a high value on finding personalized gifts. Unfortunately, this resulted in giving second-rate gifts to certain individuals for the sake of uniqueness. The takeaway? If two or more people on your gift list won’t ever meet each other, and you have a good idea for a gift, get the same thing for everyone!

Simplicity and Convenience: Because it’s the holidays, we assume that giving an up-market or fancy gift automatically makes it more special and hence more appreciated. But a study out of the Yale School of Management found that people prized convenience over fanciness. When giving restaurant gift certificates, for example, the study found that people preferred buying certificates to a fancy restaurant that was further from the recipient’s home, while recipient’s preferred a gift to a restaurant closer to home, even if they liked the food a little less.

Giving Cash: Although gifting money is perhaps the ultimate taboo for the thoughtful holiday shopper, a 2011 study by the Harvard Business School found that, at the $15 level, people preferred receiving cash over an unsolicited item. So stick to the list, and if you’re drawing a blank, just give cash. The receiver will thank you for it. 

Read more at New York Magazine

Photo credit: Shutterstock


Up Next