The highest anxiety moment in the holiday season (outside of finding the one dead bulb in a 40-foot string of lights) must be the moment just before your loved ones unwrap their gifts. The ribbon comes untied, the paper falls to the floor—what will their expression be? Figuring out the right gift can be very difficult, and we can easily make mistakes.
The risk of giving the wrong thing is why gift givers often end up giving consumables such as wine and chocolate, or non-committed gifts such gift cards. After all, these are unlikely to be the “wrong” gift for anyone. But there’s a catch: These safe gifts are not very “gifty” and are unlikely to strengthen our relationship with the recipient. In contrast, when we give jewelry, art, or furniture, we take a risk that the other person will not like the item and get stuck with a less-than-ideal gift. But these risky gifts are more “gifty” and, if they are successful, will achieve their goal of strengthening the social fabric between the person giving the gift and the person receiving it.
So how much risk do most give givers take—too little, too much, or just the right amount? To examine this question empirically, together with Loop Commerce, we asked about 5,000 gift givers to think about the last gift they gave, and about the same number of gift receivers to think about the last gift they got.
Not surprisingly, the majority of givers and receivers said the last gift they gave or received was a safe gift. Food and wine topped the list, with clothes, books and movies coming in next. Fewer givers went out on a limb to give more risky gifts, such as tickets to a play or concert, a piece of art, or jewelry.