Don’t kid yourself—we’ve all received presents that were recycled, came with a hidden agenda, or just plain sucked. Time identified six types of bad gifts last year in an article about “presents you should never give”. In the article, consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow determined the worst gifts by interviewing people, mainly those in their 40s and 50s.
But after going around UTM, we discovered that students are no strangers to these types of gifts either. You don’t have to be over the hump to have come into contact with a plethora of gifts bad enough that, in the words of one student, “I cringe to this day just thinking about it.”
This is the gift people give when they have no interest in what the recipient wants but are aiming to please the parents, compete with siblings, or prove that they’re big spenders.
Anthony Peters, a third-year psychology and sociology major, says he received all-about-me gifts during the first year of his parents’ divorce. “It was awful. They were trying so hard to show up the other and I was caught in the middle,” he says.
Peters says his mother bought him a $300 watch and his father bought him a new laptop. “At the end of the day, neither gift had any thought or sentiment behind it,” he says.
Emily McDonald, a fourth-year Italian major, says the worst present she ever got was a donation to PETA in her name. “Are you kidding?” she says. “If I wanted to donate $40 to PETA I would have, thank you.”
Yarrow cites the case of Theresa, a woman in her 40s who received such a gift. “My mother-in-law takes the cake,” she says. “One year for Christmas, she gave my husband a thick, beautiful cashmere sweater and she gave me a mug that said ‘Scott’s Wife’.”
Second-year theatre and English major Emma Miziolek received a less cruel misfire gift herself. “I always had dark circles under my eyes since I was a kid. It got worse in my teens. My mom and my sisters didn’t like it. They always wanted me to get undereye concealer, but I just didn’t wear makeup,” she says. “One Christmas, my sister took it upon herself to buy me concealer for my stocking without knowing my shade—and she’s more tan than me. She got mad when I used it for other things, like acne. Or when it faded, she would claim I wasn’t wearing it.”
Ah, yes, the statement gift. You know the kind we’re talking about: the dress that your frenemy buys you that just happens to be two sizes too small, and she definitely knew it but bought it for you anyway? Yeah, that kind.
Andrew Hill, a fifth-year management major, says that he once got a gym membership from his girlfriend’s mother. “I’m a little overweight and [my girlfriend] has told me that her mother mentions it behind my back,” he says. “When she handed it to me she went, ‘Just a little something to help you.’ I pretty much hate her now.”
“My dad once bought me a nose-hair trimmer. I don’t know, I didn’t exactly think that was the greatest gift to buy your son,” laughs third-year Italian major Michaelo Barrini. “Especially since I wanted a PS3. Talk about your big letdown.”
Misfires happen when the recipient’s feelings are neglected because the giver chooses the gift with only their own perspective in mind. Maybe they think their choice is helpful, thoughtful, or funny, but that’s not what it looks like from the receiving end.
Jill Sandham, a third-year criminology and social legal studies student, says, “In the fourth grade, I broke my leg snow-tubing. I hit a tree and snapped my femur in half. The snow tube popped and it was [left behind] in the park. Then, the next Christmas my mom bought me the exact same type of snow tube that I had broken my leg on.
“She meant it as a joke, but I didn’t find it funny whatsoever,” Sandham continues. “And she took a picture of my reaction. The snow tube’s still sitting unopened in a corner of my basement, accumulating dust.”
We’ve all been on both sides of it.
Fourth-year history major Vanessa Compoli had an awkward re-gift tale to share. “I once received a gift from ‘Aunt Rosa’. I have no idea who Aunt Rosa is. My friend forgot to take the tag off a bath set,” she says. “I think they felt bad. I had given them a gift earlier and they had been caught off guard. I never brought it up [to them].”
Jasman Budwal, a fourth-year English major, says that he has never received or given an obvious re-gift. “I’ve gotten gifts I didn’t care for, but still kept them all,” he says. “My parents re-gift things like pots and dishes. When they’d receive gifts for Christmas, they’d give them to different families.”
Yarrow describes this last category as “the baddest of bad”. It’s a gift that has been chosen without any input whatsoever from the recipient, and tends to have a general “What is this I don’t even” veneer adorning it.
“I got a car from my dad, but it was a standard. I tried to learn it, but I just couldn’t stand it. I was a liability on the road. I ended up having to sell it,” says Dragana Kovacevic, a fourth-year history student.
“Another time, I got a piece of jewelry from my mom that I didn’t really like,” she continues. “I had to wear it because my mom expected me to and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. I felt like I had to be extra careful not to lose it, which was really stressful.”