Tag Archives: choosing gifts

Tap foursquare for Gift Ideas

Are you among the nine million users of foursquare, the leading check-into-places smartphone app? If yes, try using foursquare to find gift hints from your friends check-ins and tips. Launch foursquare, tap the friends icon, then the friend’s name. Notice that foursquare now shows the five most explored categories and top five check-in locations for your friends. These categories and locations can serve as hints for gift ideas.

Start by tapping Mayorships. See where your friend reigns as mayor — the places that she checked in more days than anyone else on foursquare. If your friend is the mayor of the local Trader Joe’s, consider building a Trader Joe’s gift bag.

Next, check out the Most Explored Categories over the last six months. Tap each category, like Coffee Shops, to see the locations. Does he check into five different Starbucks? Load up a Starbucks card as a gift. How about a gift certificate to the Stir Crazy Asian Grill she frequents every month?

Scroll down to see the Top Places your friend has checked in. Maybe she has shopped at Urban Outfitters five times since January. Now you know she’ll appreciate a UO gift card.

Finally, look through your friends’ foursquare Tips and To-Dos. From a tip, I see one of my friends loves yogurt-covered banana chips from the local natural food co-op. Another friend has a to-do item to visit Penzeys Spices.

Use foursquare to turn your friends’ whereabouts and tips into favorite gifts.

Related Post: Gifts for foursquare Fans

A Last-minute Mother’s Day Gift

Looking for a last-minute Mother’s Day gift, and you can’t give it in person? Yeah, me too. I want either a Sunday home delivery or an email notification of a meaningful gift to Mom.

Last week, I tried ordering a pressed flower pendant necklace from Uncommon Goods. The flower jewelry I wanted was out of stock. I gave Edible Arrangements a shot, but the shops near me only have Monday delivery dates for their fruit bouquets. Flowers are a classic Mother’s Day gift, but I sent Mom a dozen irises in a vase for her birthday last month.

Amazon offers online gift cards with three Mother’s Day Designs: butterflies, crown and flowers. But I want something more specific and personal than a gift card to “The Earth’s Biggest Selection.”

Next, I found a fashion tee website with a conscience called Project Iris. A portion of each purchase supports World Food Program USA, providing meals to mothers and children in developing countries. Great tees and a great cause that my mom supports — it sounds perfect. The problem: Project Iris online gift certificates take one to two business days to deliver. Not soon enough. I’ll note this one for a future present in Mom’s gift dossier.

In the end, I chose to give to the Meals for Moms campaign, a part of the Meals on Wheels charity. My mom volunteers at a local food bank. So I know she will appreciate a gift to a hunger relief charity that provides meals for home-bound mothers and grandmothers. I sent a Meals on Wheels e-card letting her know the gift will feed a dozen moms for a week.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Selecting Gifts by Personality Quiz

Hollywood’s gift bag guru Lash Fary asks three questions to set “personality parameters” before recommending gifts.

  1. Is your giftee young at heart or mature at any age?
  2. Is your recipient traditional or trendy?
  3. Is your relationship with the person that of a close friend or relative, or more of a casual, neighborly nature?

In his book, Fabulous Gifts, Fary suggests quizzes (edited excerpts below) to help you respond to these questions. Keep in mind that your personal knowledge of an individual’s tastes can override these categories.

Question 1: Young at Heart vs. Mature at Any Age?

  1. Do they usually dress up for Halloween?
  2. Do they enjoy telling jokes, making people laugh and playing pranks from time to time?
  3. Is the recipient likely to drop everything for a last-minute weekend trip?
  4. Would they join you for a spur-of-the-moment dinner or movie invitation?
  5. Do they sometimes impulsively buy items they don’t need while shopping at the mall?
  6. Are they likely to join their co-workers for happy hour after work?
  7. Are they likely to have to search for their passport when it’s time to take a trip?
  8. Are they more likely to stop at Starbucks for a latte in the morning than to set the timer on the coffee the night before?
  9. Are they more likely to boldly decorate the bride and groom’s car at a wedding or stay behind to toss the rice or birdseed?

If you answered “yes” to five or more questions, you are shopping for someone who is young at heart, and you may want choose more playful gifts. If “no” for most questions, your giftee is mature at any age, and you will want to consider less whimsical and more practical presents.

Question 2: Traditional vs. Trendy?

  1. Do they think about “other people’s rules” when dressing (e.g., not wearing white after Labor Day or whether a particular color is appropriate for the season)?
  2. Do they avoid tight-fitting clothes?
  3. Do they go to church or temple on a regular basis?
  4. Are they more likely to work around the house on the weekends than to hit the mall with a friend?
  5. Does the recipient listen to either classical or country music?
  6. If female, does she own more flats than stilettos? If male, does he own more neckties than pairs of jeans?
  7. Has the recipient had the same hairstyle for at least five years?
  8. Is the recipient often influenced by family opinions and situations?
  9. Does the recipient own only black and/or brown shoes?

Five or more “yes” answers mean you are seeking a gift for someone traditional. Traditionals tend to like what they know and prefer something familiar. Five or more “no” answers point to a trendy recipient who often lean toward bold colors and design innovations. Gift seekers can take more risks with a trendy giftee.

Question 3: Close vs. Casual Relationship?

  1. Would they be willing to pick you up at the airport during rush hour on a Friday evening?
  2. Do you know their favorite movie, actor or singer?
  3. Can you recall their birthday (or at least birth month) without referring to a calendar?
  4. Would the recipient stop by without calling first?
  5. Do you chat on the phone or exchange e-mail with the recipient at least twice a week?
  6. Do you have the person’s phone number programmed into your cell phone?
  7. Do you have a picture of them somewhere in your house?
  8. Do you socialize (outside of work) at least once a month (or at least talk about doing so)?
  9. Would you leave them alone in your house for the day?

If you said “yes” to at least five questions, you are choosing a gift for someone close, which raises the bar to find a gift that reflects their personal interests. If you said “no” to five or more questions, you have a casual relationship with the recipient. Stick with less personal, tried-and-true presents (e.g., Moleskine travel journal, laptop bag for mobile computing fans, or maybe a coffee gift card).

Gift Profiles

From these three answers, Fary forms eight personality profiles and devotes a chapter of gift ideas for each profile:

  • Young/Traditional/Close
  • Young/Traditional/Casual
  • Young/Trendy/Close
  • Young/Trendy/Casual
  • Mature/Traditional/Close
  • Mature/Traditional/Casual
  • Mature/Trendy/Close
  • Mature/Trendy/Casual

For me, I follow the “Young at Heart/Traditional” profile. My wife fits the “Mature/Traditional/Close” profile. Which profile matches your giftees?

Subtly Guess Gifts or Simply Ask about Gifts?

Crystal ball gazing. Detective work. Espionage. Gift recon. These are all metaphors to convey the subtle mind reading game that is choosing gifts. But what about the direct approach? Why not simply ask my wife, “Honey, what do you want for your birthday?” Then go get that present.

I would argue for the element of surprise, the reward of effort, and the value of thoughtfulness. Still, underlying these defenses is an unspoken norm that you just don’t do that.

But I stumbled on a comment on Ask MetaFilter that made me see these approaches in a different light. Some people, like my wife and me, were raised in a “Guess Culture.” (You watch for hints or match interests with what you guess the giftee will like.) And some people were raised in an “Ask Culture.” (You flat-out ask what gifts can you give.)


From tangerine at Ask MetaFilter, responding to a woman’s direct request to stay in an acquaintance’s New York City apartment.

This is a classic case of Ask Culture meets Guess Culture.

In some families, you grow up with the expectation that it’s OK to ask for anything at all, but you gotta realize you might get no for an answer. This is Ask Culture.

In Guess Culture, you avoid putting a request into words unless you’re pretty sure the answer will be yes. Guess Culture depends on a tight net of shared expectations. A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won’t even have to make the request directly; you’ll get an offer. Even then, the offer may be genuine or pro forma; it takes yet more skill and delicacy to discern whether you should accept.

All kinds of problems spring up around the edges. If you’re a Guess Culture person — and you obviously are — then unwelcome requests from Ask Culture people seem presumptuous and out of line, and you’re likely to feel angry, uncomfortable, and manipulated.

If you’re an Ask Culture person, Guess Culture behavior can seem incomprehensible, inconsistent, and rife with passive aggression.

Obviously she’s an Ask and you’re a Guess. (I’m a Guess too. Let me tell you, it’s great for, say, reading nuanced and subtle novels; not so great for, say, dating and getting raises.)

Thing is, Guess behaviors only work among a subset of other Guess people — ones who share a fairly specific set of expectations and signalling techniques. The farther you get from your own family and friends and subculture, the more you’ll have to embrace Ask behavior. Otherwise you’ll spend your life in a cloud of mild outrage at… the Cluelessness of Everyone.


I will stick with my tiptoeing and divining gift clues, but it’s interesting to see a different perspective. Are you inclined to guess or ask for gift ideas?

Keeping Workplace Gifts Respectful

My MBA semester is over, but there is still time to share a case about gift giving. We spend half of our waking hours with co-workers, so it’s natural to give them gifts. My human resources law and ethics course briefly explored the complications of workplace giving. So the HR discussion case is, of course, gift giving gone wrong. The scenario:

A gift exchange is implemented at a company. A male staff member gives a female staff member a Marvin Gaye CD, and she is offended when she sees the title track “Sexual Healing,” followed by “Let’s Get It On.” How do you handle this situation as an HR representative?

HR often errs on the side of caution. The recipient may be lodging a sexual harassment claim, which HR would investigate. This “gift” might be the tipping point among other unwelcome behaviors. Even without a formal complaint, if a supervisor knows of questionable conduct, the company may be held liable. In fact, some companies enforce gift policies that specifically forbid employee gifts with sexual or romantic connotations.

To avoid this scenario altogether, here are some guidelines on workplace giving:

  • Check the employee handbook or company policies to see if there is a gift giving policy in place. Some workplaces restrict giving or ban it outright.
  • Make sure gift giving is 100% voluntary. If someone does not want to give to a Secret Santa, office baby shower or retirement party, respect their choice.
  • Keep it clean. Never give “adult” items, personal/romantic presents, or anything that carries a demeaning or discriminating message as workplace gifts.
  • Go for modestly priced gifts. Expensive gifts may make your workplace giftee feel uncomfortable and beholden to reciprocate.
  • Follow the tradition at some companies (like mine): Managers give appropriate gifts to subordinates, and subordinates do not reciprocate with gifts.
  • If you are giving to select peers, give gifts in private, perhaps after work.
  • If the boss does receive a gift, have others voluntarily chip in to make it a group gift. And don’t name the names of givers. A direct gift from subordinate to supervisor may appear to be currying favor.