Why "bad gifts" are a good thing for our humanity

Mon Nov 29, 2010 1:21pm EST
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(Mary Mitchell has written several books on the subject of etiquette, including “The Complete Idiot's Guide to Etiquette” and “Class Acts.” She is also the founder of executive training consultancy The Mitchell Organization with the website www.themitchell.org. The opinions expressed are her own.)

By Mary Mitchell

SEATTLE (Reuters Life!) - When I was 13, I gave my Aunt Muriel a scarf. Not just any scarf, mind you.

This scarf was red, my favorite color - and huge and oblong, my favorite shape. When some time went by, and I never saw her wear it, I asked her if she liked it (At 13, you can get away with doing that).

She said it was a beautiful scarf, one that she liked very much, and that someday she hoped to find something in her wardrobe to go with it. Patiently, she explained that she appreciated the compliment of my giving her what amounted to my favorite scarf.

"You know, Mary," she said, "giving a gift is the easiest way to impose our taste on another person."


Now, Amazon.com has removed all worries of displeasing, or perhaps more gently put, baffling the receivers of my gifts. Or your gifts.

As I write this column, amidst the Thanksgiving holidays in the United States, I am thankful for the patent (#7,831,439) recently acquired by the company through the ingeniousness of CEO Jeff Bezos.   Continued...

<p>A huge inflatable illuminated figure of Santa Claus is displayed as an advertisement for a Christmas tree seller in the village of Seeheim, about 40 km (25 mi) south of Frankfurt, December 9, 2009. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach</p>