In this Time interview with Joel Waldfogel, author of Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays we learn that about $65 billion is spent on Christmas gifts each years in the US and that more times than not it’s a waste of money.
Why? Because we don’t really know what the recipient wants so we just … speculate.
To counter-act this, there is a growing and popular move towards gift certificates which ups the odds that a gift will be useful.
Waldfogel is not railing against gift-giving, per se, but against the waste of gift-giving. And maybe we’re catching on.
While the bump in retail sales for Christmas presents date back to the ’20s, the pathology of reckless giving seems to be in a healing mode: “our holiday spending has moderated relative to the size of the economy in the last two generations.”
It’s probably an absolute truism that the closer one gets to Christmas to buy his/her presents the less meaning they will have to the recipient. Who doesn’t know that awful, empty feeling of buying something, anything, for someone just to get it done. And, of course, we all know the embarrassment of opening a gift we simply neither need or want.
If Waldfogel helps to sensitize us against buying meaningly purchases he is offering a useful service.