It seems from the title as if this will be a list of bad gifts, like “Give ‘em a fruitcake, that’ll show ‘em!!” or “How ’bout a DEAD FROG IN A BOX??” But no: this is a list that acknowledges that sometimes we have people we don’t like (*COUGH*in-laws*COUGH*), and that sometimes we have to buy presents for those people anyway, and that sometimes those presents must be something perfectly nice and NOT a dead frog in a box. And we don’t necessarily want to spend a lot of time thinking about what the person would LIKE to receive, we just want to buy A Perfectly Nice Gift and get it over with.
These will, of course, also be Perfectly Nice Gifts for people you DO like. But what I’m aiming for is emotion-neutral gifts that convey neither the false impression of love NOR the accurate impression of dislike. And also, because the longer you spend on such a task the more you’ll resent it, I’m aiming for gifts that will be widely well-received, so that you can pick one and not have to give it a lot of thought.
1. Puzzle books. I would get Sudoku, probably a nice big book like this one, and pair it with a smaller-format KenKen book like this one (both images from Amazon.com).
2. Magazine subscription. This is one of the best hands-off gifts: you don’t even have to touch it or wrap it. (Though if you want something under the tree, you can buy last month’s issue and wrap that with a note about the subscription.) I’d choose a general interest magazine—anything you might see in a waiting room. (Images above from Amazon.com.) Amazon.com has good deals but you have to be careful: the best deals almost always involve “auto-renewal”: when the subscription is over, it renews at a much higher price. HOWEVER, all you have to do is subscribe, and then go to your Subscription Manager (in your Amazon account) and cancel the auto-renewal. So you can get National Geographic for fifteen bucks, or Time for twenty, and then just remember to cancel the auto-renewal before you get an unpleasant surprise a year later.
3. Throw blanket. A throw blanket (image from Amazon.com) looks cozy, and most people can find a use for one. But I enjoy the way the word “throw” reminds me of “throw out” and “throw down” and “throw up.”
4. Knives. In some cultures it’s bad form to give knives as gifts, because they’re so symbolic of cutting off the relationship. And yet, a set of good knives makes an awesome present. So they’re the perfect gift for someone you like—but they also have a pleasing undertone as a gift for someone you dislike.
5. Trash can. Heh. And yet, I want this Simplehuman Grocery Bag Trash can (image from Amazon.com) myself.