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8 November, 2004

Listing wishes

Are 'wish lists', as typified by the service at Amazon, admirably pragmatic, or excessively clinical, shattering the illusion of meaningful gift-giving?  I can't decide.

Personally, I prefer to give what someone would really like, and dislike surprises (it's depressing to open a present and find that a genuinely well-meaning friend or relative plainly just doesn't know me at all).  In this sense, it would be great if everyone used online wish lists, yet it somehow reduces gift-giving to an impersonal near-transaction, which feels 'wrong'.

I'm being pessimistic, of course; even as I write I'm aware that wish lists can be used as inspiration, as a guide to someone's current interests rather than a prescription.

I suppose another advantage would be when requesting specific items, such as a particular edition of a book or CD, or to ensure a clothes purchaser has one's correct sizes and preferences - could save embarrassment!

I feel a gift should reflect the shared interests of the giver and recipient. If both are interested in, say, the books of Terry Pratchett, a Pratchett-related gift would be appropriate, and the recipient might think of the sender whilst reading (Hi Alizon!).

I also feel that one shouldn't give a gift that the sender actively dislikes, unless the recipient is known to particularly like it. For instance, I dislike flowers, especially roses; I don't have a single flowering plant in my house. Hence, I wouldn't send someone flowers; it just wouldn't be me, and anyone who really knows me would think them an odd, rather insincere gesture. Similarly, I dislike the music of 'Yes' rather intensely, so I wouldn't give one of their CDs, apart from to a particular fan of the band (or a frisbee enthusiast). Even then, I'd think it odd to emphasise our dissimilarity, and would prefer to give something else.

By the way, I'm writing this because wish lists are new to me - I haven't used the services of the linked sites, which were chosen semi-randomly, so can't comment on the quality.

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