I was wandering around one of the local retail establishments recently and it struck me (as it does every year) that December has become the month when several aisles in all the stores fill up with bizarre crap you never see during any other season. It is truly the season of useless gifts, i.e., the gadgets that no one in their right mind would ever buy for themselves.
The classic desperation gifts used to be potentially practical items like scarves and mittens and monogrammed handkerchiefs. I'm not sure just when the switch to cheap crap made in China occurred or why. Although the why probably has to do with profit margins -- you can sell a POS hot dog toaster for a lot more than you can sell a scarf even if the actual production costs might not be much different. You know, no one's going to want to pay much for a scarf (unless you're buying it at Nieman Marcus and they're claiming it's made from some obscure exotic fiber), but come up with a "retro" design for a useless appliance and suddenly you're talking actual money.
I know, I know. There are people who will say that giving someone a useless POS gift shows that you "care." I've got to call bullshit on that one. How can anyone say "It's the thought that counts" when they hand you a gift that demonstrates that they didn't think at all? When you give someone a gift that they have no use for, that doesn't fit their lifestyle or their personality, what you're actually saying is "I care so little that I'm giving to grab the first thing I spot on sale on an end cap at Shopko and call it good." Is it really that difficult to remember enough about a person to make it possible to give him or her a gift that says you were thinking specifically about that person when you bought it or made it?
Of course, it could be worse. I once knew a person who was a shill for Mary Kay. When Christmas rolled around, she gave everyone the rejects from her sample kit. Nothing says someone cares like that person giftwrapping slightly used lipsticks in the colors no one liked when she tried selling them and then handing those lipsticks to people who don't wear make-up.