Wednesday, December 24, 2014

'tis the season of useless gifts

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.

Take, for example, this little gem, the hot dog toaster. Who on earth would ever consider spending money on a device that cooks two, count 'em two hot dogs at a shot? Why would anyone want something like this cluttering up cabinet or countertop space in their home? If you're a person living alone, perhaps an argument could made that it would be ideal for you. On the other hand, why bother with a device like this that's going to require cleaning (all that grease that drips off a hot dog has to go somewhere) when if you just want one or two hot dogs you can cook them in under two minutes in a microwave -- or grill them on a fork over the burner on a gas kitchen range. No one needs a special appliance for cooking minuscule amounts of hot dogs; this is a device that was developed solely to occupy retail shelf space during the Christmas season. It is a desperation gift, something a person buys when they feel obligated to give something -- anything!! -- to another person but is too lazy or (I'll be charitable) too stressed to put much thought into it.

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.


  1. I fucking hate hot dogs....

    Number one daughter sent me a box of seven pears from some place called I'm not sure what to make of that, seven pears are not worth 20 bucks plus....

  2. The pears may seem a bit over-priced, but they're not useless.

  3. If it cooked six at a time, my son might be interested. So long as the next 6 were done when he finished the first.


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