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Dec 1, 2011
09:46 AM
Window Shopping

How to Give Gifts They Won’t Return

How to Give Gifts They Won’t Return

Yes, it can be done—giving a gift that the receiver will NOT return! In fact, I’ll share with you some quick tips on how to pick out the best gift.


The Madison Food and Wine Show is not only an excellent opportunity to sample tons of gourmet foods, cheeses and wines, but for me, it was an excellent gift opportunity. A few years ago I invited my parents to the Show. After sampling a few wines, my mom and dad particularly enjoyed one winery’s varietals and lingered at that booth longer than the others. I quickly jotted down a note and my siblings and I bought them a case of wine from that winery. A few years later, my parents took a trip to Napa and told me about their visit to a favorite winery. So I marched into Steve’s and asked if they carried that particular label and bought them a bottle.

If There’s an Opportunity, Address It.

Do you have a friend who’s always asking to borrow that cute pair of shoes or bracelet from you? How about a directionally challenged parent or sibling who’s always getting lost? Or a relative who desperately wants or needs help with their makeup or has no idea what product to buy? The solution: get them what they need—or what they won’t buy themselves. For your friend that might mean picking up a pair of shoes or piece of jewelry similar to the one they always borrow from you. If your family member is always getting lost—hello, GPS! For your makeup-challenged relative, give a gift card to Sephora. Not only can they find products they need, they’ll be able to access free makeup lessons from their experts on staff!

Go With the Person You’re Looking For.

This requires subterfuge, but it always works for me. More than once I’ve gone shopping with a person that I need to buy a gift for. When they linger a little bit too long at that top they’re “not supposed to buy because it’s the holidays” or caress a scarf that’s a little bit too indulgent to buy, go back and buy it for them—when you’re not with them.

Memories are Nice.

Sometimes the intangible are what can make a gift over-the-top perfect for someone. If you’ve taken a special trip with someone, frame a photo you took on that trip and present it to your recipient. If you and your cousin loved Grandma’s cookies, bake a batch of them using her recipe and present them to your cousin in a cute new baking dish or party tray. My nephew’s birthday was in October, and I picked up The Sneetches book by Dr. Seuss for him. Not only are Dr. Seuss books great gifts, but that book had special meaning to me—my brother (his stepdad) and I loved that book growing up, so I wrote a special note to my nephew on the inside about our favorite book.

Let Others Do the Work.

If you don’t feel like worrying about what to buy, or you’re not sure what to buy for the giftee, stop in a local shop and describe the person to the storeowner. This is when shopping local is a huge benefit—storeowners can work with you one-on-one and know their merchandise to a T. I’ve done this at Fromagination a few times and worked with their staff on picking out a lovely gift basket of artisan cheeses, wines and beers. Be sure to give the staffer a price limit and as much detail as you can.

Or, if you want MORE great gift ideas, Check out our 2011 Holiday Gift Guide from our December issue!

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About This Blog

As Madison Magazine's style editor, Shayna Mace writes the monthly "Window Shopping" column about Madison's coolest store owners, products and shops. She also reports on Madison's most stylish people, chic items she loves, store events and sales, and additional dish in her weekly blog. Her favorite places to check out around town are local boutiques, consignment and vintage shops for one-of-a-kind treasures, new restaurants and bars, and anywhere that affords her the opportunity to meet and talk to Madison's most inspirational (and many times, fashionable!) people.

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