Polls / November 23, 2011

On your birthday, would you rather receive a surprise gift or an item you had asked for?

A surprise gift is favoured by 59% of respondents to the latest eZonomics online poll. Meanwhile, 18% prefer to get an item that they asked for and 23% say they are happy with either as “any gift will do”.

Let’s make a list
It’s great to unwrap a gift and discover it’s something you love. But at the opposite end of the gift receiving spectrum is unveiling an item that is not to your taste – then deciding how to handle what could be an awkward moment.
Gifts can be an important part of birthdays, anniversaries and many other cultural celebrations. And gift giving is the topic of a growing body of research.
The results of this eZonomics poll are in contrast to research co-authored by Stanford Graduate School of Business Professor Frank Flynn that finds people tend to like to be given what they ask for. It goes so far as to say people are not paying enough attention to what others want – and says that givers of gifts like to give surprises but receivers typically prefer to get things they have asked for.
A happy middle ground could be to make a list of several possible gifts and let givers chose from it. It could satisfy both parties as receivers get what they asked for and givers still have a choice.

The gift of transparency
Giving money – cold hard cash – is an alternative to buying a physical present, such as clothing, or experience, such as tickets to the theatre.
In an earlier eZonomics poll, 64% of respondents said they preferred cash as a birthday gift to an object.
While it seems to lack the “presence” of a beautifully wrapped item, cash is considered by some in economics circles to be highly efficient. University professor Joel Waldfogel, who wrote a book titled Scroogenomics, writes that recipients often underestimate the value of a surprise gift – suggesting a degree of wastage – but there is no mistaking the degree of generosity when giving cash.

FamilyGift giving

eZonomics team
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