There are only 18 shopping days left until Christmas
December 6, 2014 3:52 PM   Subscribe

And no doubt you need to find gifts for people you dislike. Ideally gifts that are plausibly considerate, thoughtful gifts but aren't.

Some earlier ideas include the overly specialised kitchen gadgets, the charitable gift of coal, or the carefully framed picture.

You can cheat, of course, and just buy a gift for their kids.

And if you're giving a gift to someone who is themself passive-aggressive, there are also options.

If you're still stuck for ideas, mefites can also be helpful.
posted by jeather (101 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
 
Here is something I just found out while searching for gifts in earnest. If you search "outsider art" in Ebay and look for the lowest prices, you can find an unending supply of hideous crap (e.g.) for very reasonable amounts.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:15 PM on December 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


... hideous crap (e.g.) ...

I dunno ... I think it's kinda cute.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:30 PM on December 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


Why would you spend extra time looking for a "plausibly considerate, thoughtful gift" for someone you dislike when you could just give them a gift certificate or something equally low-effort and be done with it? Why waste your time on someone you don't like if you're not even going to act in good faith?
posted by clockzero at 4:31 PM on December 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


Why would you spend extra time looking for a "plausibly considerate, thoughtful gift" for someone you dislike when you could just give them a gift certificate or something equally low-effort and be done with it? Why waste your time on someone you don't like if you're not even going to act in good faith?

It's a humor piece.
posted by josher71 at 4:34 PM on December 6, 2014 [17 favorites]


Why would you spend extra time looking for a "plausibly considerate, thoughtful gift" for someone you dislike...

But you can royally screw them over, and have them thank you for it! Who could resist that?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:38 PM on December 6, 2014 [10 favorites]


Saki covered this ground 100 years ago (and did it better in my opinion..): The Feast of Nemesis

Also somewhat relevant: Down Pens
posted by Nerd of the North at 4:39 PM on December 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


The perfect place to get these gifts are in the Men's Section of department stores that sell the same exact leather bound golf-themed crap or vaguely masculine knock off office equipment or a metal cocktail stirrer or whiskey stones or like a desk clock with a picture frame.

These are gifts for people for whom you have to give a gift to, but don't know or care about in any real way aside from fulfilling a "I spent money on you" social exchange. They are actively worse then just giving a gift card cause someone might be able to use a gift card. Noone is using a mother-of-plastic leather opener or desk set in faux leather and brass that breaks the instant you use it.
posted by The Whelk at 4:44 PM on December 6, 2014 [7 favorites]


That askmefi thread is GOLD. Why has it not made it to the hall of fame?!
posted by jadepearl at 4:47 PM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


One bleak Christmas when my husband and I had no income or employment prospects and were close to losing our home, my mother's gift to me was a huge, expensive suitcase.
posted by kinnakeet at 4:51 PM on December 6, 2014 [34 favorites]


Or! Go to your area's Chinatown, cheap shit emporia, thrift market whatever, find something like fish shaped earrings or a picture frame for like two bucks and then put it in a nice box with no tag and a big ass ribbon.

Say you saw it and thought of them.
posted by The Whelk at 4:52 PM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


How are these not the best gifts ever? "Slightly defective Eiffel Tower necklace that says 'ARIS' instead of "PARIS'"? A colorful hand-drawn cat saying "Happy Mew Year!"? I would kill to get those for Christmas. When I was in my 20s, someone sent me a clock with little painted cherubs on it, and one year my sister-in-law gave me a wad of paper napkins, and I guess at the time I thought those were odd choices. But at some point I learned to be happy and have fun.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:57 PM on December 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


T-shirts offer a wide range of awfulness for passive-aggression, and are usually pretty cheap if you go thrift. Careful they're not too awful, lest they be worn ironically.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 4:58 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


For a passive-aggressive royal flush you want to pick out a charity that this person has never heard of, but would find somewhat objectionable if they fully investigated all the details. Bear in mind that if you tell your homophobic relative that you've donated in his honor to GLAAD, that isn't passive-aggressive but an in-your-face throwdown challenge; if you'll have to sit next to this person at Christmas Dinner you might want to find something more subtle. (Maybe. I guess it depends on how much confrontation you like with your turkey.) But for instance, you could donate in his honor to Avenues for Homeless Youth, which has some programs (like the GLBT Host Homes program) specifically to support teenagers who were kicked out by their parents because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

[mad chuckles]
posted by orange swan at 5:00 PM on December 6, 2014 [18 favorites]


One year, out of necessity because I was broke, I had "Bswinburn's counterfeit Christmas" where everyone I knew got presents from Canal Street and Chinatown which, well, couldn't possibly be genuine. I, of course, went the extra mile, and only bought things which a second glance would reveal the fraudulent nature.

Perfect for the copyright lawyer or customs agent in your family!
posted by bswinburn at 5:05 PM on December 6, 2014 [10 favorites]


My friend, when she has to go to weddings of relatives she doesn't like but is obligated by family ties to get a gift for, goes to a mall kiosk and buys a big silver-plate tray, the ugliest one they have that it is still PLAUSIBLE someone might find it stylish (this is where the skill comes in -- it can't be so ugly it's OBVIOUSLY a passive-aggressive gift, but it has to be too ugly to be useable), and then she has it engraved so they can't return it.

And then she asks them frequently how much use they're getting out of it, so that they can't throw it away, and have to trot the ugly-ass thing out every time she visits.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:08 PM on December 6, 2014 [25 favorites]


Why would you spend extra time looking for a "plausibly considerate, thoughtful gift" for someone you dislike when you could just give them a gift certificate or something equally low-effort and be done with it? Why waste your time on someone you don't like if you're not even going to act in good faith?

1. Because if you reallyreallyreally dislike someone, you reallyreallyreally don't want to spend a gift-certificate's-worth of money on them, you want to spend 62 cents on them, and because taking the extra time to give a crappy person a crappy gift is amusing.

2. Because there are numerous occasions where giving a gift to a crappy person is socially required.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:27 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


The ultimate passive aggressive gift has to be a book on etiquette. I gave a Miss Manners book (which are incredibly enjoyable in their own right, so plausible deniability almost applied) to my oldest brother one year (I did also give him something he'd like). He thinks it's perfectly acceptable to tell me I'm "stupid" and a "loser" "who has never done a real day's work in her life", so the gloves came off.

I also fondly remember the time I scored the double of giving his wife (whom I like) something she loved and he hated. I'd gotten a "hot men in swimsuits" calendar at a work gift exchange and didn't want to use it myself (it's fine as a joke but just too tacky to be something I want to look at all year), so my mother suggested I give it to my sister-in-law as a gag gift. I agreed that SIL would find it funny, so I did. I also got her an earnest gift. As it happened, my sister-in-law LOVED the calendar and enjoyed it much more than her "real" gift. My brother was very disgusted and threatened by the sight of his wife drooling all over these hunky men and by the fact that she insisted on hanging it up in their home, where he had to look at it all year. It was truly the gift that keeps on giving. Twenty-three years later, it still makes me smile.
posted by orange swan at 5:28 PM on December 6, 2014 [58 favorites]


The hot dog steamer is killing me. I love it.

The article is kind of making me wonder if certain people on the peripheries of my life actually secretly hate me, but I think they're probably just tacky as shit. But who knows?

The askme thread is classic. I sent my friend the link a couple Christmases ago when her younger brother was being a shit and she still had to get him something to preserve the illusion of family togetherness for her mom who was having a rough time. She got a good laugh out of it.
posted by sunset in snow country at 5:31 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


OMG HOW DID YOU KNOW I LIKE PICTURE FRAMES!

OMG HOW DID YOU KNOW I COLLECT BLUE GLASS! BLUE GLASS IS MY FAVORITE!
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 5:40 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Surely this is the occasion to buy ornamental things from TK Maxx, all of which are hideous and clearly aiming to look like they have value. Their foodstuffs are the same, and, yeah, lots of what they manage to stock. And the shelf soiled, but not second hand look the packaging has makes it all the better.
posted by ambrosen at 5:49 PM on December 6, 2014


It worries me when adults think mean, rude stuff is funny. Ew.
posted by discopolo at 5:50 PM on December 6, 2014 [13 favorites]


I'd totally go for the hot dog steamer. I actually made steamed hot dogs on the stove today. Being an ex-Montrealer, I sometimes crave such things.
posted by xmattxfx at 5:54 PM on December 6, 2014


That AskMe thread is truly the best of the web! But I need closure...I wish there had been an update.
posted by orrnyereg at 5:56 PM on December 6, 2014 [7 favorites]


Oh god I forgot about the TJ Maxx foodstuffs like is that stuff even safe to EAT or what

Rephrase: This is kind of making me wonder if certain people on the peripheries of my life my mother actually secretly hates me
posted by sunset in snow country at 5:57 PM on December 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


Lady, Menard's has Salted Nut Rolls, so please don't bag on them too hard.

But she's right about giving a giant-ass stuffed animal as a gift that can never be quietly "disappeared": my aunt brought us a five-foot-tall Poppin' Fresh plush guy a decade ago, and IT'S STILL HERE. Mind you, I love it, and am in no hurry to move him along, but on the occasions that my wife has made a feint toward removing ol' Poppin', the kids have instantly noticed.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:11 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I too cry for an update. I'm seriously going to email the OP of that AskMe and see if they can come in here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:31 PM on December 6, 2014


NOOOOOO INNOCENTBYSTANDER DISABLED THEIR ACCOUNT
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:32 PM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I too cry for an update. I'm seriously going to email the OP of that AskMe and see if they can come in here.

That's quite a rabbit hole:
Oh yeah, this is IB's wife. This is my question
posted by neroli at 6:47 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


The article is kind of making me wonder if certain people on the peripheries of my life actually secretly hate me

I know! I have a relative who I am pretty sure means well, but many of her gifts to me end up making me feel bad.

Based on the stuff I've gotten from them over the past few years, I suggest the following bad gifts:

1) Clothing one size too small, with no gift receipt. Killer. Especially good if you can somehow pull this off with socks.

2) Gift associated with a hobby I used to love, but had to give up and regret giving up. Several years after I gave up said hobby.

3) Novelty tea strainers.
posted by pie ninja at 6:59 PM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Those suggestions for gifts for the children of parents you hate are so deliciously evil. The bracelet loom especially, as I know some kids who have that and the rubber bands are indeed everywhere.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:10 PM on December 6, 2014


2. Because there are numerous occasions where giving a gift to a crappy person is socially required.

Givers of the world, unite and throw off your chains of social requirement!
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:14 PM on December 6, 2014


Should I give my mother's sister a plastic bag of rat poison for Christmas, Y/N
posted by pxe2000 at 7:24 PM on December 6, 2014


It's a humor piece.

No, it's a potentially funny idea trapped in a bad relationship.
posted by clockzero at 7:25 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Fuck Christmas. Stupid pagan holiday.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:41 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


TK Maxx

Paste up markup indicating the space will be filled with a vortex
posted by bigbigdog at 7:46 PM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


The thing is I really like gift giving, it's a useful social function and also a fun game to figure out the right levels and tone for each thing - a scarf would be too personal for this person unless it was very plain but not so plain it seemed like an afterthought, etc. Because I usually end up getting free copies of and limited runs of and prototypes of things* and my SO usually has to do Professional Gift Giving, we have the Gift Drawer, full of things we get or pick up that are nice enough or interesting enough to serve as Gifts When Needed**

But sometimes you need a gift to fulfill an obligation and you don't know anything about the person but it's also too impersonal to give a gift card (Oddly I can only give gift cards to people with whom I know that's what they want already, me and my mom have exchanged them for ten years straight) so you need a well of reasonably prices, perfectly acceptable gift choices with lots of PLAUSIBLE DENY-ABILITY built in. This is why you have an existing gift reverse in mind when you pick up a pack of ten "designer" one cup tea infusers to shove into the gift drawer.

*Example: I was involved in a designing a new fashion lamb for the teen/college market that was basically a light box with an art print on it. I did a pop-art candy thing. Nothing happened with the product and I ended up with a box of my prints on lamps - which I slowly gave out to anyone I thought would like them or people who needed a gift for someone who would like a pink light fixture with a muddy screenprint drawing of Twiggy printed on it.

** FYI If anyone in manhattan wants a programmable LED watch that just needs a battery let me know
posted by The Whelk at 7:47 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wait, novelty TEA strainers are passive-aggressive?! I KNEW it! That bitch.

I actually seem to get a lot of tops that are just a little too small, but it's never bothered me... I feel like it means people just think I'm smaller than I actually am. Which is okay, at least they're not trying to poison me like my own mother.
posted by sunset in snow country at 7:49 PM on December 6, 2014


I made the donation of a can of worms from oxfam to the slimeball who destroyed my de facto aunt's marriage.
posted by brujita at 7:51 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


ob1quixote: "Those suggestions for gifts for the children of parents you hate are so deliciously evil."

The thing about these that's better is, you can get rid of them right away and just act like your kid loved them soooooooo much they broke them. Kids aren't expected to take care of the things really responsibly for years on end ... unlike ugly wedding presents or terrible sweaters from your in-laws!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:53 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


(that being said, something hand-made but easy put into a nice container is always the no-thought gift to bring a place. Something like hokey pokey takes no time at all, but you put in a nice cardboard box you got from a pack of 60 stored under your bed with the bulk tissue paper kept in your closet that you got off amazon for 2 bucks and the ribbons you keep on hand just case, with a mailing tag on it cause you get them 50 for a buck at an office supply store but they look all retro and homey, and suddenly it's A Gift. Presentation is like 70% of the work, the first bite is the eye, etc)
posted by The Whelk at 7:56 PM on December 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


The worst Christmas gifts (in my opinion) are Christmas-themed things. They're impersonal and generic, yet plausibly considerate, and after the holiday, they're going to sit in a closet taking up space. No one's going to use that Santa-shaped soap dispenser in April. So if you're exchanging gifts on Christmas Day, the gift's window of usefulness has nearly closed.

There's a potential bonus layer of passive-aggressiveness if your recipient hates winter: give them a Christmas tchotchke with snowflakes or snowmen on it. If I got a coffee mug with "Let It Snow!" printed on it, I'd instantly know that the giver either didn't know me or didn't like me.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:05 PM on December 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


easy put into a nice container is always the no-thought gift

1. cut a hole in a box
posted by mikelieman at 8:05 PM on December 6, 2014 [36 favorites]


I don't think I've ever given someone a passive-aggressive gift, but I did just buy ten Invisible Bilbo Baggins action figures for £1.33 each, one for every member of my husband's family. (There's a collectively-agreed upon £1.75 limit, so I thought I did pretty well.)
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 8:22 PM on December 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


Naomi Kritzer is a friend of mine, so it's awesome to come here and see her stuff on the blue.

I tend to favor the slightly uncomfortable charity approach, though I also enjoy baking things and saying "IT'S VEGAN" or "IT'S GLUTEN-FREE" loudly when they've just started in and watching them try to maintain their composure.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:39 PM on December 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


Isn't this what re-gifting is for? I ended up with a bottle of Southern Comfort with Tabasco as part of a charity auction basket (seriously). I can't wait to give this monstrosity to a certain someone.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:42 PM on December 6, 2014


Instead of the uncomfortable charity approach, I think it's more fun to actually go for the Popular Charity Gift for the pinnacle of smug passive aggression. Last Christmas I decided that I was no longer buying individual gifts for my siblings' families (step 1 in the passive aggressive plan) and instead got them gifts from Heifer International. I could totally see that my in-law was all, "WTF BEES?!?!" but had to paste a smile on their face and pretend to be super-excited that some, like, orphans or oppressed women somewhere had just gotten a beehive in their family's name. (And then had to yell at the kids and make them thankful for Doing A Good Deed, too). It was awesome.

So how do I top that this year?
posted by TwoStride at 8:50 PM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Sophie1 - I actually had a bottle of that (a gift, of course) and took it to a Superbowl Party to "share" (aka get rid of). I was shocked that it was not horrible. Would be good for cocktails.
posted by bibliogrrl at 9:03 PM on December 6, 2014


Here is something I just found out while searching for gifts in earnest. If you search "outsider art" in Ebay and look for the lowest prices, you can find an unending supply of hideous crap for very reasonable amounts.

You are not wrong.
posted by bracems at 9:07 PM on December 6, 2014 [11 favorites]


One year I gave up and got my grandmother a Chinatown vase for Christmas, having thoroughly despaired of finding something she wouldn't backhandedly (or not backhandedly) disparage. She loved that goddamned vase more than anything I could have put thought into.
posted by wotsac at 9:58 PM on December 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


re: askme followup, per neroli's MeTa link:
"I even chickenshitted out on giving my mom's boyfriend a passive-aggressive gift, and I'm glad, since they broke up since." (here)

But also per that link, IB's wife was a multi of a previously ejected user, prone to online fabrications &/or exaggerations. MetaDramz!
posted by neda at 10:34 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, this thread lead me to the slingshot flingshot flying screaming monkey, which seems to be the perfect Xmas gift for everyone.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:53 PM on December 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


Wow, Amazon has the screeching monkey superhero for less than American Science and Surplus, which is usually my go-to for this kind of thing, when my go-to isn't scented candles or soap. Candles and/or soaps are great for people who wouldn't appreciate science or surplus.
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:10 AM on December 7, 2014


Every Christmas gift I have ever received as an adult has felt like thing. I'm now wondering if my entire family and everyone I know hates me.

Last year I asked for a cover for my kindle, assuming I'd get some kind of simple leather thing. Nope, I got this. I'm sure some people like Very Bradley a lot, but I don't and nothing about my personality or taste suggests that I would.
posted by Sara C. at 12:45 AM on December 7, 2014


A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 1:31 AM on December 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


Here is something I just found out while searching for gifts in earnest. If you search "outsider art" in Ebay and look for the lowest prices, you can find an unending supply of hideous crap for very reasonable amounts.

You are not wrong.
posted by bracems at 4:07 AM on December 7


I have been laughing at the surrealness of this piece of art for about 30 minutes now.

I also have a very strong urge to recreate it in glitter
posted by Faintdreams at 3:58 AM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was so hoping the Invisible Bilbo action figure was going to be an empty box.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:59 AM on December 7, 2014 [22 favorites]


i'd like to thank early-morning metafilter for why i am currently in a bidding war for a picture of a monkey with an erection

things like this is why i internet
posted by rorgy at 5:40 AM on December 7, 2014 [16 favorites]


a picture of a monkey with an erection

There is at least one user here who has written several fascinating comments about primate genitalia, so if you asked nicely it's possible you could have a great scientific display label for your outsider art.

At this point in my life I absolutely don't want to receive anything that that isn't food, wine, or some other kind of thing that can be experienced and then will leave my life. I have all the physical stuff I need and more, and at this point have my own strongly individual tastes and preferences for the things I do buy. But no matter how much you insist (nicely!) to please don't give anything, there are people who are internally compelled to box up some piece of absolutely awful crap and bring it over. It never rises to the level of actual outsider art (which I would be inclined to keep and display, actually; my living room already has NC17 art so a monkey with a hard-on would fit in fine) but is instead that middle ground of being pseudo-nice without actually being something you would want to have around.

I've made my peace with it and just add it to the box labeled "for donation" that I keep in the garage and take to Goodwill whenever it gets full, but it's a really odd cultural thing that does not add any pleasure to my life.

And wow, that old AskMe is a hot wet mess of issues.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:11 AM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have another suggestion: bath products! My relatives have given me so many bath products that I could run a Bath and Body Works from my apartment. I had a male roommate once that I found out after the fact would take people in there to give tours of it.

Really, I think it's kind of sad to have known relatives your whole life and yet nobody can actually figure out what anyone wants or likes. To this day I can't figure out anything that would please my relatives on any level and I think they've hated every gift I ever gave. I gather we are such fundamentally different people that we have nothing in common besides genetics, really.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:16 AM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


I remember long ago, a girl who I was sort of friends with but not close to invited me to her wedding. I didn't know her well enough to know what kind of a gift she'd want for her wedding, so I asked if she was registered anywhere. She said no. Then I asked what she might like for her wedding. She said "I don't know."

She ended up getting a box FILLED with the weirdest and most oddly specific kitchen implements I was able to find -- egg slicer, avocado slicer, melon baller, corn peeler, etc.

She divorced less than a year later.
posted by Librarypt at 6:46 AM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh god I forgot about the TJ Maxx foodstuffs like is that stuff even safe to EAT or what

I dunno, it seems fine, IME. (What? The chocolate-covered almonds were, like, staring me right in the face the whole time I was waiting in line, and I hadn't eaten lunch yet. No judging. Also, I generally have the constitution of an ox, so YMMV.)

The thing that mystifies me is . . . . OK, look, so, TJ Maxx (as far as I know) gets most of their stock as factory seconds with slight blemishes or as unsold stuff from other retailers who've dumped their unsold merch off cheap in wholesale lots, right? Especially "name-brand" stuff, right? So I'll get Dockers socks with the stitching not 100% even, or a Ralph Lauren shirt where the color is not 100% the exact right shade of navy, or whatever. And if I wanted 100% perfect versions of these clothes, I could go to Macy's or Target or somewhere and find 'em, no problem.

But I can't for the life of me recall seeing their food products anywhere else - not under the same names & packaging, anyway. And a lot of it is in some pretty fancy-schmancy packaging, clearly intended as some kind of "gourmet" version of some of the same junk that's in the "snack" isle of any random drugstore.

So where does this stuff come from? It's like there's an entire world of retail for "gourmet" food products where the factory seconds and unsold stuff winds up at TJ Maxx, but who the heck sells this stuff in the first place?
posted by soundguy99 at 6:53 AM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Novelty tea strainers are the best. I demand they be stricken from the list of Terrible Gifts.
I offer as evidence this manatee tea infuser which appears to be this year's Secret Quonsar Top Gift if the thankyou thread is anything to go by.
posted by quaking fajita at 7:01 AM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Soundguy99. If TJ Maxx is the same as TK Maxx here in the uk, then a lot of the stuff you see that is supposed to be "heavily discounted" *big brand* item wether it be clothes, food or household goods are Infact manufactured solely for tj/tK Maxx.

It's a psychological trick to make customers think they're getting a bargin because they are buying *near* brand X without it being an obvious shoddy (and potentially crime associated or dangerous) fake.

The foodstuffs are packaged to emulate luxury so they can sold at a high margin for The store, but it's relatively cheap stuff.

Edited for typoes
posted by Faintdreams at 7:05 AM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


I always thought that Marshalls/TJ Maxx were where the manufacturers sent last year's overstock.
posted by mikelieman at 7:15 AM on December 7, 2014


You people need to do a multi-year campaign. You get a theme item such as, elephants, frogs, children with super droopy eyes, or risqué chickens and gift that theme each time. Other people will assume that person collects that item because they have more than one and hey, seem to get it each year. You have now foisted a hobby on the recipient. Though the person may deny, people will think that they are being modest. You, of course, ask after your items so they are trapped with it long enough for other people to think that the recipient collects the damn things. This tactic is a force multiplier of passive aggression. The elephant theme, in particular, works a lot.
posted by jadepearl at 7:24 AM on December 7, 2014 [25 favorites]


YOU. IT WAS YOU WHO DID THAT ELEPHANT THING TO ME.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:24 AM on December 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


Minor side point:

If TJ Maxx is the same as TK Maxx here in the uk

It is. Wikipedia says they changed the name in the UK to avoid confusion with TJ Hughes.
posted by Shmuel510 at 8:25 AM on December 7, 2014


If TJ Maxx is the same as TK Maxx here in the uk, then a lot of the stuff you see that is supposed to be "heavily discounted" *big brand* item wether it be clothes, food or household goods are Infact manufactured solely for tj/tK Maxx.

Hunh. Yeah, Wikipedia says they're the same. So yeah, I guess it could certainly be that they're "name-brand" products made specifically for sale in the Maxx & other associated stores. Dunno why that never occurred to me.

(This is the kind of thing that got people ticked off at Wal-Mart here in the U.S.; Wal-Mart would advertise that they would guaranteed have the cheapest price on such-and-such television or vacuum cleaner, and then it would turn out that the specific model they were advertising was a model made solely for Wal-Mart. So you couldn't buy it anywhere else, anyway. Made by the actual manufacturer, just using cheaper parts or whatever so Wal-Mart could sell it at a lower price than similar-but-not-exact models at other stores.)
posted by soundguy99 at 8:39 AM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Right, got it, ernielundquist wants elephants for Xmas.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:40 AM on December 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


I don't know what it is with ernielundquist and elephants, but I hear he is looking for a good wine holder.
posted by Vindaloo at 8:46 AM on December 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Well, OK. That is actually true. I do want elephants, but, like, if someone says they want an XBox, people don't just give them salt and pepper shakers and throw pillows with pictures of XBoxes on them as a daily reminder of the XBox shaped hole in their life.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:56 AM on December 7, 2014 [11 favorites]


if someone says they want an XBox, people don't just give them salt and pepper shakers and throw pillows with pictures of XBoxes on them as a daily reminder of the XBox shaped hole in their life

Thanks for the gift idea!
posted by jeather at 8:58 AM on December 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


Well, OK. That is actually true. I do want elephants, but, like, if someone says they want an XBox, people don't just give them salt and pepper shakers and throw pillows with pictures of XBoxes on them as a daily reminder of the XBox shaped hole in their life.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:56 AM on December 7


Although if you were getting a passive-aggressive gift for a kid who did want an xbox but wasn't getting one, the salt & pepper shakers would be awesome!
posted by Vindaloo at 8:59 AM on December 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


My relatives have given me so many bath products that I could run a Bath and Body Works from my apartment. I dimly remember an old stand-up routine that went "The Body Shop is great for gifts cause everybody has skin."

And ugh in that manufactured for the store "discount" prices - Gilt pulls that crap a lot, and the outlet specific brands are the same thing - on one hand I know all prices are arbitrary on the other hand just casual reminders of that are annoying.
posted by The Whelk at 9:18 AM on December 7, 2014


You people need to do a multi-year campaign. . .This tactic is a force multiplier of passive aggression.

I'm an atheist. Every year my very religious mother-in-law gives me the most Jesus themed gift she can find. Sad Jesus in a 4x4 frame. Crucified Jesus. Jesus surrounded by rays of light. Jesus on a donkey sculpture. Jesus surrounded by children. Every.Year. My husband will get a subscription to his favorite magazine and something awesome like a leather messenger bag, and I get Jesus.

I have to admire that woman's complete mastery of passive aggressiveness.
posted by barchan at 9:30 AM on December 7, 2014 [11 favorites]


I'm an atheist. Every year my very religious mother-in-law gives me the most Jesus themed gift she can find. Sad Jesus in a 4x4 frame. Crucified Jesus. Jesus surrounded by rays of light. Jesus on a donkey sculpture. Jesus surrounded by children. Every.Year.

Bible in Klingon. Bible in Dothraki (exists?). Bible in Elvish (Tengwar). She can't very well throw out a bible, can she.
posted by clockzero at 9:34 AM on December 7, 2014 [22 favorites]


I was feeling rubbish today because my sister has done something which upset me (it's kind of her Thing), so this thread has cheered me up immensely. Usually I spend ages assembling the perfect gift, which she rarely seems interested in, leading to a general sense of deflation. Now I'm cackling to myself imagining the deliberately useless/tacky gifts I could get her instead thereby passive-aggressively reasserting myself. Cheers and happy holidays!
posted by billiebee at 9:37 AM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sad Jesus in a 4x4 frame. Crucified Jesus. Jesus surrounded by rays of light. Jesus on a donkey sculpture. Jesus surrounded by children.

Are you crafty? Because if you add some highly inappropriate action figures or photos, you've got the makings of a BEAUTIFULLY offensive collage or diorama, which, once she sees it, is guaranteed to shut off the Jesus gift pipeline.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:40 AM on December 7, 2014 [7 favorites]




I was recently asked to suggest a passive-aggressive gift. The idea I came up with is only really useful if jewelry is appropriate, but my recommendation is a Victorian jet brooch, cameo or necklace. It's a real gemstone; it's genuinely really old and fancy; it can be shockingly cheap for vintage jewelry, having been outrageously popular 100 years ago and pretty much fallen out of favor ever since. The kicker is most of the cheap stuff is really ugly (it's cheap for a reason) and you're literally giving them a lump of coal, cleverly disguised.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:59 AM on December 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


Just send a vase of mixed York and Lancaster roses and they'll get the message.
posted by The Whelk at 9:59 AM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ok, I found an ideal example on ebay: ANTIQUE VICTORIAN HAND CARVED WHITBY JET BROOCH!!

It's a genuine piece of Victorian jewelry.
It's cheaper than the shipping.
It's hideous.
It's literally a lump of coal.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:06 AM on December 7, 2014 [15 favorites]


Oh man, the Flingshot Slingshot Flying Screaming Monkey! My brother (who is deaf) just gave one to the kids of my other brother, when we were together at Thanksgiving. Have you actually heard one of those things? It makes a really really annoying shrieking noise. 8 and 10 year old kids love to launch it across the room over and over and over again. Good times.
posted by Cookiebastard at 10:11 AM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I know a little (very little) about jet jewellery! My wife is a history buff and one of her walking tours covers Victorian mourning attire. Victorian widows were supposed to remain in mourning for at least a year, and as well as the black outfits, were supposed to accessorize with similarly dour jewellery, hence, jet.

Also possibly hence the ugliness, but that just might have been the fashion of the time.

Anyway, it might be a creepier passive aggressive gift than you intend if you didn't know that aspect. Also mostly made in Whitby, famous also for the landing point of Dracula, and excellent fish and chips.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:28 AM on December 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


Sad Jesus in a 4x4 frame.

I was totally confused for a minute, picturing a Sad Jesus sitting in the middle of bare frame rails from a light truck.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:57 AM on December 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


Erninelundquist, je ne regrette rien.
posted by jadepearl at 11:06 AM on December 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


I get a lot of pretty terrible gifts. I don't actually think anyone is being passive aggressive, or at least not intentionally, but now that I think about it, the ones that made me feel the worst were those I'd classify as "hostile makeovers" or "I started to pay attention to your interests, but then you just kept blah blahing and I guess I fell asleep."

The hostile makeover usually happens to me as a result of my form follows function aesthetic, where people assume that a giant block of marginally functional matching knives is an upgrade to the mismatched but carefully curated collection I currently have. It's also a common theme in clothing gifts, like when your parents give you a danged polo shirt or a flowery dress so you can finally look nice for a change.

The not paying attention type can be similar, but it's just anything that sort of relates to a hobby or interest of the giftee that the gifter doesn't share. People who have strong interests and passions generally also have strong opinions. So, you know, if you know I like tech stuff and decide to get me a super-expensive Sony picture frame, it just means that you weren't paying any attention at all to the fact that a) I am a terrible photographer and have pretty much the bare social minimum of family photos, and b) I have not purchased a Sony product since the rootkit thing. (That remains the only gift I have ever actually returned.)
posted by ernielundquist at 11:22 AM on December 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


The not paying attention type can be similar, but it's just anything that sort of relates to a hobby or interest of the giftee that the gifter doesn't share. People who have strong interests and passions generally also have strong opinions.

It's even more horrible when the gifts are not minimal-monetary-value (the Sony picture frame was a good example). I do calligraphy. In no fewer than three instances I received those packaged-in-a-tin-box calligraphy kits from $PEN_COMPANY from people who've seen my work. But I pretty much only use dip pens, not the fountain pens those kits contain, and the "intro to calligraphy" books they include are... um.

(Those would be the strong opinions referred to in the comment I quoted.)

The gifts are obviously thoughtful, and miles better than a useless-gift-object... but on the other hand they are just as useless to me and now I have to find someone to pass them on to discretely, while avoiding the same problem (my recipient can't be someone I only know uses brushes).

(Now if they were to ask me, I could give them chapter and verse from the book of dip pen nibs and inks which specialty kits I want.)
posted by seyirci at 11:56 AM on December 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


I kind of think there would be value in some kind of quick splash page website that would say something like

Hi! I'm [name].

My hobbies are X, Y, and Z. Here are a few things I currently need for those hobbies. [insert links to Amazon or a good specialty supplier for your hobbies.]

I would describe my personal aesthetic as [key word and photo examples].

I wear a size N t-shirt. // I have [a kindle, an xbox, and an iPhone 5s] // [Insert other common compatibility concerns for basic gifts.]

I [like/dislike] scented items. My favorite/least favorite scents are [whatever].

I drink/do not drink alcohol. I eat/do not eat meat/dairy/gluten. I am allergic to [things].

I live in [city], where I enjoy [local activities].

I live in a [type of home], and right now I would love to have more [insert domestic type gifts] -- OR -- ... and because of this, I don't need any more objects in my life and would instead prefer consumable or experience type gifts at this time.

My [Steam/Ravelry/GoodReads/etc] account name is [foo].

You could then send this link to anyone who might be likely to send you a gift, and they basically couldn't go wrong. Even if they hate you and are trying to be passive aggressive.
posted by Sara C. at 1:23 PM on December 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


Honestly I think the ultimate passive aggressive gift is a five dollar bill.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:46 PM on December 7, 2014


Having clicked on most links in this thread, what is the deal with shitty craft sales pages and horrible leading of the text?
posted by Rhomboid at 2:50 PM on December 7, 2014


Well, OK. That is actually true. I do want elephants,

We were all doing so well, not mentioning the lack of err, something, in the room, and now we have to confront the problem.
posted by ambrosen at 3:08 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Can we do a white elephant secret quonsar? Because I would love to get some of this nonsense. But more importantly, I would love to foist some of this nonsense onto a stranger over the internet.
posted by decathecting at 3:34 PM on December 7, 2014 [8 favorites]


Now I'm worried, because one year for Christmas my sister got me a $15 gift card to a store that 1) exclusively sold kitschy Christmas crap, and 2) did not have a location within 100 miles of where I lived. At the time I thought it was just thoughtless, but now I wonder if she read one of these lists and took the gift card advice to heart.
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 3:51 PM on December 7, 2014 [3 favorites]



The gifts are obviously thoughtful, and miles better than a useless-gift-object... but on the other hand they are just as useless to me and now I have to find someone to pass them on to discretely, while avoiding the same problem (my recipient can't be someone I only know uses brushes).

As someone who's hardcore into a different hobby, I feel your pain. I'm fairly deep into a fiber-filled rabbit hole, and have expanded my skills into hand-spinning my own yarn. I buy $30 skeins of cashmere-infused sock yarns from online artisans, and I own sets of handcrafted knitting needles, each suited for a specific purpose (one for lace, one for socks). As much as I appreciate the attempts to appeal to my hobby, I really have very little use for a bag of Homespun, which I'm fairly sure is spun directly from Satan's taint hair. What's even sillier is when I get a book on beginning sock knitting from a person who has already received several pairs of my intricate far-above-beginner socks.

I would happily accept a gift card to Webs, Paradise, Woolery, or even Etsy, but I predict it'll once again be a Red (Heart) Christmas for me. Oh well.
posted by and miles to go before I sleep at 7:19 PM on December 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


ebeanstalk.com has great age sorted gifts for kids.

On a darker note I did once give someone in Africa a goat, and gave the donation certificate as a gift.
posted by Oyéah at 10:54 PM on December 7, 2014


I do have a pair of jade elephants. This is not code for anything.
posted by Oyéah at 11:07 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


The only way we stopped the terrible gifts from parents who don't have a clue was to move to the other side of the world. We have gift lists because it is cheaper for them to organise something online and have it sent to us. Brilliant.
posted by Megami at 12:58 AM on December 8, 2014


Now I'm worried, because one year for Christmas my sister got me a $15 gift card to a store that 1) exclusively sold kitschy Christmas crap, and 2) did not have a location within 100 miles of where I lived.

My cousins did this once, but they had a very good defense - one of the things I'd asked for on my annual "here's what I want for Christmas" list the family got (we're smart and do that!) was a yarn swift. Two of my cousins presented me with a gift card for Michaels' crafts that year, but when I opened it they both looked at me very apologetically and pleaded "we looked everywhere for one of those swift thingys and couldn't find one so this was the best we could do!!!"

At the time, the nearest Michaels' to me was in East Bumfuck Long Island, and there wasn't much of a way for me to get there, but they'd tried. I actually thought it was sweet. (And then three years later they opened one in Manhattan and I was still able to use the damn thing just to get it over with.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:54 AM on December 8, 2014


And the 2014 recommendations are up, including a link back here.
The vast majority of bad gift-giving is accidental, which of course is the cover you need for your deliberate bad gift.
This time it's full of advice for bad gifts to buy for people you don't know very well, but nevertheless dislike.
posted by jeather at 7:33 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Once I gave my grandson a bird whistle just before a 750 mile car ride back home. My daughter summoned an exquisite heavy lidded look, me a convincing what??? The whistle was cool. I have another bird caller for this year, a German carved wooden bird whistle with a wooden peg that turns and makes bird noises. It is so quaint, it would be a great passive-aggressive way for kids to awaken parents on the weekends.

Just doing my part.

Since I love them both, this is off-topic.
posted by Oyéah at 10:21 AM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


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