‘Tis the Season to Get What You Don’t Want

Kai Ryssdal gets a present from Stephen Dubner.

Picture this: Christmas morning, tchotchke-free. This week on the Freakonomics Radio Marketplace segment, Stephen Dubner proposes an idea that might finally put an end to holiday deadweight loss. Remember that patchouli-infused candle your loving aunt gave you last year? You wouldn’t dream of paying more than $1.99 for it, and she paid $30. That’s $28.01 in deadweight loss — money that could have been so much better spent. The holidays are full of this kind of inefficiency, because, for whatever reason, most of us find it déclassé to tell people what we really want.

Sociologist Viviana Zelizer says gifts are meaningful exchanges that signify something important about your relationship. (That ceramic frog your significant other gave you? Sorry. Means there isn’t as much significance as you thought …) We unwrap why it’s taboo to directly ask for what we want, and come up with a solution to stop all this waste. We’ll see if Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal buys it. After all, it’s the thought that counts, right?

Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

 

COMMENTS: 6

View All Comments »
  1. sg says:

    Am all for telling people what i want – but it does lose the feeling of people “knowing you” well and knowing what you want. Which is why i am all for wish lists like the one amazon has and letting folks know that you have one :)

    Best of both worlds and hopefully reduce the “deadweight loss”

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  2. Dan says:

    Stephen Dubner was really on to something with the idea of a ‘gift registry’ for adults. We recently developed an online gift registry for a client of ours called http://www.watubyu.com (what-to-buy-you). There you can list whatever you want to receive, as well as upcoming events for which the gifts (or gestures) may be applicable. It’s free to join and your list is only viewable by your chosen/accepted friends and family!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  3. Janet says:

    What a great idea – a gift registry!! And it so happens there is one – http://www.watubyu.com. Our whole family signed up this year and I was able to do all my shopping quickly and early, in fact all presents are shipped and arrived in plenty of time! I have no doubt everyone is getting what they want. With our busy schedules it cuts down shopping time and eliminates trips back to stores for exchanges and in these economic times, watubyu.com kept our gift buying within budget! What a win-win!!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  4. Donna says:

    I am on watubyu.com and I don’t think it loses the feeling of “really knowing you” at all. In fact, they have an area where you can explain why getting a certain gift would mean so much to you. Say you’re a runner and you buy running shoes all the time. Running is your passion. You live for it. You can put on your profile explaining how running is your passion and then someone can feel really good when they get you your next pair of running shoes! They end up knowing you more. Plus you have listed the size, color and where exactly to get the shoes. It makes it so easy! I got all of my Christmas shopping done early because all of my family and friends signed up. And it’s free!! I couldn’t believe it! I know my gifts to my family are not something that they are going to open and then put way back in the closet, never to be looked at again. I know a lot of people signed up for this site and love it!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  5. Bebe says:

    This watubyu site is a place where one can make a personal wish list to share just with their family and closest friends. When you invite someone to view, they are accepted as a friend and now you and whoever you invite can see each other’s lists. It’s quite convenient.

    But, the magic of that site is not just about a way for someone to make and keep a list of gift ideas. The real convenience is that it is USEFUL to the shoppers . . . the ones who suffer the most! My husband is so thrilled with this site because now he knows just what to buy his mom, sisters, nieces, nephews and ME, his hard-to-buy-for wife!

    I recommend this site to ANYONE who has ever grunted and groaned at the idea of having to shop for someone who matters.

    It is the bomb!!!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  6. Dan says:

    http://www.watubyu.com

    Best idea ever. So far we have used it for birthdays and now Christmas. It is very easy to buy what someone really wants without the hassle. Safe to say all our shopping is done for the entire family and I only had two trips to the store. Saves time,gas,and the stress of getting someone something they wont ever use. What a great idea!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0