Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

How to avoid giving a horrible gift

By Dean Obeidallah
updated 11:53 AM EST, Thu December 19, 2013
Your family and friends' new additions already seem to have so much stuff. What's left to give? Silver is a traditional heirloom gift for infants. Tiffany & Co. has plenty of gift options. Your family and friends' new additions already seem to have so much stuff. What's left to give? Silver is a traditional heirloom gift for infants. Tiffany & Co. has plenty of gift options.
HIDE CAPTION
Gifts for the hard to buy for
Gifts for the hard to buy for
Gifts for the hard to buy for
Gifts for the hard to buy for
Gifts for the hard to buy for
Gifts for the hard to buy for
Gifts for the hard to buy for
Gifts for the hard to buy for
Gifts for the hard to buy for
Gifts for the hard to buy for
Gifts for the hard to buy for
Gifts for the hard to buy for
Gifts for the hard to buy for
Gifts for the hard to buy for
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah: There are too many good people getting bad gifts for holidays
  • Obeidallah: I want to save you from making gift-giving mistakes; here are four ways
  • He says don't give overtly practical gifts and don't re-gift something that's been used
  • Obeidallah: At the very least, don't be afraid to ask someone what he or she likes

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks, including CNN. He is the co-director of the new comedy documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!" It was released recently. Follow him on Twitter @deanofcomedy.

(CNN) -- Are you still shopping for holiday gifts? Then stop right now. Don't buy another present before you read this. I want to save you from making the biggest holiday gift-giving mistake of your life.

Look, we've all heard the cliché gift adage: "It's the thought that counts." But sometimes you truly have to wonder: What the hell was the person thinking when they bought the gift? Did the person just close his or her eyes and buy the first thing they touched? Or maybe they were drunk while shopping? Regardless of the reason, there are too many good people getting bad gifts.

This isn't about being ungrateful. It's about being honest. We have all received gifts that require us to fake a smile as our eyes dart around desperately hoping to locate the receipt.

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

I'm not alone in feeling this way. Earlier this week, I posted a simple question on Twitter and Facebook: Have you ever received a bad holiday gift? The responses were off the charts. Christmas, Hanukah, Eid, etc. -- it didn't matter, you pick the holiday and I can list you a bunch of bad gifts.

So, I humbly offer to be your gift-giving guide --sort of like the ghost in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." And in keeping with that classic holiday tale, we will start by looking at holidays past in the hopes that you won't replicate the gift-giving catastrophes of bygone days.

1. Don't give gifts that imply the recipient is fat or needs to improve his or her looks

This came up numerous times. People thought they were being helpful by surprising their friend or loved one with a gift certificate for a weight loss program like Jenny Craig or for a personal trainer. The most astounding gift was a voucher for a Botox treatment given to Hanadi Kalla -- she was 26 years old at the time. Only give these types of gifts if discussed in advance or prepare yourself for the consequences.

2. Overly practical gifts

These were typically given by husbands or boyfriends to their wives or girlfriends. Here are a few of the gems: an ice scraper for the car, a battery organizer, Pyrex dishes, and my favorite was this gift to Beth Richardson: A replacement car antenna -- yes, installation was included. These gifts are fine if a person asks for it. But barring a specific request: No electric can openers as holiday gifts.

3. Re-gifting nightmares

Look, we have all re-gifted things. But there's a right way and a dreadfully wrong way to do this. Here are examples of what not to do. A person received a sweater that was not only clearly used, but it smelled like cigarette smoke. (Yes, the gift-giver was a smoker.) And then there's Sarah Elbatanouny, whose boyfriend gave her a used Palm Pilot that had been owned by his ex-girlfriend. But it gets worse: He actually wrapped it with an old Playboy magazine because he couldn't find wrapping paper. Re-gifting should be in the original packaging and the gift should look new.

4. Gifts that have no connection to the person

I have a Muslim friend who was given a holiday gift of a 12-pound baked ham. I'm not kidding! Another person received thick wool ski socks even though she had never skied and lived in Southern California. And then there was the box of chocolates given to @maverick_kris -- only problem was that he's diabetic. Today, most people are on Facebook, so you can easily see their interests and shop accordingly. So if the person has posted on Facebook "I hate the outdoors," don't buy them camping equipment.

Now let me morph into the ghost of holiday gift future and offer you some tips that may be helpful in your gift selection process:

1. Ask the person what they would like

Wow, pretty simple right? Yet for some reason in this world of instant communication where we are all connected via e-mail, text, and/or social media, some would prefer to just guess at what the person may like.

2. Yes, gift cards are fine

If you still have no idea what to buy, then pick up a gift card to a major chain store. There may have been a time when these seemed like the least thoughtful gift, but I think most would prefer these over cinnamon flavored candles or a re-gifted fern.

Hopefully, my efforts as the ghost of holiday gifts past and future will help you navigate this holiday season. After all, if you are going to expend the effort to get someone a holiday gift, then why not give a gift they will truly enjoy and appreciate?

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
updated 6:48 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
updated 4:49 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT