Why I purchase gifts with price points that can never be found out

Has the Internet impacted the dynamics of gift-giving?


Sushmita Bose

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Published: Thu 22 Sep 2022, 8:22 PM

Once I bought this lot of beautifully packaged (set in a lovely box) — and very expensive — handcrafted chocolates. I had noticed there was no price tag and made a mental note, just in case I ‘presented’ it to some... I met someone soon after this particular shopping expedition, and since I was feeling generous (it may have been because he insisted on paying for a meal we just partook of), I handed the box to him and said it was for his “family”. “Oh my,” he said, “this looks really expensive.” It is, I wanted to say, but merely smiled mysteriously. I returned home, and a few hours later, I get a message from this person, thanking me for the wonderful chocolates, and tut-tutting that I’d spent way too much.

“What do you mean?” I had to ask him.

“Well, I Googled, and saw the price,” he exclaimed. “I mean it’s very nice of you and all that, but you shouldn’t have!”

That was the time when the penny dropped for me, and I realised, from now on, I’ll never be safe from gift scrutiny. Damn! Just a couple of months ago, I’d given one of my cousins one of those items that look more exorbitant than they actually are, and she was most chuffed, and had said, “Ooooooh, I feel so loved!” Oh God, had she checked the price point and realised I had taken her for a ride?

Soon after, a similar incident happened, featuring a box of organic soaps — and I may have possibly written about that incident (on these very pages): how we tend to Google price points of gifts we receive these days, and have converted the act of giving and receiving gifts into a stressful exercise.

When I was in India last month, I decided to stock up on gifts. There were some birthdays coming up, and I threw myself a challenge: I would purchase gifts whose price points could never be found out — unless something cosmic or supernatural happened. Here’s what I did. I have a friend who runs a boutique sari brand; she uses social media only, and she never posts price points, you have to DM her for that. What’s more, none of these people whose birthdays were coming up know my sari friend… they don’t even know of her. So, I met my friend and bought a sari from her sari studio; she had removed the price tag in any case. One gift taken care of.

Then, on to the second — more telling — gift. A bed cover set, that I noticed on one of those random shopping sites that show up online. I’d never heard of the site, but the bed cover set was drop-dead gorgeous… and ‘hand printed’ (whatever that means) to boot. A sea of yellow sunflowers, with coy green leaves jutting out of elegant stems on a stretch of ivory-coloured cottony fabric. I zoomed in and out of the photo gallery, and saw it from different angles. Still gorgeous. I placed an order for two sets. I’d keep one, and gift the second.

The pieces arrived a couple of days later, alongside a handwritten note on handcrafted thick paper, thanking me for having helped a weaver with this purchase. I ripped off the tags immediately. So, now I had two sets of bed covers with nary a hint as to where those came from.

“Wait,” a friend — who knew of my intent — persisted. “What if they do a Google search with the photo? You know, like click a picture on their phone and apply the photo search option to it?”

“That’ll be stretching a point,” I remarked glumly.

“People are desperate these days, they’ll go to any extent,” he exclaimed.

What happened as consequence was that I gifted the sari to Birthday Girl No 1. As planned. But since I’d set myself up for a personal challenge, I couldn’t gift the lovely sunflower-printed bed cover to Birthday Girl No 2. I told her that I’d take her out for a nice dinner because it’s time we started savouring (dining) experiences instead of exchanging gifts.

And I now have two sets of the same bed cover. Not that I’m complaining.


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