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You are wasting 33% of the money you spend on gifts

Michael Cain as Scrooge - in one of our favorites, A Muppet Christmas Carol

Michael Cain as Scrooge – in one of our favorites, A Muppet Christmas Carol

A couple years back, Joel Waldfogel, a professor of economics, published a book entitled “Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays“.

In it, he argues that you should give cash or gift cards because, unless you really know the person, 20% of the money you are spending is wasted. That is because if you aren’t very close to the person, your ability to guess what someone wants and get exactly the “right” gift falls short…

We think you are wasting up to 33% of the money you spend on gifts you buy for hard to shop for people. Which is not everyone you buy for, admittedly. It’s only about 60% of the people you shop for. In the final analysis, we actually agree with “Dr. Scrooge” about the sum total wasted spending. However, our conclusion about what to do about it is very different.

Some background for nerds: In economic terms, gifting for a “hard to shop for person” is a failed market due to informational asymmetry  – in other words, sometimes you don’t have a clue of what a good gift would be for that person.

Dr. Waldfogel argues that the solution is gift cards, which would allow the transfer of capital efficiently, but be less crass than cash. That solution ignores the reality that gifts contain both an economic and an emotional component. And while not as “crass” as cash, gift cards are not exactly emotional – unless the emotion is an urge to spend $50 in one go at The Gap.

We think the more realistic and effective solution is to share all the needed information efficiently, then the knowledge would no longer be fragmented – it would be shared and all gifters would benefit. They’d be able to skip the gift card and head straight for a gift the receiver wants.

The average price per gift in the USA is $50. Giftovus has found that when everyone starts talking about the gift receiver the average price of the gifts given drops to $33.40. That works out to 33% less for a gift developed socially. At the same time, gift receivers report a high satisfaction level.

We believe the savings are derived from the following:

  • Informational symmetry is created. Knowledge is being spread effectively and people are more comfortable buying lower priced items because they know the gift will be well received.
  • Meaningfulness is restored. It’s not a gift card, it’s a meaningful gift. Who buys a gift card for $33.40? It’s bought for $50. For the giver, the social value, the “thought that counts”, is destroyed in a gift card. The giver then tends to spend more on the gift card to compensate. With complete information, the giver is able to find a really cool gift that means something for $33.40 and they don’t feel compelled to spend more.
  • More time available - As people are more comfortable that they are starting with a good idea that is worth the time, they have vastly more time to spend on making the gift “right” by finding the right size/type/etc.

 

Cheers,

Brian & The Giftovus Team

 

Written by Brian Jessup

Written by Brian Jessup on June 29, 2013

One thought on “You are wasting 33% of the money you spend on gifts

  1. Pingback: 6 Things the Best Gift Givers Know That You Don’t - Tribe Magazine

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