Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely baby daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
I was holding the pink silk blouse in my outstretched hand at The Limited in Southridge many years ago. This will be perfect, I thought, for my significant other at the time. That’s when I was approached by a veteran saleswoman who appeared out of nowhere. It didn’t take long for me to realize that she was like just about every other female clerk in a woman’s clothing store that deals with a male customer. She assumes the poor sap is incredibly helpless and won’t survive without her expertise.
After the obligatory “Can I help you?” she amazingly attempted to talk me out of a sale. I was informed that the recipient would prefer this (she grabbed another blouse) instead.
“No, I think I’ll stick with this,” I replied.
“Or how about this one?”
“No thank you.”
“This one’s kind of nice.”
None of her choices were pink or silk or the recipient’s style quite frankly but I believe they were all more expensive.
At that point I politely with grin on face told the clerk that if she tried to change my mind one more time that I might just leave her store empty-handed. There was a brief apology and an admission that she was only trying to help. Turns out the pink number was a winner.
Gift giving should be simple, but for too many it’s a process that doesn’t work. Worse yet, the gift giver often times has no idea the choice was not fully appreciated, so the error repeats itself.
Francesca Gino of Harvard University’s School of Business and Francis Flynn of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business wrote the following earlier this year in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology:
“…research consistently shows that many individuals are poor gift givers, often purchasing gifts that others would not choose to buy themselves (e.g., Waldfogel, 1993) or focusing on the wrong criterion when attempting to select a meaningful gift (e.g., Flynn & Adams, 2009). According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, between 40 and 50% of Americans expect to return at least one holiday gift every year, and a third of respondents in a survey conducted by American Express had “re-gifted” presents. Thus, despite the fact that people spend a significant amount of time and money on gift-giving, their purchases often are less appreciated than they might hope.”
Gino and Flynn conducted five studies on gift-giving. The results were published this past March:
“Five studies show that gift recipients are more appreciative of gifts they explicitly request than those they do not. In contrast, gift givers assume that both solicited and unsolicited gifts will be equally appreciated. At the root of this dilemma is a difference of opinion about what purchasing an unsolicited gift signals: gift givers expect unsolicited gifts will be considered more thoughtful and considerate by their intended recipients than is actually the case (Studies 1–3). In our final two studies, we highlight two boundary conditions for this effect: identifying a specific gift and using money as a gift. When gift recipients request one specific gift, rather than providing a list of possible gifts, givers become more willing to purchase the requested gift (Study 4). Further, although givers believe that recipients do not appreciate receiving money as much as receiving a solicited gift, recipients feel the opposite about these two gift options (Study 5).”
It’s really quite simple. As The O’Jays once sang, “You’ve got to give the people, give the people what they want.”
Once again, Gino and Flynn:
“In gift exchange, gift givers may fail to pay close attention to what a gift recipient directly requests. Instead, they may believe that purchasing an unrequested item will signal a sincere concern for the recipient because of the effort they have made to identify a seemingly appropriate gift, thus rendering the gift more personal and thoughtful. Yet gift recipients may be frustrated when givers do not take note of their explicit suggestions. Gift recipients will likely consider gifts they requested as more thoughtful and considerate of their needs than those not requested because the former indicate that the giver is attentive and responsive.”
To repeat, this isn’t tough stuff.
The recipient wants a Brewers shirt. You get him a Packers shirt. You’re very proud of yourself. Meanwhile, the recipient is disappointed. Maybe a little. Maybe a lot.
And no matter how much joy you think you can predict the person on the receiving end will feel, as Gino and Flynn write, “Empirical evidence casts doubt on the notion.”
Give them what they want.