Nov. 18th, 2016

joreth: (Xmas Kitties)
It's that time again! The time of year when I start reminding people to create online wishlists for holiday gifting!

Gift giving is a complicated social custom with a lot of implicit expectations behind it, and people with different backgrounds often have different (and conflicting) expectations from each other. Some people feel obligated to give, some people feel obligated to accept, some people refuse to give, some people refuse to accept, some people are good at guessing, some people are terrible at guessing, some people feel bad about asking what someone wants, some people feel that it's rude to be asked for specific gift ideas, some people expect others to just magically know or to read hints, some people have monetary limitations, some people have very specific wants and are hard to shop for, some people are easy to shop for ... on and on!

I recommend that everyone creates an online wishlist of things that they want. Many services offer the ability to create multiple wishlists per account and/or "family" accounts so that multiple people in one group can all create (and share) their own wishlists under a single account. I think this is an excellent way for parents to keep an eye on their children's wishlists or to manage the wishlists for the ones too little to manage their own, and for individuals to set up different lists for themselves, such as a personal wishlist and a gift recommendation wishlist, or wishlists with items suitable for different people to view (parents vs. coworkers vs. spouses, for instance) or for different occasions.

This is especially helpful for long-distant relatives wanting to buy gifts for children and who may not know the children well enough to know what to buy or who don't know what the children already own. As a parent, you can create wishlists for your children and just leave them up for holidays and birthdays, periodically coming back to revise the list as the children's interests change over time or as they get things on the list that someone forgot to mark as "purchased".

Here's why I recommend that everyone have an online wishlist - it does several things that I believe help to navigate the complicated expectations behind gift giving:

  1. You can be as specific or as vague about the sorts of things that you want to make sure that you reduce the number of gifts you have to return or that you are not pleased with. With the right wishlist service you can even list non-material things like hugs or donations to charity in your name. I think online wishlists are especially important for people who really aren't into the whole gift exchange thing because they can keep the gifts down to a minimum with specific items or they can specify those non-material gifts I just mentioned.

  2. Nobody has to read your mind to get you the perfect gift in their budget.

  3. If you don't like telling people what you want because it feels too much like you're "asking" for gifts, you can make your wishlist into a "list of things that I want to have someday even if I buy them myself" list, and then other people can choose to look at your list and buy stuff from it or not. But you're not asking anyone for presents. Think of it more like a shopping list that other people can look at and buy from if they want to, rather than a request.

  4. If you have friends or family who are too embarrassed to ask what you want or don't feel comfortable asking for specific things, this relieves them of the burden. They can just look at your list without saying anything to you and buy something that they know you want if they so choose. And you know that whatever they get you will be something you want even if they refused to ask you what you wanted.

  5. You can use the wishlist yourself to remember where you saw that cute thing online that you wanted to buy but didn't want to buy it at the time and now it's several months later and you can't remember what it is! Or you can use your wishlist as a reminder of where you did buy that thing that one time and now you need another one but you can't remember where you originally got it. You can even use it as motivational goals - things you want to save up for.

  6. You don't have to worry about people buying the same item twice like you do when you send out an email to several different people because when something is purchased, it gets removed from the list and other visitors won't even see the item.

Gift Registries for weddings and baby showers are considered a normal, acceptable custom where some people want to buy one person a gift and the recipient gets to specify exactly what they want. Nobody is offended that the recipient lists specific items, nobody is offended that the givers want to know specific item suggestions, and nobody actually has to ask directly for gifts or ask directly what to buy. I think this should apply to all gift-giving events like holidays and birthdays, and even hard-luck times like job loss or illness or funerals, when it might help to have people give useful items to make it through a tough time, because it simplifies the exchange and removes or reduces the sense of obligation that some people feel regarding gift exchange events without removing the joy of gift exchange.

I recently lost my wishlist service and had to go hunting for another one. I had been using the same service since about 2002 and it had every feature in a wishlist that I could possibly have wanted. Now that website is down and has been for months. So I had to attempt to find another service that had all the features I wanted and recreate my wishlist from memory!

I never did find a wishlist service that had *all* of the features of my previous one (nor did I remember all the items on my old list). But I did find only one wishlist service that had *most* of the features I wanted - www.myregistry.com/ :

  • This service is not attached to any particular retailer and I can add items from literally anywhere. I can add items from online stores with a browser plugin button, and I can manually add items that are not online. It also offers the ability to accept cash donations.

  • This service allows me to have several wishlists, so I have a Clothing Wishlist, a Miscellaneous Wishlist, and a Gift Card Wishlist, to make it more manageable to navigate.

  • It also allows me to manually order the items in my list so that visitors see the items in the order that I want them to see them. Visitors can also reorder the list by price, store, and favorites as well as the site allowing the visitor to view items by category. I can create my own categories and assign the items to whatever categories I come up with.

  • This service shows the list of items with a thumbnail of each item, the price, ordering information like size and color, additional notes that I can enter if I want, and a link to the store where the visitor can view and purchase the item.

  • This service offers a browser plug-in and a smartphone app to make it very simple to add items to any of your lists, as well as managing the lists.

  • When visitors click to view or purchase the item, this service will open the store's website in another tab or window so that you do not lose the wishlist itself. It then gives you the option to go back to the wishlist and anonymously mark the item as "purchased" so that no one else will buy the same thing you did. Once I share my wishlist for Christmas, I do not look at my wishlist again until the holiday (and my birthday the next month) is over, so that I will be surprised by my gifts. That way visitors can safely mark items as purchased and still keep it a surprise.

There are two things that this service does not do that my old one did: one is to give me the option to tag my items. Tagging an item allows me to associate multiple tags to each item so that it can be cross-referenced and viewed under several different tags. So, I might have an item that is both a household item and an electronic item and I could tag it with both keywords and visitors who want to look just for household things as well as visitors who want to look just for electronic things would all see this item. The new service only gives me the option of putting items in a single category, so I have to choose - is this a household item or an electronic item?

The other is priority ranking. My old service allowed me to rank my items on a scale of 1-6 with one being "must have" and 6 being "don't buy for me, I'm just thinking about it", which I thought was a very useful feature. Visitors could sort the list by priority order and only look at those things you wanted the most.
But other than these features, this service does everything else that I was looking for. I was willing to give up the tagging because of the categories and I already manually order my list by priority because an extra step to view priority was just a touch too complicated for my parents. But I do miss these features and feel that they made the previous service more valuable to others who don't have my same limitations and made me even more enthusiastic about recommending it. I had to look at and try out more than a dozen different wishlist services before I found this one that even has all of these features! So I'm passing it on so that other people can take advantage of it.

And now, because several people have requested that I do so, I am including a link to my online wishlists for those who want to see them:

www.myregistry.com/public/JorethsClothingWishlist
www.myregistry.com/public/JorethsMiscWishlist
www.myregistry.com/public/JorethsGiftCardsList

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