The DOs And DON’Ts Of Electronics Gift Giving

You are going to see one million gadget gift guides on the Internet this holiday season. We’ve taken bits of the best (and worst) advice from some of them. This is how to give a gadget!

John Minchillo / AP

2. DO enclose a gift receipt with the gift.

Buying electronics (highly personal, important, and often divisive items!) as holiday gifts is not a safe bet. Make sure to include a gift receipt (taped inside the box’s lid, like a professional) with your gadget gift. Your recipient will be more appreciative of a gift she has to exchange than she would be getting stuck with an MP3 player she doesn’t want.

3. DON’T buy electronics the recipient can’t return!

Um, please do not buy electronics at a flea market. This is shady! If you are about to buy an iPad off a folding card table under a tent, think to yourself, Does this seem a little bit off? It should seem really off! If you’re planning to buy electronics as holiday gifts, make sure that you’re doing so legitimately. Also, we’ve already established that you need to provide a gift receipt. Flea markets don’t do those.

4. DO buy age-appropriate electronics.

There are probably a number of age ranges for which gadget gifts need not be tailored to a recipient’s specific date of birth, but it’s still a good idea to consider what the recipient’s station in life might mean for what he or she needs/wants this holiday season. The above example that tailors camera suggestions to kid’s ages is a good example. What might a college student appreciate? A new parent? And so on.

5. But DON’T let the recipient’s age group say more than his/her personal interests.

OK, admittedly what bothers me most here is the overzealous use of the term “tween.” What’s your tween doing on the Internet? Does your tween feel marginalized by other tweens due to your tween’s lack of a handheld video camera? Let’s not get carried away. Again, keep the gift recipient’s age in mind, but remember that no two tweens are alike.

6. DO pay attention to ratings and reviews when deciding between brands on an item your recipient wants.

If there’s a general gadget your friend/family member/S.O. wants this holiday season, but this person isn’t attached to brand as much as quality — e.g., “I would really like new headphones, but I never know what kind to get” — expert sites like The Wirecutter are great for identifying the best of the best of a particular device.

7. DON’T buy a popular tech item as a gift simply BECAUSE it is popular.

A gadget that is well-reviewed and popular won’t mean a thing to someone who doesn’t particularly want or need it — except that your recipient will have realized you know next to nothing about him or her AND are anxious to have people view you as a big spender, to boot. Gadgets are great gifts, but only when they’re thoughtful too.

8. DO look at sex-segregated electronics gift guides.

Top Ten Hottest Gadgets for Girls? Twelve Toys For Boys? Sure, why not, *click.* Look at everything, scroll all the way down. Hmm, interesting stuff.

9. DON’T actually USE sex-segregated electronics gift guides.

OK, now that you’re at the bottom of a sex-specific electronics gift guide, just close the tab. Click out of it immediately, don’t take it seriously. This is sexist trash! There may be some gift areas where sex-specific gift-giving makes actual sense (clothing, sometimes), but electronics is not one of them. If you’re looking at a list about lady gifts and thinking, Oh, I know a lady, she’d probably for no demonstrable reason like this lady gift, or this other one, simply because of her parts, then you need to stop and reevaluate. Put some work into this! And please, seriously, do not EVER buy a microdermabrasion kit for a woman who didn’t ask for it.

10. DO interpret “electronics” loosely.

PC Mag’s list of 10 techy gifts under $50 is the kind of electronics gift-giving guide we can get behind: The items here are affordable and unexpected, and there isn’t anything here that would likely violate your gift recipient’s tech brand loyalties. Giving gadgets doesn’t have to mean big-ticket commitment items like an iPad Mini; think small, affordable — and fun too. See Board Game Geek’s 2012 Gift Guide, for another affordable option. (By the way: The Star Wars line also comes in cookie cutters.)

11. But DON’T interpret “electronics” TOO loosely.

If you see an unusual gadget that makes you think instantly of a friend or family member, that’s great. But please do not buy useless garbage for a “friend” simply because the item in question requires batteries and your “friend” is “hard to shop for.” People who are hard to shop for get boring gift cards for being boring. Sorry!

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