Editorial: You really shouldn't have

19:20, Jan 06 2013

An Invercargill resident, never mind who, once received a present from his parents.

It was only out of abundant love for the donors that he repressed the instinct to recoil and was even able to muster a wan smile and, as words failed him, make "H'm" sound more or less appreciative.

It was a jug or, rather, at some very early stage in the manufacturing process it had a probably been a jug. This world has entire rococo cathedrals that are bedecked in less ornamentation.

It spent about a year locked away, radiating bad taste into the darkness of a cupboard above the hot-water cylinder.

Then it inexplicably found its way in a box of objects destined for a charitable thrift shop, the management of which had the commercial sense to pass it on to a nearby antique emporium instead.

There being no accounting for taste, the monstrosity went on sale in the front window with a price tag that was, in the circumstances, disconcerting.


That is when it dawned upon the original recipient that his generous parents might pass the shop and recognise it. (Trust us, you could notice the wretched thing from the other side of the street.)

Then a worse thought occurred. What if, instead of joining the dots, the parents instead stopped outside the antique shop and were struck by the sense that, by some freakishly lucky chance, they had stumbled upon a second, identical example of this fine work, and so bought it with their hard-earned money, and once again made a present of it in the belief that it would form a matching set?

The question becomes to what extent was the son's subsequent period of discomfort deserved? Was this, in some measure, karmic penalty for being an ingrate?

We say no. It was more a case of failing to predict potential pitfalls. Similarly, we decline to see anything shameful in yesterday's story that more than 20,000 items had landed on Trade Me since Christmas lunchtime, as people offloaded more than a few unwanted presents.

There are alternatives, such as giving them to a third party who may be more likely to appreciate them, or donating them to charity, none of which should be scorned.

After all, what's the alternative? Hanging on to something truly unwanted? That is surely the last thing the giver would have intended.

For one thing, it would put more pressure on the process of selecting a gift in the first place, if you believed that even if the recipient hated it, they would hang on to it, perhaps with that tincture of regret or even faint resentment.

Such a scenario is surely a recipe for people to play it tediously safe with presents.

It is surely a more generous climate all round if it is understood that if a recipient doesn't exactly embrace the present itself, he or she can have the benefit, compensation or satisfaction of passing it on to someone who will or at least might.

There is nothing wrong with that, although, in some cases, there is such a thing as a decent interval, perhaps as much as a year, to guard against too-hasty a rejection.

Not that the recipient of the jug has for a moment reconsidered. He still wouldn't have the thing in his house.

The Southland Times