I have a friend who recently got engaged. I did send him my deepest condolences, but he would have none of it, because he was delusional with happiness. This delusion can often be very dangerous. I tried to warn him, but it turns out that I was too late, as he had made an irreversible and incredible mistake. As an engagement gift to his fiancee, he bought her a Samsung Galaxy S II phone.
Big, BIG mistake.
People inexperienced in the art of gifting will often make serious mistakes, but a blunder of this scale is going to haunt him a lifetime. To understand why this is a massive mistake, read on.
You see, the ritual of gift giving is really an exercise in expectations management. The main problem with gifting is expectations escalation – If you give a gift of a certain value to your better half, then the expectation of a gift of greater value is automatically generated for the next year, which is a spiral that can only end in pain and suffering. Similar to Moore’s law in the field of computers that says that processing power doubles every 18 months, I have invented The Pointless Law of Gift Management, which states that “The expectations of the value of a gift doubles every year”. If the expectations are not actively managed, then the they can quickly escalate into unmanageable levels, resulting in the aforementioned pain and suffering.
Let us illustrate this with the example of my friend, who bought the Galaxy S II phone. He bought this as an engagement gift, which will raise the expectations of a wedding gift to a trip for two to Greece. If that is the wedding gift, then the first anniversary gift will have to be a diamond necklace, which will require the 2nd anniversary gift to be a trip on a private jet. By the time the 3rd anniversary comes around, my friend will need to buy Sri Lanka and gift it to his fiancee for her expectations to be met. I don’t think he’s going to be able to buy Sri Lanka, at which point the expectations will come crashing down, resulting in a lot of pain and suffering for my friend.
But don’t worry, my fellow compatriots. I have figured out a way out of this conundrum. The key is the first gift. It has to be cheap enough, so that the increase in expectations of the value will be offset by inflation, resulting in the same real value for the gift for eternity. Clever, eh?
I have taken my own advice in this area. The first gift I bought The Girlfriend was a keychain. Which was followed by a Masala Dosa the next year, followed up with the thoughtful gift of a Nickname the next year and so on. As you can see, The Wife’s expectations of gift are so lowered, that for the next year, even if I buy her a litre of petrol for her car, she’ll be very pleased with me.
Coming back to my friend – There’s no real way out for him. His only option is to cut his losses, and take the hit of pain and suffering right now, so that the expectations for the rest of his life can be managed properly. I would recommend that he gift her half-a-bar of snickers as a wedding present, which will reset her expectations back to a manageable level. Otherwise, he’s looking at a painful 3rd anniversary.