How to shop for those who seem un-shoppable


Whether it’s your parents, weird uncle, or the co-worker who never seems to talk about himself, we all seem to have at least one person on our holiday shopping list who is impossible to buy for.

What should you get for someone like this? How do you even go about thinking of something to get them? What if the person you are shopping for celebrates a different holiday than you?

While the task of finding the perfect gift may seem daunting at first, it is possible that the decision may be simplified by knowing the personality and sense of humor of the person you’re giving the gift to.

“First, I try to evaluate if they like funny gifts or not,” Danielle McCulley, senior in fine arts and florist at Acme Gift, located at 1227 Moro St., said. “People have different senses of humor, so if you can figure out if they’re going to like something quirky or not, that’s really helpful.”

For many people, the reason someone is difficult to shop for is because of a lack of familiarity with each other. This could cause hesitation when considering a humorous present, because their sense of humor may be different from yours. It could make a gift seem inconsiderate or even offensive. So what do you get when shopping for someone whose personality is relatively unknown?

One possibility is to think of that person’s daily schedule or occupation.

“[If a humorous gift wouldn’t work], I would go for something more practical that they can use,” McCulley said. “Stationery or journals or something else like that. Something practical or useful.”

This idea was echoed by Henry Falk, sophomore in construction science and management.

“I like to think of something they’re actually going to use or enjoy having,” Falk said.

Falk said he has someone on his annual list who is difficult to shop for.

Another option is to add a personal touch to your gift.

“I like to make stuff,” McCulley said. “I really like making cards or different things like that. I want to make a gift that has a personal note with it.”

Adding a personal touch can make your gifts seem more heartfelt, creating more impact with the person receiving the gift.

Questions about what to get someone can extend beyond whether they will like one gift over another. One holiday predicament could be buying a present for someone who celebrates a different holiday than you. Would it be offensive to get a Christmas gift for someone who celebrates Hanukkah or Kwanza for example?

“If the goal of the gift is to show someone that you care about them, I would focus the gift on the relationship you have with that person instead of on the holiday,” Tosha Sampson-Choma, visiting assistant professor in American ethnic studies, said. “I would say something like, ‘I wanted to get you a gift to show you how important you are to me and how much I care about you.’”

There are, however, some gifts that should be avoided in these types of situations.

“[I would avoid] stereotypical kinds of gifts, things that might come across as offensive,” Sampson-Choma said. “When I’m shopping, I tend to focus more on the person and what they like.”

Throughout the process of trying to figure how to shop for those who seem to be un-shoppable, there an old expression that comes to mind — it’s the thought that counts.

So don’t worry about finding the “perfect gift,” but instead focus on trying to find a way to show appreciation.

“[I shop for] something that expresses some form of gratitude,” Falk said. “It doesn’t have to be super special, but it at least shows thought and effort have been put in to it.”