My brother came home yesterday and he brought me a belated birthday gift.
It's a sweet gesture, for sure—he even got the author to sign the book for me with a personalized message—but... I'm almost certainly never going to read it. I read lots of books, but never pulp fiction; the only books I find worth my time are either educational or culturally significant (and enjoyable, of course). This book, as far as I can tell, does not tick any of those boxes. I might have given it a shot if it weren't for the horror, but considering the way The Bell Jar made me want to give up on life I think I should just leave this book be.
I wrote a post a while ago about how much I loved being able to get my 'coffee friends' coffee as a safe gift/souvenir that generated some discussion on Hacker News. Naturally, Hacker News being the place it is, people showed me the error in my ways:
As somebody who has been “that coffee friend” and received far too many coffee-related gifts for years (including many pounds of stale, burnt beans), I wish people wouldn’t do this.
If I’m super into topic X and you’re not, there’s a good chance whatever you get will either not be of interest (e.g. bad beans) or just redundant (I can only use so many mugs or grinders).
Obviously the thought is always appreciated, and gift buying can be hard, I get it. But receiving a gift also creates an obligation to at least perform enjoyment of the gift and now it’s another thing I have to own (consumables at least are temporary if you’re not into them, so that helps).
There’s a sweet spot in gift giving of looking for something the receiver is into and will want (but not already have) but also something the giver is knowledgeable enough to make an informed decision on. So, again, the thought is always appreciated, but if the giver can’t operate a k-cup maybe leave your coffee snob friends to buy their own beans :).
I'm grateful for all the commenters teaching me a thing or two from their own experiences. Looking back, I don't know how I overlooked such a big hole in my logic. Since I read a lot, I get books all the time as gifts. Sometimes friends get it right, either from sheer luck or careful observation of my reading habits—I'm looking forward to reading the Zadie Smith book I got last week—but other times they don't.
Gifts that miss the mark break my heart, not only because they can serve as painful reminders of how little people actually know me, but more so because someone went out of their way to spend money and time on me in a way I can't appreciate. Oftentimes a bad gift somehow makes me feel worse than no gift at all. I get it, though; gift giving is difficult enough as is. The back and forth nature of the HN thread sums it up:
gnarcoregrizz: I've heard the advice to give a gift of something that you like, because people are bound to be disappointed if you try to cater to their interest. I'm into cycling, and I've received many cycling-related gifts, many of which I unfortunately haven't used. Meanwhile, I've had a few products that I'm really fond of that I've received good feedback about. A few examples are tools, flashlights, and one which was received exceptionally well - a nice pair of binoculars. It turns out the recipient uses their nice binoculars all the time now. I always like receiving those random type gifts as well.
switchbak: I've had the opposite experience a lot: I give a fancy niche thing, and get confused looks because they don't understand its value. Then again much of my family is terrible at graciously receiving gifts!
I can see both sides. Sometimes it can be impossible to get a hobbyist a good gift they haven't already gotten themselves. Yet frankly I'm not sure many of my friends would want a gift from one of my niche hobbies. These last two comments sum up my takeaways from the whole ordeal:
Perhaps the idea of the submitted article can be amended to account for your experience.
If a person has a friend that is into coffee, that's great news because you know your friend has a clear interest, but additional research is needed to make sure the gift is high-quality and redundant. Maybe 15-20 minutes of research on a specialty forum like r/coffee (at least the wiki) or a reputable YouTube channel (like James Hoffmann's) can help the gift-giver understand how to find quality beans (often light-to-medium from a smaller reputable roaster). If there's uncertainty, one can either directly ask the friend or make observations.
In the end, perhaps the best gift isn't so much the coffee beans per se, but the thoughtfulness you take in the person's hobby as you can then develop a shared interest.
I really wish the tradition of grown people giving each other gifts would disappear. We don’t need more stuff to clutter our lives and it’s utterly tragic how we destroy our world just to produce stuff that just might make people marginally happier in a few fleeting moments.
Which are the following:
- Try your best to make thoughtful observations. Or just ask the person and/or their friends outright for ideas.
- If you can't think of a good gift, that's okay! I don't believe well-adjusted adults should ever hold it against someone for not getting them a gift or even forgetting the day. No gift is often better than a bad gift.