Gift Giving Self-Help Advice

Written by Rick Doble

Practical advice on gift-giving and how to make it easier on the giver and the recipient.

You spend time carefully picking out a sweater for Uncle Simon and mail it in plenty of time for the holidays, yet when you call him on that special day to see how he liked it, you sense a bit of hesitation. 

"Yes, it's wonderful," he says, "but ..." 

Uncle Simon wants a different style, or color. Maybe he wants something else. You tread back to the store, check out the possibilities, call him back, describe the choices and he finally he decides. 

He mails the first sweater back to you, you dig out the receipt, exchange the gift, mail the new one, call him and he tells you how great it is, but you know deep down it's still not right. 

As families and friends move father apart, for career or other reasons, many of us are buying more gifts that need to be shipped to distant places - a nightmare when something goes wrong. There must be a better way. 

There is, it's simple and it's not new. It's the old-fashioned, mail-order company. Most of these are online these days, so you can surf the sites and find what you want, but you can also get catalogs in the mail and shop at your leisure with a cup of hot chocolate in your favorite armchair 

Now if Uncle Simon wants to change color or style or find something else, he can then browse through the electronic or paper catalog and pick what he wants. In some cases, he can even make the exchange himself. A lot less hassle for everyone. 

And to make it easier, some companies are providing special receipts that have the date of the purchase and the items bought, but not the price. So you escape the chore of making the exchange and the price you paid remains your secret. 

But be careful with any exchange after the holiday. Many items are marked down after the holidays, so you must ensure that the person making the exchange gets a credit that matches the price that was paid. The clerk may have to look up the price charged on the day the gift was purchased.

Rick Doble is editor and publisher of

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