Protecting The Perfect Gift

By Catherine McNulty

October 21, 2011 5 min read

The perfect gift -- it is an elusive beast you may spend every day of the holiday season stalking. Think of the time you are going to have to put into this endeavor; you'll have to decide what the perfect gift is depending on the person you are shopping for, comparison shop for the best price, and make the effort to get it or have it delivered. So with all the trouble you are going through, what if the perfect gift doesn't withstand the rigors of use?

More often than not, the perfect gift nowadays will be something electronic; MP3 players, cellphones, computers, e-readers and video game consoles all top consumers' most wanted lists. And electronics tend to break down at the most inopportune moments. Odds are that unless something is incredibly shoddily made, it won't break the day it is given, but with technology advancing at such a rapid pace, certain electronic items (e.g., cellphones and MP3 players) are rarely built to last longer than a few years. What can you do to ensure the recipient of your perfect gift will be able to enjoy it for more than a season?

As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Consider the person you're buying for. Obviously, once you give someone something, it is his or her responsibility, but if this person is someone whose storage system is "leave something where it drops," then you may want to consider buying a protective case or an extended warranty. Padded cases for transport are good investments for laptops. Both iPods and iPads have tons of protective casings to choose from; entire companies have been built around creating them.

Another measure of prevention is to make sure the person knows how to use the device properly. Shutting things off correctly, storing electronics out of the sun and cleaning them regularly will help to extend the life of your gift. This is especially true of gaming consoles, which often are stored in dusty areas.

Definitely check out warranties and insurance on the item. Not every warranty will be worth it, but part of researching any big purchase should include researching the extras. After all, accidents happen, and having a warranty or insurance can keep an accident from becoming a catastrophe. Keep all paperwork that comes with your gift, and make sure to have access to any registration or serial numbers in case a crisis arises.

What if you're giving something less tangible, such as software or a media download? You might want to check out the tech support options in advance. Computers crash all the time, and when something goes wrong is usually not the moment that people think most clearly. Having a phone number, email address or even the URL of a website with basic troubleshooting advice could save a lot of frustration. Register any software if that option is available; some companies only offer tech support to registered users.

Perhaps your tastes don't run to the digital; that doesn't mean you should skimp on the safeguarding. What if you are giving your beloved a piece of jewelry? Definitely check out insuring it, and though it's not quite romantic, jewelry cleaner makes a great stocking stuffer. Think about it; if someone wears a particular piece day in and day out, there's a lot of debris (and dead skin!) that can build up. Certain jewels, such as pearls, are extremely delicate. The oils on human skin can degrade pearls over time, so proper care is a must.

If you're buying secondhand, a certificate of authenticity should accompany the piece. That goes for antiques, as well as jewelry pieces.

If all of this has you considering handing out gift cards this holiday season, consider how much more thoughtful it is to buy someone an actual gift. It's also so much more fun to unwrap a physical present versus opening an envelope. But if you can't be swayed from the plastic cards, check to see whether the card can be registered for insurance against theft or loss. That's right; even certain gift cards can be safeguarded.

Ultimately, what you give is meant to be used and enjoyed. That's the point of giving a gift, after all. But a few measures of prevention will ensure that your gift will be thoroughly enjoyed for quite some time.

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