How To Buy The Perfect Gift

By Jack Newcombe

September 20, 2012 4 min read

The Sunset Strip is one of the most famous parts of Los Angeles.

Located in the middle of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, the Strip, as locals call it, is full of bars, restaurants and famous music venues, such as the Whisky a Go Go, the House of Blues and The Roxy Theatre. Littered with legendary spots such as The Viper Room -- the Hollywood club where River Phoenix overdosed on cocaine and heroin -- the Strip is full of character in what some might call an otherwise vapid city. However, one of the most iconic pieces of the Strip isn't even there anymore.

For 17 years, the 70-foot Marlboro Man billboard towered over drivers on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Marmont Lane. Like most billboards, the purpose of the Strip's Marlboro Man was to familiarize drivers with the brand. The only problem was that the brand that was being promoted made cigarettes, and cigarettes can cause cancer, and cancer can kill people.

This became such an issue that in 1999, Marlboro was forced to take down the billboard as part of a lawsuit settlement, but the 70-foot cowboy was not the only causality.

Recently, tobacco companies have been hammered with lawsuits and regulations disallowing advertisements (such as giant billboards) and even going so far as to put "smoking kills" or pictures of cancerous organs on the actual cigarette packaging in hopes that such tactics will deter smokers from buying cigarettes.

For the most part, smokers are going to smoke even if they are reminded on the packaging that the behavior in which they are partaking can kill them, because they are addicted. Their bodies have a chemical dependency to nicotine; they crave tobacco. And as a result, they buy cigarettes -- no matter what. So giving cigarettes to a smoker should be a good gift, but it's not.

Forget about the potentially questionable morality about buying someone cigarettes; that's unimportant. What is important is that a smoker would buy the cigarettes either way, so giving the gift of cigarettes really isn't thoughtful.

One flaw in this argument is the fact that buying a smoker cigarettes helps financially; the smoker gets to save a couple of bucks on cigarettes that he would otherwise purchase.

But gift giving isn't about logic. Logically, the smoker is saving money, but emotionally, giving a smoker cigarettes is lazy and unthoughtful.

The best type of gift is something that a person wants but would never buy for himself.

This notion extends beyond carcinogenic products. If someone you're buying for loves a specific brand of tie or shoes and has a closet full of them, then adding to his collection isn't all that thoughtful. The key is to find out what the gift getter really wants but is unwilling to purchase for an unknown reason.

One common misconception is that these gifts are too expensive to purchase and that's the reason people don't buy certain things that they want. That is certainly the case in a lot of instances. I would love a Ferrari but am not holding my breath the next time Secret Santa rolls around.

The key -- and this is difficult -- is to find an area of the giftee's life that he has an interest in but isn't totally ready to pull the trigger on. The only advice for the gifter would be to listen.

Maybe your mom mentions that she would like to do a 5k this year; buy her running shoes. Maybe your husband says that he wants to take up surfing; buy him board shorts. Maybe your friend tells you that she loves the Houston Astros; buy her tickets.

People are better at giving clues than we think. It's our job as gift givers to listen and pick up on those clues. Oftentimes, as we rack our brain trying to come up with a gift for the person who has everything, we miss the obvious potential gifts. Those perfect gifts could be staring us in the face like a 70-foot cowboy.

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