Thanksgiving marks the start of the traditional holiday gift-buying season.
Some say it’s madness.
Some say it’s fondness—for friends, families, co-workers, baby sitters, mail carriers, teachers, hairdressers, newspaper delivery people and everyone else we want—or feel compelled—to remember with a present.
Newspaper columnist Ron Lieber thought he had the solution--"a grand alternative that would allow everyone to start the next year with at least one great present and a sense of spiritual uplift"—but he was surprised at just how reluctant we are to change our gift-giving patterns.
Lieber based his extreme makeover on the alternative gift-giving model of ECHOage.com, a web company started last year by two mothers trying to "stop the madness around children’s birthday parties."
Gift-givers send the amount of money they would have spent on a birthday present to ECHOage. The company takes a service fee and then splits the rest of the money—one half goes to a charity chosen by the birthday child; the other half goes to the child, who can buy something he or she really wants.
But when Lieber suggested using the same model for the holidays, the discussion of giving was met with many a misgiving. There were outright objections from people unwilling to change the way they’ve exchanged gifts for decades. Others chafed at the imposition of a blanket plan, and some at the "relentless practicality" of the approach.
The trick, Lieber concluded, "is to ask carefully, so as not to make others feel greedy if they still want a big pile of gifts." But there was one particular idea that repeatedly stood out for him: "I was touched by the number of people who suggested extending the Thanksgiving spirit through the end of the holiday season this year. Their recommended gift? A thank-you note."
Tell us what you think: What’s your idea of responsible holiday gift giving?