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Gifts: Success Stories and Suggestions...and Cautionary Tales

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Today I happen to be brainstorming ideas for a gift...or trying to...and realized we could probably all use a space to swap stories about the gifts that went wrong and the ones that were oh so right.

Wrong: Those weird desk-cluttering doodads they sell for 10 bucks at most book stores. I had an extremely well-meaning couple give me some metal man on posts once, the kind of thing you tap once and it spins for infinity....only his leg was bent so he would only spin four times and then collide with the bars beneath him and fall off. Very annoying. Plus, I'm great at amassing my own clutter. Why buy me more?

Scented anything - candles, body butter, perfume, etc. Ladies usually are particular about what scented products they enjoy and will always try to pretend to like the one you bought them at first because they can't help but feel uneasy about not having bought it themselves, even if it's the brand they claimed to like. Folks just prefer picking smelly stuff up themselves, I think.

Spa treatments - at least for the people I know! Some folks hate the nudity and don't find strange surroundings comfortable.

Right: Cinema Gift cards. Always useful. A touch impersonal, though.

Digital transfers of home movies are usually a great surprise. But it takes planning, time and some research.

An outing: lunch at a restaurant, drinks at a bar, picnic by a stream, a concert under the stars... again, requires planning and a knowledge of the other person's tastes, but can prove more fulfilling and fun than a boxed item. 

 

What lessons have you learned about gift-giving?

Edited by DisneyBoy
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I would say that I've learned that how you give the gift can mean as much or more than what you give.

Last Christmas, I bought my brother a gift that was backordered knowing there was almost no chance it would show up in time.  But I knew he'd like it more than anything else I could come up with so I did it anyways.  Then I went on shopping spree to buy clues to the gift because wrapping a picture is lazy and disappointing. Did you know that the Muppets sing Bohemian Rhapsody?  They do, but I digress.  Those not clued in spent a decent amount of time surfing on their phone trying to guess.  Because I'm evil, no clues and if he didn't guess then he was waiting for it to come in the mail; but it was a fun diversion as we were cooking dinner and cleaning up. 

This part, in retrospect, could have gone horribly wrong.  He found it but didn't think it was what I got him but was talking about how cool it was and that it would have been awesome if I'd gotten it.  Then I had to start hinting. 

What was interesting is that a bunch of people also were dealing with it being backordered and complaining in their reviews about it not arriving in time ruining Christmas.  We had more fun because it wasn't there.

For those with music lovers in their life: Electric Ukulele made from an Oil Can or the Guitar version for the bigger spenders.

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If I didn't have to work for a living, I would work mostly at painting and drawing. 
Currently I'm dealing with chemotherapy, and 2 well-meaning coworkers bought me coloring books and not-art-grade colored pencils. I appreciate the thought, but hope to re-gift them to a non-artist. 

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I tend to give consumables - good coffee or teas, a bottle of champagne, special snacks the person likes.  Or Harry & David.  I'm not a fan of the doodads myself, so I don't want to impose that on another person unless I know with 100% confidence it is something they like or would buy for themselves.  I also give gift cards to bookstores - always appreciated in my group.  And since quite a few of us frequent the same used bookstore, that is a safe bet for those local.

My son's first item on his Christmas or birthday list since he could make one was always a red t-shirt.  It is the first thing he would suggest as a baby gift for our friends and family.  He's 21 now and if I had to guess how many red shirts he has (t-shirts, polo, pullovers, etc...) I would guesstimate 25.

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1 hour ago, DeLurker said:

...so I don't want to impose that on another person unless I know with 100% confidence it is something they like or would buy for themselves....

My son's first item on his Christmas or birthday list since he could make one was always a red t-shirt.  It is the first thing he would suggest as a baby gift for our friends and family.  He's 21 now and if I had to guess how many red shirts he has (t-shirts, polo, pullovers, etc...) I would guesstimate 25.

Does he really wear/like them? Or is he just a really great kid/guy who doesn't want to stress out his mom or anyone else over what to get him?

Edited by shapeshifter

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He actually does wear them - all the time.  At my house we separate clothes into whites/lights, colors and reds.

It is a default gift that a lot of relatives use for him - he has very few, but extremely specific interests which can be quite hard to find and pricey.  But he genuinely feels like getting a red shirt for a gift is an awesome gift.

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I have encountered those who are extremely picky and those who have nothing to suggest when asked or who have very few hobbies or side interests. For me, those are the two hardest types of people to shop for.

Food is good sometimes, but for a special occasion you want to bring something that they can keep.

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4 hours ago, DeLurker said:

He actually does wear them - all the time.  At my house we separate clothes into whites/lights, colors and reds.

It is a default gift that a lot of relatives use for him - he has very few, but extremely specific interests which can be quite hard to find and pricey.  But he genuinely feels like getting a red shirt for a gift is an awesome gift.

AWWW!   we have the same kid!!

My son has always loved red, and wore red shirts most of his childhood.   When we visited colleges,  the school he ended up choosing  has red as a school color and Friday was "wear your red"  day - to show school spirit.  We went on a Friday, and seeing a campus full of red t-shirts made him feel right at home. 

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Gifts -  gourmet coffee, chocolates, or a bottle of wine are good gifts. Especially around the holidays. If people don't want to consume it themselves, they can serve it to guests.   I always get my dad treats like that, because he last thing he needs is anything that clutters up his house.  

the best gift to give parents/grandparents, that's very inexpensive -  a "now/Then"  photo set.   You find a photo of yourself, or you and siblings  from younger years.   Re-create the photo as adults, the same pose, setting, and similar clothes.  put both photos in a frame together. 

I just got one like that from my son - a photo of him as a toddler on his first bicycle -  and one from now on his motorcycle (and @DeLurker, red shirts in both photos)  same pose, same goofy grin, in front of our driveway.   My favorite gift ever.

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I also like for gifts to have special meaning...but I think I often overdo those. Like, every gift can't be a tearjerker, right?

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There's nothing better than getting a gift that shows the giver just "gets" you.  My best friend and I tend to gather up little things throughout the year that we think the other would like, and opening her gift is a high point of my Christmas. A box full of little and big things, each of them uniquely suited to me, things I didn't even know I wanted. 

On the other hand, people who have known me since birth have given me things that made me think "Have you met me?"  

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It's a wonderful feeling when you find something that is the perfect gift for someone you know, or you receive a gift from someone and the gift clearly indicates that this person really, truly understands you. To this day, I have fond memories of my first serious boyfriend, who had the knack of finding items he knew I would treasure. That's an intuitive ability that no other romantic partner has had since then. I have experienced several times the pleasure of seeing someone light up because I gave him/her something unexpected but desired.

That said, at this point in my life I pretty much loathe giving and receiving gifts. I was thrilled when both of my kids got old enough to prefer cash that they could use to find themselves something they really wanted. My siblings and I quit exchanging gifts around 10 years ago because a) it seemed stupid to give each other crap we didn't really need that would just end up as clutter, and b) we all hate shopping. Nor do I see the point of the holiday gift exchange at work. Fortunately, for the last several years where I work has opted to donate gifts to needy families rather than exchange gifts between colleagues. If I absolutely do feel compelled to give a gift to someone, my go-to is a gift card for a bookstore/restaurant or something similar depending on what the person prefers. The only exception is that I purchase actual gifts for my grandson because he is a small child who is thrilled by any kind of toy/educational game. Even for that, though, I sometimes feel that I am cheating because I buy the items from amazon and let amazon deal with the packaging and paperwork to ship them overseas. But, hey, i spent hours filtering through items online to find something age-appropriate, not too bulky, and eligible for global shipping. That equals out to going to the mall or toy store and dealing with hordes of people fighting for some damn toy, right? Okay, that's my rationalization and I'm sticking to it.

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 Be careful of ordering via phone a present for someone else. More than once, I've had the order shipped to the intended giftee- with the RECEIPT included.  :angry:

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Book, online shopping seems ideal but I don't think I've ever done it for another person. I feel bad about the footprint shipping creates, and like to support local merchants if I can. Plus there's the danger of breakage during shipping, or of defects. For shipping globally, though, it probably makes a lot of sense.

I'm really becoming more and more fond of donating time and goods during the holidays. Never felt too right about gift cards in general, though I like receiving them.

Edited by DisneyBoy

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Most people on my nondenominational winter holiday gift list get a basket of homemade treats.  It's exhausting, and every year I say I won't do it again, but the protests are loud....  

Those are the times when a gift card sounds great. But that's really just bestowing a sponsored errand.

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I like receiving gift cards because it's like getting the gift of shopping. (I like to shop and rarely do it for myself since having a child. If you don't like to shop, the gift card is not so good.)

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If you don't like to shop, the gift card is not so good

Even one who likes to shop might prefer to choose where to shop.

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Yeah. I'm not shy about letting people know my favorite local stores. I do hate it when I get gift cards for stores we don't have in our small town. You can shop online, of course, but I don't buy clothes I can't try on.

We once received a movie gift card from my husband's uncle. We never used it because we don't have that chain here. We would have had to drive at least an hour to use them, which would have added a meal cost and gas, which we could not easily afford at the time.

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When I do give gift cards, I make sure that it is to a place that the recipient specifically likes and that is in their local area, because it would be seriously annoying to get a gift card for a movie, restaurant, bookstore chain, etc. that could not be used without driving an hour or two to reach. That falls into the category of thoughtless gifts. One of the reasons I dislike gift exchanges at work is that if you draw names, you often get stuck buying a gift for someone whose preferences you don't know. So, if I buy a gift card for a bookstore, I know in advance that the person likes reading, likes that specific bookstore, and has easy access to that bookstore.

With the global shipping, for a while I would go buy stuff locally and then ship it. However, that entails packaging it, doing the declaration forms that are required for overseas shipping (listing every type of item, quantity, and value, etc.), and then paying what seemed like a very high rate for shipping. My son lets me know in general terms what to get as gifts for my grandson, or if I see something that might work, I ask him about it before purchasing. What sold me on using amazon is that when you search for toys or whatever, there is a filter function so it will display only items that are eligible for global shipping, so there's not the disappointment of finding something great and then learning that I would have to have it shipped to me, then turn around and ship it overseas. And the shipping prices for overseas are generally lower than what I would pay as an individual, so from my perspective, it's the best solution. I recently used amazon as well to send a housewarming gift to a friend who moved across country after the end of a long-term relationship and ended up not being able to take a lot of his kitchen stuff with him. For the two items I sent, they had the gift option available, where you can input text online for a note to enclose, and that ships without the receipt. Again, I found that useful because I did not have to go buy the item myself, package it, drive it to the post office, etc. We had chatted briefly about some of the items he needed for his new kitchen, so I knew in general the type of items he needed and knew him well enough to know what kind of material and style he would prefer. But I am also not shy about telling people, if I send you a gift and it is something you do not want/need, do not hesitate to exchange it for something else.

ETA: One of the reasons I began doing online shopping was that in general, I hate going to stores, malls, etc., and then for close to a year, I was not really supposed to drive, which limited my ability to do something I hate anyway. So for a while, if a gift was going to get sent to anyone, it was going to come from an online source. And having gotten used to that convenience, I prefer it even though, again, I do very little actual gift shopping for anyone.

Edited by BookWoman56
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I am pretty easy to please with gift-givings.

 

I don't mind trinkets (though they do cause clutter) and I love almost all retail stores in my area, so don't mind gift cards.  I just had my 30th birthday and I must say my two favorite gifts couldn't have been more different.

 

My 7 year old nephew bought me a box of legos - avengers themed. It may sound like a weird gift for a 30 year old woman, but considering my lovely collection of legos and my love of all things superheroes/comics it was one of the best gifts ever!

 

My sister took me to see Joseph and the Amazing technicolor dreamcoat, along with dinner and breakfast at an awesome hotel.  It was magical!

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For anyone who hesitates to buy a gift card because the chain involved might not have a location in the intended recipient's location, you could always purchase gift cards "sponsored" (or whatever the correct term is) by major credit card companies (Visa, etc.). You might have to get those through a local bank though. There's also gift cards to amazon.com, & you can also--of course--use gift cards for store chains not in the recipient's area (like, perhaps, See's Candies) as payment for items bought through the chain's website. But I have the feeling pretty much everyone here may have been aware of those things.

I mostly just came here to share this gifting meme (I guess that's what it is), which shows up periodically on my Twitter feed as I follow the Twitter feed it comes from. And apologies to anyone who may not like the phrase "life (or anything else) hacks".

It suggests that, if you're having trouble finding the perfect gift for someone you should, instead, get them *3 small things*: 1 serious thing, 1 "jokey" thing, & 1 homemade thing. I hope this might help someone, eventually.

http://1000lifehacks.com/post/66908970686

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Mr. Mimi recently used a gift card to apply that sticky film to a phone to keep it from getting all scratched up, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't the intended purpose...

I think for the most part, folks I know have enough stuff. Unless I'm sure they want something, I like to give things that are consumable, or take up virtually no space. (Because who needs clutter, right?) For Valentines' one year, because Mr. Mimi really enjoys Calvin and Hobbes, I spent a silly amount of time going through old Calvin and Hobbes books, selected a few panels and with the help of photoshop, piecemealed them together with a new text (out of old ones) to create a new cartoon, because he always said what a shame it was that there were no more new ones. This year he gave me tickets to the circus for my birthday. No clutter, just a few more happy wrinkles. 

For a friend's housewarming party, I made a piece of artwork out of an object he has the patent for, which turned out nicely. Other than that, I like giving edible gift baskets - like all the ingredients you need to cook an Italian or Chinese meal. 

Edited by krimimimi
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Reading that, I realized I left out a crucial piece of information. Apparently because I used bits and pieces of old captioning, so the handwriting was down pat, and did *such* a magnificent job, I managed to make it actually look like an old cartoon. (The simple truth is you don't remember them all, you just remember the style and the tenor.) So he initially wondered *why* I would have photocopied a cartoon for him. lol. Knowing me, he figured it out soon enough, but not before he voiced that initial thought....

Ever since, he just gets a bottle of single malt. But: still a consumable. (I literally drive him to drink.)

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On 5/30/2016 at 4:41 PM, Quof said:

Even one who likes to shop might prefer to choose where to shop.

So, basically, what you're saying is that a Home Depot or Lowe's card wouldn't work for someone who isn't much of a handyman or into home improvement, for example?

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Mr. Mimi really enjoys Calvin and Hobbes, I spent a silly amount of time going through old Calvin and Hobbes books, selected a few panels and with the help of photoshop, piecemealed them together with a new text (out of old ones) to create a new cartoon, because he always said what a shame it was that there were no more new ones.

What a sweet idea! Yeah, you definitely can't do those types of time-consuming gifts all the time but it can be a really special thing every now and again.

I just recently had a bit of a gift fall through on me at the last minute. It was something really cool and unique that I was prepping with the help of another friend when we just realized there would be no time the week of the birthday to actually pull it together. I ended up showing up late to the dinner because I stopped off at a store and bought a pair of twin glasses that the birthday girl would hopefully like because they featured two of her favorite actors. Definitely a kitzchy gift, but one I thought she would appreciate. I packaged it nicely and make sure it said it was from me and our other friend who was also attending. To my frustration, she ended up later commenting on how angry she was that I had been so late for the dinner (even after I had apologized and kept her abreast of my delay in arriving) and then seemed unimpressed that me and my friend could only come up with that gift when we put our heads together. Sorry. It's times like that that the whole gift-giving experience feels really annoying. Hopefully next year when we finally get that special gift together she will eat her words and feel stupid.

It is so important to be grateful for every gift people bring your way, no matter how silly it may seem. Only when I was very young was I critical of gifts and even then it only happened once or twice before I realized just how rude it was to scrutinize a present. Someone else has put effort into it and tried to make you happy. Unless it is something deeply offensive just say thanks and leave it at that.

Edited by DisneyBoy
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If yone's travelling abroad, it's not a smart idea to attempt to bring home a live plant or fruit as a gift no matter how rare and exotic because they'll get dumped into the garbage by Homeland Security in no time flat.

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One caution about those bank gift cards (like VISA, or shopping mall cards) -- unless things have changed, they may begin losing money after several months. We used to buy Simon Mall gift cards for using online (figuring it's safer than giving credit card info). Checking the balance on an old card one day, I discovered that because it had not been used in a few months, it no longer had any money on it. They had expiration dates, too, so you could also lose money that way. Check the card for fine print on the back that tells you "never expires, no fees" or something like that.

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That happened to me too.

I am stunned to announce that I no longer want gifts.  I already have enough stuff.  If you want to celebrate, take me to lunch or a show.

I must be getting old because I was a greedy child.

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OK, so the question I have is what thing (or kind of thing) would make you happy to receive?  Not something super lust worthy, just an item that would be appreciated?  A why would be helpful too.

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Like I said, what I 'd like is your time.  Lunch is easiest but if someone offered to give me a ride to the airport or the eye doctor when my eyes are dilated, I'd love them forever.

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Help-related gifts like those are great, but in terms of packages... I always appreciate something related to my tastes. Gift certificates can be good, but so can an item more in my wheelhouse.

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I'm at the point where I prefer something edible.  It may come to live around my hips but at least it won't be gathering dust around my house.

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On ‎10‎/‎15‎/‎2016 at 1:18 PM, Blergh said:

If yone's travelling abroad, it's not a smart idea to attempt to bring home a live plant or fruit as a gift no matter how rare and exotic because they'll get dumped into the garbage by Homeland Security in no time flat.

But it is always easier to find gifts when abroad.  I have a mental block when shopping for something local because 'if you they wanted it, they'd have bought it'.  But when I used to travel for work, Christmas shopping would happen abroad and it was much easier by buying something the region is "famous" for.

Edited by ParadoxLost
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On ‎10‎/‎25‎/‎2016 at 10:26 AM, DeLurker said:

OK, so the question I have is what thing (or kind of thing) would make you happy to receive?  Not something super lust worthy, just an item that would be appreciated?  A why would be helpful too.

A gift card to a restaurant is nice, especially when there's one company that owns a number of restaurants and a GC can be used at any of them.  Like here, it's Lettuce Entertain You company.  Nationally, Darden restaurants have a bunch of options.  A Panera gift card is great.

Also - a bottle of wine, or  a liqueur,  or any kind of gourmet treat - something I wouldn't buy for myself at the grocery store.  Whole foods sells excellent boxed truffles around the holidays, but any nice chocolate is appreciated.   Because any of these is like a treat to something special, not just food.

Oh - a gift card to a local movie theater  - also because it's a treat.  Tickets to a play would be wonderful. 

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I used to give my friends gifts that they'd lament they wish they had throughout the year (a French Press was one). I stopped when I realized these gifts were just ending up as stuff and not being used. My mom does the same thing and it drives me batty.

Now we typically take the person out for dinner and drinks.

My circle quit exchanging friends gifts and donate in honor to a charity of our choice (or buy more gifts for Toys for Tots).

I've been invited to a couple weddings in Dec. Don't really want to go to either (most of my friends are already married, yay!). One is a work thing and I have to go. I think half their regi$try is in poor ta$te due to their life po$ition (fully furni$hed home, high level management for a future $pousal unit). I figured a $50 gift I got for $17 on sale from their registry was better than a $25 gift card.

The other wedding is for a former coworker and it's framed as a total gift grab. They're getting $25 to REI.

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On 10/25/2016 at 10:26 AM, DeLurker said:

OK, so the question I have is what thing (or kind of thing) would make you happy to receive?  Not something super lust worthy, just an item that would be appreciated?  A why would be helpful too.

Things that are useful or wanted the person would never buy for themself or always forget to get. I pinch pennies and one thing I really wanted for my birthday or in general is a cosmetics bag. I refuse to buy one because I remembered all the years of getting free ones so shelling out $ for one seemed dumb. Or a wallet I like many people am using a super old beat up lousy wallet. I won't buy one since mine still "works". Also I want a lorac pro pallet but won't buy one because I only buy makeup from Sephora and they don't carry lorac. 

Likewise my mom only buys drugstore makeup she won't splurge on that for herself even tho she can afford to. I get her nice beauty products sometimes to make her feel special. So basically what a good gift is in my opinion something the person wants or needs but won't get for whatever reason. 

I ended up buying a target cosmetics bag on clearance and it stinks I will have to suck it up and spend the $9-15 for a better one lol. 

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Remember when department stores would have holiday promotions where you got a huge ass make up set with a cosmetics purchase?  I got them at Burdines and Jordan Marsh (RIP to both), but they were as big as a notebook, had probably 20 different eye shadows, 3-4 blushes, 5 lipsticks and some cheap ass brushes.  This was probably in the 80s.

My friends and I always lusted after them, but had no money to buy pricey name brand cosmetics to get the gift with purchase.  It was a popular present we got from our moms or older sisters - they would buy the name brand stuff just for the gift which was than given to us (usually as a gift).

10 hours ago, Petunia13 said:

So basically what a good gift is in my opinion something the person wants or needs but won't get for whatever reason. 

This is what I try to do too, but sometimes just get stuck trying to think of what.

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On 5/24/2016 at 7:12 AM, DeLurker said:

Once again, I apologize for the quote box that won't go away. 

I'm still looking for a place that can put a logo on a garage clock for me. I've been looking for a couple of months now. I have found a hundred places that can put the words on for me but cant find any place that can do the full logo.    Does anyone know of such a place?   I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to go with just the words instead of the logo but I'm holding out as long as I can in the hope that I can do the whole thing.   Xmas is coming fast though so I can't wait much longer.  

It's getting so frustrating. 

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@Maharincess, I vaguely remember reading something here about a clock -- please refresh my memory. Are you looking for some kind of custom decal you can affix to the face of a ready-made clock, or do you want something more customized, like hand-etched?

If a decal-type thing will suffice, my suggestion is to do an online search for "vinyl wall art" -- it should give you higher quality than searching for "decal." I used a company to have a Bible verse printed that I applied to the wall of my 1st grade Sunday School room. I used a company that specializes in Christian themed text, but if I remember correctly, there are companies that produce art/logo type vinyl art.

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Even though I'm pretty anti-gift, I must say I LOVE getting greeting cards in the mail.  They're becoming a rare relic of another time!

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I went to Trader Joe's yesterday to pick up my brother's birthday gift - lots of coffee, some seasoning mixes he likes and Speculoos.  I already had gotten the priority mailer from the post office and just needed to fill it and drop it off.

The woman in front of me at check out had a small cinnamon whisk broom and I asked her where she got it.  Duhh -  it was right in front of me.  I said I was shipping this stuff off to my brother and I'll throw that in and the box will smell extra nice.  Coincidentally, her purchases were also for a package she was putting together for her brother.

I think from now on, I am going to try to find something that smells nice to go in packages too.

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I fill a box at Trader Joe's to ship as gifts as well.  Why didn't it occur to me to get the priority mailer from the post office first?  Thanks, DeLurker.  I'm undecided about the scented enclosure though because I don't want the foods I'm sending that do not benefit from a cinnamon scent to be "infected".

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Are you talking about a plastic bubble wrap pouch or large envelope thingie that ya stick the box in and it's a flat rate? 

I have to send a holiday gift and doesn't wanna spend much. All over gifts I hand deliver. I live in the same town as my mother and customers etc. 

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They have a couple of different size boxes that all mail flat rate and go priority mail.    I think they have the bubble wrap pouches too, but I've never used them. 

This page has the sizes of the boxes and prices down if you scroll down.  Looking at it, I found you can buy forever prepaid priority mail boxes which I assume works like the forever stamp.  I'll be looking into buying some of those.

I think they established a weight limit of 70 lbs now - I'm pretty sure it was unlimited so I could mail those gold bars no problem.

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My towns post office is such bullshit. I sent stuff before and they never told me that option. So I paid arm and leg for little cat toys or packs of stickers etc. I seldom mail and kinda assumed they'd be more informative or welcoming. 

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On 10/29/2016 at 7:08 AM, DeLurker said:

Remember when department stores would have holiday promotions where you got a huge ass make up set with a cosmetics purchase?

They still do. Lancome, Estee Lauder, etc.

Edited by ennui

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