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Giving people what they want, not what we think they want.



On the tenth anniversary of his father’s death, he decided to spend some money and give the orphan students something. He bought 30 compass boxes and took them to the orphanage. The admin welcomed him and he lined up the children. The children dutifully received the compass boxes and promptly went and kept them in a cupboard full of unopened new compass boxes.

“Aren’t the children going to use them?” he asked bewildered.

“They all have a brand new one with them. We have a cupboard full of compass boxes as many people think that is what the children need. I am not putting down your contribution but next time, I would appreciate it if you check with us before you buy something for the children” the admin of the orphanage responded.


It was her 75th birthday and the son wanted to give her something precious. He replaced her android smartphone with an iphone.

“I don’t know why he had to change my phone” she mumbled, “The old phone was good and I was used to that. At least he should sit and show me how to use this phone, but neither he nor others in the home have the time. Why give me a gift I cannot use? Instead, he could have bought a new version of the big Tab I was using. At my age, I need big screen, big fonts” she continued.

If you have somethings with you which you are not using and you want to give it away, that is donating and it can be given away to anyone who needs it. But gifting is a different ball game. You are going to spend money buying something to give it to someone. It is vital to put thought into it when we are doing this gesture. If I love gadgets, I cannot assume others do too and buy them some gadgets.

The orphanage example is a real one that I have seen in an orphanage.

“We get loads of sweets from people,” the admin told me, “we try to tell children to eat less sugar but people just bring in more and more sweets. It would be good if they can get the children fruits instead of sweets. There are many other things that these children need. Some need new footwear, some need stationery, some need school uniforms. It would really help if someone asks us before spending money”

Whether it is for general mass gifting like children in an orphanage or residents of old age homes or for personal gifting to family and friends wherever possible, it would be a good idea to ask people for their choice of gift after mentioning budget. We would be giving people what they want and not what we think they want. The gifting gesture would become more meaningful.

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