My selected subtheme is holiday gifts.
Luckily for me, I work at a local gift store, Patina! We've had a lot of Christmas merchandise out for about three weeks now, and a lot of customers have been in to start their Christmas shopping.
I worked all day Friday and Saturday so I was able to observe the environment and experience holiday shopping from the role of the employee.
As I interacted with customers I knew were shopping for holiday gifts, I observed that customers seemed to enjoy themselves more when they were shopping for a close family member or friend such as a spouse or sibling. Although it may take longer to find the perfect gift, the process was mostly enjoyable. On the other hand, if the customer was trying to find a gift for a less well-known relative or acquaintance, they were more stressed out. Obviously I wasn't able to interview these people about why they felt this way, but I would guess that shopping for someone you know well and love is fun because you are excited to see their reaction, know you found a good gift, etc. Shopping for someone you don't know can be high-pressure and its hard to know if you're on the right track at all.
As far as experiencing holiday gifts, I did shop for a baby shower gift this week. Not exactly holiday, but it was still shopping for a gift! I personally LOVE getting gifts for people- it actually becomes a problem for my bank account sometimes! I take a lot of time to find the most thoughtful, specific, and unique gift that I can find. So as I shopped, I really enjoyed it. The girl I was shopping for is a good friend of mine, so I felt confident in what she would like to receive.
Here is a cute baby shower gift option that I found!
I also interviewed three of my girlfriends, Lauren, Mel and Rachel. There were several things that they had in common which were interesting to me. First, they all highly valued thoughtful gifts above expensive gifts. Each of them expressed the desire to find thoughtful gifts for their loved ones as well as the desire to receive thoughtful gifts. Mel described it best when she said that thoughtful gifts made her "feel known". She valued this feeling more than knowing that someone spent a lot of money on something less intentional. They also all seemed to wait until the last week to start shopping- and all hated the stress that accompanied that decision to procrastinate!
The first person I interviewed was my friend Rachel, who was recently engaged. I was curious to see how she was approaching holiday gifts this year now that she had a fiancé and in-laws (kind of). Rachel starts her holiday shopping about a week before Christmas. She generally does about half of her shopping online, through Amazon. She prefers to get a few smaller gifts rather than one expensive gift. She said she prefers this because its cheaper and then the person has more presents to open.
This year, she has a fiancé to shop for. I asked her how she intended to find the 'right' gift for such an important person and she said that she thought it would be pretty easy since they have a lot of relational content to work with. Her fiancé is also someone who really appreciates thoughtful, small gifts. One thing she said to me that really stuck out was that the better you know someone, the easier it is to buy for him or her. Although this may seem really obvious, I think there is more there that could bring deeper insights about gifts.
Her favorite gifts to receive are from her mom and fiancé, because they are always the most thoughtful and spot on. When I asked her to describe her feelings towards holiday gifts, she said excited, intentional and time-consuming.
Next I interviewed Mel
She never shops online for holiday gifts- when I asked her why she said she had never really considered it. As I kept asking "why" she eventually admitted that it made her nervous to trust such an unpredictable shipping method. She prefers to have a dependable way to get gifts- and going to the mall and buying them herself is much more predictable. Her favorite gifts were things that had a lot of thought and intention behind them and were also gifts she really liked. She appreciated the connection between the intention and response.
Finally, I interviewed Lauren. Lauren only buys gifts for her immediate family- when I asked her why, she replied that it was just too hard to narrow down her friends to a few to buy gifts for. Money is a big worry for her so she doesn't like to spend a lot on gifts. Lauren keeps a list in her phone throughout the year of things that her family members want. That way when it comes time to shop, she knows exactly what she needs to get. Out of the three interviews, Lauren was the only one who mentioned efficiency and the desire to get in and out quickly. She said that she doesn't like to just browse when she shops- she just wants to find something and move on. Especially for a girl, I thought this was an interesting response since usually women like the experience of shopping. When I asked her about where she shops for these gifts, she mentioned Target, TJmaxx, and REI. I asked why those stores and she said anywhere that she can find a good gift for a good sale price is the best. Lauren's favorite gifts are things that she wouldn't normally buy for herself such as perfume or a new coat. Of the three interviews, Lauren valued expensive gifts the most. She said that she looked forward to getting things that she wouldn't usually spend that much money on.
In hindsight, I wish that I had made it a point to interview a male to get a different perspective. It would have also been interesting to see a perspective from a parent of grandparent and how they choose gifts. Unfortunately that just wasn't a possibility for me this weekend, but interviewing my friends stretched my mind to think of deeper questions that I had for people about holiday gifts.
1) The theme that stuck out the most to me was the desire to give and receive gifts with meaning- thoughtful, intentional gifts were what my friends strived to find and enjoyed receiving. Finding a way to help people who aren't naturally good and finding those types of gifts would create happier givers and receivers of gifts!
2) For the people I interviewed and observed, holiday gifts are usually only given to close family/friends. If gifts are bought for others, it is usually out of obligation and not as enjoyable of an experience.