You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch!
Click on the link below for an interesting take on the inefficiencies of Christmas as presented by Professor Joel Waldfogel of the University of Minnesota. Prof. Waldfogel, who has one of the greatest websites this side of 1996, is the author of Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays.
For the podcast listener, click on the following link for NPR’s Planet Money podcast, which provides a much less boring summary.
Prof. Waldfogel makes a pretty compelling case for why no one should give gifts or, as he explains, why gift giving is bad for the economy. The basic premise is that by giving a crappy gift you’ve just thrown a portion of the purchase price right down the toilet. You think that $20 wooden train whistle is the bee’s knees? Nope, it’s trash that’s going to get thrown out. Trash! Had that $20 been spent on something the gift receiver actually wanted, everyone would win. Unfortunately, not all gifts are 100% efficient.
Best Present Ever? NO. It sucks!!
Here’s an excerpt from the description of Waldfogel’s book on the Princeton University Press website:
“When we buy for ourselves, every dollar we spend produces at least a dollar in satisfaction, because we shop carefully and purchase items that are worth more than they cost. Gift giving is different. We make less-informed choices, max out on credit to buy gifts worth less than the money spent, and leave recipients less than satisfied, creating what Waldfogel calls ‘deadweight loss.’ Waldfogel indicates that this waste isn’t confined to Americans–most major economies share in this orgy of wealth destruction. While recognizing the difficulties of altering current trends, Waldfogel offers viable gift-giving alternatives.”
According to Waldfogel, everyone should give gift cards or refrain from giving gifts at all. That’s pretty boring, though. Why not keep a permanently updated Amazon gift registry like a certain editor I will call “Dave”? That way, everyone wins.