Rich people, cheap gifts: a conundrum

Ever noticed how sometimes well-off people give cheap gifts?  The topic came up at a family dinner the other night, when my in-laws recounted how some former friends – a middle-aged, childless couple, both in great jobs – used to give the meanest gifts. 

Every Christmas, you could count on them to give Ed a pair of socks.  A pair of socks!  Not even fancy socks – like cashmere – that at least would have had some class.  And to make matters worse, the socks weren’t in his size, so he couldn’t even wear them! 

The couple seemed oblivious to the fact that Ed and Jean (who were much less financially well off than them) always gave them lovely, thoughtful, useful gifts in return.  They were shameless or oblivious, every year continuing to give ill-chosen, dime-store gifts. 

“It used to enrage me,” said Jean, “but I could never bring myself to say anything about it.  Or to stoop to their level and give them some equally rubbishy gift.”

I’ve noticed the cheap-gift tendency myself, in one or two better-off friends, and it always mystifies me.  If you can easily afford to buy nice gifts, why wouldn’t you?

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