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Presents of Mothers-in-law Often Annoying


They may arrive on their family’s doorsteps this holiday season full of smiles, but in-laws’ gift-wrapped goodies are likely to be a major disappointment.

In-laws don’t come up with the goods during the holidays. They give the worst presents, according to 17% of those surveyed by Wyndham Rewards, a travel rewards operator. “They may give terrible gifts because they either don’t know you very well or because they don’t care about being a pleaser, especially if there’s conflict in the relationship,” says Tina Lowrey, professor of marketing at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Note: Lowrey is not suggesting that they give the wrong presents accidentally-on-purpose.

Husbands, wives and significant others should keep their ears peeled, especially for spouses who already appear to have everything and, for that reason, may be harder to shop for. Spouses are No. 2 as the worst gift-givers: 10% of spouses give gifts their significant others don’t want, the survey found. “That’s perhaps the most surprising part of this study,” says social psychologist Matt Wallaert. “They who should know us better than anyone are among those who give the least wanted presents.”

While some presents keep on taking — in the form of expensive accessories and contracts for tablets — others give back. Fortunately, many unwanted gifts don’t always go to waste, the survey found. Some 31% of older Americans (aged 55-plus) donate unwanted gifts to charity versus 16% of younger people (18-34). What’s more, 20% of younger people will actually re-sell their unwanted loot on eBay; only 9% of older gift recipients do likewise. For both generations, Lowrey says, “Practicality trumps sentimentality.”

Here are the worst gift-givers, according to those surveyed:

Worst Gift-Givers Total
In-laws 17.3%
Spouse/significant other 10%
Aunt/uncle 6.8%
Boss 6.1%
Neighbor 3.8%
Children 2.6%
Best friend 3.4%


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    • The real lesson of this article is to fully vet the family of someone you think you want to marry. The gifts are mere symbols of the family culture.

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  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.