Funny or Faux Pas?: Where Gifts Can Go Wrong

Usually when you get someone a gift, whatever it may be, it's intended to show your appreciation of the other person in some way. While everyone can agree this is the traditional sense of the act of giving, others have (intentionally or unintentionally) taken a different direction with their gift-giving approach. We've likely all encountered a scenario in which we've gotten a present we weren't thrilled about, but what about one that's downright insulting?

We've surveyed 1,077 people across the United States to learn more about their experiences both giving and receiving insulting gifts – such as who is most likely to give or receive them? Can a (thought-to-be) harmless joke do serious damage to the giver-recipient relationship? What are some of the safest gifts to give? Using the data that's been collected, we'll be able to answer these questions and more. Read on to find out!

Key Findings

  • One in three people said they would be inclined to give an insulting gift on purpose.
  • Cash was flagged as the most insulting gift for reasons ranging from lack of personalization to implications of mismanaging money or seeming last-minute.
  • Relationships after an insulting gift exchange were most damaged when the recipient feigned excitement about the gift.

No Cause for Celebration

It seems like we have some jokesters on our hands, as over half of respondents were inclined to give people gag gifts in the hope of garnering a good laugh. Thirty-four percent of them wanted to take things a step further and were prepared to insult the gift recipient with their offering. Regardless of age and gender, gifts that were personally offensive or ones that were clearly regifted were deemed the most insulting. But, when splitting people up by generation, baby boomers weren't too pleased with household items and clothing under their gift wrap, whereas Gen Xers and millennials were unimpressed when receiving cash and beauty or personal care products.

The most insulting gifts

Even if you might think a gift is suggestive or lackluster, there's an art to accepting them. It's possible that the gift-giver truly did have good intentions with your present, so be sure to receive it gratefully (offer sincere appreciation), graciously (show respect), and gracefully (stay humble).

What would be the most insulting gift?

The Receiving End

People weren't just thinking about giving insulting gifts. Many were clearly following through with the idea, as 57% of respondents said they've received one. Moreover, even though it's possible the intent behind the gift was pure in nature, over three-quarters of recipients thought otherwise.

Receiving an insulting gift

While bosses and coworkers were unlikely to be giving out insulting gifts, perhaps being aware of workplace relationships, one of your friends is the most likely culprit to give you an insulting gift. Once again, personal offense was the most triggering factor that led to someone feeling insulted, followed by low-quality gifts. Either way, people have been practicing their grateful, gracious, and graceful attitudes, seeing as 68% pretended to be at least moderately excited in the face of a gift that wasn't very exciting at all.

A select few insulting gifts received..

When it came to anecdotal items that were reported to be the absolute worst, borrowed-and-now-gifted back socks came up more than you might think. Seeing as the average price of a pair of socks is under two bucks, the least you can do is get your friend or family member a new pair.

It's Just a Prank!

When people were asked if they had ever given a gift that was received as insulting, 36% of gift-givers said they had experienced this. A full 87% of those gift-givers admitted this was the desired effect, and the insult was the intent. As we just learned, friends were the most likely recipient of these gifts, and givers wanted to hit the ‘personally offensive' nail on the head. Making the present look regifted was also a popular method of insulting the receiver. Givers may not have gotten the sour or sarcastic reaction they wanted, as they said 40% of their giftees came off as very excited.

Giving an insulting gift

A couple gifts mentioned above that could clearly be taken the wrong way were mouthwash and a scale. Personal hygiene and physical health are important, but there might be more indirect ways of letting someone know how you feel about those things. Another strategy is to not insinuate anything at all – there are benefits to minding your own business anyway!

A select few insulting gifts given..

Suffering the Consequences

While giving someone an insulting gift might seem like a lighthearted joke, it can come with some serious repercussions – interestingly, recipients who came off as very excited when receiving their gift were also the most likely to experience the most damage to their relationship with the giver. The same held true from the gift-giver's perspective. Gen Xers were the most likely generation (27%) to say receiving an insulting gift seriously damaged their relationship, as opposed to 23% of millennials and 20% of baby boomers. Also, 26% of men said receiving an insulting gift seriously damaged their relationship with the gift-giver, compared to 20% of women.

Rebuilding relationships

Clearly, pretending to be excited is not ideal, and the consequences of hiding your true feelings can lead to a lot more problems than just relationship-related ones. To be safe, half of respondents think that gift cards are the least problematic gifts to give someone. More personal items, like handmade gifts, greeting cards, and even a concrete plan to spend time together were deemed surefire ways to avoid insulting your recipient.

Back to the Basics

For many, gift-giving is no longer about giving a loved one a wholesome present but rather seeing the kind of reaction you can get from them. Seeing as over a third of respondents said they could see themselves giving someone an insulting gift on purpose, and well over half claimed to have received one, it's become a popular ‘bit,' so to speak.

While funny for some, it's not so amusing to others. In fact, giving and receiving insulting gifts can cause major rifts between friends, family members, and coworkers – even more so if the recipient covered up their disappointment. Maybe it's time to put a halt to the insulting gift trend and give people a present that'll never cause drama. As suggested by the respondents, gift cards and greeting cards are among the best gift ideas that won't stir the pot. At CardSnacks.com, you can get the best of both worlds – their customizable, mobile greeting cards are perfect for any occasion, and you can also add a gift card from over 300 leading retailers with the click of a button. Let's make gift-giving thoughtful and wholesome again – trust us, it's for the best.

Methodology and Limitations

We collected 1,077 responses from people in the United States. 54% of our participants identified as men, and 46% identified as women. Participants ranged in age from 19 to 84 with a mean of 38 and a standard deviation of 11.5. Those who failed an attention-check question were disqualified.

The data we are presenting rely on self-report. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include, but are not limited to, the following: selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration.

Fair Use Statement

The good news is, if you'd like to share this article with friends or family, they have no reason to be insulted when you send it over. Therefore, feel free to pass it on to whomever but for noncommercial use only please. Also, kindly provide a link back to the article page, so readers can access our full findings and methodologies.