Many Happy Returns

Five of the most biting words used to express disappointment are, “It’s the thought that counts.” People say this when they suddenly realize you were watching as they opened the present you got them, and they failed to control their facial expression. In that initial momentary facial flash, they conveyed their real disappointment, confusion, or abject horror at what you got them. They know you saw that, and follow up with the words, “It’s the thought that counts.” This translates to: FAIL.

People say this as if the expression means that it is nice you thought of buying them a gift at all, when what it really means is that even an inexpensive gift has meaning if the buyer thought about the person for whom the gift was intended. A thoughtful gift is a testimony to how well you know the person for whom you’ve bought the gift. It shows your respect for the recipient. No pressure or anything.

We all want to avoid this situation insofar as it is possible. I am here to help you sort this out. Why me? Because failure is said to be the best instructor, and I am therefore highly qualified. Shut up.

The actual available guidance in this area is pretty scanty, and quite frankly, some of it is just plain wrong. For example, the idea of buying someone a gift you would like to receive yourself. My wife has never enjoyed a single one of the many video games I have bought her over the years.

The very best thing you can do to insure getting someone a gift they actually want is to pay attention when they say things like:

Wow that’s a pretty cool thing; or

I’d really like one of those; or

Did you get that note I left on your pillow telling you I wanted one of those?

I know, right? People can be very evasive like that. You may not be able to pull that one off. It doesn’t help that Christmas comes right as football season is getting really interesting.

The next best thing you can do is to try to understand the nature of a gift. You see, a gift is not merely something people want or use—it has to be something that has a certain je ne sais quoi, and not all products do. So here are some products to rule out:

Any feminine hygiene products;


Denture cream;

Adult incontinence products;

Anything the recipient might be able to use to shoot, stab, or bludgeon you; and,

Any kind of exotic animal, especially the venomous ones.

I hope you find this advice useful. Gift-giving is always a challenge. I remember once buying  someone a car, and I could tell by the expression on their face they were thinking, “I guess you couldn’t be bothered to find the blue one, huh?”

Instead, they just said, “It’s the thought that counts.”

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Stephen Hise is an author and the Founder and Co-Administrator of Indies Unlimited. For more information, please see the IU Bio page and his website:


Author: Stephen Hise

Stephen Hise is the Evil Mastermind and founder of Indies Unlimited. Hise is an independent author and an avid supporter of the indie author movement. Learn more about Stephen at his website or his Amazon author page.

14 thoughts on “Many Happy Returns”

  1. Yeah Steve, about the gift you gave all of us here at IU…the picture of yourself…in the gold frame with BOSS across the bottom…well, wow. Thanks Boss!

  2. I am not sure if I can take this gila monster back. I thought she would like a venomous reptile. I'll just get her some fishing stuff and lingerie. 'Yeah, that's the ticket!'

  3. OMGosh…are you SURE those are gifts I should rule out? I wish you had posted this before the friggin holidays! I thought items for personal hygiene made a gift, well, personal, thoughtful…private. Well, it's too damn late now. But at least you explained what was meant by so many people saying to me "It's the thought that counts." Thanks, Stephen…I think.

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