Gift ideas for someone I've only met once?
March 4, 2004 5:58 AM   Subscribe

I need some gift ideas. I'm attending a birthday party for someone I've only met once before [a woman in her late twenties/early thirties]. I have no idea what might be appropriate. Any thoughts?
posted by aclevername to Shopping (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Considering you've only just met this person, I'm going to assume you're trying to keep it to somewhere around $20 and inoffensive. People are offended by damned near everything, so that narrows it down quite a bit. Here's some that come to mind (you'll notice a trend, here):

Book store gift certificate -- if it's to a big chain, even people who don't read much can find trinkets to buy.

Toy store gift certificate -- even people who don't want toys and have no children occasionally have to buy gifts.

Music store gift certificate -- hard to go wrong, here. Even hardcore RIAA objectors can spend money on indie labels.

A hat -- it's winter, and even if it's never worn, it's a memorable and unusual gift.

Sock store gift certificate -- it's a bit riskier, but in my experience a pretty good number of women in that age group enjoy a cool, decorative pair of socks. At least those of my acquaintance do.
posted by majick at 6:12 AM on March 4, 2004

It would be more appropriate to ask a good friend of the birthday girl than to ask an internet site full of strangers. We don't know her any better than you do.

Failing that I'd recommend something very simple - a bottle of wine/ champagne for example, or a really fancy bottle of juice.
posted by skylar at 6:13 AM on March 4, 2004

Yeah, a bottle of wine is pretty low-risk, too, except in cases where the recipient is on the wagon.
posted by majick at 6:14 AM on March 4, 2004

You can't go wrong with dictionaries. That is my stock $20 present for strangers, but maybe it's because I'm a librarian. If you can't get more information and figure out what is right for her, think of an appropriate type present for you to give. Are you smart about wine, good with music, do you know a lot about houseplants? Anything that shows some sort of consideration is generally appreciated and for total strangers consumables [soap, snacks, wine] is a good bet.
posted by jessamyn at 6:19 AM on March 4, 2004

Response by poster: Well, I have one friend who is my "connector" to this whole new group of people. I do indeed intend to ask her for ideas. The more options the better, though, thus why I asked here.
posted by aclevername at 6:26 AM on March 4, 2004

Why are you getting a gift for someone you hardly know?

Wish her a happy birthday and if you don't want to show up empty handed, a bottle of wine or some home-baked goods will be plenty.
posted by bondcliff at 6:27 AM on March 4, 2004

My gift for when I don't know what to give is always a picture frame. Can't have too many of those, there's all kinds to choose from, and they're almost always on sale somewhere.
posted by JanetLand at 7:21 AM on March 4, 2004

Can't have too many of those

Yes you can. I do, because I've recieved a dozen or so from people who don't know what else to give.

Please, people, stop giving picture frames, decorative soap, and candles.
posted by bondcliff at 7:38 AM on March 4, 2004

a bottle of wine is pretty low-risk

I'd disagree. Speaking as a woman in her late twenties/early thirties, I'd advise avoiding anything that has alcohol, food, or a scent of any kind ... and that includes soaps or lotions. Its a minefield unless you know the person and their likes and dislikes.

A Gift Certificate is the way to go here, especially if there is some local business consortium in your area that offers a gift certificate that can be used at multiple business. I'm also a big fan of movie passes as gifts.

Why are you getting a gift for someone you hardly know?

Because aclevername is a polite person, and if you're invited to a Birthday party its rude to turn up without a gift?
posted by anastasiav at 9:05 AM on March 4, 2004 [1 favorite]

as long as we're advising what gifts are so played out that you shouldn't even consider, along with decorative soap & candles do not get her a small set of bath products, especially if it's in a tiny basket or pouch.

PLEASE, no more.

picture frames, however, do not provoke this reaction for me.
posted by palegirl at 9:09 AM on March 4, 2004

You can't go wrong with dictionaries.
Remind me to never invite you my birthday party.
a bottle of wine is pretty low-risk
It's completely low risk because the recipient isn't going to feel bad throwing it away / giving it to other people. Theres a probability that they'll think its for the party, but don't worry about it.

My solution - Get her nothing. Say "Happy Birthday". You met the woman once, and anything you get her is going to come over as slightly OTT.
posted by seanyboy at 9:13 AM on March 4, 2004

Oh.... Another thought - You could maybe try flowers.
posted by seanyboy at 9:16 AM on March 4, 2004

Why on earth are you buying a present for a stranger?

I'd give her a nice non-Hallmark birthday card. Something handmade from an art gallery or somesuch.

Or bring a salad or dessert for the party.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:31 AM on March 4, 2004

As a woman in her 20's--

I would like to second the flowers rec - I love getting them and I wouldn't think it was weird that a casual acquaintance gave them to me at my birthday party.
posted by Julnyes at 9:47 AM on March 4, 2004

I'm in favor of a card or flowers or somethig else small. If you don't know her, she doesn't know you, so she's probably not expecting anything from you.

Unless, of course, the idea is to impress her with your thoughtfulness and generosity. In which case the more substantial things mentioned here would be good.
posted by me3dia at 9:49 AM on March 4, 2004

Isn't this why they invented DVDs? They're (relatively) cheap, non-offensive, and easily returned if unopened. At the parties I've attended, it seems the 15 dollar DVD has replaced the obligatory bottle of wine as the "don't want to show up empty handed" gift.
posted by herc at 9:59 AM on March 4, 2004

But there are also so many funny -inappropriate- ones! To broaden the discussion, what would be an awful idea? (i figure this is helpful to focus you)

inappropriate: jewelry. big, expensive jewelry.
inappropriate: flowers. or a poem you have written to her.
inappropriate: a photo of yourself.
inappropriate: a photo of her that she did not know you took.
inappropriate: a photo of an ex-girlfriend of yours, telling her "the picture frames empty, wanna date?"

All these inappropriate gifts should be delivered in the middle of the room, surrounded by other guests. And done very loudly.
posted by Peter H at 10:02 AM on March 4, 2004

Get her a Tarot deck. If she's into that stuff, it'll be another deck to add to her arsenal. If she's not, it'll be a cute novelty. They can be fun to look through and fool around with, even if all you wind up doing is putting the "Love" card on your fridge. Good conversation starter.

I guess if she's a militant Xtian mom you should opt for Travel Uno instead.
posted by scarabic at 10:07 AM on March 4, 2004

posted by Lynsey at 10:08 AM on March 4, 2004

Thoughts on what to avoid.

Do *not* get alcohol. Yes, it can be re-given away easily enough, but if she doesn't drink, or has recovered from alcoholism, you've just made yourself look like a horse's ass for no good reason.

You might also want to consider buying nothing with any trace of animal in it. If you really know nothing about her, she could be PETAriffic, and wouldn't want a leather hair-tie or a bottle of bath suds that have been tested on bunnies.
posted by scarabic at 10:10 AM on March 4, 2004

Best answer: One of those fabric covered artsy journals with a bookmark, and if you want, include the gift cert inside.
posted by Feisty at 10:19 AM on March 4, 2004

a bong.
posted by Peter H at 10:28 AM on March 4, 2004

Response by poster: To answer the questions about why I'm getting her a gift, it's partly along the lines of this thought:

Because aclevername is a polite person, and if you're invited to a Birthday party its rude to turn up without a gift?

I'm not entirely sure of the etiquette, but I figure better safe than sorry. Plus, while I've only met this person once before, it was also at a party she hosted at her home, provided lots of booze, food and sleeping area for. I expect it will be the same this time. I'd like to show appreciation for her hospitality.

I doubt she's expecting anything. I have a hunch that this invite is one more way of drawing me in to a new group of friends, of saying they'd like to get to know me better.

In the end, the gift will end up being something small, but I'd like to have one. I have taken the other side and gone to a situation like this with just a card and a Happy Birthday and ended up feeling like an ass.
posted by aclevername at 10:37 AM on March 4, 2004

If you know it's a party where there will be alcohol, then champage is a nice touch. Flowers are good, too. I once scored by giving a simple card and 5 lottery tickets, with the note that if he won, we were gonna be best friends.
posted by theora55 at 10:51 AM on March 4, 2004

I agree that the polite thing to do is take a gift, it doesn't matter that you hardly know her, bringing a gift is classy. How about a potted plant (if she cooks, potted herbs are a very nice gift)? I also like the lottery card idea.
posted by biscotti at 11:08 AM on March 4, 2004

How about a potted plant

I already addressed that four comments up, biscotti
posted by Peter H at 11:23 AM on March 4, 2004

you're in canada, right? i would have thought wine would be fine - i'd be more worried about taking it to an american, because sometimes they're weird about alcohol (i was at my parents' house and couldn't find a corkscrew, so i went next door to the american ex-pat neighbour to borrow one - he didn't own one).

but if you're buying a present because you have, well, wicked intentions, then really you need inside information.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:45 AM on March 4, 2004

Magnetic poetry set? If the crowd is fun enough it'll be a real hit once the booze is flowing. If she's not the type for it, it's easy for her to regift. In the same vein, a goofy or retro toy, or a game like Apples to Apples. Something people can play with basically. Cheap and memorable.
posted by Melinika at 11:46 AM on March 4, 2004

Having been in your shoes before, I vote for sweet-but-not-too-clever. I like the journal idea, and can suggest a decorative bookmark, too (Coach sells a nice one with room for a photo for $18). DVDs strike me as a bit too personal, although they are an easy grab-n-go. I stopped buying picture frames as gifts a long time ago.

My wife has some creatively inclined friends who send terrific thinking-of-you gifts: funny cards, pretty notepads with sentiments on them, cute small hanging pieces of art. Go into an artsy stationery store and find something fun.
posted by werty at 12:04 PM on March 4, 2004

I'm going to throw out a wild card here: Thorlo Socks.
They are, I swear!, the Rolls Royce of socks...ask anybody who has a pair and I guarantee they will say they want more. Fabulous for all sports-- but even a couch potato will appreciate their softness and durability. Seriously.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:41 PM on March 4, 2004

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