Hmmm… Maybe I’m the Exception

In one of today’s emails to behavioral economist Dan Ariely, a husband is baffled where he went wrong with the birthday gift he bought his wife. Here’s the email:

Dear Dan,

I bought my brother a top-of-the-line espresso machine for his birthday. My wife remarked that it was a very generous and thoughtful gift, so I took that as a hint and got her the same espresso machine for her birthday. But she ended up not being very happy with my gift. Why do you think she wasn’t as excited as I expected? —Nikos

And here is Dan’s reply:

Gifts are ways to give people things they want, but with romantic partners, what they really want is to feel special. According to a recent study by Lalin Anik of the University of Virginia and Ryan Hauser of Yale, that’s why people often prefer to receive a unique gift from their significant other rather than a lavish one. By giving your wife the same coffee machine you gave to your brother, you’re not communicating that she is special to you; in fact, she may feel that you simply wanted to spend a minimum of time and effort finding a gift. Even if you were to give her a coffee machine, it would have been better to give her a different model and tell her how much time you invested finding the exact right machine for her.

My first thought when I read Dan’s reply was that while it made sense to me, I thought it may not apply to everyone.

I don’t think I would have been bothered at all if I received such a gift, assuming we needed an espresso machine.

I’m not sure if it is a gender thing, or just a me thing.

Nikos’s wife does note that it was a thoughtful gift, so I’m not sure why it still would not be considered a thoughtful gift if it was for her. I can understand Nikos’s confusion.

But maybe this is a sign I need to take Dan’s advice to heart, and make sure I try and give my wife unique gifts, and not lavish ones.

Maybe I can give her a free, lifetime subscription to my blog, followed up the next year with access to all my recorded accounting lectures…


86 thoughts on “Hmmm… Maybe I’m the Exception

  1. I like Dan’s answer on this one. I think it might have gone over better if he hadn’t already given the same gift to his brother-in-law, but I’m not sure. I wouldn’t put an espresso machine in the typical household appliances category, but it is too close to the unforgivable act of giving your wife a vacuum for her birthday. The only way you can get away with something like that would be to write a note confessing your love for vacuuming and agreeing to take over that job. When I want to make points, I do the unexpected. My wife wants to be pampered.

    Find this and other friendly dating tips in my latest bestselling book, How to Stay Out of the Doghouse.” 🤣

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I can see how the espresso machine may not be as special since he had already given it to his brother in law. I guess the key is knowing what your spouse wants. I’ll be heading to Amazon later today to pick up a copy of your book… 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Well its no secret that I love coffee BUT would I be happy with an Expresso machine for a gift? Sorry, but no.
    Well let me clarify I wouldn’t bs happy if that was the only gift. No, I am not greedy but its not personal!
    Alot of people like Expresso machines , get me something that shows you really know me. A book from my favorite author, special jewelry that you may have seen me looking at before. Get it engraved possibly. A gift card for a professional massage, etc. Just something a little more personal than an appliance and something you didn’t get for your brother in law. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If my wife got me an Expresso machine, I’d know for sure she was trying to poison me.

      Your idea of a special gift is what leads men into constant trouble, and feeling perpetually frustrated. They’re expected to read the minds of their women, and intuit what a special gift might be. Why not just come out and say what you want? That’s what my wife does. And then I’m always able to get her a gift that she’s happy with. And then I don’t have to worry about being poisoned.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. LOL! Oh I should have known I would hear about the “poison!”
        I should say that my husband is a very good gift giver, he has figured me out. 🙂 I do drop hints about what I want and I give several so that he can choose. But he has come up with great gifts all by himself too. And being that you are always able to give your wife a gift that she likes, I wouldn’t worry about her poisoning you, for then you couldn’t give her gifts, and that would be sad!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Hint-dropping helps. And the stronger the hint, the better. And the more oft-repeated, the better, as men are frequently consumed and distracted by very important thoughts.

        Just the same, I can’t help but feel sorry for your husband, and all the mental turmoil he must go through, in trying to figure out the right gift. It appears he generally succeeds, but at what cost to mental stress and strain? Poor Brad.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Well, they try to scare the hell out of the viewer. Whether CNN, MSNBC, or FOX, they’ll have you believe that the other side is out to destroy the world. But I’m beyond scaring. I can fall asleep to such nonsense.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. The way you keep touting them, you’re tempting me to matriculate into Villanova. I hope you won’t mind all the snoring that will be emanating from the back of your classroom.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. This is actually a reply to your previous post on Google Translate for animals (couldn’t find the comment section there), and I just wanted to say that that would make a pretty damned good Black Mirror episode. Imagine talking to your dog and learning that the ‘suicide’ next door was actually a murder because she heard everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Glad to see you’ve turned the comments back on. I was surprised you weren’t admitted to hospital sooner given your symptoms. The wait and see approach could have had a different outcome. Hopefully the medication works. Will you be monitoring your blood pressure at home?
    As for the coffee machine, maybe she doesn’t drink espresso? Or she sees it as another task….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I understand Dan’s response and the wife’s feelings (sort of). What I can’t relate to is giving my brother a top-of-the-line espresso machine for his birthday. The most expensive ones are several thousand dollars. My little bro is lucky to get an ecard.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. This one is tough for me, Jim! I do think there may be different expectations of gifts based on gender. But that may be a hard to prove theory. I am not sure where the receiving of a gift, any gift, is somehow seen as less thoughtful than receiving something else. If I give no gift, I am deemed thoughtless. If I give a nice gift, but not nice enough, I am thoughtful, but not thoughtful enough. But only if I picked the exactly right gift can I hope to have it received with appreciation and warmth. Nothing like sucking the joy out of gift giving with all the pressure. Maybe we should stop relying on our gifts to speak to our loved ones of our feelings for them. Maybe if I were to look into your eyes and tell you exactly how much you mean to me, you wouldn’t care what gift came with it. Just a thought. As I said, this subject is hard for me to wrap my head around, but a great post! Good to see you back in the swing of things, my friend!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I think the main problem may have been that he had given the same gift to his brother first and while his wife may have thought it was a very nice gift, it was not something that she really desired personally. maybe the coffee machine with an envelope inviting her to a special night for the two of them, or something she personally enjoys? maybe she felt it put her in the same category as his brother, as far as a relationship? I once wanted a simple pour over coffee carafe, I love coffee and love to make it fresh, and was thrilled to receive one. to me, it was personal, because something I truly enjoy. to someone else, maybe just an appliance. I really am always excited about most any gift if it’s personal in some way. the key is to ‘know your market.’

    Liked by 3 people

  8. You are a brave soul stepping out on the narrow, splintering plank over the Grand Canyon with this post. Buying your wife the perfect gift sometimes requires a lifetime of research. Just so you know,

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I guess I am practical. I would love that gift! I can understand why some would not though. My biggest gift complaint is when my husband asks what I want, I tell him specifically and then he gets me something he thinks I want. An example was. “As much as you read, would you like a Kindle”. My response was “absolutely not”. So
    he buys me a Kindle because he believes once I have one I will love one. Nope. Don’t like it. I do like it on airplanes but that’s it. So now I just don’t read anymore because I feel I have to buy books on Kindle since he gave it to me and I don’t like reading books on Kindle!! We women are so complicated!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The comments are hilarious…a most entertaining read I almost forgot what the post was about…Ahhhh something to do with coffee which I don’t drink anyway…Hope you are feeling much better, Jim 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I haven’t had anyone complain about my gifts, but shopping for gifts still gives me a bit of anxiety. Because there is the weird balance between getting someone something they would use but also making them feel special.

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