Ever been completely stumped for what to give as a gift to friends, family and loved ones? Fear not! I have done a little thinking and figured out the perfect presents to give. No longer shall you wake from a restless sleep, sit bolt upright and scream, “Jenga”.
There are a few criteria which need to be satisfied in order for your gift to qualify as a good gift:
Something the receiver would actually want (if you cock this up then it becomes very obvious that you don’t know the recipient that well).
Signalling (showing that you’ve given it some thought, spent some money, or both).
There are some other external criteria depending on the gift type.
Clothing – must be something they can wear whenever they see you so you can say, “oh you’re wearing my socks (see below)”.
Food – must be something that they can consume on their own without feeling like a fat person. This doesn’t mean they can’t devour their present like Michael Moore making love to a heap of Krispy Kremes (Hmm… I wonder when Michael Moore is going to make a film criticising American diets) but they should have the option of keeping it for a while (i.e. won’t perish quickly) or sharing it. Chocolate is a good idea, a kilo of turbot is not, even if it is way better than chocolate – and it is.
Toys – age appropriate, don’t give a 6 year old a dildo – wrong type of toy.
Etc. (mostly common sense).
So this being said let’s figure out the perfect gift. Of course nothing substitutes for actual thought but if you’re just lazy then read on.
For male friends: black socks. As children we thought of socks as worse than coal but as adults we fully appreciate their awesomeness. Santa’s giving you a hint with Christmas stockings you know – it’s a bleeding giant sock! Black socks are unique, no one else would think of them. All men wear black socks (and are secretly, or openly, happy to get them) and destroy them, or lose one and have to throw the other, at an alarming rate. Finally it shows you’ve thought outside of the box, none of that donation-in-your-name or named-a-star-after-you shit. If you get high quality black socks then you’ll probably be their favourite person in the world for at least a little while. For something a bit more offbeat get them a Frisbee, trust me, they’ll love it. A good Frisbee is even better than the dog to throw it at.
Female friends? Apparently it’s earrings. If they don’t have pierced ears they’re probably going to enjoy the Frisbee anyway so you can just go with that. Perhaps black stockings… who knows? The advantage of earrings over socks is that not all earrings look alike although this is something of a double edged sword as now the onus is on you to choose something tasteful. Fearing this to be well beyond most of you I suggest you bring a female friend with taste (not a weird Indian guy in a denim jacket – true story) to help you choose. Failing that something shiny, girls are like crows (the birds; not to be confused with cows – and that statement probably explains why I’m single).
Mothers was a tricky one, I suggest you get them Harvey Nichols vouchers or offer to cook for them. It’s the little things that show you care that count. DO NOT offer to clean for them. This backfires in two ways, first you get given a lot of cleaning to do, second your mother realises that if cleaning is a satisfactory gift then she really does too much and you do too little.
So there you have it. Unfortunately now that I’ve written this everyone will want to get the same present this invalidating uniqueness. Of course this could mean that no-one else gets socks so you should. To solve this problem I suggest this solution (Fig 2.):
Gifts are given a rating based on how good they are. 1 is perfect, 0 is something the receiver would rather not have. Socks have a rating of 0.9 and individual 1 is x good at giving gifts and individual 2 is y good at giving gifts.
Due to the nature of gift giving the choices of individuals do not affect each other until both individuals choose socks in which case the gift quality drops by 0.7 (0.45 as everyone knows that men only realise their need for black socks when they need them and 0.25 because you look like a tit). As this table clearly shows there are two Nash equilibria in pure strategies* (assuming x and y are between 0.9 and 0.2) so I recommend you just collaborate with the other gift giver . The most efficient outcome would be if x>y then individual 2 gives socks and if y>x then individual 1 gives socks. Thus I conclude my musings on gifts and socks.
* For mixed strategies individual 1 will give socks with probability p where p=(9-10x)/7