Consumer Electronics & Appliance News, Reviews & Information.

Dec 10

Holiday gift guide: for the near-strangers

Stranger gift exchange

These two just met for the first time. On Christmas. One of them was prepared.

The Holidays are a time for sharing with friends and family, when gift giving is a thoughtful and appreciated task, verging on an art form. Those close to you appreciate the time you’ve taken to buy them something that truly speaks to who they are, and your relationship to them.

And then there are those other people.

Whether they’re that second cousin you see once every 6.5 years, the significant other-of-the-moment of one of your friends or relatives, or just a person you took pity on and invited over to share in the Holiday festivities: you don’t really know who they are. In any case, you don’t want anyone to feel left out when presents start getting exchanged (oh, and you don’t want to appear to be a cheap-skate).

So, to help you avoid the awkward I-wasn’t-prepared-for-this eventuality of cash stuffed into a vaguely-holiday themed greeting card, here is a list of items at Vann’s that I think will please anyone.

Apple iPod shuffle 2GB

I can’t overstate how much people love Apple products. Especially iPods. I defy you to find someone who would not take, and enjoy, an iPod given to them (and even the most anti-Apple hipster will probably get a secret ironic thrill at owning one). It holds music, audio books, and looks stylish. Plus, it comes in enough colors that you can probably find one that will work regardless of gender (I recommend the non-gender-affiliated orange or green, but if you know for sure at least the gender of the recipient, pink or blue might add that semi-personal touch). Combine it with an iTunes gift card, and you’ll be the king/queen/royalty-of-choice of the day.

Canon A495 digital camera

I don’t want to play favorites, and there are plenty of other digital cameras that could work here, but the A495 is a great impersonal gift for plenty of reasons: its small size means that even if they have another camera, it’s easy to pass this off as a secondary one for them to use; AA batteries mean that they can power it any way they want (and you can even throw in some rechargeable ones as a second gift); the auto mode on the camera means they can easily take pictures without a lot of fuss (because, to be honest, you don’t really know their competency level). Throw in the memory card while you’re at it, just because a trifecta of related gifts give you that extra planning cred.

Garmin Nuvi 205W car navigation

Everyone needs to get around somehow, and around the Holidays, there’s a good chance the person you’re hosting is not familiar with the local streets. The Nuvi 205W pulls double duty as a gift that’s practical right out of the box, and guarantees that this person is not calling you (their new best friend after these gifts) for directions every time they come into town.

APC C5 surge protector

This gift has two really big things going for it. First, most people don’t have surge protection on their home equipment, and the C5 is a very, very strong surge protector with power filtration (and it’s an incredible deal). Second, it’s surprisingly large. So, when this recent acquaintance goes looking for which gift-wrapped gem is theirs, they can marvel that it’s not a) an envelope or b) smaller than a breadbox.

Planetary Design table-top French press

In this day and age you’ve got about a 96%* chance that the person you’re buying for is either a coffee or tea drinker (50%* chance). Most people who enjoy these beverages identify strongly with them – if you don’t believe me, go try to separate someone from their coffee mug, or offer an insult to their favorite brand of tea, then visit a first aid station, then come back. The Planetary Design French presses offer this quick and dirty personal identification for the nearly anonymous. Plus, they give you an interesting Montana story to tell people about it. You can read about it by following the link, and offer not only a refreshing beverage machine, but also a few moments of non-awkward conversation.

Now that you’re prepared for any eventuality, let us know if you have other all-purpose gift suggestions, or awkward gift exchange stories. Then, check out Vann’s 2010 Holiday Gift guide to help find presents for people you actually know.

*Statistics are made up, like 43%* of all statistics are.

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