Guiltless Purchases

We love to gift wrap in our store.  Our form of wrapping is a bag made out of recycled paper and a ribbon that’s made out of plants in the Philippines. It’s a wrap job that fits us and we like to freely offer it to customers. 

Fair Trade gift wrap

Finding a way to ask a customer if she would like any or all of her purchases wrapped has been surprisingly tricky.  If we say simply, “Would you like anything gift wrapped today?” it seems to make many customers feel bad if they are buying for themselves.  Often a customer begins verbally stacking up the reasons why it is okay for her to buy something for herself… “I can’t even remember the last time I bought something for myself” … “My husband never gets me a birthday present, so this can be my gift from him” … “I’ve been having a really hard time lately”  …

Now, even though I’m a retailer, I’m not suggesting that it is okay for us to go on crazy-daisy shopping binges.  But, friends!  It’s okay to thoughtfully decide to buy something for ourselves without having to apologize or convince anyone else of the purchase’s merit. 


Take this bowl set.  This was a wedding shower present from my high school friend named Danielle. She gave it to me over 18 years ago.  I use these bowls almost daily. They are functional sizes for hosting and for our own household.  Perfect!  I love them and I haven't had to shop for bowls one single time in my entire life!

Take this bowl that we sell in our store.  It is $28 and was hand made by Vietnamese women.  It is a great size, lovely color and has beautiful dragonflies hand painted on the interior.  It’s a normal bowl – it can be washed and used like any other bowl.  It seems to me, and to many shoppers in the store, that this bowl is a great one have and use. Excellent!

dragonfly bowl

One sweet woman brought this bowl to the counter for purchase.  I said something like, “Would you like me to gift wrap this beautiful bowl for you?”  This was the wrong way to ask the question. It was obvious that the customer felt terrible admitting that she didn’t need any gift wrapping; she was buying the bowl for herself.  She stressed many reasons why it was okay that she was buying the bowl (aforementioned litany) and that she was sure she would use this bowl EVERY DAY.  I promised her that I was glad she was taking it home.  I have bowls I love and use every day myself.  

Truly, I think that it is okay for us to buy things that we will use.  We’re not selling out to our material culture or some weird self-centered happiness theology by buying a basic bowl. Let’s be thoughtful consumers, glad about what we choose to buy and spend our emotional energy on issues beyond ourselves… because we’ve been thoughtful and we’ve bought conscientiously!  There’s nothing to struggle with here.  

After much thought and trial, I now say something like, “I hope this _____ is going home with you, but if it is a gift, I’d be happy to wrap it for you.”   Cumbersome, but better and now while I’m swiping a credit card we can chat about great lunch spots or how to drive to Coronodo Heights.  Much better.

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