text that reads worlds worst gift giver against a turquoise background with a woman rejecting a gift from a man
We’ve all been there—a scratchy sweater from grandma, weird socks from dad, or a used cooking appliance from a (soon-to-be-ex) boyfriend. Ripping open the wrapping paper is supposed to be a joyful and fun occasion, but sometimes, people are left wondering how to act when they receive a subpar gift. But just like everyone’s desired gifts differ from one situation to another, items that fall under the “worst gift” category do as well. To find out which gift took home the title of worst gift and who is most often the bad gift giver, we surveyed 980 people about their perceptions of the worst gifts to unwrap. Keep reading to see which gifts you should avoid to stay on the safe side of giving.

The Naughty List

We all have that one uncle or family friend who gives the worst gifts year after year. Indeed, our survey found that 45% of respondents said the person who gave them their “worst” gift ever did so on more than one occasion. Surprisingly, people did not consider gifts that were broken or used to be their worst gifts.
Nearly 40% of respondents said gifts that fell into the category of food and household items were their worst ones. Despite being one of the cheaper options (only costing an average of $19), the least expensive gifts were also significantly more acceptable. While books, toys, and games cost gift-givers an average of just $16, only 7% of respondents named them as the worst gift they’d received.
statistics on the worst gifts given by category and by item
Breaking it down by specific items, decorations topped the list of worst gifts, but socks, underwear, and other household gadgets weren’t too far behind. These gifts may get a bad reputation around the holidays, but there are plenty of people who are in favor of wrapping up a few pairs of socks or turning people’s homes into a smart house with a new gadget. On the other hand, there may not be a bright side to gifting clothes. While clothing was a category nearly 30% of respondents ranked as their worst gift, the main reason for disliking the present seemed to be because receivers perceived them to be ugly or ill-fitting.

Gift Offenders

It would make sense for people to get better at gift-giving the longer they’ve been doing it. That didn’t seem to be the case, though. Instead, relationships seemed to be a better indicator of how good—or bad—the gift was. Baby boomers were the most likely generation to give the worst gift: Compared to just under a third of respondents who named baby boomers as the worst gift-giver, only 26% said the worst gift came from a Gen Xer, while 21% said it came from a millennial.
chart on statistics of bad gifts received by generation and the relationship of the recipient to the bad gift giver
In the world of gift-giving, best friends and siblings were among the least likely to gift an item deemed as one of the worst. This is likely due to the closeness of these relationships—best friends can often feel like siblings, and vice versa. On the flip side, relatives were the most likely to give bad gifts. Over 48% of respondents said their worst gift came from a relative other than their immediate family, while 29% and 14% said it came from a friend or partner, respectively.

Unwrapping Hurt Feelings

At some point in life, everyone rips open wrapping paper to reveal a gift they wish they hadn’t received. And while some people’s facial expressions can’t hide the disappointment, most people at least try to adhere to typical gift etiquette. For the most part, people tend to keep their opinions to themselves; according to our study, only 14% admitted the gift was bad. Millennials were the most likely to stay quiet, while baby boomers were more likely to tell it how it is. In line with proper etiquette, 40% of respondents accepted the bad gift politely, and 27% went a step further by pretending to like it. And despite the disappointment they may have felt, 5% still thanked the gift-giver genuinely.
statistics on who admitted to a gift-giver that they received a bad gift, initial reactions after receiving the gift and their feelings after receiving the gift
Being polite and thankful on the outside may help prevent hurt feelings, but opening the worst gift ever can cause people to have mixed emotions. While nearly 35% said receiving their worst gift didn’t bother them, 27% were mad at the giver. On an even more personal note, 14% and 13% percent said they felt either unimportant to the gift-giver or unappreciated, respectively. However, women were more likely to report nearly all negative feelings. The only reactions men experienced more than women were feeling humiliated and disgusted.

Do's and Don'ts

The first step to giving a good gift is knowing what people don’t want. Just under 41% of respondents said they didn’t like their worst gift because it was something they would never use. And to add to the list of reasons why clothing may not be a safe option, 31% of people said they didn’t like a gift because it was ugly—a reason women cited significantly more than men. But it’s not always about a gift fitting into one’s life or being aesthetically pleasing—some people like sentimental gifts. In fact, 27% of respondents said the gift was bad because the giver didn’t put enough thought into it.
statistics on why people didn't like a gift they received and what gifts they would like to receive
Instead of taking the risk and attempting to get someone a nice dress or home decor, gifts that the giver might deem impersonal and lazy at first glance are actually a much safer bet—and people seem to prefer them. Fifty-four percent of people said they would rather receive a gift card than a bad gift, while 47% said they would rather get cash. However, avoiding an unwanted gift and still getting personal is possible—people also expressed interest in receiving hobby-related gifts, dinner or a night out, or electronics.

Happy Gifting

There’s no perfect gift-giving guide for everyone out there. At the end of the day, everyone has different wants and needs, and their presents should reflect that! But finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list can be stressful. Luckily, gift cards are the most requested gifts every year, so instead of risking the title of “Worst Gift Giver,” the line of bunded-brand gift cards, called Happy Cards, are a great option. From Happy Holidays to Happy Moments or Happy Bites each card offers the recipient the gift of choice with up to seven retailers, entertainment venues and restaurants for redemption. They are bound to make the receiver happy—and it’ll save you from being crowned “The Worst Gift Giver.”

Happy Cards are sold at grocery and retail stores nationwide and online at HappyCards.com and GiftCards.com/Happy.

*Methodology and Limitations

The “Worst Gift Giver” study consisted of an online survey conducted by Fractl on behalf of Blackhawk Network in August 2019. The sample size was 980 adults, aged from 18 to 75 with an average age of 36 and a standard deviation of 10.9. 303 respondents were baby boomers, 327 were Gen Xers, and 351 were millennials. 40% of respondents identified as men, and 60% identified as women.

The generation of the gift-giver was determined using the approximate age of the gift-giver upon receival as stated by the survey respondents and the year they received the gift in. Gift-givers were distributed as follows among the generations: 192 from the silent generation, 310 baby boomers, 259 Generation Xers, and 207 millennials. Gift-givers belonging to Generation Z were excluded due to insufficient sample size.

Our data rely on self-reporting by the respondents and are merely explanatory. No statistical testing was performed. The data are not weighted. Outliers have been removed before calculating the average gift price.

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