The season devoted to the buying of presents is upon us. It's time to brace ourselves to receive gifts that may not meet our high standards. If you practise saying "Thank you. It's just what I've always wanted" now, that false sentiment just might sound convincing when you unwrap a tasteless knickknack in the presence of a self-satisfied gift-giver.

The worst present I ever gave was to my little brother years ago. I'd ordered him one of those hand-held brick games through a mail order company. Being a sensible sort I also ordered him two AA batteries to power the game. As it happened, the brick games were sold out and no longer available. That did not stop LV Martin & Son sending two batteries to my brother. Yes, really.

With Christmas drawing near, it's probably an opportune time to explore the kind of presents that are seldom appreciated - and may even be interpreted as a slight or insult. As Worst. Gift. Ever. The 6 Kinds of Presents You Should Never Give says: "A gift should make the recipient happy - or at least not sad or angry." In that spirit, I've carried out some in-depth research and indentified some key types of presents almost guaranteed to aggravate the recipient.

Novelty gifts


Christmas themed tea towels, mugs, caps or clothing are not cool. Nor, according to Esquire, are "decapitated teddy lamps", "underpants emblazoned with ... messages like 'control freak', 'desperate housewife' and 'gold digger'" or a zombie statue - a "resin lawn ornament ... that features an undead man clawing his way back to life".

Sensible gifts
Bad Gift Ideas: 12 Presents You Should Never Give Someone warns shoppers about the perils of air freshener, socks, bathroom scales and cleaning products. And, on NewstalkZB, Kevin Milne recently declared spanners, vacuum cleaners and MedicAlert bracelets as unsuitable Christmas presents.

Tasteless gifts

Decorative items are always a dangerous choice since everyone's aesthetic tastes are so different. Reader comments on You Shouldn't Have. I Mean It. (Worst Gift Ever.) reveal a cornucopia of presents lacking in finesse and sophistication - such as: "a plastic brown mushroom/toadstool thing, with things glued on it", "a large, brown stuffed toad", a "toilet-paper holder made of a wire coat-hanger" and "a safety pin with a dime glued to it".

"What were they thinking?" gifts

Sometimes, judging by the utter lack of appropriateness of the gift, you have to wonder if the giver even knows the recipient at all. Some classic fails are listed at 21 of the Worst Presents You've Ever Gotten.They include:

• "A turquoise man-kini. I am 60 years old and weigh 250 pounds."
• "A Christmas tree ornament. I'm Jewish."
• "Legos. I'm 34."
• "The book What to Expect When You're Expecting. I was in high school and not even dating."

And, check out this story at "My friend probably hates me as she gave me this horrible Disney Princess suitcase and Sleeping Beauty nightlight. I turned 24 this year and I'm male and not a fan of pink either."

It seems that much of the dismay isn't necessarily all about the object itself; rather it's about the perceived undertone, the subtext of what a wildly ill-judged gift says about the regard in which the purchaser holds the person who receives it.

Hopefully, bearing these principles in mind will help you avoid making a gift-giving faux pas this Christmas. Forewarned is forearmed, after all. Merry shopping! May all the thank-you-it's-just-what-I've-always-wanted sentiments you hear ring true.

What's the worst Christmas gift you've ever received? Are you guilty of giving spectacularly inappropriate gifts? Or should we stop complaining and just be grateful for whatever we are given?