NEW YORK (AP) — Have you ever said "thank you" through clenched teeth? The gift in that nicely wrapped box was so not what you wanted: comfy clothes instead of designer duds, or a kitchen gadget instead of a shiny piece of jewelry.
Sometimes, though, the best gifts are the ones you use, and, frankly, most of us probably wear hoodies more than haute couture.
With a closet full of beautiful boots and gravity-defying heels, flat-foot, furry Uggs weren't at the top of celebrity stylist-designer Rachel Zoe's shopping list. They were OK for other people — she might even have suggested them — but she didn't see them fitting into her closet until someone gave her a pair.
"Once you put them on, you can't go back," Zoe says. "In my house, it's now the family at-home shoe. I wear them all the time. My son has 10 pairs and my husband has 10 pairs."
Bradford Shellhammer, founder of Fab.com, which sells unusual items like canvas carryalls screen-printed with images of designer handbags, says gifts fit into three categories: the things everyone knows you want, the bad surprises and the amazing things that make you wonder, "How did I live without it?"
A. Mitra Morgan, founder and chief curator of decorative home-goods website Joss & Main, can't imagine her busy life without the wallet-phone case wristlet her mother gave her last year.
Morgan has almost unlimited access to the pretty things on so many gift lists. Her mother, however, thought her daily necessities were too scattered. She didn't know it at the time, Morgan admits, but mom was right.
Morgan received another love-it-later gift, this one from her husband. He gave her flat-bottomed pizza scissors.
"Coming from my husband, this was at the level of receiving a vacuum. I thought, 'Really, this is what we've come to?'" Morgan says. "But it's awesome!"
Christine Frietchen, a shopping expert who is advising TJ Maxx and Marshall's this year on their gift-giving programs, says a gift is something you wouldn't get for yourself. And the best way to know you've given a successful gift, she says, is if the receiver becomes an evangelist for it.
Adam Glassman, creative director at O, The Oprah magazine, was never at risk of buying the Patagonia fleece sweatpants his brother got for him a few years ago. "Never in my life did I think I'd need sweatpants, but I live in them," he gushes. "When I come home from work, they are my go-to item. I wear them more than any other clothes in my closet."