Gift List

So over the last few days there have been several people who have met or called me and asked what gift Pinky and I want for our wedding. Hari the kid, one such caller, even suggested that we need to make a wedding wish list and put it up on our wedding website or something.

Now the thing is that gifting is a hard business. Economic research shows that the average value to the gifted is much less than the average cost to the gifter, and thus gifts create a dead weight economic loss. This, however, is compensated by the good will that the gifter earns from the gifted (if it is a good gift, that is).

When the potential gifter asks the gifted what he/she wants, the intangible value (value of a pleasant surprise minus value of unpleasant surprise, appropriately weighted by respective probabilities) is substituted by the tangible value of greater value for the gifted per rupee spent by the gifter. Also, the fact that the gifter cared to ask what the gifted wanted goes some way in compensating for the intangible value.

Anyway the question is if we should put up a gift wish list on our website. Now, one problem with that is that people might perceive us to be arrogant. After all, in this era of “no gifts/bouquets please ” (we haven’t put that on our invite cards) people might get offended at our audacity of not just asking for gifts, but also telling people what to give us. Thus there is reputational risk involved, but we can explain on the same page the collective economic benefits of the wish list, so this might be taken care of.

The bigger problem is that if we were to put up a gift list the onus is on us to come up with a list of things that we want. We need to come up with a range of things such that it fits people’s varying budgets. There should be something in the list for someone who is willing to spend a hundred rupees on our gift, and also something for someone who is willing to spend ten thousand.  So in the middle of all the other wedding work for us, we also need to decide on what we want, what we don’t want, what kind of stuff we want, and so on.

Then there is quality control. We could well put up on the wish list that we want a LCD TV, but it would sure sound too audacious to be much more specific than that. And if the gifters were to get us some LCD TV that we would ultimately end up not liking, the dead weight economic loss to all of us is huge. So we need to be specific without being arrogant, which is even more work for us.

But I think we will end up making all the effort and put up a wish list, and hopefully that will improve the collective economic condition of us and our gifters.

5 thoughts on “Gift List”

  1. I guess the wedding website is not open to your blog readers.

    Go to amazon or some such place and make a gift registry. That way u can specify the exact gifts you want and it lets u/other gift givers keep track of what is taken.

    Finally, your blog quality has drastically gone down in the last few months. I hope this is temporary blip with all the excitement rather than a permanent downslide. Maybe you can also do a similar analysis on driving away reader with sub quality posts or resisting the urge to post such stuff and thus drive them away.

    Cheers and congratulations.

  2. Gift registries are an old thing. I suppose the idea might come off looking a little arrogant in India, but it’s been done in the West since forever!

  3. I think the best way to make gifts work in an economic sense is for the gifter to strike a very good bargain while buying the gift. In which case, the gift may leave everyone better off even if the recipient does not value the gift as much as the gifter.

    For instance, suppose the gifter pays Rs.100 for a good that he values at Rs.120. His “consumer surplus” is Rs.20. Now, even if the recipient values the same at Rs.110 (<120), everyone is better off than before.
    Net benefit to all parties : Rs.20 – Rs.120 +Rs.110 = Rs.10!

    So, I guess the economically efficient thing to do is to encourage everyone on the website to shop really hard and strike massive bargains regardless of what they buy.

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