So, what are you going to do? There are now only a handful of hours to go before your spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend/kids wake up and see that you've let them down. So, here are some sure-fire ways to get through this situation, (mostly) unharmed by family and friends.
- Gift Cards
Some online retailers sell printable gift certificates. Most notably: iTunes. If the giftee has an iPod, you're set. If not, well, then you DO realize you just dropped the ball on the PERFECT gift for that person, don't you? You can also email a gift certificate, but that's kind of weird on Christmas morning. ("Say, honey, don't you feel like logging on to your little-used Hotmail account right now?")
Of course, in this economic climate, who knows which stores will still be around for the recipient of your computer-printout-coupon to cash in on? In that respect, this year, giving gift cards is like giving lottery tickets ... which brings us to:
- The Lottery Ticket
Yes, we ALL hate getting Lotto tickets for Christmas. "Thanks," we think, "this dollar you spent really show how much you care." We roll our eyes, scratch them off, lose, and throw them out. But, if it's zero-hour, and you're still without a gift, these little, $1 life-savers are available at every gas station, corner store, deli, bodega, and supermarket in the country. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to go anywhere that didn't sell them. Sure, they might not be good gifts, but they're available. Now, to pull off giving them, you have to remember one thing: Constantly remind the giftee that each ticket is a potential million-dollar gift. That's what makes all the difference. With enough work, you might just be able to convince the recipient of this fact. Of course, on the flip-side, who's going to feel like a fool if the ticket you gave really does turn out to be a big-money winner?
They may not be as widely-available as lottery tickets, but many places have them in stock RIGHT NOW: Convenience stores, grocery stores, your neighbors lawn (be sure to shake off the snow and wash off the dirt). If this is for your out-of-town aunt, get same-day delivery from 1-800-flowers.com or Teleflora. Flowers are a great way to say, "Here! Take these! They'll die in a few days and you'll have to look after them and water them until then."
Actually, come to think of it, you'd better save buying flowers for AFTER Christmas when you can use them as an apology for totally dropping the ball, this holiday season.
- The "I SWEAR I ordered it" Ploy
Do a Google image search for some high-res pics of great gifts that you WOULD have gotten them, had you not been such a slacker, and print them out. On Christmas morning, give the recipient the photo and say, "I swear I ordered it online, but (insert name of online merchant here) screwed me! They didn't ship it in time!" This will, at least, buy you a few more days past Christmas in which to actually purchase the items.
- The Coupon
You did it when you were five, now it's time to dust off this old chestnut to save your sorry skin. Grab some colored paper and some crayons and go to town. Might we suggest coupons for "One Hug" or "One Back Rub" or "One Night Where I DON'T Come Home Drunk". A warning: Be selective about who you give these to. A "Good for one free back rub" coupon given to your girlfriend's sister might be a little awkward.
- The Donation
Find a charity and donate money, in the giftee's name. Print out a card that says as much and wrap it. Whether you actually donate, or just print out a fake card, is completely up to you, George.
- The Anti-Consumerism Ploy
Don't do anything. Nothing. Don't scrabble around. Don't fret. Just DO NOTHING. Then, on Christmas morning, say, "Oh? We're giving gifts? I don't really support turning this sacred holiday into a consumeristic frenzy." Upside: Not a dollar spent, on your part. Downside: Your friends and family will either request their gifts back, or slap you. Worst case scenario? Your friends and family never speak to you again. But, there's an upside to that, too, because you'll never again have to worry about buying gifts for anyone, because you'll have no friends. Best of luck to you, if you go with this method.
- Book a Vacation
This is, by far, the most expensive option for a last-minute gift, but, hey, you're the slacker who waited so long, now it's time to "pay the piper." Whip out the credit card and log onto someplace like Travelocity, Expedia, or Southwest and book a flight for you and your loved one to some place romantic. (Best bets: Paris, any tropical island. Worst bets: War-torn regions, Chernobyl.) The beauty of this gift is that you don't need anything to arrive in the mail, so all you have to do is go and wrap up your giftee's swimsuit, or a piece of luggage. The confused (and slightly angry) look on their face, upon opening up something they already own, will quickly be replaced by shrieks of joy, once you explain. Then replaced by mild disappointment when you tell them that you booked the trip for six months in the future because that's when you could get a good deal on the tickets. Actually ... it might be best to leave out the "bargain" part of the explanation.
Of course, to save even more money, you could always just SAY you bought tickets and hope that your significant other will forget all about the trip in six months.
And, sure, the people who receive any of these gifts will be, ultimately, disappointed on Christmas Day, but try to remind them that "it's the thought that counts." With enough confidence, you might just come out of this holiday season smelling a little more like roses than you would have if you presented nothing on the big morning.
Well, I have to go and buy some colored paper and some crayons.
Jeff Somogyi is the dealnews Media Editor. His "Back Rub Coupon" gifts are legendary around the office. To date, no one has redeemed one.