THANKS FOR NOTHING
Like most Americans, you were no doubt outraged at the news that the IRS was planning to go after Hollywood celebrities who fail to pay taxes on the gift baskets they receive as presenters at the big awards shows. What’s next for these IRS bloodsuckers, you likely wondered, chasing down amputee Iraqi children flown to the US for medical care to make them pay taxes on their donated prosthetics?
Admittedly, these celebrity thank-you gifts are not the everyday gift baskets most of us are used to – the kind filled with biscotti, preserves, chocolates and other indulgences that you might send to a neighbor as a way of saying, “Sorry for getting drunk and digging up your septic tank with my backhoe.” No, the IRS targeted these awards show “swag bags” because they’re often crammed with thousands of dollars’ worth of diamond necklaces, iPods, designer purses, free spa treatments and, for the very top tier celebrities, ready-to-adopt African babies.
Rather than fight the IRS, the Golden Globes and Academy Awards have opted to eliminate gift baskets entirely. Under normal circumstances I would oppose such heavy-handed government intrusion on principle (the principle being my delusion that I might someday receive one such goody basket), but in this case there’s an upside.
My hope is that, like so many fads that started in Hollywood (see: Kabbalah, The “Rachel” hairstyle, naming children after fruits, etc.), this move by the awards shows will spark a nationwide trend away from this cultural obsession with gift-giving.
I can’t be the only one who’s noticed that nearly all social functions nowadays involve armfuls of presents changing hands. Before leaving the house, you have to ask yourself, “Wait, do I need to bring a housewarming gift? What about a hostess gift? A graduation gift? Is it Valentine’s Day? Mother’s Day? Father’s Day? Secretaries’ Day? Give Everybody You’ve Ever Met a Gift Day?”
Lately it’s even become commonplace for people to send gifts as a thank-you for gifts they themselves have received. This, in turn, has led to the dreaded endless thank-you note cycle (“Thanks so much for the note you wrote to thank me for the note I sent to thank you for thanking me for your thoughtful note of thanks…”).
My main problem with this rampant exchange of gifts is that what’s often lost is the personal touch. But isn’t that what makes gift-giving so special? Say, for example, that you have a friend with a birthday coming up. After mulling over what might make the perfect present, you suddenly recall that he’s an avid Beanie Baby collector. Knowing this, you can quickly settle on the proper course of action, which, of course, is to end the friendship. I mean, come on, a grown man collecting Beanie Babies?
This is certainly a good start, but much more work remains. With luck, this column may help turn the tide against the gift-giving epidemic plaguing the nation. If so, feel free to thank me. But please, no gifts.