Holiday wish lists blur etiquette rules



Even when Grandmother wrapped an ugly Christmas sweater, people said it’s the thought that counts. But as people have access to more online catalogs, etiquette experts and sociologists agree that gift-giving is becoming harder to please picky individuals.

“Society is more complex. There are more products available,” said David Hunt, a sociology professor at Augusta State University. “People are more aware of what’s out there and focus on all those possibilities.”

Compared to generations ago when people flipped through the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog, now people spend hours perusing online stores, Hunt said.

Many Web sites, including, feature virtual wish lists where a shopper can add desired items to a list then e-mail it to family and friends. Wish lists can be specially created on Web sites such as and

Mailing a wish list when not asked to provide suggestions can be an audacious habit, said former etiquette writer Carson Elliott.

“It’s so tacky. People have gotten so greedy. You should never assume someone’s going to give you a present or give you what you want,” she said.

The gift giver should not feel required to wrap an item that’s from the list. Items on wish lists could be expensive, and it’s not polite to let someone know how much you spend on a gift, Elliott said.

“It’s the whole idea of entitlement. We should be pleased and somewhat surprised when someone gives you a nice gift,” she said.

Jan Hodges Burch, the founder of the Augusta-based Southern Institute of Etiquette and Protocol, said wish lists can be helpful for family but seen as demanding by friends or lesser-known acquaintances.

“If there’s something special you want to give to them, I give what I’ve previously purchased or wanted to give to them, Hodges Burch said.

“It is sad that we’ve gotten to this point. We’ve lost the meaning of Christmas,” she said. “It’s a giving of the heart.”




RIGHT: Regifting, but don’t give it to the original giver

RIGHT: E-mailing thank-you notes to family and close friends

WRONG: Asking for cash gifts

RIGHT: Including a gift receipt without a visible price


Source: Carson Elliott, former etiquette writer



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