The perils of ethical gift giving
It’s not in your mind: buying your wife a present is tricky business
December 10, 2009 – With the gift-giving season in full swing, many people are opting to give socially responsible gifts – gifts that “give twice.” These presents come in the form of a donation in someone else’s name to a worthy cause or they could be products whose purchase helps support some underprivileged population.
While the giver’s intention in opting for ethical presents might be noble, recent research by members of the Association for Consumer Research suggests that husbands and boyfriends should beware: socially responsible gifts could pose a threat to their relationships.
“You can imagine husbands thinking they are doing the right thing by buying an ethical gift,” says Lisa Cavanaugh, Ph.D., assistant marketing professor at the
In the study, the researchers told more than 250 women, all wives and mothers, that they were to receive one of two gifts of equal monetary value: A spa basket with soaps and body creams, or a donation in their name to Oxfam.
When told that the spa basket came from either their husband or child, the women had an equally positive response to the gift regardless of who gave it.
When told that they were to receive the Oxfam donation, women appreciated the gesture much less when it came from their spouse, compared to their child.
“The nature of the relationship between giver and recipient is going to determine whether or not giving these gifts are a good idea,” Cavanaugh says. “When a child gives the donation, mothers tend to perceive the gift as a clear sign of commitment to her. They think, ‘I must have done a good job with this kid, and that kid is a reflection on me.’ The moms see that child’s giving a donation as something to be proud of. But when it’s the spouse, the women don’t view the same donation in their name to be a sign of commitment.”
Some sample reactions from the women who were told they had received the donation from their child:
Same reactions from the women who were told they’d received the donation from their husbands:
The research also found, that men were equally happy receiving the donation or a luxury shaving kit, no matter who gave it to them.
The takeaway: Women are indeed trickier to buy presents for. Husbands and boyfriends might want to avoid attempting to show how generous they are by buying socially responsible gifts
The research was conducted by:
· Lisa Cavanaugh, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing at the Marshal School of Business, University of Southern California, firstname.lastname@example.org, 213-740-1150
· Francesca Gino, Ph.D., assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, email@example.com, 919.962.3142
· Gavan Fitzsimons. Ph.D., Professor of Marketing and Psychology at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, firstname.lastname@example.org, 919-660-7793
All three professors are members of the Association for Consumer Research and are available for interview on the perils of gift giving. Feel free to call them directly, or contact Shula Neuman, communications manager for the Association for Consumer Research, email@example.com, 314-374-2360.
The Association for Consumer Research is a non-profit organization with the mission to advance consumer research and facilitate the exchange of scholarly information among members of academia, industry, and government worldwide.
For more information, visit our web site: www.acrwebsite.org
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