More than Just a Pretty Basket: Gift Wrapping’s Purpose
You can make a thoughtful gift out of a can of condensed soup. Without gift wrapping, most people would stare at their unique gift of soup, not recognizing it as a gift, but instead wondering why you have handed them a can of soup out of the blue. But with the right card, the right sentiment, and tasteful trim, even a can of soup can be a unique and thoughtful gift.
I’m serious. Tie a big bow around the can. Add a coordinating card with the sentiments: “Warm wishes for a speedy recovery,” in the case of any gift soup. The possibilities for unique gifts using soup are endless.
I’m not saying the wave of the future is condensed soup as gifts. But I use it to prove a point: what sets a “gift” apart from an ordinary item is the distinction we give that “gift” through the presentation. (Notice the "present" in the word presentation?) Gift wrapping, gift cards, and gift baskets all serve to give ordinary and unique gifts their “gift” status. Think about a new puppy in the living room on Christmas morning. Now think of that same puppy with a big red bow tied around its middle or neck. (For some reason I’m thinking of Lady in the Walt Disney movie Lady and the Tramp.) Fruit baskets are probably a better example of the effect a simple or ribbon can have on a gift. Without the bow or decorative gift box, fruit is fruit. Delicious. Edible. Colorful. A bow tied to a fruit gift basket or gift box adds another level of meaning to the fruit basket and designates it as a gift or gift basket.
A simple bow on a gift says a lot:
This item is not ordinary
This is a gift
This is a special gift
I took the time to select this gift for you
I think of you and so I got you a gift
You are important to me so I got you a gift
You mean enough to me that I took an everyday item like an apple to share with you
I dressed it up with a bow so you'd know it was a gift for you
I could've watched Simpsons reruns but I chose to spend my time and effort on you.
We may not think every word consciously, but when we wrap gifts or decorate gifts with bows, ribbons, or present them in unique gift baskets or gift boxes, we are making a statement about sharing and giving. Gift wrapping isn’t about the look as much as it is the thoughtful effort behind the look of a gift basket wrapped package. Just checking the gift wrap box on internet orders, or something as simple as adding personal sentiments to an Amazon.com gift tells the gift’s recipient they are important and special. And that’s what gifts—be they condensed soup, puppies, or lavish gift baskets—are supposed to do. ---sdw 7/2/08