It may seem like a paradox, but giving someone a gift to help them save money is a sure way to make them hate it.
The reason: It will make the recipient feel inferior to you, researchers say. In contrast, a gift that helps a recipient save time is taken as a compliment.
The findings, from a series of experiments, are outlined in a study recently published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.
“Most of us have this belief that any gift we give is going to be appreciated — but the way a gift is presented can influence how people feel about it,” said study co-author Grant Donnelly, assistant professor of marketing at Ohio State University, in Columbus.
“When you don’t have time, you’re perceived as busy and in high demand. There’s something high-status about that, compared to not having enough money, which is seen as low status,” Donnelly said in a university news release.
In one experiment, the researchers asked 405 people how they felt about receiving a gift they thought was intended to save them either time or money.
Those who received a gift that was intended to save them money were more likely to say it made them feel embarrassed, ashamed and bad, compared to those who received a time-saving gift.
“They thought the gift-giver was implying they couldn’t take care of themselves and were incompetent because they needed money,” Donnelly said.
The findings show that it’s important for people to consider the message they send with their gifts.
“We can have this perspective gap where we don’t really consider how our gifts are received. It can harm your relationship with the recipient if you’re not careful,” Donnelly said. “It may be best to give a money-saving gift without acknowledging the reason, or to find a way to make it about saving time.”
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