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Lifestyle

November 23, 2013

Isn't part of the fun the gift of surprise?

Count Cynthia Gibson among gift recipients not interested in being surprised.

“Most of the time it’s a disappointment, and I’m one of those people who don’t hide their emotions very well,” Gibson said. “The best gift is getting what you want.”

Natalie Caine begs to differ. She has a holiday ritual with some women friends: They do a surprise giveaway of something they have at home and want to pass on. Life is busy enough, she said, without having to hunt down your own gifts.

And besides, what about the magic?

“We already have too many to do lists,” said Caine. “Let’s enjoy bringing out our creative surprise giver and take a chance it is well received.”

Welcome to gifting 3.0, when we can — and do — make our own dreams come true with a click or a list or a trip to the mall. That sounds just fine to Gibson.

“A lot of people regift,” she said. “If they didn’t like it, what makes them think that I would like it?” And gift cards? Pffft. “That’s for the truly lazy.”

While gift registries, online and off, abound, along with old-fashioned list-making that you just turn over to mom or Santa, a couple of new websites are looking to bring back the surprise while also pleasing the picky, like Gibson.

According to the 2009 book “Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays,” by economist Joel Waldfogel, buying gifts is a lousy allocation of resources due to the ignorance of givers about the true preferences of their giftees. He estimated that about $12 billion a year in the U.S. and $25 billion a year worldwide is misallocated on giving at the holidays.

That is one reason Jessica Jessup decided to co-found Giftovus.com in San Diego, Calif. At Giftovus, a recipient puts together a list that loved ones can pluck from, if desired, while talking things over on a group page without the giftee seeing their activity.

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