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When Bad Gifts Happen to Okay People

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Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

You know Frank—he's been writing about menswear, sales, television, new shops, the recession, Lisa Loeb, the Golden Girls and getting blasted for Racked for over two years. Well, we think it's time you got to know him and his quirky-irreverent views on life and fashion even better with his column: Love, Frank. Taking the form of an open letter and always signed with love, Frank will rant about whatever style-related conundrum he encounters in a given week. So buckle your two-toned leather Moschino belts, folks, it's going to be ? Something.

At least he got that cute wrapping paper, via PCWorld.

Dear Receivers of Less Than Stellar Gifts,

First, I want to give you the opportunity to take a few minutes to guiltlessly complain about and envy everyone in your life whose parents, siblings and significant others give good gifts—whether they’re thoughtful and representative of said receiver’s tastes and needs; or they’re just plain expensive. Because the gifts you got from your relatives? Well, they sucked. And those friends of yours? They got iPhones and designer accessories and great basics from J.Crew.

I feel for you—marginalized souls with penny-pinching parents and clueless aunts and boyfriends who just don’t listen. I feel for you because I am you. And, like every other year just about ever, most of my gifts were terrible.

It sounds so selfish even mentioning it—what about all those starving children in Africa who don’t even have iPhones and great basics from J.Crew? What about the whole not looking a gift horse in the mouth (not that I really understand the meaning of that expression, but, it’s maybe appropriate; even if I wouldn't want to look any horse in the mouth)? But, whatever, don’t keep it pent up. Let it go. Then buy yourself something gorgeous and move on.

Which brings us to the next set of problems terrible gifts pose: What the shit do we do with all of these items?

Sometimes, you can return a certain item. A gift giver who isn’t egregiously cheap may have enclosed a gift receipt. And, hey, the shop name across the top of that receipt might be something totally not horrible! A sweater’s worth of anything you want at Gap or Macy’s or, hell, even Target—I’ll take it! That said, and I know this from personal experience, the absence of any gift receipt frequently signifies said gift giver is mortified you might find out the synthetic cobalt blue 2004 sweater sitting limply in that recycled Kohl’s gift box is something they bought back in August. For $6.99. At the Foreman Mills on the, uh, cheaper side of town. And once the parolees who work at Foreman Mills stop either laughing or staring blankly at you when you pop in (wearing a Dries van Noten scarf and sunglasses, carrying a Marc by Marc Jacobs tote and a Diet Coke) to make your return, they’ll be sure to tell you that such items are non-returnable—but not before spilling the $6.99 beans.

It’s not a very cute situation.

So, when you tell your thoughtless loved one that you absolutely adore the sweater but it’s too short or you already have a real sweater that isn’t made of recycled cancer in the very same color (you got it in 2004), they will hopefully (being cheap but not-quite-shameless) just make up an excuse along the lines of “hey, I lost the receipt” or “hey, I just bought it too long ago.” Then they'll offer you some cash equal to how much said gift should’ve cost (and not the $6.99, because don’t even bother—I can afford my own lunch at Subway).

Otherwise, seriously, get it out of your house. You should already have a bag or a box at the ready for Salvation Army donations. Put it in that box or bag and make that donation right now. If you don’t, you’ll hit the Bell Jar and get all bitter every time you catch it in the corner of your eye. And, seriously, that gift already ruined your holiday; don’t give it the power to ruin your January 5th.

Backing up a bit: Dealing with returns. Remember, a return can often essentially steal the cash right out of said shop person’s paycheck. They aren’t just dealing with the stress of a mobbed shop that has been torn to shreds by the likes of us; but they’re dealing with losing money they may have already spent. Understand that; make it quick; keep it patient; and if you see something you like or need something specific make an exchange on the spot. It’s a lot simpler for the clerk; everything’s already on sale because it’s January; and then you don’t risk losing the store credit (whether you literally lose it in your mess of a wallet or hold on to it for so long it expires).

All that said, if the clerk is really nasty you should just let them have it because they probably got exactly what they wanted for Christmas and you’re stuck with some hideous blue sweater that, since getting in line at customer service, has come to symbolize every terrible gift you’ve ever gotten which is most of them so that’s a lot and you’re just not going to take it anymore—goddammit!

I’m fine.

· Love, Frank [Racked]