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The Secret to Buying the Perfect Gift
A true and humorous story about the rabbit hole I went down when purchasing a thank you gift--and the life lesson I gained from the experience.
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A few years ago, our friends Michael and Cheryl invited my wife, Melissa, and me to attend a barbecue on a boat. Well, this wasn’t just any boat. Michael’s parents had chartered a 157-foot yacht with 4 floors and a crew of ten people.
This was all very exciting, of course, as Melissa and I had never been on a yacht of any length. Since we’d only met Michael’s parents briefly in the past, we also looked forward to being able to spend some time with them.
Two days before the barbecue, I got the idea to bring Michael’s dad one of my favorite cigars. I’m an occasional cigar smoker and was recently given the absolute best cigar I’d ever smoked. Consequently, I had this heart-centered desire to share my recent find with Michael’s father.
Now I normally smoke a nice little cigar named La Gloria Cubana, which costs only $6 at my barbershop. But when some close friends gave me a birthday gift, they got me a cigar named La Aurora. Once I smoked it, this new $15 cigar suddenly made my $6 cigar taste like dirt. I now had a new favorite cigar that I could get for special occasions and attending a barbecue on a yacht seemed like just the right occasion.
Suddenly I realized that I couldn’t give Michael’s father a gift of appreciation without giving his mother something too. I asked Melissa what we should get his mother for a gift and she quickly responded with, “Well if you’re giving him your favorite cigar, I’ll give her my favorite tea.”
Great, problem solved. No, wait, it occurred to me that they might not like cigars or tea. I had to call our friends to find out.
“…And we wanted to bring a token of our appreciation to Michael’s parents for inviting us, so I wondered if his dad likes cigars,” I asked Cheryl by phone.
“Oh yes, that’s a wonderful gift. He doesn’t smoke them often, but he loves an occasional cigar. That’s really nice of you. He’ll be thrilled,” she responded.
Hmm, Cheryl’s enthusiasm was delivered with much higher octane than I anticipated. After all, I was only giving the man one little cigar, a simple gesture of appreciation.
I wondered, Did I make her think I was going to give him an entire box of cigars? Let’s see, 24 times $15… Oh God, I hope not.
I had to water down Cheryl’s expectation in case I had given her the wrong impression.
“Now don’t get me wrong, I’m only giving him a couple cigars. (One sounded cheap as I was saying it to her, so one cigar grew to two cigars.) It’s just a gesture of appreciation. And how about Michael’s mom, does she drink tea?”
“She loves tea. That’s a perfect gift,” said Cheryl.
Fantastic, I had a plan. The next day, I went to my barbershop to buy two of my favorite cigars. As I drove there, however, I realized that I needed something to put the cigars in, a nice container of some sort. I couldn’t merely hand the man two cigars. That would be improper.
When I arrived at the barbershop, I learned there was no cheap way to package these cigars. They had some nice leather cigar holders, average price $30.
Oh geez, I thought, I set out to give a simple $15 cigar and it’s turned into two cigars and a leather case. No, I can’t do it. This is getting ridiculous.
Then my barber mentioned that cigar cases were on sale for half price.
Half price, huh? I’ll get it and be done with it, I thought to myself.
That’s when I noticed that cigar holders are for either one cigar or three—nothing for just two. Surely, I can’t put only two cigars in a three-cigar case, I thought. That would look foolish. I decided to get three cigars and the leather case.
Just as I grabbed three La Auroras out of the humidor, it occurred to me that Michael’s father might want to smoke one with me. That presented a new problem. I certainly couldn’t smoke one of the cigars I just gave him. I grabbed a fourth for myself so I could enjoy a cigar with Michael’s dad on the yacht without having to smoke one of his gifts.
Okay, this is going to be perfect, I thought to myself.
As the barber was ringing up my items on the register, Melissa walked into the shop. She’d been waiting for me in the car and was wondering what was taking so long. She saw me purchasing four cigars and a leather case.
“I thought you came in here to buy one cigar?” she asked. Of course, she knows me well, so she wasn’t that surprised.
“Well, after talking with Cheryl, I decided to give him two. But then I wanted something to put them in, and all they have are these cases. However, the cases are for either one cigar or three, and I’m not going to give him two cigars in a three-cigar case. That would be silly. Plus, I had to get one cigar for myself just in case Michael’s dad wants to smoke one with me, as I can’t smoke one of the cigars I just gave him.”
Melissa looked at me like I was nuts, then looked at the case and cigars I was buying.
“Those are fat cigars. You sure they’re going to fit in that case?” she asked.
My barber and I looked at one another, befuddled.
I opened the leather case to find the cigars didn’t fit. They were too fat. The cigars were thin and pointed at each end, but extra thick in the middle. Melissa and I proceeded to try every case in the barbershop. The cigars wouldn’t fit any of them. I paid for the cigars and left without a case.
“What a bummer, and they were having a half-off sale too,” I said as we got into the car. “I’m going to the cigar shop down the street.”
Melissa knew I was now on a mission and it was pointless to interfere.
“I’ll walk across the street to get a box of my favorite tea,” she said. “I’ll meet you back at the car.” She didn’t want any part of the predicament I’d created for myself.
When I went into the cigar shop, I had one of the cigars in my pocket. I explained my quandary to the bored teenage clerk and he was only too happy to pull out all their cigar holders from the glass display. After fifteen minutes of searching, he found one leather cigar case that worked. It was for three cigars, but it would only hold two of the fat cigars I’d purchased. And it was 30 bucks—no half-off sale. I no longer cared. I’d have paid twice that amount just to be done with it.
As I stood at the counter paying for the cigar case, it occurred to me that Michael’s father might not own a cigar cutter, or at least might not have one with him.
How is he going to cut the cigars on the yacht? I wondered.
I looked at all the nice cigar cutters on the counter, which also averaged $30. Then I imagined Melissa’s expression if I bought one. I could almost hear her asking (sarcastically), “What, no lighter?” I caught hold of myself and bought a cheap cutter for 3 bucks and grabbed a book of matches.
Two days later, we went to the barbecue.
The yacht was fantastic. The feast turned out to be some of the most scrumptious steak and lobster I’d ever tasted. And Michael’s dad seemed to like the cigars and leather case I gave him. Sadly, it was raining outside, so we didn’t have a smoke together.
At one point during the day, Michael’s father came up to me and gave me two of his favorite cigars. I learned from the Internet that his favorite cigar costs $50.
Oh great, I thought. My $15 cigars are going to taste like dirt to him.
My life lesson from this true story is to follow your heart and not your head when buying gifts. Imagine the ease and flow of my gift-giving if I’d purchased a single cigar. It would have held the same meaning, perhaps more due to its simplicity. That’s what my heart told me to do, then my head got in the way and complicated the entire experience. My heartfelt gesture turned into a cerebral quagmire.
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