There exists a class of products – DVD boardgames, TV tie-in books, themed calendars – that I believe no-one actually buys for themselves. Instead, they are only bought as Christmas presents for other people who ‘like cars’ or ‘watch 24’. There are obviously other products that are only bought as gifts, the most obvious being giftcards, vouchers, trips on hot air balloons, etc., but the difference is that these are quite obviously gifts, whereas the former class are, at least to the naked eye, potential products you might buy for yourself.
The reason why I think no-one actually buys these things for themselves is because they appear to be uniformly shoddy and awful. Perhaps I have too high an opinion of humanity, but I just can’t see even the most die-hard Top Gear fan go out and buy the DVD boardgame for himself; a book, yes, but not a DVD boardgame. But someone who’s frantically searching the shelves of Borders at Christmas and then spots this boardgame and thinks, ‘Oh, I know he likes cars’ will definitely give it some thought.
Say the boardgame is awful (it might be good, I don’t know, but usually these things aren’t). The person who receives it will obviously not be inclined to buy it in the future – not that they were ever likely to. Unless they’re particularly forthright or rude, they probably won’t tell the person who gave it to them that it was awful. So you simply end up in the situation of all these terrible products being made every Christmas, only being bought as presents, and their actual quality never being evaluated; instead, they’re bought because of the box art or the commercial tie-in or the trendiness.
Which I suppose is how most things are bought, but at least you’re doing it for yourself…
(I should point out that this is thankfully not a comment on any presents I received this year)