Right about now, all of us are bustling about in the seasonal, time-honoured quest to find just the right gifts for the various people in our lives.
In a simpler time we might have given each other homemade or hand-crafted gifts. Today, we turn en masse to consumer products for answers to our gift-giving needs. And each season, the industry responds by churning out a staggering array of clever gimmicks, useful gadgets and innovative novelties for us to give to others as expressions of our love and warm feelings.
But in spite of the dizzying selection available today – or perhaps because of it – it seems more difficult than ever to find appropriate gifts.
Part of the problem may be the abundant times we live in. With most of our homes bursting at the seams with all of the latest tools it’s getting harder to find a gift that anyone might truly need.
For generations, the manufacturing community has done such an outstanding job providing us with every conceivable labour-saving device, that the labour being saved now has become smaller and smaller and the devices have become more obscure and increasingly absurd.
One of this year’s hot new gadgets is a voice-activated TV remote control – just the thing for those of us couch potatoes who have become too lazy to even press a button!
But need is not really the issue. Seeing what passes for innovative products these days, I doubt that necessity is even related to invention – much less its mother! I mean, does anyone really need an electric nose hair trimmer?
I can’t help but wonder about the product development people responsible for these ideas. Are they driven by a desire to create things that will have an intrinsic value and utility for mankind? Or are they simply charged with coming up with anything that can be hawked as "new" or "improved"?
And if, as they say, a camel is a horse designed by committee, then I would like to see the brain trust that came up with the combination toilet-paper dispenser/iPod dock!
The bigger question is why we, as consumers, continue to waste our hard-earned money on these pointless items year after year.
This Christmas I have vowed to do something genuinely new. I am going to avoid all of the trendy gadgets and instead give simple gifts – a nice pen, a beautiful sweater, a warm coat or an elegant watch.
As a manufacturer I am aware of the dire economic consequences that would follow if everyone did this. But maybe then manufacturers would rethink their tactics and once again make quality and value essential ingredients in all of their innovations. That would be a gift indeed.