DEAR MISS MANNERS: Do you calculate the value of a gift on its retail price or on the actual price you paid for it?
I work for a designer and have access to high-end merchandise at 25 percent of the actual cost. I can gift someone a $200 handbag that I purchased for $50.
Now, I do budget how much I will spend on family and friends; it’s the not-so-close friends I have an issue with. If I allocate to spend $40 to $50 on such a friend, but buy her something that retails $120 (but costs me $30), have I shortchanged her?
The reverse gets me in trouble, too. My group of friends does a gift exchange at Christmastime. We set a fixed budget of $50 each. I’ll spend $50, but buy something that retails for $200. The receiver doesn’t complain, but some of my girlfriends in the group complain that I overspent, making my gift more valuable than theirs.
GENTLE READER: Calculating the value of a gift -- retail, actual, wholesale, discounted or bulk, or marked up, down or sideways -- is not an activity Miss Manners finds to be either delicate or rewarding.
Your friend with the $30 or $120 handbag was not shortchanged because (we hope) she values the gift as a thoughtful gesture coming from you, not for its fetching price on the open market. The dollar limit on your Christmas exchange does serve a purpose, which is to limit the expense of the gift-giving from becoming burdensome. Your discount has accomplished this, an explanation that your friends should understand.