The Gift-Giving Guide, Part II
2. The Useful Gift
What it is: This type of gift is so fundamentally useful, it doesn't even seem like a proper gift. Bulk foodstuffs and basic office supplies count as useful gifts.
Who it's good for: This type of gift is good for people who are too poor or too busy to get around to buying basic supplies. Starving college students, for example, will always appreciate a case of Ramen noodles or Campbell's soup. (One year my mom gave staplers to all of her siblings for Christmas. You wouldn’t have expected such shrieks of delight, but many of them didn't have a good stapler, and hadn't ever gotten around to buying one.)
Who it's not good for: Although this type of gift is more useful than the random gift, it's still not very specific to the recipient. The useful gift is to be avoided if the recipient (spouse, girlfriend) or occasion (birthday, anniversary) calls for more thought.
Bottom line: Don't dismiss this type of present too quickly, even though you wouldn't normally think of it as a gift. It may not be flashy, noisy, or Rudolph-themed, but it might be one of the few gifts that actually gets used.