Christmas gift. Unwanted. Yours for a few euro

From Gibson Les Paul electric guitars and Playboy robes to Orla Kiely bags, online ads at this time of year are a litany of our most abject festive flops

Gibson Les Paul: “Too expensive a guitar to be sitting there waiting for me to pick it up in a blue moon”

Gibson Les Paul: “Too expensive a guitar to be sitting there waiting for me to pick it up in a blue moon”

Sat, Jan 11, 2014, 01:00

From hedge-trimmers to baby monitors, and from candlesticks to a pair of his-and-hers Playboy dressing gowns: the unwanted Christmas gifts on Irish classified-ad websites at this time of year are an inarguably fascinating record of our nation’s most abject festive flops.

Whereas once the delicate pivot from “God bless us, everyone!” to “You hardly kept the receipt, did you?” required hours or even days of subtle manoeuvring. Unwanted Beyoncé concert tickets appeared for sale on donedeal.ie as early as 9am on Christmas Day. Sites such as DoneDeal, Gumtree and Adverts.ie have never been more popular. Twenty-two per cent of Irish adults have used them to offload unwanted Christmas or birthday gifts, according to a recent survey. And that number is rising fast.

In January last year a search on DoneDeal turned up 531 results for “unwanted gift”. A year on, a similar search elicits more than 1,200.

Economic difficulties, duplicate gifts and such sites’ overall increasing popularity all help to explain this rise. But based on conversations with two dozen vendors selling unwanted Christmas gifts online this week, the most obvious shared trait I observe is a hard-nosed absence of sentimentality.

Lorraine from Dundrum wants €100 for a woman’s Hugo Boss watch that her husband gave her for Christmas. Her ad refers to a “beautiful” timepiece packaged in “a fabulous black box”.

Assured that she is speaking to a journalist rather than a prospective buyer, she changes her appraisal of the item dramatically. “I specifically asked him for a nice Marc Jacobs watch,” she says. “And he went out and got me this randomly horrible thing instead.”

Does she feel guilty about cashing in on her husband’s (maybe? possibly?) heartfelt gift without his knowledge? She laughs. “I told him to make sure he got the right one, and he never bothered his arse. So no, not at all.”

Anne Marie from Cork is selling an Orla Kiely leaf-design sling bag for €120. “It was a present for my daughter that just wasn’t appreciated,” she says. “So I decided to sell it.” Her daughter is 19, she adds. Which she now believes probably too young to appreciate the quality of the Orla Kiely range. Was Anne Marie tempted to keep the bag for herself? “Nah,” she says. “I’m kind of over her myself, too, to be honest.”

Ouch. I hope Kiely isn’t reading this article. “Oh, don’t worry,” Anne Marie says with a laugh. “Her bags sell very quickly online. There’s always huge demand for them.”

One of the chief attractions of selling online is it enables you to turn unwanted gifts into cash rather than store credit.

Smartphones and games consoles are the most common listings on DoneDeal. But there’s lots more weird and wonderful merchandise out there if you’re willing to put in the extra keystrokes. Those his-and-hers Playboy dressing gowns were advertised for sale by Claire in Galway.

Claire admits she actually bought them for her partner last St Valentine’s Day. But she posted the ad after Christmas when the couple found themselves short of cash. Now she wishes she hadn’t bothered. She has received only two calls about them in more than a fortnight. “The first was from a weirdo. Now the second is from a journalist.”

Dermot from Co Clare has a set of recently acquired CB radios for sale to the first caller. They’re a replica of a beloved set he owned as a teenager. “I’m from Lahinch originally,” he says. “Back in the 1970s we used to set our radios on the seafront, and you could talk to America. The water used carry the signal.” Nostalgia be damned. He’ll take €100 cash or a working Hornby train set.

As a younger man, Shane from Co Down played in local rock bands. This Christmas his partner promised him a very special surprise. “She asked me, What’s the guitar you’ve most liked, ever? I said, when I was a young lad, the Gibson Les Paul was the guitar to own. Well, she obviously took that on board.”

The vintage Gibson Les Paul that Shane found under the tree this Christmas, he reckons, must have set his partner back about £800. No doubt she hoped her present might reignite an old fire in his belly. But Shane is throwing cold water on any such idea.

“Ach, I’m 57 years of age,” he says. “And I was never that good to begin with. It’s too expensive a guitar to be sitting there waiting for me to pick it up in a blue moon. Mind you, she doesn’t actually know that I’m selling it yet.” He seems not to be too worried about his partner’s reaction. “If I present her with a nice 48in TV, she’ll be okay. She’ll get most of her money back.”

Another musician hell-bent on not expanding his horizons is David from Co Louth, who sounds to be in his late teens or early 20s. This Christmas his father bought him an Akai MPK49 piano keyboard. “I’m a DJ,” David says. “I produce music. I type notes in with the laptop. So my father decided to buy me this mini keyboard. But I have no interest in that.”

It was a lot of money to spend. Might he consider sharing any of his profits with his dad? “Ah, I might yeah,” David says. “I might share the money with him all right.”

I’m not entirely convinced by David’s answer. “Or d’you know what?” he adds. “I’ll give it to charity. That’s what I’ll do.” At this point my BS alarm is ringing so loudly that my neighbours are evacuating the apartment complex.

Of all the self-improvement trends that spike around Christmas and the New Year, it seems, none crash and burn as fast as those involving exercise.

Susan from Dublin is offering a new cross trainer for the knockdown price of €450. How did someone spend so much money on a Christmas present for her, I ask, without checking that she wanted it?

“Maybe they thought they were doing me a favour,” she says. “Coming up to Christmas, I kept telling people, ‘I must do something about my weight.’ So this person had a cross trainer in their house, and they weren’t using it. It was quite easy for them to give it.

“I’m just not ready to use it at the moment . . . If it had been a treadmill, I’d be holding on to it. But a cross trainer, at this moment, is just a bit too much like hard work.”

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