How Do You Regift a Fighting Fish?

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On Dec. 15, I wrote about a marketing exec who had received donations to charity in her name from vendors in lieu of the traditional holiday popcorn bucket. One brand new company in Phoenix called David and Sam PR had even decided to make it their thing, offering to stuff clients’ stockings with either a) fruitcake or b) charitable donations.

After appearing on Work in Progress, Sam Alpert of David and Sam asked for my address so that he could send me something. I told him I didn’t like fruitcake, but thanks.

A day later, my husband answered the door to a delivery guy from Petco. “Goldfish for Lisa Cullen,” said the guy.

“Excuse me?” said my husband.

The Petco guy held a glass bowl filled with green marbles in one hand, and, in the other, a plastic bag filled with water and said goldfish. It was, we learned later, not a goldfish at all but something called a Betta fighting fish.

Great. So not only was I now the caretaker of a scaly, smelly, aquatic thing, but the fish was ornery, too.

This was absolutely, hands-down, the worst holiday gift I’ve ever received, corporate or personal. I already have a toddler and a dog; I didn’t need yet another living thing whose poop to clean up after. I would have returned it to Petcoland had not my two-year-old squealed in delight and christened it Dorothy (you toddler parents will understand).

I’m not alone in my displeasure, says a Dec. 21 release:

According to the third annual Holiday Re-Gifting Survey commissioned by eBay, the vast majority of Americans–more than 57%–say they normally receive holiday presents they don’t like.

Seeing as I’m feeling as ornery as the fish, let’s pick on the wording of this press release: is 57% a “vast” majority? Why not just say majority? And when people say they “normally receive holiday presents they don’t like,” do they mean, like, regularly, as in, every year? And why not just say that?

Post-script on the goldfish: I tried. I read the instructions three times. I cleaned the bowl out and filled it with non-chlorinated water. I gave it the fish food that came with the delivery, which I know was top-notch because it’s labeled “gourmet,” though come to think of it I don’t get what constitutes gourmet fish food, or if fish can tell the difference.

On Christmas morning, Dorothy died.

The eBay survey says that 55% admit to regifting their horrible gifts, and

the most popular re-gifted items include: knick-knacks (32%), bottles of wine or spirits (26%), DVDs, CDs or books (23%), bath products (22%) and fruitcake (17%).

No mention of what to do with a dead goldfish.

Our little girl, crusty-eyed with sleep, asked, as she had every morning since its unwelcomed arrival: “Where’s Dor’ty?”

My husband thought fast. “She’s…gone back to Elmo’s house,” he said (you toddler parents understand).

She stood there in her footsie pajamas, blinking. “Shall we go look for her?” she asked.

So, Sam: not only did you encumber us with fish that wasn’t sashimi, but you made us lie. On Christmas. To our daughter. About death.

“No way!” wrote Sam in an e-mail. “So sorry to hear that. I should have sent a Pez dispenser.”

No kidding. Even a fruitcake would’ve had regifting value.

R.I.P. Dorothy the Fish