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Diatribe: Complimentary Gift Boxes Are No More!


Despite the fact that I detest holiday shopping, I found myself in an outlet mall this weekend where I learned that a phenomenon that I first discovered just a few years ago has finally become the norm.  There are no more complimentary gift boxes!

I remember a time, not all that long ago, when complimentary gift wrapping was something that department stores offered to their customers in an effort to win them over from smaller, specialty stores.  The clerks would ring up your purchases, remove any price tags and gently cover each gift with tissue paper before covering it with your choice of beautiful wrapping paper with a matching ribbon bow.  Eventually, the clerks became overwhelmed with the task and special “gift wrapping stations” could be found during the holidays where volunteers would work frantically to wrap the gifts.  Having a gift “professionally wrapped” was a big deal.

As time went on we found ourselves paying for the service.  Purchases were wrapped and priced according to size.  It would cost far less to have a piece of jewelry wrapped than it did a large sweater or coat.  If one wanted to wrap their purchase at home using their own gift wrap, the stores would provide complimentary gift boxes.

Unfortunately, this option changed and those customers wishing to receive a complimentary gift box would have to wait in a line at a customer service counter, present their receipt from the purchase they had made, and clerks would dole out gift boxes accordingly.

This doesn’t even happen anymore.

During my recent shopping expedition I was appalled to learn that even upscale retail establishments would not provide complimentary gift boxes.  I learned that, while they do keep these boxes on hand for their customers’ convenience, they now charge as much as $4.99 for a single gift box!

It’s times like this that I feel really old.  The clerk behind the register where I spent the most money had never heard of a store giving away free boxes at Christmastime.  I guess it’s been that long.

Do you remember the days of complimentary gift boxes?


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From → Diatribes

  1. Will Hensley permalink

    I shopped at REI recently, and was told that this is the first year they no longer provided gift boxes, as they add to the trash heap and are not “green”. Well, I would recycle any that were not reusable, so I think the green they were thinking about was of a different kind.


  2. i remember those days. it felt so festive to stand in the line at the wrapping station at goldsmith’s and visit with the other shoppers.

    now i visit with the folks in line at dollar tree while i’m waiting to buy my tissue paper and gift bags. i’m growing to love gift bags.


  3. well, I don’t even enjoy shopping for others, so…..


  4. Just two years ago I actually wrapped 10,937,367* books in the lead up to Sinter Klaas (Dutch sort-of Christmas) and Christmas (actually Christmas) in a bookshop in Amsterdam.

    So, in passing, yes, I remember.

    * Actual number of books may differ from the number quoted.


    • Wow! I used to think gift wrapping would be an awesome part time job, but you may have changed my mind.


      • It’s the bi-lingual aspect I struggled with (my Dutch was not good at the time); but once you start wrapping, you end up in a sort of eery “zone”. Perhaps there’s something “zen” about it, if I had much idea about what zen really meant (I am going on mere pop-cultural references, so likely to be wide of the mark from anything authentic).

        I guess what I am saying is, it’s not so bad; and you get really really good at wrapping things. A skill for life, that’s for sure.


  5. I hate to shop! I hate to shop! I hate to shop! I am not a grinch, I just hate shopping. Yes, I remember getting gift boxes complimentary from stores when you did your Christmas shopping (am I dating myself?) Then I remember it being more & more difficult to get gift boxes. Now I go to dollar stores to get my gift boxes or gift bags. But I recycle them & they get used over & over.


  6. M. Hoffman permalink

    Our local upscale department store chain Von Maur ( not only still offers free gift wrapping but also offers free shipping and has an interest free store credit card. First class customer service and they make shopping for a gift a true joy.


  7. It seems everything has a price these days from retail to airlines to banks. Thanks for sharing your nostalgia. It was nice then. BTG


  8. I remember complementary gift wrapping and boxes. Places like WalMart have beaten down the profit margin so that these little services are unaffordable for retailers.


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