More importantly can you tell in advance if your gift will make someone smile? Really smile. Of course, it is sometimes, you may even say often, difficult to guess people's tastes. Therefore, many a gift will miss its mark, some of them by a country mile, too.
What I propose to teach you here is not how to hit your target every single time. Such an aim would be foolish, and missing the mark by a country mile would have been me. No, what I propose to enlighten you with is how to avoid at least one particular kind of gift that is practically guaranteed to leave people cold, or at least not make them ecstatic after unwrapping.
But could anything be done to ensure a painful mistake is avoided? Well, if you do not really know the person all that well, and can't get someone to enlighten you, then maybe it couldn't. Take a safe bet with something considered a "staple" gift. It will depend on where you are, who you are, and who they are. Even if you do have to take this road, I still think there's something useful for you below.
Now, assuming you (think) you know the person well enough, and the gift needs to be "customised", what is the thing to avoid? Because, see, I obviously can't tell you what to buy. I don't know you, or the recipient. What I think I can say is what I believe should be avoided. And by that I don't mean the obvious stuff either. Of course you don't take and expensive bottle of wine to a teetotaller or a cured alcoholic! I'll try to be more subtle than that.
What I believe makes a gift special is pretty much twofold. One, and obviously, it definitely has to be something the recipient will find acceptable, useful, even nice to have. But that is not enough, not for me. A successful gift really has to be something the person really, really wanted. It also has to be something they probably wouldn't have got themselves. This, I believe, is crucial.
After all, isn't a pair of socks or a sweater a staple hated gift? And no wonder it is! Yes, both are useful. Yes, both are something we all need. But these are also the things we're most likely to go buy ourselves, and not consider a treat. A gift has to be a treat!
Caution needs to be exercised here, and discretion. Maybe a person really, really wanted that sweater but couldn't afford it. Maybe that pair of novelty socks was something that caught their eye, but their partner would have ridiculed them for buying them. You need to know the person! Don't go buying a Porsche to someone with the bank account the size of a small country, and the garage the size of a shopping mall. For one, they already have it. Two they probably could afford it, and would have bought it had they wanted to. Buy them that embarrassingly tatty and cheap home pint pulling kit they'd rather be dead than seen buying themselves, even if they think it's cool. Or, if your bank account is of similar proportions get them a fighter jet to act as a lawn ornament. No serious Croesus can do without one these days!
Of course, all this good(?) advice is if you want to treat someone you like, and want to make them smile. If you're just going through the motions go safe. Either get them something they can easily pass on to the next unsuspecting recipient, or something they, or their family, are likely to enjoy. Think a bottle of wine or some chocolates. If you're lucky they may even share them with you, so choose something you like. Finally, if you really, really hate them get them a pyjamas or a khaki colours sweater. It's as likely as anything they'll burn them in the back of their garden. Unfortunately, they may actually enjoy that last bit, but in gift giving business that sometimes just can't be avoided.