I have a hard and fast rule about Christmas shopping: as soon as Dec. 1 hits, I steer clear of the mall.
You may misinterpret that to mean I am incredibly organized and get all my Christmas shopping done before December. Not at all. Most of the time, I’m caught off-guard by the holidays, ordering last-minute, printable gift cards online and purchasing stocking stuffers at the corner store.
The reality is that even on a Monday in February I find the mall over-stimulating. The lights, the noise, the synthetics. Ten minutes of walking through the concourse and I come over in a sweat, my throat dries out and I start to get a little panicky. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t have a phobia of movie theatres or crowds. I love perusing the Byward Market building on a Saturday. I don’t even mind department stores all that much. But there’s something about the mall that irks me.
I tend to avoid the mall when I can. But then there are times when etiquette trumps convenience – in other words, when I have to buy someone a gift. Sure there are plenty of online retailers and lovely perusable neighbourhoods in Ottawa, but as someone who always buys on deadline – needing a hostess gift for a dinner party that very evening -- I’m often not well-positioned to trek across town or wait three or four days for delivery.
It’s for this reason that I was happy to learn about a new Ottawa-based business called Givopoly.com. The online gift concierge was designed for people like me – busy, disorganized, sentimental and a teeny bit neurotic.
A busy working mother-of-three, Susan Richards and her business partner Craig Hung launched Givopoly.com in March. It’s an idea that’s been brewing in her head for some time. Like most of us, she attempts to juggle work, life and kids’ activities.
“Five or six days a week, it seems perfectly manageable,” says Richards. “I tend to think as long as I’m balanced I can handle a lot. But every once in a while, the cup spilleth over and at those times an invitation to a dinner party can put me over the edge.”
A stickler for etiquette, Richards likes gift-giving and she’s action-oriented, but she admits that life often gets in the way of a leisurely afternoon perusing boutiques in Westboro or the Glebe.
“I have thoughtful intentions, but I tend not to be able to execute them,” says Richards.
With Givopoly.com, Richards has created a portal of gift boutiques. The company has so far partnered with 50 locally-owned Ottawa businesses to provide a range of gifts for various occasions, from bottles of wine to jewellery, even experiences for things like birthday parties and home-staging. For $6.95, gifts can be delivered anywhere in the Ottawa area within 24 hours. The website has also partnered with local etiquette expert Cecilia Pita, owner of Savoir-Faire, to blog about gift-giving etiquette.
“Etiquette is a big part of gifting,” says Richards. “Some people are completely unaware that you should bring a hostess gift when you go to someone’s house for dinner. And other portions of etiquette have gone off the rails. Like you buy a hostess gift and then the hostess gives you a thank you card, and then you say thank you for the thank you card.”
Tips on societal norms around gift-giving and a selection of local vendors at my fingertips? There’s a lot more value in that $6.95 than just the courier fee. Not to mention I may never have to set foot in the mall again.