We’ve all received an unwelcome holiday gift. In fact, around 70 billion dollars’ worth of presents are returned every year in the U.S. In this video, The Atlantic writer Derek Thompson explains why many presents amount to what economists call “deadweight loss”: the company wasted time making it, the giver wasted time buying it, and the receiver wasted time returning it. So, how do we design a gift-giving formula that strikes the right balance between efficient, practical, and sentimental?






Read a related The Atlantic article at: The Joy of No-Gift Christmas


  • belated – coming or happening later than should have been the case
  • binder – a cover for holding magazines or loose sheets of paper together
  • delirious – in a state of wild excitement or ecstasy
  • recipient – a person or thing that receives or is awarded something
  • feasibility – the state or degree of being easily or conveniently done
  • grateful – feeling or showing an appreciation for something done or received
  • to pick sth outto choose, find, or recognize something or someone in a group
  • conundrum – a confusing and difficult problem or question

Watch and listen

Answer the questions below.

  • What’s the worst gift Derek Thompson has ever received? (0:05)
  • What is the value of presents returned in the US annually? (0:20)
  • How can you improve gift-giving in 3 easy ways? (0:35)
  • What is “deadweight loss”? (2:10)
  • Should you surprise people with gifts? (3:20)

Practice Makes Perfect

Fill in the blanks with the correct form of the verb in (brackets) at the end of the line. Go to The Atlantic to find out more.

Many families who opt out of 1.________ (buy) stuff are coming up with creative alternatives and new traditions.


This year, Heather Hund and her family will gather in West Texas on December 25 and solidify a new Christmas tradition, in which each relative is randomly 2.________ (assign) to give a gift to another family member and to a house pet.


Hund and her family 3.________ (downscale) their gift-giving six years ago after 4.________ (consider) how much work Christmas shopping was.


“I just remember 5.________ (come) home and 6.________ (be) super stressed and last-minute trying to run out to the mall or looking online and seeing what I could get 7.________ (ship) in like three days,” said Hund, who’s 35 and 8.________ (work) in tech in San Francisco.


Hund is one of the many holiday celebrants who 9.________ (be) questioning and revising their long-held gift-giving traditions—or, in some cases, scrapping them altogether.


Other people have the environment in mind when 10.________ (think) about what to give.


1. buying   2. assigned   3. downscaled   4. considering   5. coming   6. being   7. shipped   8. works   9. have been   10. thinking  


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