Like buying a homemaker another food mixer, it's more a hint to get the garage doors fixed than a self-indulgent treat.
Try this reassuringly misleading Japanese Namu cast iron bottle opener masquerading as a pair of pliers, ($25).
"Whether you're talking about fixing the dishwasher or kicking back and watching football, beer makes it better," Thoreson says.
Or give a man some tools that he can really relish using, like Mongolian BBQ tongs – almost a good enough excuse for midwinter grilling.
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"I loathe perfume as a gift," Shine says. It's too personal, and getting it wrong will leave the bottle unopened.
A perfume bottle. "I was given a beautiful old Moroccan bottle, and I put whatever smells I want into it instead of anyone giving me a scent I have to live with," Shine says.
Dressing table accessories, rather than oh-so-personal scents, are simultaneously less intimate yet more thoughtful.
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"This is totally the quintessential re-gift item, it's so phoned-in," says Thoreson.
It's simple: when it comes to hostess gifting, or party favors, skip a waxy, artificial reproduction of the real thing. Summer flowers? Pah! Opt instead for an orchid, or a plant – something exotic, unusual and longer lasting. Plus the fragrance will be all-natural.
In some countries, like Britain, fruit cake is a delicacy not a joke (no wonder English food is such a punchline). But in America there's nothing more heart-sinking and stomach churning than unwrapping a rock solid fruit cake come Christmas day.
If in doubt, stay savory rather than sweet. Shine has a few instant alternatives that are affordable and unusual: she and her husband spread bacon jam, ($12) on melba toast every morning. "It's just bacon, onions, spice and balsamic vinegar."
She loves the infused sea salt samplers at Saltistry and even the kicky alcoholic root beer, Root, ($38.99), which is a throwback to the soda's all-adult origins.
Thoreson says that anyone determined to give a fruit cake could always tweak it with a 21st century twist. "A generation ago, guys repaired to the woodshop to get away from their wives – now they hang out in the kitchen. It's certainly the case in my house."
The fear factor – or fascination – of cookies or cake whipped up by a dude will eclipse all whiff of cliché. "There's just this novelty factor."
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Yes, a big rock in a blue box is an ideal gift for anyone, but cheap earrings gussied up with wrapping are only likely to disappoint and backfire.
"My husband got me a bracelet from a street vendor, then put it in a jewelry box," says Shine. "I thought I was going to get jewelry and it was a leather wrap bracelet that made me look like I was in the 1980s."
Shine says a catch-all staple is a Hermès bangle – there are plenty on eBay for $200 or so. "Every one is different, and it's more expressive."
Thoreson agrees that bland bling will backfire; he suggests "a nice cocktail ring or a necklace from an up and coming indie jewelry designer. Women love that – they want to be first, and they're supporting someone new."
Take 20 minutes online to click around a few sites – Stylelist, for example – for inspiration. That mouse-powered burst of thoughtfulness will pay back more than a pair of diamond earrings.
"Even if she doesn't really love it, it has so much working in its favor she may well adjust her feelings about it since you put in so much time and effort."
Lulu Frost bracelet, $tk, available at Lulu Frost, NYC, (212) 965-0075
Nothing says "I couldn't be bothered to think too hard' than a store gift card. Especially when some retailers still deduct maintenance fees (up to $2.75/month) while the card remains unused. In other words, wait too long, and it's worth nothing.
Look for a more flexible alternative. American Express has a cash-like substitute – this season, designed by Peter Max – that never expires and has no maintenance fees. (Translation: it'll still be worth $100 if your friend uses it to buy next Christmas's gifts.)
Target has a remote control gift card, which turns a grown up boy's toy – a tiny radio controlled car – into a cash card (min spend $25).
The way to give a gift card thoughtfully? "Label it," Shine suggests, "Saying 'I went into a store and saw this item, but didn't want to get it for you without knowing you loved it, so here's a gift card.'"
According to Thoreson, cheap frilly underwear sends one message. "I want to get you in the sack, but don't want to invest much money into it."
There's also the awkwardness of unwrapping it in front of the family. "I have a friend who gave his sister lingerie as a joke for Christmas one year, and she opened it in front of everyone," explains Thoreson. "He was the only one laughing."
Shine was on the other end of said experience: "My husband had the audacity one year to give me two pairs of La Perla thongs in front of my family - I don't know what the hell he was thinking!"
She recommends dialing down the sex and amping up the intimacy. A set of Luxe City Guides, ($75) to stylish destinations round the world says 'I want to give you a luxurious experience, and it's less sexually intimate and more emotionally intimate."
Shine also loves a modern take on pampering – rather than a spa session, a one-on-one workout at a funky studio like New York's Physique 57, (first lesson: $32) is both sporty and sexy.
After a few sessions you'll look so good, who would bother wearing lingerie anyway?
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Nothing says "I thought of you on the drive over and bought this en route" more than a warm bottle of wine.
"Most of the time, I can't remember who a bottle of wine is from," Shine complains. Plus there's angst over which varietal to buy. "I loathe Merlot and a butter Chardonnay, and if someone gives them to me as a gift, I'll regift them," she says.
Try some sake. "Both red and white wine drinkers enjoy it," says Shine. She likes a Junmai Daiginjo variety for beginners.
Otherwise, she'd suggest more tech, like the Fuji Instax Camera, ($130) a Polaroid-like pocket sized gizmo. "It captures the moment and the enjoyment of a party, and keeps that person in your mind who gave it to you."
If you've already bought a bottle of wine, personalize it: Thoreson usually adds a label instructing how long to wait to drink it at its best, and a special occasion it's intended for (then the recipient won't forget who gifted it, either).
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Show us a man in America who doesn't have a 'Godfather', 'Star Wars' or 'Lord of the Rings' box set, and we'll show you a man who lives without electricity.
Like Rockstar for movies, Yoostar, ($169.99) lets you insert yourself, via some new tech tricks and of course some green screen, into a variety of classic movies (yes, including 'The Godfather').
"It's like movie karaoke," Thoreson laughs, "It's a social thing, too – you can upload your videos onto the web to show everyone."
For a cheaper alternative, Shine thinks it's important to give time as well as money when gifting a DVD: package it with popcorn and some beer, and a note saying "'Look forward to spending a rainy day with you watching it soon' or 'You told me the other night how you loved this movie so much – can't wait to watch it with you.'"