Are Dorm Room Registries a Thing? Interviewed by Maclean’s Magazine

Dorm room gift registries on the rise

Students are sick of hand-me-downs and are giving dorm gift registries the old college try

Rosemary Counter

Before 19-year-old Meaghan Vital moved away from home and into a dorm at St. Clair College in Windsor, Ont., she attended a baby shower for her cousin’s wife. As the soon-to-be-mom was opening blankets and onesies from her registry, she turned to Vital with a tip. “She told me there was one for dorms now, too,” says the hairstyling student. Vital headed immediately to TheBay.com and created her own.

Just a few years ago, Vital would likely have been scrounging through her parents’ kitchen for freebies. Now she can benefit from a gift bounty thanks to a plethora of registry options now on the market. The Bay’s include anniversaries and housewarmings, “wish lists” and “holiday lists,” as well as the event option, added quietly in 2012, which Vital was most excited about: “dorm life.”

And so Vital began her list of 20 must-haves: Basic kitchenware such as cooking utensils and measuring cups, a $160 oversized blender, $130 Tassimo single-serve coffee maker with matching $25 disc carousel, and a $90 portable chopping system. Longer shots, she’ll admit, included a pink cotton-candy maker and a stainless steel deep fryer. Bay gift cards, their amount unspecified and unlimited, were also appreciated.

Gift-giving etiquette and expectations are continually changing, but if anyone had a less-than-positive response to Vital’s list, they were too polite to say so. “I told my mom, and she told all my aunts and uncles and stuff,” she says. “So they could go here for my birthday and Christmas presents and get me exactly what I need.”

For stores, dorm registries are a winning model, a response, perhaps, to the popular phenomenon in the U.S. of “trunk parties,” gatherings held by families before their high school grads head off to college; guests bring gifts of kitchenware, linens and the like. Bed Bath & Beyond allows students and parents to create a registry in their local store and pick up at a location nearby the college (making moving day much easier). In June, Target rolled out its College Registry program in the U.S. Thousands of students have since enrolled, and plans to expand the program into Canada are in the works.

Already there is Wal-Mart’s recently launched a “school supplies list,” a collaborative wish list that both students and their parents can access and manage. “It’s very close to a registry, except that it goes far beyond move-in day and has no specific date or event that goes with it,” says Rick Neuman, director of site experience at Wal-Mart Canada. Thirteen thousand lists have been created at Wal-Mart in the past month, some with as many as 10 “collaborators.” Students here seem more practical in their choices; top products listed are Kraft peanut butter, chunk tuna, loose-leaf paper, pens and pencils and laptops, although Neuman has also seen a seven-speed electric bike, a Zoomer Zuppies Interactive Puppy and one 80-inch flat-screen TV. “Somebody is dreaming big,” he says.

But registry makers should proceed carefully when navigating between needs and wants, says Toronto gift etiquette expert Karen Cleveland. “A registry shows you unequivocally expect a gift, and that’s a gesture of entitlement. No one owes you a gift for taking a step toward adulthood.” But while it’s tempting to see the phenomenon as a cash grab of sorts by the Me Me Me generation, for Millennial and writer Heidi Oran, it’s not so simple. “All registries are created by companies for profit,” she says. “They reflect the commercialization of every event in our lives.”

For students who do register, the same rules apply as for bridal registries: “Have a balance of price points, and spread the word via word of mouth,” says Cleveland. “A mass email is in very bad form.” And don’t be upset with gift-givers who go rogue. In this case, they might know something that you don’t know. “I actually got a lot of things that weren’t on my list but were way more helpful,” says Vital. “I got an electrical frying pan instead of a deep fryer, a Crock-Pot instead of a blender, and a toaster.” She never got her cotton candy machine, but there’s hope. Vital’s left the registry open, just in case.

 

(Originally published in Maclean’s Magazine, August 2014)

Last Minute-ish ideas for Valentines Day

If you haven’t been hit over the head with onslaught of bad chocolate and tacky lingerie, count yourself lucky. Then come out from under the rock you’ve been living under, and concede that Valentine’s Day is here.

And if you hate on it, you can rest assured that you’re in good company, lots of people think Valentine’s Day is overblown and lame. But your honey might not give a hoot about how commercial or stupid you think February 14 is — they might still be hoping you do something, anything, to mark the occasion. You need not feel like a sell-out or go broke in the process.

Best bets for late (ish) Valentine’s Day gifts

Really, really good quality chocolate

  • Pro tip: if you can buy it alongside dish detergent and cat litter, you’re not buying good enough chocolate.


Something fun to do together

  • How do you want to spend an evening together? Getting rubbed down for a couples’ massage? Seeing a great band or comedian together? Taking a wine tasting class? No need to take one for the team, find something that you’re into, too.


A gift that gives all year long

  • Get pregnant! Kidding. Magazine subscriptions or loading up your lover’s e-reader with really great content will have them swooning all year long.

Get outta here

  • Go out of town and make out in a new, undiscovered territory. You need not go far to feel miles and miles away.

 

 

 

Regifting and New Year’s Eve tips on Canada AM

Gallery

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Thanks for having me as a guest, Canada AM! Click the image below or here for the segment!

Radio Interview, The Motts

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a couple gets a wedding gift they think is cheap, so they demand a receipt and an explanation from the guest. It’s not a joke, but it might as well be.

I had a blast talking to The Motts about this calamity. #truestory.

The Motts with Karen Cleveland

Wedding etiquette on ETalk

Thrilled to be back as a guest on ETalk, this time discussing etiquette as part of their wedding week.