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You Suck at Gift-Giving: Your Valentine's Day Gift-Buying Survival Guide

bad gifts
Listen. If you're looking for Valentine's Day gift ideas for your significant other on this site, you're certifiably effing clueless. We're a tech blog! But we know it's hard to find Google, so get comfy and stay a while. Let us tell you exactly what not to get that girl or guy you managed to drag home without the help of Rohypnol, and perhaps you'll even cement yourself as their last-ditch chance at happiness. Lesley Gore said it best when she sweetly crooned "I Don't Want to Be a Loser (In Love)." Well, Lesley, good thing your suitor didn't have 'Star Trek'-themed pizza cutters back in your day, because a bad gift will make you a loser. Remember the guy who was planning on giving a vibrator bomb to his ex-girlfriend? That, reader, is a loser gift.

Other examples of loser Valentine's Day gifts: Ed Hardy anything, heart-shaped anything, body chocolate. There are exceptions to these rules, of course -- except for the Ed Hardy one -- but we wouldn't expect you to know them. Read on for our V-Day gift survival guide, telling you exactly what not to buy, and giving you a few suggestions for good presents along the way.

LED Anything

We get it. Things that light up are dazzling and all, but that doesn't always mean they're exceptionally useful. "But I just found the sickest LED-embedded t-shirt that has little glowing hearts on it!" Gross. Things that light up should illuminate something other than your own gift-buying ineptitude.

Alternative?
Why not a lovely lamp instead? Tobias Wong's Sun Jars haven't gone out of style. And Sang Jin Lee's Book Rest Lamp makes an adorable house out of your lover's reading material (maybe buy them a book, too!) while setting the ambiance for an evening of snuggling. (The CFL bulb won't kill your electric bill, either.)

Apps, Romantic or Otherwise

Our staff is divided on this, but listen closely: do you really think that nothing says love like the Amazon.com App for iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch? A gifted app has "thoughtless prick" written all over it, probably because they're cheap and/or free. (These are not it's-the-thought-that-counts kind of gifts, either.) "Hey baby, I thought you could really use this iBeer app, because I know how much you love pretending to drink beer. Let's make out?" Pro tip: also avoid poetry apps.

Exception?
The only app that challenges this rule forces you to get out of the house and contemplate the heavens. You and your Valentine can nuzzle each other under the stars with the Star Walk app for iPad, geeking out over Proxima Centauri and thinking about how little iPad apps really mean within the context of celestial mechanics.

Anything Social Media-Related

twitter plushie and facebook credits
One of our relationship-challenged editors thought it might be romantic to set up a Foursquare-based scavenger hunt. The rest of us laughed, and then wept in pity. There's nothing intrinsically romantic about social media, because it's something that we all use. ("Honey, I saw this sandwich and I thought of you because, like all animals and some plants, you require food to live.") Yeah, it's timely and cutesy to get a Twitter junkie a blue bird plushie or some crap, but they'd probably be better served if you gave them a book instead.

Alternative?
A Tumblr-based chronicle of your time together with your love could be heart-meltingly romantic. Some of you (and us) may consider that to be so saccharine that it'd blow out the backs of our skulls, the weepy sort really go for that kind of thing. The girlfriend of one our writers, who shall not be named to protect the OMG SO CUTENESS!!1 of his relationship, created a Vimeo scrapbook of their entire time together, which continues to warm the cockles of our jaded hearts. Better yet, a romantic Tumblog is the only free thing on our entire list that still requires effort and care. We're going to go stuff our weepy faces with quiche now.

Geek-Themed Jewelry

Maybe you think it's really adorable and deep that some emo craftsperson made a necklace out of <3 or CTRL-ALT-DELETE keys ("It's like a metaphor, or something, for like, restarting your life?") but it's not. Remember that jewelry is meant to adorn the wearer, not to make her look like she just got back from her latest dumpster-dive-and-glue-gun party.

Exception?
Finding nerdy jewelry that's not dorky is no easy task. Our suggestion? Don't just get a random "digital" trinket. Instead, ditch geek jewelry and go for something with a futuristic, industrial quality, like Iker Ortiz's ultramod pieces. Or if you've got a major geek on your hands, go for their special flavor of nerdiness, like comics or Tron. Tom Tom just released a collection of 'Tron'-inspired baubles.

Regular Tech That's 'Girly'

This is a warning to the man who thinks that you can appeal to the other 51-percent of the population by turning regular things pink and sparkly: Not all women enjoy this! From Vivienne Tam netbooks to whatever the hell this disaster is, marketers, manufacturers and bad boyfriends alike have all helped distribute this pink and foofy crap. Just because you have a certain set of sex organs doesn't mean you want a rose-colored HTC Evo case.

Alternative?
Karim Rashid's pink schtick may be getting a little old for some, but his Too Much Aroma Vaporizer for Lexon still looks sexy while managing to fall into the fuchsia family. Drop in a little jasmine oil during sexy times to cover up all of your equine odors set the mood, and then crank up the humidifier afterward to treat your hubby's sleep apnea. Romance!

Slap Watches

slap watches
Having gone out of style even quicker than hipster headbands, slap watches still remain on the market thanks to months-late style reporting by the likes of the certain metropolitan tabloids. Could slap watches be the next Silly Bandz? Let's pray not. So don't buy one for your girl or guy, unless you want their accessories to tell the world "I'm half a year late on a revived '80s trend that was awful to begin with, and generally lame."griffin watch

Exception?
iPod Nano watches are still adorable and utilitarian, and Griffin's version -- hear us out! -- just happens to be a slap watch. They're bright and chunky without being too childlike, and will fit right in with any NOOKA enthusiast. You don't even have to slap it! Tell your paramour to save the smacking for the bedroom, or dining room table.

USB-powered Gimmicks

usb gimmicks
Save the USB-powered humping dog for Grandma's 90th birthday. Hell, save it for your lover's birthday -- just not Valentine's Day. The proliferation of USB crap still hasn't ebbed, from USB-powered George Foreman grills to "breast warmers." USB trinkets are good for a LOL, sure -- but not much else.freecom mobile drive

Alternative?
Skip the gimmicks altogether, and stick with USB gadgets that are actually useful -- and pleasing to the eye, too. Freecom's mobile drives, designed by Slyvain Willenz, are a throwback to DAT cassettes and purdy, too boot. Removable labels recall ZIP drive days, allowing you to keep your data organized by type. The dock lets you link them all together, just like when you clasp hands and entwine your soul with your betrothed. Awww! [*vomit noises*]

Personal Improvement Gadgetry

withings weight tracking
Maybe you're grossed out at your hubby's growing arm flab. Or maybe your grossed out that your hubby is losing too much arm flab. (Hey, different strokes!) Either way, your junk will get shut down on V-Day if you present your partner with any kind of personal improvement gadgetry, like a treadmill or a feeding tube, because that only says, "I don't actually like you how you are. Love ya!"
fluenz

Exception?
Buuuut: encouraging your other half (or third or fourth -- again, it's a wide, weird world) to learn a new language is not insulting at all. After all, no one's ever like, "Honey, I really think our sex life would be better if you'd only learn some Urdu." (Well, maybe?) But forget about Rosetta Stone, which carries the message, "I thought about how I didn't get you anything for Valentine's Day when I was shopping for a 'personal massager' at the mall." Fluenz is the underdog language-learning alternative, comes in design-y packaging, and has language teachers raving that it puts the Stone to shame. How do you say "safe word" in Mandarin, again?

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