It feels great to buy someone something they specifically want, while still keeping it a surprise. If you’re trying to find the perfect gift for a friend or colleague, the answer is in your chats, emails, and social media: search their messages for the phrase “I want.”
Shep McAllister, Senior Director of Commerce at Lifehacker’s publisher G/O Media, stumbled on this trick while looking for a team gift for Senior Commerce Editor Chelsea Stone: “We were all in a Slack group chat brainstorming what we wanted to get our coworker Chelsea as a graduation gift. I remembered her mentioning a bag she wanted in Slack a few days prior, and so to find the link, I searched for her Slack username and ‘I want.’”
It turned out Chelsea had used that phrase dozens of times, along with “I need,” and several of these instances were about a specific item the team could buy. They went with the bag — Chelsea says she loves it — but, Shep says, “we had several other good ideas from the Slack search we could have gone with as well.”
So if you need to get a gift for a friend, colleague, or loved one, search everywhere that you’ve chatted with them: Slack, Google Hangouts, emails, texts, any other messaging apps. Search their Facebook and Twitter posts too.
If you’re lucky, you’ll see a few direct links to what they want. More likely, you’ll see mentions of more general categories, or problems they’re trying to solve — problems that your gift could solve.
You will, of course, stumble on a lot of your friend’s other wants and needs. You might even feel like a stalker! But you’re only looking through the messages they already shared to you or to a public forum, and for a good reason. You can finally give them something they asked for, instead of giving up and buying them whiskey stones.