Tuesday, December 01, 2015

The [Name Brand] Conundrum

My school has this program for students who are parents; they can sign up, and write down their kids' (or kid's) ages and what they want for Christmas.  Faculty and staff sign up, and buy and wrap the stuff, and give it anonymously, putting a paper tag with the appropriate number on it (which is taken off so the kid doesn't feel like a number).  The gifts are supposed to be no more than $20.  That's important, of course, because if there are three kids in the family, and someone goes out and spends $100 on one, and the other kids get the $20 gifts, there will be very hurt feelings.  For me, $20 isn't much to spend, but it's a lot and adds up quickly, so it's probably a reasonable amount.

Anyway, the paper tags came out.  I have a 10 year old girl who's listed as wanting "Sculpey Clay" and a writing journal.  So I looked up "Sculpey Clay" and apparently it's a name brand and not just a different way of saying "stuff to shape with" or something.  I found a local craft store that has it, and off I went.  (I scoped out some journals the other day in a bookstore, so I'd have an idea of prices to balance for the $20.)

At the craft store, there's the Sculpey Clay, and next to it, another polymer sculpting clay.  The thing is, the other brand is WAY cheaper, so if I got that, the girl would get a bigger hunk (or multiple mid-sized hunks) to play with.  The Sculpey clay is more expensive, almost twice as expensive.

And there's my conundrum.  Get more of what's probably basically the exact same stuff, or get the name brand that someone (a parent, I suspect) has written down?

If I were buying the clay for myself, I'd get a big hunk of the other brand.  But maybe that's because I don't know the difference.

But I also remember being a kid and really, really wanting the name brand of something, and then being really disappointed when I got the non-name brand that was probably just as good but never seemed as good in my little kid eyes.  You know?  I also remember times when I got the name brand and was thrilled.  So there's that.

And maybe it's the parents who want the special name brand stuff for their kid? 

So, anyway, I bought a multi-pack with some hunks of bright colored Sculpey clay.  And then I went to the bookstore and bought a writing journal that felt well-bound, was aesthetically pleasing with a good number of pages.  I may be a few cents over the $20, but not too much.

Should I have bought the bigger hunks, or was it right to buy the special brand?


  1. Speaking from experience, it isn't the same stuff. Sculpey is way better quality, much less likely to be dried out. (Wow, flashbacks to when I had to be crafty!)


  2. My kid's been an artist since she was six. My mom used to buy her the knock-off of everything, and it used to drive her nuts. The almost-as-good (when you do care about your work) will drive you over the edge.

    And I know my mom meant well: she figured buying three cheaper things -- crayons, markers, *and* a box of clay -- was better than just buying one pricey thing. But in the event, what happened was my kid just wouldn't use the art supplies my mother sent at all. I'd end up either tossing them, or (if I got the chance before they dried out) donating them to a charity drive.

    You did the right thing!

  3. Also if you look at wikipedia for sculpey, it notes that different type of polymer clays have different properties, even among the name-brands.

  4. Sounds like you made the right choice, and if you're even a few dollars over 20 it's always possible that you found a sale, or had a coupon, or whatever. The possibility of $20 vs. $100 gifts in the same family is a good argument against going way over, but getting slightly nicer/more satisfactory versions of two modest things that could be bought for under $20 in slightly less-nice/less-satisfactory forms seems in keeping with the spirit of the rule, while offering the satisfaction of good tools, which delagar describes so well.

  5. Thanks for your responses, everyone! I feel reassured that I got the right gift. I'm wrapping this afternoon, and will drop off tomorrow. :)

  6. Also, I remember the name brand thing as mattering a lot when my family were noticeably less well off than the kids at school... it made life so much better to have the real thing (plus with special craft supplies it's definitely worth it, I think. I hope so! My niece (10) wants some really fancy special markers for drawing comics with this year, and they're going to be most of her present from me, whereas I could have bought her quite a lot of paper, books etc. along with some cheaper ones. So I hope that works out right for me as a gifter too...)

  7. Hubby and I always get the name brand stuff when it's mentioned, because we both had parents that bought off brand, junky stuff because it was what they could afford. I understand the sentiment, but I was always disappointed. I eventually stopped asking for specific things, and just said, "I don't really need anything," because I knew I wouldn't get what I wanted. Same with hubby. Long story short - you did the right thing.

  8. JaneB, I think your point is especially important. Thanks. And thanks, Fie, too, because sometimes the specific thing matters!

    An amusing update. I stopped in my department office with my wrapped gift on my way to the drop off place in the library, to see if the admin assistant had anything they needed taken or picked up at the library (which they do, sometimes), but she didn't. But in our chat, we got onto the gift thing, and it turns out that we have kids from the same family, and they've both asked for Sculpey clay, and we've both got Sculpey clay (and the other stuff), though different Sculpey clay choices. (I went with a pack with several colors in small amounts, while she want with a pack of one color in a larger amount.) (We could tell by the numbers that we're in the same family, though our kids are a couple years apart in ages.)