An inconvenient shopping list

Cyber Monday (inspired by its evil cousin, Black Friday) is a symptom of our obsession with convenience. As Tim Wu has pointed out, convenience trumps privacy, morality and good judgment for too many of us–the internet has made things faster, and faster has become faster, and faster has become the point.

Here’s a list of some gifts and expressions of friendship that aren’t nearly as convenient, that involve independent sellers and crafters and that you have plenty of time for if you plan ahead…

Starting close to home, consider the This is Marketing 8-pack, with custom covers, from 800 CEO Read.


For the baker in your life, this grain mill is a game changer. Now you can buy local rye, wheat or other grains and grind and bake fresh. I like the Komo, which you can get from Pleasant Hill.

Also for anyone with an oven, a sheet of 1 foot by 1 foot steel for your oven will totally change the way you make pizza or almost anything else, even if you go with the convenient path and buy frozen. In the EU or the US, or you can save some money by seeking out a local sheet steel supplier.

A handmade knife from Japan is an heirloom waiting to happen. Korin is a reliable place to start. And there are local artisans making beautiful knives everywhere.

Your local favorite restaurant also sells gift certificates. Who knew? What a great excuse to treat a friend to dinner and conversation. (Local bakeries too).


Do you have a friend who doesn’t like chocolate? If so, get new friends. For the rest of us, there’s Shawn Askinosie and his mission to make the delicious ethical.


Not enough people carry an official Star Trek communicator in their pocket.


If you give someone a box of beautiful custom stationery, they’ll send more beautiful handwritten notes. A gift that truly keeps giving.


Plan (far) ahead and grow some heirloom plants. Or give the seeds as a gift.

Books, blankets and t-shirts that contain the entire text of a book. Litographs even has The Princess Bride by the late William Goldman.

Peeps are an extraordinary device, one that every human with a pair of eyeglasses will be blown away by. And at $15, you’ll be thought of every day of the year… Buy extra, they have a habit of being borrowed.


Rubber chickens are always a crowd pleaser.

Finally, a trend that’s starting slowly but is gaining traction is the idea of giving a gift on behalf of someone you care about to a cause that matters. Perhaps one that’s not glamorous, convenient or easy, but important nonetheless. Consider any of these dozens of worthy causes, vetted by the extraordinary Jodi Spangler. (Click and scroll down to see the list).

Here’s to the difficult, time-consuming and inconvenient.