From the San Francisco Call, November 14, 1913.
“Spug” is the unattractive nickname of a society which is doing a useful service in discouraging the giving of useless presents. The full name of the organization is the “Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving,” or S. P. U. G., “spug.” The society was organized last year and has just begun its 1913 campaign to discourage the habit of indiscriminate and unnecessary gift making.
The SPUGs are a bit problematic. The founder was a very wealthy and privileged woman, Anne Morgan (relative of J.P. Morgan) – apparently it started with the idea that gift-giving in employer/employee relationships amounted to formalized bribery, which is true, and generalized from there. I find it a bit problematic that someone incredibly wealthy was saying to workers “save your money” when maybe “pay your workers better, dad and capitalists!” would have been more apposite.
I give stuff away all the time, and generally don’t give people stuff for holidays because I figure they’re already bored and jaded with stuff. It’s much more fun to send someone a christmas present in July. Or a halloween present. Or a “today the battle of Borodino was fought!” present. I’m sure that my friends all think I am weird* but at least they are thinking of me. It’s almost always something I made, or some bizzare thing that made me think of them, personally: I didn’t haul myself to the mall and spend a day walking around with a list going, “what can I get for Fred? I don’t even like Fred…”
One of the great joys is giving something nice to complete strangers. Because I think they’re most likely to be honest about it. “Whoah, that soap you sent me smells like goat balls! How did you accomplish that?!” is sincere feedback.
I also enjoy giving kids presents that will make their parents miserable, if I don’t like the parents. I gave one kid I know a drum kit. I gave another a lovely paintball gun. I have been known to give small children things like slide whistles or kazoos. So perhaps the motto should be “Put the USELESS in S.P.U.G.!!!”
California Digital Newspaper Collection: San Francisco Call, November 14, 1913
(* They know I am weird!)