It Turns Out That Nearly Half of Moms Regift, Return or Throw Away Their Mother’s Day Presents

Survey shows quality time beats most gifts—except jewelry

Twenty percent of moms prefer time with their kids to anything that comes in a box. Getty Images
Headshot of Robert Klara

A few years ago, the U.K. humor site Daily Mash published a startling piece of news: The average time adults spent picking out Mother’s Day presents had risen to a whopping three and a half seconds. (Better still, the report added, fewer men were stealing flowers left at crime scenes and cemeteries to rewrap and give to Mom.)

The story was a joke, of course. But how much of a joke? The fact is, most people default to the same gifts for Mother’s Day every single year. According to the most recent data from the National Retail Federation, 78 percent of shoppers will buy greeting cards, 69 percent go with flowers and, well, you get the idea.

Now comes a piece of real news that’s sure to leave sons across America a bit shamefaced: Nearly half of mothers don’t much like what you give them—to the point that they’ll regift or return it, or just toss it in the trash.

This intelligence comes from a 300-mom survey just released by ChargeItSpot, a manufacturer of cellphone charging stations for stores and shopping centers. (It turns out the touchscreens on the stations are handy for quick, anonymous consumer surveys, and the company conducts several each year.)

In deciding to broach the delicate topic of Mother’s Day presents, “we wanted to see what moms thought about it in an anonymous way,” said ChargeItSpot CEO Doug Baldasare. “They’re not telling their children—they’re telling a cellphone charging station. So it was great to get some honesty.”

And boy, did they.

Of the 48 percent of moms who admitted to deep-sixing their presents, 15 percent regifted them, 12 percent returned them, 10 percent donated them, 7 percent sold them—and 4 percent simply threw them out.

ChargeItSpot kiosks pose survey questions to shoppers.

ChargeItSpot also asked moms (who took the survey in 17 malls across the country) what sorts of gifts they did like to receive. No. 1 on that list? Jewelry, favored by 32 percent of respondents. Other preferred categories included beauty products (14 percent) and clothing (12 percent). And while 11 percent of moms said they liked flowers just fine, an equal number said they’d like to receive electronics.

But among the survey’s findings, perhaps this one was most telling: Twenty percent of moms said they’d rather spend quality time with their children than receive anything that comes in a box.

That’s not necessarily bad news for retailers—taking mom out to a restaurant is both a material gift and quality time. (Plus, “you can’t regift a dinner out,” Baldasare said.) But the upshot is clear enough: Before you hit the purchase button on that flower site, remember that mom would actually rather see your face at her door than a bundle of roses.

Seeing as Mother’s Day is an annual thing, “it’s hard, year in and year out, to get something completely unique … something super thoughtful,” Baldasare said. “But where you can, you should try.”

And better still, “go for the quality time,” he said, “even if it’s [just] a walk in the park.”

@UpperEastRob Robert Klara is a senior editor, brands at Adweek, where he specializes in covering the evolution and impact of brands.