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.