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Gifts as Good as Mom

Is she a 'Queen Mother'? A 'Tub Soaker'? A 'Trendsetter'? E-tailers offer suggestions for categories from traditional to humorous.

April 26, 2001|JENNIFER LOWE |

It must be a guy thing, this cluelessness about what to get Mom for Mother's Day. I saw it in the eyes of a colleague as he told me how one Mother's Day, he and his brother did what his Mom said--"Oh, you don't have to get me anything." He still tries to atone for his sin each Mother's Day with flowers or candy.

Uh, hello, that's so yesterday. How pathetic.

"Moms are one-of-a-kind, so the best way to shop for that unique Mother's Day gift may be to choose what kind of mom you have--and let us do the rest," begins EShop, at, one of the numerous Internet sites ready to help you this Mother's Day.

I know my mother pretty well. I know what she likes, and it's tough getting her something each year only because she loves everything and wants nothing. But I decided to see whether these sites could offer some advice.

Is she a Career Mom, a mom on the fast track in need of a gift that will streamline and manage her life? EShop displayed a picture of a personal digital assistant. A Hip Mom? The site offered "cool" accessories for "stylish moms." A Spa Mom? A Garden Mom? What about a Sporty Mom? And who might pick Romantic Mom? Dad?

Well, like all moms, mine fit several categories, but of course I chose Hip Mom. A click brought up products such as the Goddess Ritual Candle Set from Illuminations ( ($139.95), a juniper bonsai from RedEnvelope ( ($38) and Madonna's newest album from Djangos ( ($17.49).


And in case I needed more than gift help, I could click on articles about moms with titles such as "How Moms Shape Sons" and "Want to Be a Mom? What You Need to Know."

I checked out Spa Mom, which included a soap-making kit from ($34) and a subscription to Shape magazine from ($14.97). I wondered how my colleague's mom might like these gifts--here, get in shape; now make your own soap to clean up.

EShop offered products from other Web sites, but I was curious to see the sites myself. RedEnvelope, which reminded me that my mother was my "best friend and closest confidant," had rather typical categories, such as personal care, home, flowers and plants and gourmet. There were a few nice ideas, such as the rose petal soaps ($48) and the miniature rose in a pot ($36), but the site offered no real help based on who my mother was.

I clicked over to Perfect Present Picker (, which neatly explained that products displayed on the site were chosen "based on their appropriateness as a gift for a specific category." With that solid backing, I went straight to the categories: Mom Goddess, Mommy Dearest, Tub Soaker Mom, Queen Mother gifts, Mother Knows Best. I did like the oval Queen Mother pin ($42) under Queen Mother gifts, but I felt I'd be better off finding presents based on her interests.

Perfect Present Picker had a sense of humor; some of the descriptions for Mom included "controlling," "geek" and "nudist." I picked three words--Christianity, mother and cheerful--and noticed that when I accidentally clicked on "cat" instead of Christianity, the same tea kettle suggestion came up for both. The silk heart kimono and "you look marvelous" wall mirror suggestions didn't stir me, though I thought my mother might like the "Maracas, Marimbas and Mambos" CD.

The site provided some of the more unusual ideas for a gift, including a set of six African masks ($225), which came up when I described my mother as "reading/mother/has everything."

Another creative site was, which allowed me to describe my mother as a "Caffeine Fiend," "Empty Nest" and "Appreciate Beautiful Things" (so the syntax wasn't perfect). But clicking on suggested gifts showed me that it might be someone like Stacie B. of San Francisco who actually recommended a gift for my mother, and that she might get a kickback if her idea became one of the most popular on the site. Some of the ideas were clever--give Mom a manicure, but that required buying a gift card for her (to use at a manicure shop), which the site said is accepted anywhere Visa and MasterCard are.

I shuffled through other sites--just about any e-tailer worth its salt is pitching Mother's Day--and got distracted by a few things on the Nordstrom site that I thought about buying for myself.

Nordstrom asked me to pick my mother's lifestyle so it could find the "perfect gift." Laid back? Luxurious? Trend-setting?

I went to the source.

"What do you want for Mother's Day?" I asked my mother.

"A card will be fine. I don't need anything. Just the tiniest of things."

And there you have it. I know she's not just saying that. But try as I might, I haven't been able to find "the tiniest of things" as a category on any Web site.


Jennifer Lowe is deputy food editor of The Times.

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