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When love is a handy drill set
Home Depot, furniture stores, White Castle may not be the best gift destinations for Valentine's Day
February 12, 2004: 12:08 PM EST
By Parija Bhatnagar, CNN/Money Staff Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Valentine's Day is creeping ever closer and you're planning to shell out that little bit extra this year for the person you love.

While there may never be a perfect gift for this holiday, one way to go is to play it safe by following the cards-candy-flowers route.

Or, kick it up a notch and throw in dinner and an intimate surprise from the boudoir behemoth Victoria's Secret.

Either option works. But some Valentine's Day gifts are riskier propositions: cash in an envelope, plastic flowers, "enhancer" bras, a candlelit dinner at a fast-food restaurant.

So, in the spirit of "getting it right" this year, here are a few destinations you may want to avoid:

The neighborhood bank: Giving her, or him, a wad of greenbucks in an envelope is tacky, unless it was requested. The obvious first impression is that the gift giver simply wants to "get this day over with."

Organza heart-shaped box with milk chocolates from Pier 1 Imports: Price $8.  
Organza heart-shaped box with milk chocolates from Pier 1 Imports: Price $8.

"A Valentine's Day gift requires a lot of thought," said Kurt Barnard, an independent retail analyst and president of Barnard's Retail Consulting Group.

Added Barnard, "Cash is a no-no. Neither should one go to the lumberyard to pick a gift. Women are given to decorative arts. So a place like Pier 1 Imports (PIR: Research, Estimates) is a good place to shop for this occasion."

The fitness club: OK, so you want to show that you support a healthy lifestyle. Giving your sweetheart a gift membership to a fitness club on Valentine's Day is a nice thought, shows you care. But the timing needs to be finessed because it's so easy to misread the intention behind this gift.

Pick another day for this one, unless you really want to have a conversation about whether you think your loved one looks fat.

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The fast-food chain at the corner: Romantic candle-lit dinner at White Castle? The fast-food hamburger chain -- famous for selling its tiny square burgers by the sac -- is hosting special St. Valentine's Day celebrations in nine locations in Minneapolis.

Ready for this? Customers will be greeted at the door by a host and taken to their own special candle-lit table.

Reservations are required, the company said in a press release. And, couples will receive a photograph "to commemorate their night of indulgence."

Maybe not.

The car wash: On any other day, just maybe you could get away with gifting your significant other a free car wash without hurting anyone's feelings. As a Valentine's Day surprise, this could be asking for trouble.

Home Depot: The No. 1 home improvement chain offers overs 40,000 very useful products -- everything from an electronic tool belt, a turkey fryer kit and an 8-piece cordless drill set. These are all terrific items as housewarming gifts, but somewhat quirky for Valentine's.

But the folks at Home Depot beg to differ.

The Lutron 600 watt White Skylark Preset Dimmer with Night Light from Home Depot. (Price: $19.97)  
The Lutron 600 watt White Skylark Preset Dimmer with Night Light from Home Depot. (Price: $19.97)

"It's true that it doesn't make sense straight off the bat that someone would shop for a Valentine's Day gift at Home Depot. But we do see a high volume of traffic just before the holiday," said company spokesman John Simley.

Among their best-selling items this time of the year -- a dimmer switch for mood lighting.

A furniture retailer: Gets the thumbs down. "Furniture doesn't typically spell romance," said Howard Davidowitz, a retail consultant and president of Davidowitz & Associates. "A sporting goods store is another off-beat destination. I mean, what would you get? A paddle, a tennis racquet?"

When all else fails, think lingerie
Victoria's Secret love-inspired motif sleepwear. (Price:$24.50 for the top, $19.50 for the shorts)  
Victoria's Secret love-inspired motif sleepwear. (Price:$24.50 for the top, $19.50 for the shorts)

Valentine's Day is the second-busiest holiday of the year after Christmas for Victoria's Secret.

Every year, the lingerie retailer debuts a holiday-inspired collection of mostly red and pink intimate wear and sleepwear.

For its 2004 Valentine's collection, there's the "Love" line of sleepwear to choose from for her, the Satin-Goddess-inspired lace-trim slip, or something called the "Baby Doll" -- a basic lacy negligee top and underwear -- which last year was among the hottest sellers for the company.  Top of page

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