Oprah ditches favorite things in favor of donations

This year the talk show host gave audience members cash to spend on the charity of their choice, drawing disappointment from some.

By Jessica Seid Dickler, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- "Oprah's Favorite Things," an episode of Oprah that usually airs annually around Thanksgiving, has repeatedly been one of her best rated shows of the year. This year, though, it's not running at all.

In past seasons, Oprah has given away her favorite hand-picked products, including a Maytag (Charts) washer and dryer, a diamond watch by Philip Stein and fudge brownies.

But this October, Oprah surprised audience members with $1,000 debit cards in a "Pay It Forward" challenge in lieu of her "Favorite Things" show. She instructed them to spend the money on the charity of their choice.

On Tuesday, Oprah taped the results of the "Pay it Forward" challenge and explained her decision to bag "Favorite Things."

"I can honestly say that every gift I've ever given has brought at least as much happiness to me as it has to the person I've given it to," Oprah said. "That's the feeling I want to pass on to you."

Many viewers had relied on Oprah's suggestions as a guideline for holiday shopping, putting all of Oprah's picks in extremely high demand, translating into a boon for the makers of those products.

"For a small business there really isn't any greater exposure than that," said Lori Karmel whose key lime cake was chosen as one of Oprah's Favorite Things in 2004.

"It's very sad for small businesses," Karmel said of Oprah's decision to not run the show this year.

A spokeswoman for Harpo Productions said the producers had not made any final decisions about revisiting the show next year or in future seasons.

"It's been a financial boon to small companies and entrepreneurs like myself," said Pete Seltzer, CEO of Kashwťre, the small firm responsible for the ultra-soft robes selected by Oprah last year.

But "things had gotten out of hand," he said, referring to a number of copycat companies falsely claiming to be one of Oprah's picks. "There were shenanigans going on."

Additionally, he added, "Oprah's staff was concerned about the overwhelming orders flowing in to small companies." In such cases, the deluge of customers crippled web sites, crowded stores and caused months of back log. (Read: Oprah's Favorite Things: A blessing and a curse.)

"I absolutely understand why she's not doing it," Seltzer said, adding that "it's good for us - it leaves us as the reigning champ."

So instead, Oprah hopes her audience members will give to others. All 300 of them were also given a Sony (Charts) DVD Handycam to record their charitable activities.

"You're going to open your hearts, you're going to be really creative, and you're going to spend it all at once on one stranger or spend a dollar on every person," she said. "Imagine the love and kindness you can spread with $1,000."

The Oprah Winfrey Show is scheduled to air the results of the "Pay it Forward" challenge on Monday, Nov. 27.

Gallery: See products Oprah picked in 2005 Top of page

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