The Big Red Bow Event

We’ve all seen the commercials. A doting spouse surprises his or her significant other with a brand new car for Christmas, complete with a big red bow on top.


A screenshot from this year’s “A December to Remember Sales Event” commercial

And if you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking, “Does anyone actually do that?”

Apparently, yes — there is even a warehouse in California that stockpiles the iconic oversized red bows because the demand for them is so high! Granted, the article referenced is a bit old, but as Lexus’s annual “December to Remember Sales Event” is ongoing, I highly doubt that this tradition of the financially privileged has expired in recent years.

I always told J that I would be pretty angry with him if he ever did this for me. Yes, the sentiment is nice, but to make such a big purchase without consulting me first — one that is surely to affect our financial future — is wrong in my eyes.

And I know that I can not the only one who thinks this way, because I saw the following strip from Dog House Diaries just this morning:

Would you ever purchase a car as a surprise present for your spouse? How would you react if your S.O. surprised you with a new car?

25 Responses to “The Big Red Bow Event”

  1. Kelly:

    I would be SUPER pissed if my husband did this. It’s good that I married someone who’s pretty “frugal”.

  2. I would be furious. Even if I’d been saying that I need a new car. I just don’t see how such a major purchase could really ever be okay unless the decision to make it is made as a couple.

  3. Let me start by saying that I hate these Lexus commercials, and this year’s crop, where the spouse is tricked into think the phone/music box is the gift until it plays the Lexus song, are the most obnoxious yet.

    However, just giving your spouse a new car isn’t always the appalling scenario people seem to think it is. My parents are by no means remotely wealthy, they just save. When my mother’s 10 year old car was having problems a few years ago, they briefly discussed that maybe it’s time to get a new car. They had the money in a separate savings account, and they always buy the same car, just newer versions (they are very stuck in their ways). So, one day, my father went out, bought the newest version of the same car, picked one out in red since my mother has always said she wanted a red car, and that was that. It wasn’t a huge financial decision, since they had been saving up money the whole time and he was able to pay in full that day, and they had previously briefly mentioned that it might be getting to be time to replace the car. No giant red bow, but she did walk outside and see the new car and was completely surprised — and thrilled, since she didn’t have to spend a day at the dealership haggling over the price.

    My husband and I have an account set aside for the (sad, sad) day when I move out of the city and have to get my first car. Since we have that money specifically for this reason, if I woke up and there was a car in the driveway, I can’t say I’d be upset with the situation. Giant red bow optional.

    • I think the difference is that in both cases there’s a plan in place and the understanding is there for both couples that the car purchase is necessary and will happen. So, yes, in one of those cases it would be a nice surprise! I was mostly thinking about what would happen if it were a complete and total shock.

  4. Di:

    I would also be furious. Not only do we simply not have the money, but even if we did, a purchase that big should be done together. And a car is such a personal thing, in my opinion, that I would be unhappy about having no say.

  5. T:

    Not only would I be pissed financially, but if I am going to be driving a car around for the next 10+ years I want to pick it out. Unless they know i want so and so car, a certain color, with these exact options and am planning to buy it on December 26. Then no I dont want the wife to buy my car

  6. Tiffany:

    Funny that you post this today – my boss told me yesterday that he bought his wife an Acura and he got the big bow too! His in-laws are driving it over Christmas Eve.

  7. I’d totally flip my lid if my hubby did this!!

  8. Janie:

    If we had all the money in the world and a car purchase would not put a significant dent into our savings, then I suppose I’d have no reason to be UPSET. But the truth is, very few people would be unaffected by such a large purchase, and even if the gift of a car didn’t upset me (or our savings account), it wouldn’t make me happy either. The unspoken assumption in such a purchase is that, ‘I can make such big decisions all by myself, without any consultation from you’, and that undoes what little joy can be wrung out of a gift like this.

    I think these commercials capitalize on the misconception that more expensive gifts are better. But if I had a choice, I’d much rather have 1) a husband who honored me enough to include me in such big decisions, and 2) knew me well enough to give thoughtful gifts rather than pricey presents.

    • I love this comment! I feel exactly the same way. Last year my husband got me a pearl necklace for Christmas, and I can’t say I was happy about it at all. He asked a girl he knew what he should get me, and let me just say that I’m not really a jewelry girl at all, so I’ve worn it maybe twice. Sigh. I would have appreciated a handmade gift so much more, not only for the fact that he thought it out, but that he didn’t dip so deep into our very meager savings. I think our society is putting too much emphasis on the money aspect of presents, and too little on the thought behind it. I’ve told the hubs since to never buy anything we haven’t specifically saved for that’s over a hundred bucks without talking to me first. I wouldn’t do that to him, so I’d expect the same consideration.

      Our economic climate just isn’t the right one for unplanned, giant surprise purchases anymore. I think that Sugar Scientist’s scenario is one of the few where you could pull this off.

  9. Jan:

    Well I think I would be happy if he picked the car I wanted and had paid for it/ have a plan in place to paying it off soon.

  10. Kimberly Kowalski:

    I’m so glad I’m not alone in this thought, I have always thought these commercials are crazy. I would be very upset if he made a huge decision like that without me.

  11. I’d be pissed if my husband did this without consulting me.

    I do remember one year when I was a kid, my grandparents did this for my aunt & uncle. They really needed a new car and couldn’t afford it, so my grandparents bought it. It was sitting outside on Christmas Day with a big bow on it.

  12. Catherine:

    They financial aspect would be unsettling to me, but I am so picky about my cars – all the features have to be JUST SO – that to receive a car as a gift without test driving it would be very annoying.

  13. Mary:

    well for the financially secure, the husband would probably be scared of surprising me like this since I may not like the car he picked.

    Now if I was to go out and buy him “the car…E63 AMG or GTR” he would freakin flip with happiness and we would just move our budget around to accommodate the car.

    But this will probably never happen for the husband because I’m frugal and would not spend that much for a car and we already have three working cars but when we do get a big family car, we plan to cash it.

  14. maybe the commercial is targeting wealthier couples where they also have separate bank accounts. but yeah, I’d say a new car isn’t the smartest surprise unless you guys had already contemplated buying that specific car, test driven it, and the money came out of the significant other’s separate bank account.

  15. I’d be pretty mad too, but I don’t think that my husband would even DARE try this because my car is such a big part of my life (suburbs). But that’s not the only case where such a present might occur. Mostly, I’m thinking from parents to a child or a “surprise” present where all parties know about it.

  16. Hahaha, my husband and I have had that exact conversation before! For us it’s the twofold issue that someone else mentioned above – I’d be annoyed about the money spent, but more than that, I want to pick out my own car! (as would he!)

  17. Cam:

    Every time that commercial comes on my husband and I both say how much we hate it…for the reasons everyone has pointed out. Not only is that a big financial commitment (we get into paralyzing discussions about buying a new vacuum cleaner), but we’re both like Catherine. There are certain things want in our car. And we each would want to test drive it for ourselves.

    Really nice to see that we’re not the only ones complaining when we see these commercials. But since they come back year after year, I guess they work on some people.

  18. Looks like I am the sole dissenter – I would LOVE it! :)

  19. my husband bought me a car for our wedding gift and it came with a big blue bow on it … that thing is ANNOYING! The excitement about the bow all but lasted 10 seconds. It’s a pretty diesel bow made of plastic so it feels wrong to throw it out but not worth using half your closet space to store it! I finally threw it out a yr later.

  20. Amy:

    Hahaha I say this EVERY TIME one of these commercials comes on. (Which, you know.. totally isn’t obnoxious or anything.)

  21. that comic is probably EXACTLY how the conversation would go between the hubby and me if he got me a car for Christmas.. I wonder how many people actually do this for Christmas, and how many cars get returned. Maybe if we were the 1%, and a $50k is not a big deal, then I wouldn’t mind so much. but still, a vehicle just seems excessive :-)

  22. tempid:

    I hate the Lexus commercials. In today’s economic and job environment, it’s more of a slap in the face to those less fortunate than it is a motivation for those who are well-to-do. I cringe every time I see/hear one as I feel for those who can barely afford to buy the necessities let alone a new vehicle, not to mention a Lexus.

  23. Did you know there is a company whose only product is those gigantic bows? Somewhere in California. There was a story about it on the radio, that this year they were short on giant bows. Who knew!

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