Sometimes It’s the Little Things: In Praise of Dominican Gift Wrappers

The gift-wrapping service offered by all shops all year round is not unique to the Dominican Republic, but it may well be alien to most expats.  This service is considered essential and important. Serious business.


In contrast, where I come from if you ask the shop assistant if they will wrap a gift for you, the most you are likely to get is a funny look. Apart from the most select and pricey joints, you are expected to buy your own gift wrapping paper, take it home, and sloppily and ineptly wrap the gift yourself, lumpy corners, jagged edges, and all.

Not so here. Retailers in the Dominican Republic employ small armies of highly skilled, nimble-fingered women to wrap your gifts for you, and the shops bring in reinforcements for the pre-Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s Day shopping seasons.

No matter how long the queue of people brandishing gifts, the wrappers show no stress and take their time, producing mini masterpieces of wrapping paper and ribbon or tissue paper, gift box, and ribbon. No matter how small or cheap your item, they will transform it, bestowing upon it the appearance of an elegant object you can present with pride. You can take an infinite number of items for gift-wrapping, and not even a flicker of dismay will cross their features.

I’ve never tried it myself, but I’m sure they’d gift wrap a tin of sweet corn if you took it to the wrapping counter, providing, of course, that you can prove that you bought it there. In some shops, they’re not even that strict on this point, while in others they might charge you a few pesos for the favour of wrapping an item from another shop.  On one memorable occasion, the lady in front of me was having a humble fish slice (or spatula) wrapped.

The labour is extremely cheap. For two or three thousand pesos a month (under US$100) each, you can employ extra people to gift wrap.

They are patient, skilled, creative, and calm in the face of impatient, demanding, and a sometimes obnoxious multitude. They always remember to ask you which paper you prefer, whether the gift is for a male or female recipient (no qualms about gender stereotyping here), and are gracious and pleasant with it.

Dominican gift wrappers are the veritable epitome of taking pride in one’s work, no matter how trivial or menial it may seem. 

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