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Polis Report

Fruitcake Redux

By Michael Learmonth

Some gifts were built to be recycled. Take the dreaded fruitcake, for instance. Ever wonder why such a durable baked good is so often sold in a tin or other similarly bullet-proof packaging? The fruitcake engineers know that this brick-like baby has to be built to survive at least three recipients a holiday season.

American Express reports that 37 percent of Americans earning more than $50,000 a year admit to recycling gifts. About 22 percent of those earning less than $15,000 also reduce, reuse and recycle during the holiday season.

Here's the fruitcake scenario: Sent priority mail by aunt in Ashtabula to nephew in San Jose. Brought by nephew to girlfriend's parent's Christmas party to which he'd rather not show up empty-handed. Accepted graciously by party host and kept on hand until given to a neighbor who shows up unexpectedly New Year's Day bearing holiday assortment of crackers and salami. The neighbor's crackers and salami actually came from his aunt in Palm Springs.

Convenient, sure. But is it proper?

"Oh, definitely recycle. I do it all the time," said Alice Ursano, owner of Silent Partners, a professional shopping service. "Baby gifts are the most recycled items," she said, baby gurgling in the background. "People buy things for kids that are either too big or the wrong season. Ugly ties are also big. All you have to do is wrap it up and give it to someone else."

Ursano, who hires 14 helpers to keep up with business over the holiday season, admitted to recycling "stuff right out of gift baskets" she peddles to Silicon Valley executives with more money than time.

And she pushed the fruitcake theory even further: "I think fruitcakes are actually recycled when they're made."

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From the December 12-18, 1996 issue of Metro

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