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Didi’s Manners & Etiquette: Receiving Gifts

Thursday, September 10, 2015

 

Dear Didi,

What to say when you don’t like a gift? It seems like a waste to accept an expensive gift you really don’t want and will never wear or use, because you don’t want to hurt the gift giver’s feelings. Is there a polite way to ask for something else instead when there is no gift receipt nor sign of where it was bought in order to exchange it?

Quite frankly, I would rather give the gift back than keep it and have to write a thank-you note for something I don’t want. Nobody likes feeling indebted to someone for accepting something they don’t like.

–N.E., Cos Cob, CT

Dear N.E.,

When there isn’t a gift return receipt nor way to identify where the gift came from on the packaging, tag, or label, you are stuck. Make room in your recycling gift drawer in the hope of finding a happier home for it. Unless of course you decide to sell it on eBay.

Complaining, or as some would say being honest, about a present that someone has given you — unless it is broken or doesn’t work or fit —  sounds ungrateful.
Neglecting to control your impulse to complain is simply bad manners.

In a situation such as this it is hard to be both honest and nice. It is better not to say anything rather than hurt the person’s feelings. They may have spent a lot of time thinking about the perfect gift for you, as well as spending more money than they had anticipated.

In order to sustain your relationship with the giver, you should not complain about the gift, unless of course it arrived damaged or was the wrong size. But in that case you would know where it was bought or shipped from and be able to rectify the problem on your own.

Think of it this way. If someone took you out for lunch to celebrate your birthday and you didn’t like the restaurant or the food, you wouldn’t complain. Why? Because the person is treating you. They organized the lunch in order to spend time with you. You wouldn’t whine about not liking the food and expect your host to take you to another restaurant to make up for his unfortunate choice.
You know what they say about gifts? It is the thought that counts.

If you never wear nor utilize the gift when you’re with the giver and it is not on display in your house for him to see, he’ll get the hint that the gift was not to your taste.

On the receiver side, if there is no evidence of where the gift came from, the giver of the gift should tell the recipient where they can exchange the gift — if it is possible to exchange the gift. When not given that information the giftee assumes the present is not exchangeable.

Asking the giver to take back the gift because you can’t use it — for instance if it is a toaster oven and you have a brand new one — is one thing, but if the present appears to have sentimental value — such as an out-of-print coffee table book, beaded necklace or deco broach and you know the gifter can’t take it back (for whatever reason), don’t ask.

Yes, it is hypocritical that we teach small children to pretend that they like their present by expressing a cheerful thank you — when they don’t like it. That politeness is to protect the gift giver from hurt feelings for disappointing a child.

~Didi

Do you have a dilemma about love, family and life in general for Didi? Go ahead and "Ask Didi." If your Question is used, we can withhold your name and/or location.

 

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