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Gift Etiquette Question

Posted by charro (My Page) on
Sat, Dec 8, 07 at 15:20

Frankly, I am a bit insulted but have the mentality that "life is too short to sweat the small stuff? Here's what happened.

I have a close friend who has a great job and no money worries. We both have been supportive of each other as things in our personal lives have been devastating.

For her birthday, I sent her a lovely gourmet gift of steak and lobster. It is her favorite, and she seemed to appreciate it.

We both agreed to exchange Christmas gifts. I just received her gift. It was a $10.00 book stuffed into a manila envelope with no gift card.

I sent her a beautiful leather traveling tote, with a thoughtful note.

She asked me today if I had received her gift. I said "yes, thank you" and left it at that. We both agreed not to open our gifts until Christmas. Mine was not even wrapped so that is how I knew what I got.

I'm of the inclination not to say anything and from now on, be very frugal with her. What do you think?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Gift Etiquette Question

If you are giving her a gift with the thoughts of "tit for tat"...with consideration for what she may give you....then youa re giving a gift for the wrong reason.
Give to her what your heart says and pay no attention to what she gives you.
Linda C


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RE: Gift Etiquette Question

You are so right, "tit for tat" is not a way to give a gift. I've gotten some lovely homemade gifts that were thoughtful. There was no thought put into this gift, and that is what I have the problem with.


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I agree with you, charo; no thought at all ; it's obvious she's not a great gift buyer. Just agree not to exchange gifts next year; it seems the relationship works for you, with the exception of the gift giving, so eliminate that aspect and you won't be frustrated.


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Well....then that fact makes you not feel so kindly and loving toward her and consequently feel less like carefully choosing and giving generously to her.
So back to my point....you give a gift from the heart....and your heart doesn't feel as warm toward her as it once did.
So give what your heart says....not what you think is appropriate considering what she may give to you.
Linda C


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RE: Gift Etiquette Question

I'm hurt more than anything else. Whether a gift is bought or homemade, it should convey that you value the recipient.

I do like the suggestion of saying "let's pass on gifts" for next year. It is the thought that counts but when one puts no thought into a gift, I would rather receive nothing.

And I do feel differently about her now. I did buy her a friend card for the holidays and am not going to send it. She is going to get the same card that I send acquaintances. Receiving no note or even a "To/From gift card is what bothers me more.



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Gifts should have zero strings attached to them, IMO. If I have any expectations from the person I'm giving to...then my gift becomes a salary and not a gift.

If this was a person who was important in my life I would give a gift from my heart with expectations of receiving absolutely nothing in return. If you have expectations you are setting yourself up to feel let down (as you've already experienced).

Either way, give, or don't give, from your heart & your feelings will take care of themselves.

/tricia


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RE: Gift Etiquette Question

I think I understand charro's point. It's not so much that she was disappointed in the gift itself, but more disappointed in what she perceives as the thought behind it. Charro felt a certain way about her friend, and the gift Charro received makes her believe that the friend may not feel the same way in return.

Although the question is specifically about the gift, if you read between the lines, it seems to me it's more about the level of friendship between these two. And a degree of hurt or disappointment on charro's part that this relationship may not be what she thought it was.

So, as for the gift, I agree, gifts should be given from the heart, no strings attached, no expectations in return, etc. But I think charro might have come to the realization that this particular friendship isn't what she thought it was. Not because of the gift itself, but because of what it says about her friend's perspective.


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I also understand how you feel, Charro. It's not that you feel like you deserve dollar-for-dollar reciprocity; it's that her gift made you feel devalued as a friend.

If this is a friend you want to keep, though, maybe consider that her gift may not be an accurate indication of how she feels about you and the friendship. Some people have a talent for gift giving; others don't get it at ALL. If she makes a point of giving generous, thoughtful gifts to others but not to you, that would be one thing. But maybe she is just a lousy gift giver?

We all know people who never call or or entertain, even though they like it when we call them. Sure, maybe they are wrong always to be making others take the initiative -- but that doesn't mean they don't love us.

In my own case, I rarely send greeting cards. I do lots of other things, though -- I entertain, I call, I send gifts, I bring food and flowers. I think a friend or relative who loves to send cards would be pretty silly to use that as the only measure of my feelings about them, ignoring all the things I DO do and focusing only on cards, just because that is what they do. Do you see what I mean?

I'm not at all saying that your friend's idea of a gift was just ducky. I'm just saying that before you take it as anything more than a lousy gift, and certainly before you take it as a message about your relationship, you put it in perspective both about how she is about gifts generally and how she is about other things with you.


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RE: Gift Etiquette Question

Thank you for understanding how I feel and clarifying it perfectly.


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RE: Gift Etiquette Question

Did you check inside the book? Maybe there is a little 'something' stuck inside?


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RE: Gift Etiquette Question

If this behavior is very unusual for her, then it might be attributed to depression. You referred to the 'devastating' personal issues that you are both having to deal with. Could that be an option?


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RE: Gift Etiquette Question

OK, is there a chance that she did spend some time picking out the book and she thought it may mean something more to you than it did? Many people I know would prefer books as presents compared to typical store bought items. I'm just throwing it out there... but why is a book considered a thoughtless gift? Maybe it's like a first edition of some special book and worth a lot!

The other thing that came to my mind is that maybe she is just going through a rough time. I have a couple close friends and some times we exchange b-days gifts and sometimes we don't... it's all rather hit or miss. But, sometimes the less thoughtful gift times are the ones when someone is going through an especially tough time personally. I would re-adjust you giving if it bothers you and you deem it necessary, but if it's only happened once, I'd probably let it pass.


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I guess I am going to have to delve more into this. So, here goes:

I have known her for years. Both of us belonged to the same club where we would host the other members at our home. She is known for being "frugal". I stopped eating at her home because I have gotten sick from what she serves. She will go to a restaurant, take home the leftovers,(seafood for the most part) leave them in her refrigerator for two weeks and then serve them to her guests. When she is at someone's home, she will pack herself a "goody bag" (without being offered), and that will be her lunch or dinner for the week. We've been out with her at restaurants where she will take bread out of her bag from other restaurants, eat it and then pack the fresh bread away in her purse.

She has a "dream job" with no financial worries. She bares no expense when it comes to herself but with others, I think you get the picture.

We are both widows having lost our husbands suddenly and belonged to the same bereavement group. I have moved to another state.

There is no "secret" gift inside the book. The book is not a special edition of any kind. It cost $10.00 reduced from $20.00. Yes, the price was still on it. The subject of the book: animal humor.


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She is known for being "frugal".

Well then, why are you surprised at what you got?


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Good question, shaun. I don't know the answer to that one.


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I think that, by now, I would have accepted her for who she is and enjoy a big laugh when she pulls one of her eccentric behaviors out of the bag. Truly, it IS funny...now that you've explained it in more detail. I think you need to love her in spite of what she does...time and time again.

It might make you feel less 'slighted' if you gifted her with items from the bargain basement, too. Nicely wrapped, of course! ;-) If you haven't been to a Big Lots, for example, you must make a visit!


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I too had an eccentric very wealthy widow friend...sadly she died.
Df ( for Dear Friend) could buy and sell us all. She owned a full length black mink, but wore a polyester cape when going to the opera. She gave a new wing to the church but griped about the highschool kids that wanted to sell candles to fund new band uniforms. She complained about being asked for a donation to fund the new learning center....so she gave $250,000 to fund the whole building. etc etc...
When her birthday rolled around I would give her flowers or a plant, because I knew she wouldn't buy them for herself and she loved a bouquet. For my birthday she gave me things like a little bottle of dried herbs from her garden.
I once watched while someone she hired wrapped and packed empty peanut bitter and mayonaise jars for a move. I asked why and she said because you can't buy them and I use them..
Love her for what she it...she remembered your birthday and sent soemthing.
Linda C


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I'm still not seeing what is wrong with a $20 book -- Ok, it was marked down to $10 (and granted, she should have taken the price tag off)... but, a $20 book is nothing to sneeze at. Guess, I'm just not seeing the problem. Granted, I have numerous nice tote bags that I've never even used so having a book that may bring me some laughs (even if she got it at the dollar store) would be worth a lot more to me. Does the value and appreciation of a gift really just get boiled down to how much someone spends? I have a feeling she may really think you'd like the book and that maybe a lot more thought went into it than you are giving her credit for.


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hmm - I get that she's on the scary side of 'frugal' (when people have, and take frugal outside the bound of common sense, it's called 'miserly', by the way) but I get the feeling that it's partly the wear-and-tear of being embarassed for her, and partly the obvious lack of regard for you that's really eating at you - not the gift itself.

a book that actually meant something to you could have come from a yard sale and cost her a quarter, could have been wrapped in last year's funny pages, and been a gift from the heart that said 'I was out, and thinking of you, and this came to me'.

nor, does it seem that what's bothering you is the cost of your own gift - but the feeling that the thought you put into it was appreciated - but not returned.

do YOU think she bought the book 'especially for you'? would you feel chintzed if you believed that?


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RE: Gift Etiquette Question

Charro -
It seems like you two simply have different attitudes toward gifts. There is no "gift etiquette," as you put it, regarding cost or effort.

You like to put a lot into gifts, in terms of thought, cost, and effort. So perhaps if YOU gave an inexpensive gift and didn't wrap it, you would be intending to communicate disrespect or lack of affection. But you say this is just her way. So don't make the mistake of taking HER gift to mean what it would if YOU gave it.

Perhaps she just believes in SMALLER gifts, particularly for recipients who are not in need. I think there are many people like that, including wealthy ones, and including me, for that matter. I could afford to buy larger gifts; I could also afford to buy a larger car or more jewelry, or for that matter to leave every light in the house burning, but that doesn't mean I should do those things. In general, I think about what the person has mentioned s/he would like or what is going on in his/her life, and get an idea that way. If it costs a lot, I may buy it anyway, but if it costs only a little, I'm not going to choose something else just to be spending more for spending's sake. It never occured to me that someone might be judging my gift based on cost; I'm not going to start now. I think that is an insult to my friends.

Even though I do sometimes spend a lot, I see no correlation to satisfaction. The gift my mom loves most that I ever got her cost around $30. The one my best friend liked the most -- LOVED; she'd been looking for one for 25 years -- cost around $15. As for me, the 2 best gifts I got for my 50th birthday cost (I'm guessing) around $250 and $4 respectively. The cost just wasn't the issue.

I have two girlfriends with whom I have exchanged holiday and birthday gifts for many years. I WISH the price range would be less -- not because I can't afford it, but because it seems silly and wasteful to me, and especially because there is one that I worry CANNOT really afford it. I would be delighted with a book, and I would be delighted that my friend found a bargain. It is a shame when people spend more than they can really afford because they feel like it is expected.

That doesn't mean there is never a time when you sense that you've been dissed by someone's slapdash attitude. Look, we've all been in similar situations, and we've all felt slighted or disappointed. So it's not like we don't understand how you feel.

But I really think it's a mistake to make too much of it. Now that you have told us that this is just how this woman is, I wonder why you are taking it personally? Obviously, it's not a sign of her feelings for you -- it's her regular gift-giving style.

So if you punish her or get angry her for it, for what are you punishing her and getting angry? For being different from you?


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charo, she won't change; now that you've given us more insight it's pretty clear
what her bad habit is. I know people of modest means who are frugal with their every day spending/lifestyle but will be classy in their gift giving, classy enough to make the recipient feel good.

Someone who will serve bad food is disrespectful and selfish.
But since you know that she is that type of person , I don't see how you could have expected anything else from her.


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Now, I feel bad that I even brought this up.

It is a matter of respect as some of you had mentioned. I cherish all my friends, and I expect the same in return.

My friend knows my likes and dislikes. Heaven knows why she would pick something like this to send to me. That's what's bothering me.

When it was her birthday, I told her what I was sending her. She didn't like the kind of lobster I picked and proceeded to tell me what kind she would like. Because I wanted her to enjoy her gift, I sent it.

For Christmas, I picked her gift because she travels a lot, and the tote is very pretty and sturdy.

Yes, I am hurt. I would have rather received nothing.


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I can see all points. You shouldn't measure a gift from someone to you against what you gave.

But, it does hurt your feelings when you feel like you are reallyclose friends and you have put such effort into getting the perfect gift and then you receive a gift that was an after thought. We are only human!

I wouldn't let friendship end over a gift. And try not to hold it against her. She may have something going on. I once didn't give a gift b/c I had too much going on. It was just how it was. It didn't end the friendship thankfully. But, I would have been hurt if my friend thought to drop me b/c I didn't measure up. You know what I mean?

Sometimes we have to let things pass because there is a reason we may not know for what is going on.


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Charro, I'm new here, but I think I can relate a bit to what you're saying. A couple of years ago, my SIL gave me a beautifully wrapped present... when I opened it, inside was a couple of little 'made in China' dollar store itmes, with the "Buck or Two" price sticker still on them. This episode actually made me cry and my husband was furious. I know my BIL & SIL can afford better (and DID provide better for the rest of the family), but that's not the point. I totally know what you mean about the issue being the thought behind the gift. I never suspected my SIL & I had issues or anamosity between us, but this gift made me question that. I was also embarrased. Hubby's entire family opens gifts as a group, and *I* was the one who got the dollar store gift in front of all my inlaws. Why me? Who knows. But I've had doubts about my relationship with her ever since.

Last year my best friend, who has been making candles and soap for years, got a jar candle from her SIL.

It's NOT about cost, but about the 5 minutes of consideration & thought it would take when chosing a gift. You're right in thinking it would be better to have received nothing. At least then the message would be clear.


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rilie, I can also relate to your situation.

My late husband, little daughter, and myself were at a family Christmas gathering. My sister and her family were the favorites of my parents. She received a crystal bowl and a Lenox china place setting, and her children got loads of toys. We all got Tote slippers. I did not feel bad for myself but for my little girl, I was crushed. How do you explain to a five-year old child why she did not get the same as her cousins?


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"Last year my best friend, who has been making candles and soap for years, got a jar candle from her SIL"

but, you see, there's two ways to look at that... Yes, generally you would think someone who makes candles may not want a store bought jar candle, but maybe the giver really thinks her friend is so much into candles that she would love a store bought one that she didn't have to spend time making. It's all in how you look at it.

Just like the animal humor book... It could be a good gift for an animal lover, but it may just as well be a thoughtful gift for an animal 'hater'... since it may very well be making fun of animals and they may find it even more humorous.

Not saying all these gifts are great picks and I could see where someone may roll their eyes, but I'm just not necesarily seeing where no thought went into them. I think it's just really how you look at it and, without interviewing the giver, how do you know how much thought went into the gifts?


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carla? HELLO??

charro, you are so right to be insulted. Whether it was intentional or the result of simple stupidity, your so-called friend dissed you in the worst way.

Are you right to feel offended? Absolutely!

I will tell you that I *always* offer gifts -- carefully chosen and from my heart -- with absolutely no expectation that I will receive anything in return. It's about the giving... HOWEVER, there's a limit to my generosity. When people give me something thoughtless, just as an obvious 'pay back', it really, really bothers me.

What your 'friend' did was unacceptable. You need some new friends who will cherish you for caring so much.


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steelmagnolia,

H E L L O BACK... I'm sorry, but how can anyone ever be insulted by a gift? Even if it is a payback gift? I have never ever been insulted by any gift, ever! Unless someone gives you a bag of doggie dodo, how can you be mad? It's a gift! Even if NO thought went into it, which would be impossible, it's still a gift. And, how can you even JUDGE how much thought goes into anything? Do you read minds? Come On.... I can't believe people (and I know there are lots) think the way you do about gifts. Selfish, Sefish, Selfish...Me, Me, Me, People. Not enough love and thought went into your gift... oh, you poor thing, let me get you a tissue...

Fact is, you don't know what other people are thinking and I would bet my house you have disappointed people with your "thoughtful" full of love gifts at times too. No of course you don't think so... everything YOU ever gave everyone loves (Yeah, right). You are fooling yourself, big time. Gifts are not necessary, ever... That's the definition of a gift. So, get over yourself and learn to appreciate gifts as they are.


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Of course it is possible to insult someone with a gift! Something that still stings to this day (15 years later) was when we were at a family function with XH's family. XH's BIl gave him (in front of everyone, a large group) one of those sex shop leather whips. Why? Because he was "whipped". By me, apparently. I was mortified, DH was shocked. They had a good laugh at my expense. This all started when XH said he'd be home after the BIL's bachelor party by 2:00-3:00 am. When he didn't show up by 5:00 I called SIL to see if he'd left her place (where he stashed his car). Apparently calling to see if your husband has been killed after a drunken party is not allowed in that family. So yes, a gift can be insulting. Not that the OP's rises to this level, of course.

Anyway. I have also had people give me a gift that was fine, but the way it was given was insulting. "I am giving you the cashmere scarf instead of the sweater, like your sister, because you are too large to fit in the sizes at the store". Said with a well meaning smile, of course.

They WAY the person gave the gift to the OP was more troubling than the monetary value of the gift - sort of thrown together. Sends the message she didn't really want to exchange gifts, IMO. I have a friend who usually gives me a Christmas gift that I wouldn't pick out (stinky cheap perfume, etc.). However, it is always beautifully wrapped with a nice card. It is the thought that counts, and the OP's friend didn't put any thought into it. Just my 2 cents.


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From reading the various anecdotes above, it's obvious that a gift can convey a message. I've gotten crummy gifts at times, obvious regifts quickly thrown together, the person gave it to me because she felt she had to bring something. I just thank them and dispose of it.

I had a friend who used to visit after xmas; she would always bring me stale baked goods. Why bother. I know for a fact that she over bakes and is always stuck with too many goodies after the holidays, she told me .



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RE: Gift Etiquette Question

I understand how you feel: my best friend has more money than I have, she also is my son's godmother and never gives him a gift (birthday, Christmas, Saint Nicholas - as we celebrate December 6th instead of Xmas)...

My mother in law said about me that I always give gifts that I cannot buy for myself; which is some kind of generosity.

So, when I've had enough of giving to my best friend and her three children each and every year and never receiving something from her - nor my son - I stopped to give.

It didn't affect our relationship because I didn't say anything about it.

I don't give in the hope to receive something but there are some people who are made to receive and not to give - and it's not deliberate on their part.

So, you'd rather stop the gift exchange with your friend either but don't say a word about it.
After all, she is your friend and you love her with her qualities and her defaults ;-)


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What was the book?

I wouldn't be offended. I have three friends I gave gifts to this year. My gift is a basket full of "my favorite things" - aka oprah. Only mine is simple stuff - my favorite brand of gum, a cd of my favorite MP3s, my favorite cleaning tool, my favorite treat and my favorite fresh herb.

After reading this I recall that one friend gave me a plate of homemade candies, one friend gave me a candy bar and one gave me nothing. I never thought about it until I read this...and, well, I have no issues with any of it. I'd still give my way next year.

It's christmas, after all.


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Look at just this string and see the vastly different approaches people have to gifts, and you will see why it is a terrible mistake to read into the gift of someone with a different style from yours some meaning that simply isn't there.

It reminds me about a story about my parents-in-law. She was good at crafts, and she made a lovely Valentine card for him. When he came home that night without anything for her, she ripped up the card and threw the pieces at him. (I don't know how old she was when this happened -- she could have been anywhere from 22 to 50. She actually tells this story herself.) Now, of course I understand that she was disappointed and hurt. But when I heard this story, I thought (but, don't worry, didn't say!) that not only was her response extremely childish, she was foolish and narcissistic to assume that just because SHE made a big deal out of Valentine's Day, it was a big deal to HIM, too, and his forgetting it meant what it would have meant if SHE had blown it off.

Some people are expert gift-wrappers and spend a lot of time and effort on that and on finding the perfect card. That's lovely, and I'm not criticizing them. But if you get a gift from me, it will probably not be beautifully or creatively giftwrapped, and there probably won't be a purchased card to go with it. It's simply not my strong suit. Please don't judge how I FEEL about you from that, even if you do it differently.

I think that even when we are disappointed, it's a good idea to try to "translate" what we think we are hearing into the "language" of the person in question. It often changes how we feel.

Amyfiddler, your "favorite things" basket sounds like a WONDERFUL gift!


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RE: Gift Etiquette Question

I give gifts to people because I like them and hope they like the gift, not because I expect something equal in return.


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