≡ Menu

Loaned Gifts

A good friend of mine was given a bicycle second-hand by her in-laws. They no longer had a use for it, and she has been using it as a means of exercise and activity. Now they have found a new use for the bicycle, and told her that “they’re going to need the bike back.” (They didn’t even have the decency to make it sound like a request!)

What do you do when someone gives you something that they no longer have a use for, and then ask for it back? Obviously if it’s just been sitting in your basement or garage, it should be no issue to give it back, but what if you use it frequently and do not have the means to replace it? Is it wrong that they are asking you to give back something that they gave you with the intention that you keep it and use it, or are you wrong for not wanting to give back something you regularly use now that they’ve found a use for the item that, not long ago, they no longer wanted? And if it’s perfectly acceptable for you to keep the item, how do you tell the person, “No”?

In a related issue with the same people, she very clearly (and graciously) loaned them a lovely piece of nursery furniture–a family heirloom that belonged to her grandmother–so that they could use it when they had their child. The baby is now between 18 months and two years old, and they no longer use the furniture, though it continues to sit in the nursery (seemingly to fill up space). My friend recently had her first child and would like to use it for him, but it seems they not only have not asked if she is ready to have it back, but that they have actually avoided the subject altogether, and it seems they have no intention of returning the borrowed item. She is simply too kind and forgiving to ask, and she doesn’t want to cause a rift with her in-laws. If it weren’t a family heirloom, she would probably just forget the whole thing, but there is a lot of sentimental value in this item, which they were made aware of. If I borrowed an item like this I would make the effort to return it when I ceased using it. Or, at the very least, when I found that she was expecting her child. I also would certainly never borrow an heirloom for fear of breaking it! I try to be accommodating in most ways possible, and I’m sure my friend felt that loaning this item to these “family members” would be no issue, but I think the wisest decision I ever made was to never loan something that I couldn’t bear to give away.

When you have loaned an item to someone for their use and convenience, how do you go about asking that they return the item when they no longer have a need for it and you do? 0519-10

{ 37 comments… add one }
  • Joanne May 24, 2010, 4:40 am

    I do think your friend should stop being so “kind and forgiving” and just ask for HER heirloom furniture back. It’s not theirs, it’s hers. I have to admit that it annoys me when people don’t say anything to the party concerned about returning borrowed items, but prefer to whinge to others about how hard done by they are. Her in- laws obviously do not have the manners or common sense to intuit that she would like her furniture returned – she should stand up for herself now. Your friend was gracious and lent them the item; she should now just as graciously request it back. It’s simple. She says “I see xxx no longer uses the furniture I lent you 18 months ago. I would be happy to pick it up on Saturday, as I can use it now. Thanks.” End of story.

  • kero May 24, 2010, 6:04 am

    I’m actually quite blunt when it comes to really sentimental and important items (like your friend’s nursery furniture). Other items, I would try to be accomodating but I do find it rude when people do not make an effort to return a borrowed item; but at the same time, people are not mind-readers and do not realize if I really want it back or not. Politely asking for a return works (usually). However, if the bike was meant as a gift, then it is really tacky to ask for it back.

    This is going to be tricky for your friend because the asking group are in-laws, and sometimes afamily has the sense of “we share everything” (like mine) and when something is given without the verbal/physical label of a gift, it is really on a loan.

    Regarding the heirloom, I would be devastated if my friend or in-law lost/broke the only momento I have left of my grandmother. I’d simply and nicely ask for the item back….asap. Argh, don’t attack me for saying this but I put my own family above in-laws.

  • Jen May 24, 2010, 6:15 am

    I would advise the friend to politely mention, when contacting her in-laws, that she is planning on picking up the heirloom piece of furniture when she drops off the bike to them since she could really use it for her own child.

  • Mom May 24, 2010, 6:37 am

    A short story: My husband’s first wife was given a lovely piece of furniture by a favorite aunt, and placed it in her youngest son’s room, where it was treated carefully and very appreciated. Auntie thought this was a great idea. One year later, my husband’s first wife died, and the piece of furniture became an even more important treasure to her youngest, as Mommy had put it in his room and it was special. Flash forward to the day after our engagement, when Auntie informs us that she needs the furniture back immediately. It was rather unpleasant, and youngest son was very upset (he was 4).

    There’s nothing for it but to return the “gift”, particularly if you expect to ever have a relationship with the lender. Certainly feel free to graciously turn down any future gifts.

  • Aniiksa May 24, 2010, 6:47 am

    That’s a seriously tough issue – especially since sometimes people assume the loan is a gift (or maybe the giver/lender didn’t make themselves clear and assumed the receiving person is somehow psychic).

    I have a story of my own in a similar vein – for my 18th birthday my father gave me a car he’d got cheap (for some legal reason his workplace hadn’t been able to give away a company car they no longer wanted, and he bought it for the costly sum of £1). I was away at university in a city where driving wasn’t encouraged and wasn’t using the car for months at a time, so my father decided to give it to his 19-year-old girlfriend. She promptly drove it into a tree and wrecked it.
    He never asked me if he could take the car in the first place, and no replacement was ever forthcoming. Nor was there ever any sign of an apology.

    I think that sometimes, family members (in-laws included) assume that property owned by other people in their family belongs to them also, through some odd ‘blood right’.

  • Erica May 24, 2010, 6:48 am

    With the heirloom, I would straight out say, “I’d love for Baby Newarrival to be able to be in the same [bassinet or whatever] that his siblings, cousins, parents, uncles, etc. were in — when could I come over to pick it up now that Baby Otherguy has outgrown it?” Your friend should not have to wait for them to come to their senses and clean out their room, even if she wasn’t expecting a new arrival. If she isn’t asking “can I have that back” so much as “when is a good time for me to come get it” … well, it worked for the in-laws with their bike, so why not get her rightful heirloom back the same way?

    If a rift is caused by her requesting an heirloom that she will actually be actively using soon, then it would have existed due to something equally petty sooner or later.

  • MadameMim May 24, 2010, 7:12 am

    It seems to me that by requesting the bicycle back, the other couple has opened a door and provided the friend with the perfect opportunity to ask for the crib. Either they’re the sort of people who don’t get their noses bent out of shape about such requests, or they’re the sort of people who have no right to get their noses bent out of shape about such requests, having made them themselves.

  • janie May 24, 2010, 7:14 am

    In-law issues are usually a no-win situation. I would suggest that your friend kindly but firmly ask for the family heirloom back…no hem hawing around, just ask for it back. Maybe a trade for the bicycle. Yeah, it was tacky to give her the bike and ask for it back, but if she wants the furniture back, that may be what she has to do. Bikes are replaceable (hey, its garage sale season!) but heirlooms aren’t. And tell her not to take “no” for an answer.

  • Mona May 24, 2010, 7:16 am

    She has a perfect opportunity to ask for the crib back. If these are their rules, they should apply to the crib as much as the bike. In other cicumstances, I would say she has every right to keep the bike, but should return it if preserving the relationship means more than the bike.
    Give up the bike very graciously – ‘Thank you so much for letting me borrow it, I don’t really need it anymore anyway… what I really need now is grandma’s crib for the baby.’ She can always get another second-hand bike cheap. (Ask for the crib asap – they’re probably saving it for another baby and don’t want to buy their own. Or worse, promised it to someone else. If she’s having a hard time asking now, it will be impossible for her when there’s another baby on the way and it sits unused for several more months.)

  • SammyHammy May 24, 2010, 7:46 am

    I see nothing rude at all in straightforwardly saying, “Well, I see that you are now finished using that piece of furniture that I loaned you, and I actually have a need for it now. Would it be better for us to come by on Saturday or on Sunday to pick it up?”

  • Maria May 24, 2010, 7:50 am

    If the bike thing happened to me, I’d be annoyed too, but I guess it’s within their right to ask for it back. Which brings me to point number two:

    She is simply too kind and forgiving to ask

    Stop being a pushover and ask for it back. Her husband needs to back her up on this. Has she even mentioned wanting the crib back to her in-laws? People aren’t mind readers – maybe they assumed she didn’t want it because she didn’t ask for it.

  • NotCinderell May 24, 2010, 8:00 am

    If your friend was clear that the item was a loan, then she has every right to ask for it back. Something like, “I was planning to use the [item] that I loaned you for my baby. When is a good time for me to pick it up?”

    By not asking, she is not being “nice.” She is being a doormat, and she’s allowing her in-laws to take advantage of her.

  • Howard Golstein May 24, 2010, 8:11 am

    Your friend needs to stop worrying about causing a rift. She can simply tell her in-laws that she needs the furniture back and when will be a good time for her to come by and pick it up. She could also tell them when a good time would be for them to come pick up the bike, and oh by the way, since you’re coming to get the bike, please return the nursery furniture I need it now for my own child.

  • Jennifer May 24, 2010, 8:40 am

    “I’m so glad to see you’ve taken such good care of the heirloom furniture I leant to you. I’ve noticed you are no longer using it, and I wonder if I might have it back to use for my little one.” Point blank. Just ask.

    By not asking, she’s already creating that rift. So, so many family rifts begin just by a person not speaking their mind. She might start out with the good intention of not wanting to sound like a gift-take-backer, but soon it will cross over into passive aggression. Just ask while the issue is still fresh, but speak your mind in love. I absolutely can’t stand it when people are upset or angry or apprehensive about me, and then express those feelings by telling everyone about it BUT me. Better to nip it before it becomes epic.

  • AS May 24, 2010, 9:16 am

    What you said about loaning the items is very true – don’t loan anything of sentimental value to anyone when you are not sure that you’d get it back.
    That said, if you friend already loaned an item, she could probably be a bit forceful, yet act sweet and take the item from the nursery and tell her in-laws sweetly that that it has a sentimental value and she’d like to use it for their grandson. They probably cannot say no for that without telling what is in their mind or starting a fight. Otherwise, she can request her husband to talk to his parents and get it back.
    On the same note, are you sure that her in-laws did not think that they were lending the bicycle to her the same way that she was lending them one of her heirlooms? Maybe they said that she can “keep it” or something as she was using it, and she thought that they were gifting it to her. In this type of scenario, it is best just to return the bicycle and buy herself a new one. If her in laws had actually gifted it, then they are being a jerk asking it back; but if she is not sure, maybe they can get the advantage of the doubt. It is better to be accommodating about returning something that belonged to someone else than not asking back something that belonged to you. (My grandmother had once gifted – mind you, actually gifted – a bedcover set for my father’s birthday; but after a few years just took it back! My parents just went with it and told themselves that she had just lent them the set). I am not sure about the timing of it, but it could be that the in-laws don’t want to return the baby item as your friend is unwilling to return the bicycle.

  • ferretrick May 24, 2010, 9:48 am

    No one can take advantage of you without your permission. If she lacks the spine to ask for the item back, that’s her problem. Jennifer is dead on that this is passive aggressive behavior, and makes unnecessary unpleasantness and drama for everyone.

  • Livvy May 24, 2010, 11:09 am

    I agree with what most people have said here – I’d ask for my furniture back. One difference from other posters…I wouldn’t preface my request with, “I see you’re not using it…” That only opens the door for them to claim that they ARE still using it, etc. I’d just say something to the effect that you’re glad they took such good care of it, are happy they enjoyed it, but now need it back.

    Regarding the bike: Yes, if they said it was a gift, it’s tacky to ask for it back. However, there really isn’t any polite way to refuse to return it. Perhaps they only meant to lend it to you, as you lent them your furniture.

    On the plus side, as others have mentioned, this does give the perfect opportunity to say, “Oh, how convenient, I can pick up my furniture at the same time as I drop off the bike!! So easy for everyone!” That makes sure there’s almost no way they can protest giving her the furniture back.

  • Merrycat May 24, 2010, 12:32 pm

    While I think that she wouldn’t be wrong to keep the bike, since it was clearly a gift and not a loan, I’m thinking that will give them an excuse not to return her heirloom furniture. What if she got back to them with, “I’m going to need my furniture back. Why don’t you bring it by when you come to pick up the bike?”

  • kudeenee May 24, 2010, 12:42 pm

    Asking for the bike back when it was clearly given to her for her to have, not borrow, is tacky.

    She needs to contact the inlaws and say “When I bring the bike back to you, I want to pick up nurseryfurnitureitem that I loaned you so my child can use it. Would x or y date work best?” Then, don’t loan anything that you really, really want back, especially something that holds sentimental value to you.

  • Elizabeth Bunting May 24, 2010, 1:00 pm

    I don’t think this is about loaned bikes and loaned heirloom cribs – there is something else going on here and I don’t know what it is.

    When dealing with in-laws, you can not win. She may as well give the bicycle back and forget about the heirloom crib if she wants to keep in with her in-laws.

    Obviously, the husband doesn’t want to take a stand. He should be the one to deal with his father and mother, not the DIL. Most parents can’t believe that their own kids might do something they would not like – they will always blame the in-law. Unless, Sonny-boy stands up to his parents – takes the bike back and gets the crib, this will always be a problem. It will be something else next week.

    Just my opinion,

  • Louise May 24, 2010, 1:28 pm

    “Of course you can have the bike back. Oh, that reminds me — I’d like heirloom furniture back for my baby. I notice your baby has outgrown it. When’s a good time to do a swap?”

    It’s too bad about losing the bike, but it is a good chance to get the heirloom furniture back, which I imagine is more important. Hopefully, even if the in-laws planned on keeping the furniture (maybe for future babies?), they won’t be able to turn down a swap without coming off as mean. But I would give the in-laws the benefit of the doubt. Yeah, it’s tacky to ask for a gift back, but it could just be cluelessness. For all we know, they are very willing to return the heirloom furniture but it’s very low on their to-do list. A direct request might work wonders.

  • Tracey May 24, 2010, 2:49 pm

    I didn’t read the replies so I don’t know if I am repeating someone…..but it’s kind of hard for the recipient to know what the giver was thinking if the giver never said outloud “I want this back when your child outgrows it!” The giver had a timeline in her head, but the recipient didn’t know that.

    Now….with that being said, I ASK for my items back! And more than once I have had to ask twice for something I loaned out. I didn’t need it at the moment, but she had already told me she was done with it. So instead of risking it getting damaged, reloaned to someone else, misplaced, etc. I just asked her for it directly and politely!

    Regarding your story, it’s HER heirloom. Of course she should ask for it back.

  • PrincessSimmi May 24, 2010, 7:10 pm

    I have to add that I’ve asked for the sane items back multiple times. Don’t accept excuses- it’s yours and you have a right to want it back. I also want to add that it might be best to pick it up when you drop the bike off as if they are bringing it toyou they can keep stalling or could damage your furniture. My Mum (god love her, nobody else does) has been doing this for years. Now I just drive over there, dump her stuff on the doorstep, take my stuff and leave.

  • M. May 24, 2010, 8:01 pm

    And in the future, she shouldn’t accept anything from, or loan anything to, these people.

  • Margaret May 24, 2010, 10:08 pm

    I have a friend who loaned her sister a baby crib. A year or two later, she had another child and asked for the crib back. Her sister refused to return it because she wasn’t done with it, so my friend had to buy a new crib. If you think there is something more than just crib going on, you are right. The sister has an amazing sense of entitlement that awes me to this day.

  • Shoegal May 24, 2010, 10:48 pm

    This post is really timely, as I’ve had a similar issue with my partners little brother. He moved out of home for the first time about a year ago and we lent him a futon that we used as a spare bed for when people stayed over. We told him that he could keep it for as long as he wanted, but that he was to give it back to us when he didn’t need it anymore. When Little Bro moved in to a new place about a week ago, we noticed that he no longer had the futon. Turned out that he’d had sold it to his mates girlfriend.

    Am I wrong to be completely furious about this? We weren’t really using the futon, not on a daily basis anyway, but we clearly stated that we wanted it back and I don’t like making my house guests sleep on the couch. I think I’m most angry at the fact that he sold something that didn’t belong to him and pocketed the money. In-laws hey? Can’t live with em…

  • baby May 25, 2010, 7:57 am

    i’m the original poster (using a nickname), and the bike was most certainly meant to be kept (the giver said “I don’t need this anymore, I never use it, you can have it.” (Or, “please, take this space-waster out of my garage”).
    regardless, when my friend told me of the bike situation, the first words out of my mouth were to tell her to say “sure, just as soon as i can get that heirloom nursery item i let you borrow.”

  • mahovolich May 25, 2010, 8:46 am

    My inlaws gave us gardening tools when they sold their house and moved into a condo. We were glad to have them as we had just moved into our home. About a month later they “borrowed” the tools (plus a few that we had purchased including the ladder my folks gave to DH) to loan to the yard maintenance company that kept up their condos. Why the company would not have tools seemed a little odd. My sister in law and her boyfriend moved into their house a few months later with the yard tools and our ladder.

  • Xtina May 25, 2010, 12:55 pm

    I don’t guess I’ll be saying anything that hasn’t been said yet, but that’s dirty pool to give someone something that was clearly ‘with no strings attached’ and was not to be returned, and then ask for it back later as if they’d only loaned it. It should be returned to them and they should be told sorry, that you did not realize that it was a loaner—and kindly turn down any items of theirs they try to ‘give’ you in the future.

    As for the heirloom furniture, do not ask if they are done with it, just tell them that you’re ready to get it back now, and when may you come and pick it up? If they dare to question that, you should simply state that you had only intended to loan it to them and you are sorry if they misunderstood your intentions (which I hope had been clearly communicated to them when it was loaned). Now that you know, be very, very wary of loaning them anything in the future—if you do, be sure to clearly spell out the terms and intentions, and also be aware that loaning valuable or irreplaceable items can be problematic; it might be best to simply say “no” if you are afraid of losing it.

  • JenniferD May 25, 2010, 4:10 pm

    Give the bike back and never accept a “gift” of this nature from these people again. Tell the crib keepers that you need the crib back for your own use and that _______ would be an excellent time for them to return the item to you. Then never, ever loan these people a single thing ever again.

    Someone needs a spinal stiffening or these people are going to continue to use and abuse her as they have already demonstrated themselves capable of doing.

  • Jill May 26, 2010, 5:06 am

    I can’t count how many times I’ve been in this situation! I have a friend who, as a previous poster said, just has a huge sense of entitlement. Over the years we have borrowed many DVDs, books etc from each other, and would always return them promptly when we were in high school and saw each other every day. But since we finished school and no longer see each other as often, I don’t think she has returned a single thing she’s borrowed! What’s worse is that she is so unconcerned about this – she’ll often make comments like “oh it’s around here somewhere… anyway it’s not like you need it in a hurry, you have plenty of X”. One occasion she swore up and down that she’d returned a DVD (brand new, which I had yet to watch), then a year later, said “oh, I did actually have that DVD! But I’m not sure where it is anymore, I think someone packed it away so if I can’t find it then it isn’t my fault”. I was so shocked I didn’t even know what to say! I often ask her for the items, but I have given up hope of ever seeing them again.

    The moral to the story is, never lend anything to anyone unless it is something that you won’t mind giving up for good.

    But I do think this woman should insist on the crib or whatever it is, I don’t even think she should ask, just say “Will you be at home this afternoon? I thought I’d come by and pick up my crib”. The only way to deal with people like that is to ignore their insane ideas of entitlement and just insist on what is rightfully yours.

    I would return the bike though, even though it’s hers now and the in-laws are really being quite rude, it is probably better to preserve the relationship.

  • Alexis May 27, 2010, 6:59 am

    You don’t ‘ask’ for it back. It’s hers, she informs them that they need to bring it back. Now. No explanations. That would imply that she’s OWED an explanation, and no-one is entitled to an explanation of why you want anything that belongs to you. (Geez, it’s not like her pregancy is a big secret! The explanation they’re not owed is obvious anyway.) ‘And when you come by with it, I can return that old bicycle of yours’. I wouldn’t take anything from them again.

  • Flower May 28, 2010, 7:37 am

    I have to say that I don’t overly have a problem with the in-laws asking for the bike back. Why should they have to pay again for a bike? My in-laws have given us a lounge and dining table. If they said tomorrow that they had a use for it, I would give it back. I don’t think I’m entitled to say “You gave it to us and even though we didn’t pay a cent for it, we think that it is ours and you should fork out again for new furniture because we want to keep it”.

    It’s the exact same with nursery furniture. I have given my cousin my nursery furniture but if I found out I was accidentally pregnant I would expect her to return it (and I would ask for it). Why should I pay twice? It’s a different story if I had sold it to her. My BF was in that situation where her brother got accidentally pregnant so she returned all the stuff that was given to her and went and bought her own stuff.

    I believe it is poorer etiquette to believe you have ownership over something that you never paid for. Things being given to you because they are no longer being used is NOT the same as gifts being formally given to you that you have complete ownership of.

    As for the heirloom furniture, just ask for it back. Really it should be the husband dealing with his family. All they need to say is “We’ll be needing that crib back now that we’ve got our baby on the way. I’ll come and pick it up …..”

  • Caroline June 1, 2010, 5:39 pm

    I would never ASK for something that belonged to me to be returned. Why do you need to ask permission to take what’s yours????? What I would do is show up at the in-laws house with the bike, give it back to them (the cheapskates!), and go in and pick up my stuff, carry it out to my car, and take it home. End of story, simple as that.

  • Chelsey July 14, 2010, 1:22 pm

    Why would anyone loan a family heirloom to someone? Big mistake on your friend’s part.

  • essie August 23, 2010, 10:28 am

    My paternal grandmother was infamous for holding “claim checks” for items, both her own things she gave away (“I don’t need/want it any more and I know you like it”) and flat-out gifts.

    The worst one, though, was when my grandfather died and she moved from a 2-story farmhouse to a 1BR apartment. She asked my father if he’d like to have her dining room set (which had originally been given to her by my MOTHER’s maternal grandmother). Of course, my parents said “yes” and we now considered it to be a DOUBLE family heirloom. Like most men, my father didn’t care much, if anytyhing, about household furniture, but he frequently said he was so glad we had that table, which was big enough to seat all of us, with room for guests, but didn’t overwhelm the dining room.

    Fast forward aboutr 12 years and my parents are considering relocating to another state. Coincidentally, his BIL is being stationed somewhere his family can’t go with him and Dad’s sister is looking for a place close to her mother during the 1-year separation. Mom and Dad agreed to rent her our house, fully furnished, during this time. (Note: I was fortunate enough to grow up in the same town with all my grandparents close by.) A year later, Uncle returns to his happy family and they prepare to move to his next duty station. WE are happy because they ask to stop by our new place for a visit on their way across the country (they’re not big on maintaining contact).

    So, they stop by, Mom prepares a lovely dinner, and we all sit around and chat for a while. Since they’re in an RV, we’re a little surprised when they insist they can’t stop overnight, but HAVE to move on. The next morning, my maternal grandmother calls us and asks “Where’s your dining room table?” She had gone over to our house to check on it and found…no dining room table and chairs! Mom immediately calls her MIL to see if she knew anything about it. She did. Her daughter apparently liked it, too, and asked her MOTHER (not her brother, whose house it was in) if she could have it. Since my grandmother HAD owned it at one time, she couldn’t understand why we’d be so upset that she had the right to give it away to someone else!!! (Not to mention that neither my grandmother nor my aunt saw any reason why they should replace it in any way, shape, or form.)

    It was ACTUALLY IN THEIR RV WHEN THEY STOPPED BY!!! And they never mentioned “Oh, BTW, Mom said I could have your dining room table and chairs.”

  • Lola March 6, 2011, 10:13 pm

    My mother and her neighbor actually had a falling out after my mother lent baby clothes to the neighbor when she had her child. When my brother was born (and the neighbor child had long outgrown the borrowed items), my mother requested the clothes be returned, and it turned out that the neighbor had sold them in a garage sale! It wasn’t even my mother that was angry — it was the neighbor for being expected not to steal borrowed items.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Next post:

Previous post: