The Parasitic Gift Giver?

by admin on June 28, 2010

Hi, can I ask your reader’s advice?

A few years ago my best friend was going through a tough spot, so I let her join in on a gift for another friend’s wedding.  I paid the lion’s share, she chipped in a few quid, and we said it was from all four of us (partner’s included).

She’s on her feet now, earning as much as I do, but she still wants to carry on this arrangement. We’ve got another wedding coming up next month where they’ve asked for monetary donations towards a new sofa.  That’s fine, I was going to put in about £70 ($100 approx).  She’s just e-mailed me to say she wants to put in £20, and can it go with mine as usual?  She knows I like to be generous, and I won’t decrease my part of the gift just because of her.

How do I tell her to stand behind her own gift, and stop being so cheap?   Or am I just being petty in letting this bother me?    0625-10

1.  I’ll assume that the information that the couple wanted money for a sofa was acquired AFTER you and friends asked the couple what they would like for a wedding gift.   (Just because someone asks for something does not mean one is obligated to give it, btw.)

2.  What you give as a gift to someone is no one else’s business.  You can eliminate 99% of the problem by not sharing any information as to what you are giving or how much you are giving.   If your friend asks if you are giving a wedding gift, you demure by saying, “I hadn’t given it much thought yet.”     If she presses asking what monetary amount you plan to contribute, you again demure saying,  “I think that is between me and the recipient.   Would you like some bean dip?”

It’s very common among my circle of friends and church community to give group gifts for wedding and baby showers.  The unspoken and firmly upheld rule is that the organizer of the group gift NEVER reveals the amounts people contribute for the gift to each other or the recipient.    That’s private information that serves no one to know.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

kero June 28, 2010 at 3:50 am

Yikes what a moocher. I agree with the admin: just don’t reveal how much you are giving or any detail. You can also be straightforward, but sometimes that doesn’t work out (as in, you might end up looking like the selfish bad guy). Don’t mean to steal your story, but I have had this happened to me before.
What I did was that I went ahead and gave my gift to the recipient with only my name on the card. Of course this was after avoiding the topic and the friend, and quickly find a way to hand gift over fast. When my buddy asked me if their name could be tagged onto my gift I replied, “oh, sorry I already gave the gift to [recipient].” I’ve done this a couple of more times and that friend decided I was just too unreliable on gift giving that they got their own gift and occasionally find another person to tag their name with.

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Joanne June 28, 2010 at 4:09 am

She can give her own gift. If she can only afford a small gift, she gives it with love and pride and the recipient will respond in the same way. Why does it matter what someone else gives a friend for any occassion??

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josie June 28, 2010 at 5:35 am

I’d just tell her “I’d prefer to go on my own for the gift”….no need to mention amounts or cheapness. I used to go together with certain relatives for baby gifts and the gifts ended up being things that I really didn’t want my name attached to.

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Typo Tat June 28, 2010 at 7:52 am

Say that you’re perfectly willing to share, as long as it’s 50:50.

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Orange Swan June 28, 2010 at 8:08 am

Er, I think the OP’s point was not that she plans to reveal how much she gives or how much her friend gives, but that she resents the way her friend puts less money into the group gift than anyone else, and then gets equal billing, so to speak.

OP, since like you I’d be bothered by that too, what I would probably do is say something like, “The four of us were going to buy a $200 gift for Jack and Jill, and split it up equally with them so we paid $50 each. But if you’d like to go in on it with us, we could split if five ways and just put in $40 each.” If she then says something like, “Oh, I just budgeted $20 for Jack and Jill’s gift,” you then could say something like, “We really wanted to split the cost up fairly. But there are other items on her registry that only cost around $20, so I’m sure you can find something lovely for that price.” It really is like splitting up the cost of a group dinner or trip. Be business-like and let everyone know what their fair share is, and if they don’t want to pay their way they don’t fly, unless you’re willing to make exceptions for someone in special circumstances.

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Casey June 28, 2010 at 8:35 am

The most recent time my “friend’ tried to mooch she got confrontational about it. I was embarrassed and guilty until I realized I had nothing to be embarrassed about. She was trying to shame me into letting her mooch. I told her I’d be willing to share as long as she contributed equally but she needed to stop piggybacking off my gifts. I put a lot of thought and sometimes a good amount of money into them and it’s not fair to throw $10 my way and call it even. She declined because she couldn’t match my contribution. I consider that outside the norm though. I would hope most people wouldn’t be that demanding about it. Tell her to match your contribution or find her own gift.

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Mechtilde June 28, 2010 at 9:00 am

I’d suggest emailing back to say that you have already sent the card and cheque to the couple.

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Enna June 28, 2010 at 9:15 am

Say that last time you were being a good firend as she was short of money. If she appricates your firendship as much as you do hers then she shouldn’t ask as you are now earning the same. That’s taking advntage. If she was going to be really nice she would use this gift as an opportunity to pay you back form where you helped her out. The “usual thing” was only a one off – tell her so tactfully so she doesn’t be cheeky again.

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Katie June 28, 2010 at 10:06 am

Let me get this straight: Neither of you is giving the couple a gift, you’re giving them money, right? So why would you go together on a gift of money? The points of going together on a gift is that 1) you can give a more expensive gift and 2) save time and hassle for the givers. But if you’re giving money, it makes no sense. Just tell her that.

Here’s a suggestion that may or may not work: my sister and I often go together on gifts, but we alternate the buyer so we don’t have to pay each other back.

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Shayna June 28, 2010 at 10:50 am

Um, if you are all putting in monetary donations towards a new sofa for this couple, then why the heck does she need to “go in” on it with you? The couple doesn’t need to know how much each person contributed to the sofa. That makes absolutely no sense at all.

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Xtina June 28, 2010 at 10:53 am

E-hell Dame makes some great points!

The “best friend” in this story obviously knows that the OP gives generously, and by latching onto her coattails, that she’ll be able to spend less money on the gift and still come out looking generous. That is deceitful and unfair.

I would probably tell the friend that you’ve already planned what you’re giving the couple and wanted it to be just from you this time.

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Elizabeth Bunting June 28, 2010 at 12:01 pm

You are a very good friend and it was nice of you to help someone else out in their difficulty. However, there was NO difficulty in the first place. The FRIEND should have given what she could afford with HER name attached to it in the first place. The recipient should have received whatever amount it was thankfully because nobody MUST give her anything.

Your friend should give 20 pounds or 1 pound, with her name attached this time and you can do the same. The recipient should be thankful she has friends no matter the amount of the gift.

I agree totally with the other contributors. Sometimes, people can take your breath away with their presumptuousness!

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Amy June 28, 2010 at 12:55 pm

I don’t see why, if it’s a monetary donation, the gifts would need to be combined? I can see if you were chipping in on an actual tangible gift, and signing all contributors’ names to the card.. but for money? nuh uh.. she can get a card and send her gift on her own.
I’d probably tell her that you’d already bought, signed, and sealed the card with your gift inside.

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SoCalVal June 28, 2010 at 2:09 pm

DF’s brother used to pull this on him (and DF, kind and accommodating as always, would let him, even though it would upset him — this is before I came along). DF would get all his own shopping done, and Bro would not bother to budget time or money for the holidays and would ask to either just add his name to DF’s gifts or also offer money (money wasn’t always offered though). DF would put up with it.

Anyway, Bro tried to piggyback this past Christmas after he didn’t want to shop anymore (he didn’t get around to shopping until Christmas Eve or the day before that and when asked weeks before Christmas if wanted to go in on gifts with us, said he didn’t want to do a group gift with us either). I put A LOT of work and thought into those gifts (we did gift baskets that were specifically geared to the interests of each relative or family). I told DF that Bro could purchase things that go with the gift baskets (we even suggested what he could get and where) and I’d add them but that he was not adding his name to OUR gifts because he was too busy doing his holiday partying in order to shop for his family. DF looked stricken at having to say no so I did tell DF that if he really wanted to add Bro’s name, then he should take off mine because the gifts would no longer be from us as a social unit — that got the stricken look off DF’s face about having to say no and gave him the strength to stand up to Bro (because it would’ve been worse to leave me off). Bro ended up doing gift IOUs.

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Doris June 28, 2010 at 4:47 pm

I agree with Orange Swan – if she asks to join you in giving a gift, tell her what her fair share will be. If she can’t or won’t contribute her fair share, say “That’s too bad. Maybe you can find something else to give.”

A question for ADMIN: when a group contributes toward a gift, is the correct etiquette to send a thank you card to each member of the group? That is what I have done in the past, but was told I should have sent just one to the Hometown Local Church Women’s Group. The reasoning was that not everyone had contributed equally and some had been unable to give any money, so I should have only acknowledged the group. That made no sense to me. I’m sure each of the women contributed what she could according to her personal situation, including the ones who could not give at all. The gift represented their love, support, and best wishes. A personal note to each member seemed the right thing to do. Was I wrong?

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Louise June 28, 2010 at 5:20 pm

If I get a gift of $90 from two people, I automatically assume each gave me 45, even if the truth is that one gave me 70 and the other gave me 20. Moocher wants to go in with the monetary gift because she still comes across looking more generous than she really is, which is what she’s looking for.

I don’t think the letter writer is being petty at all. She should tell her friend that she’d rather give a gift alone this time.

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Michelle Prieur June 28, 2010 at 10:59 pm

I know it’s hard to say no, but Ehell dame gave great advice. I would politely and firmly state that the gift will be from you, and just avoid the situation from then on. A monetary gift shouldn’t be split in the first place.

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The one being mooched! June 29, 2010 at 1:22 am

Thank you, everyone, for your advice and support. It really helps to know others have been in this situation. I think it’s time I tackled it, politley, but head-on.

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linda June 29, 2010 at 7:00 am

Okay I’m stricken realizing that my lollygagging ways have put my daughter and husband in binds. Both of them shop in organized fashions for birthdays and holidays. While I will ask my hubby to get something(maybe online) or give my DD $$ for the grands. My procrastinating way is really only degree away from downright mooching. I hereby vow: no more shifting responsibilities!

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gingertwinge June 29, 2010 at 8:44 am

I would never, evah, evah, give a cash gifft—-only a check. That being said, I’d write my check and if my friend wanted to stick her $20 in there, so let her. Receipient would know who gave what, right? And only receipient would then think moocher was too cheap to get her own card.

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A June 29, 2010 at 9:34 am

I’d be tempted to ask what the friend meant by “as usual”. If this was a one-time arrangement then the only “usual” there should be is that everyone is giving her own gift.

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Xtina June 29, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Doris–wanted to speak to your question directly (even though I’m not Ms. Jeanne). I always write individual thank-you cards for each person’s name on a group gift, and start the wording with something like, “Thank you for your contribution towards my [whatever the item was]“. That’s the way I learned. I have seen instances where say, a group at work went in together on a group baby shower gift, and the recipient wrote one thank you note to the group and everyone passed it around, or it was posted in a common area. I feel that is a bit lazy not to thank each person individually.

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Alexis June 30, 2010 at 6:50 am

The only thing I would never do is offer excuses, such as ‘I already gave the gift.’ or to avoid the mooch, or play any other games. Just tell her ‘no.’ She’ll know why. If she actually has the audacity to ask why tell her the truth. Group gifts from a workplace are one thing. I contribute what I intend to contribute and let everyone do the same. No hard feelings. I don’t have kids, we can afford to be generous. Not everyone can and that’s no big deal. But when it comes to giving wedding or shower gifts to personal friends, I wouldn’t want someone using me to fund her cheapness. If she can’t afford to give more than a few dollars fine. If she won’t give more than a few dollars but wants to look more generous or more wealthy than she is, that’s different. She’s going to have to do it without my help. If I was still willing to go in on a group gift with this person (I doubt I would, but IF I was) I’d inform her what her exact share would be. And if she tried to give less than that at the last minute, she would give that amount by herself, with her own card. She wouldn’t be signing mine. I wouldn’t let her trick me into paying for her gifts to other people or to use the ‘but I didn’t get my own card, I was going to sign the group card’ ploy either. A person like that deserves to be embarrassed by her own lack of preparation and/or failed attempts to be cheap at my expense. Again, if someone can’t afford more than a few dollars that’s fine, but I have no sympathy for someone who wants to use me as her personal gift-giving wallet.

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Livvy July 1, 2010 at 3:32 pm

@ Doris – Xtina is right in general – If you can thank people individually, you should. However, I can see where members of the group, having not donated, might misconstrue your note as a sarcastic thing, rather than a genuine one? Sadly too, the ones who donated might feel that the non-donors “mooched” somehow, thinking that they’d somehow included themselves in the gift?

As for the original situation, I’d have gone with the “I already sent it” route, and hope that my friend would get the point. Better to be subtle at first, than to have a conversation where, essentially, I’m calling her cheap. If the friend persisted a the next gift-giving occasion, I would probably either suggest an amount (we could go in 50/50 on the wine bar….) or say that you prefer to give individually.

Just to offer a different opinion, it’s possible (though not likely, I’ll grant you) that the moocher genuinely thinks that 20 is a generous amount, and thinks that’s what you’d be contributing as well, and somehow, 40 would be a more “impactful” gift than 2 individual 20′s. Ok, that’s a huge stretch, but people have done stupider things. Better to try to think kindly of your friend, and just take measures to ensure she can’t take advantage of you.

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Rei July 11, 2010 at 4:40 pm

I would say [Like you're slowly piecing the situation together:] Last time, you were in dire financial straits, weren’t you? [In a panicked voice:] Are you alright? Oh my God, something happened! Oh God, you’re losing your job, aren’t you?!?” The feigned intense concern helps sell it.

If she says no and doesn’t realize on her own that this means that she should own her cheapness and give the amount she plans to alone, ditch her for good. She will mooch off of you in every way possible for the rest of your life if you let her now.

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Javin September 30, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Could someone please explain to me what “Bean Dipping” means? I looked it up on Google, and let’s just say if you’re offended by some of the things on this site, you REALLY don’t want to do that…

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lkb October 1, 2011 at 5:07 am

@Javin: On this site, Bean Dipping means merely diverting the conversation. “How ’bout that bean dip?” or “Have you tried the bean dip?” etc.

I had never heard of the other meaning for it until I googled it after reading your comment…Oy!

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