Cue The Horror Violins…A Horrifying Discovery

by admin on April 18, 2011

Since spring has decided to come along, I decided to do some spring cleaning at the family home and unfortunately received a terrible surprise. While going through some boxes I found a bundle of thank you notes, and not just any extra blank thank you notes. I found the thank you notes that I had hand written for my graduation cards and presents. I am a freshman in my spring quarter of college so these notes are just a few months shy of a year old and of course, I am quite embarrassed.

The only way I can think this happened is that when I left the bundle on the kitchen table (my mum told me she would get the stamps and send them off), they were swept into the box when the table was cleaned off for dinner. With the chaos of a large family, the box ended up sitting on the floor and no one thought anything about it. Now my mum is not the most organized person and with two younger children to take care of, I do not blame her for forgetting.

Now I am left with this stack of notes, feeling terrible. Some very distant relatives that I had never even met sent money and gifts for my graduations and now they must think I am a spoiled brat. Not to mention how I must look to all the closer relatives who I saw over the holidays. I can’t believe no one asked or made a comment.

So what in the world do I do? Is the damage done or is it a “better late than never” situation? Do I send an explanation for the tardiness? Please may I have some guidance?  0326-11

If we put this to a vote, I’d wager that 90% plus of readers of EHell would advise simply sending off the notes posthaste with no explanation.   Then relatives’ opinions of you are merely relegated to thinking you were an industrious first year college student.   If anyone comments about the tardiness of the notes, then you can explain in such a way that does not place blame on your mom since ultimately you, being an adult, were responsible for your actions to make sure the notes were stamped and placed in the mail.

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Just Laura April 18, 2011 at 8:24 am

I’m going to assume admin intended to say “doesn’t.” Since this is probably the case, I will agree with the admin – things happen, so better late than never!

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Jilly April 18, 2011 at 8:30 am

EDame – First up – great advice, you’re right that would be my vote. Definitely better late than never.

Also – I’m assuming you meant to say “that does NOT place blame on your mom.” :)

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admin April 18, 2011 at 8:40 am

Oops, you are right. One of the most common typos I make is to not make a statement negative. Thank for alerting me.

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The Elf April 18, 2011 at 8:37 am

Send ‘em! If you like, pen a little note to them apologizing for the delay.

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AS April 18, 2011 at 8:52 am

As the admin said, just send your relatives the note. This is an honest mistake. To err is human. It is not as if years went by before you discovered the notes. If I were one of your relatives, I’d have been happy just to receive the notes, and not worry too much about the time. In my opinion, you could probably pen a “PS” line apologizing for the delay and stating the reason (without placing the blame on your mother of course).

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ferretrick April 18, 2011 at 8:53 am

Yep, better late than never. I do think it’s a good idea to apologize, that I think it would be perfectly acceptable to do that by group e-mail. Just say you are sorry the notes were misplaced and just found and to expect them by postal mail soon. I don’t think it’s a huge deal, but definitely no matter how late, better to send then not send.

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Jay April 18, 2011 at 9:15 am

Your only two options are to send them, or to send them with an explanation. It’s certainly not too late. And you already wrote them! Doesn’t even require extra work!

People will appreciate them even if they’re late, and if anyone was miffed at you, they’ll be a lot less miffed.

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Xtina April 18, 2011 at 9:26 am

Fully agree–send the notes on out. Actually, your notes are probably dated of the day you wrote them on the inside (I always date mine), so no further word is needed. Astute recipients will realize that you wrote them fairly quickly, but for whatever reason, they didn’t get mailed right away–better late than never; I’m sure people understand that life happens and things get busy.

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nicolecj April 18, 2011 at 9:41 am

If anyone asks, just say that ‘due to a misunderstanding the thank you cards got set aside instead of mailed in a timely fashion.’ Apologize for the lateness and let it go at that. No need to provide further information. Keep it short and sweet and everyone should be content.

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--Lia April 18, 2011 at 9:57 am

I vote for sending them off with a brief non-committal explanation, something along the lines of how tables get cleared off and things get mixed up in happy busy families. Maybe include a line about you’re faring in college. Some of those distant relatives might appreciate an ongoing correspondence as much as anything, and that would do a lot to smooth over the original misstep.

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aje April 18, 2011 at 9:58 am

Totally agree with admin!

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Hal April 18, 2011 at 9:58 am

Some of the families we read about in this forum could learn from yours.
You hand wrote thank you notes. Wonderful. Your family didn’t chide you. Wonderful.
You could place the original note in a larger envelope with another note of explanation.
Besides, you are under the one year rule rude brides seem to think exists.

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Louise April 18, 2011 at 10:03 am

Send ‘em, OP! Better late than never.

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Kate April 18, 2011 at 10:24 am

Send them on! No need to apologize. I think a thank you note is always appreciated even if it is late!

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ashley April 18, 2011 at 10:26 am

I agree with the admin too xD
Better late then never and at least you found them ^^ But now the next time we get a “no thank you letter” story we should wonder if something like this happened xD

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Gemma April 18, 2011 at 10:33 am

I agree, send them out. And if anyone complains, just laugh at yourself and say something like, “I’m such a scatterbrain! I got them all written up and then forgot to put them in the mail.” Most people will just laugh it off. Face it, we’ve all done something similar at one time or another.

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livvy April 18, 2011 at 10:58 am

Definitely send them. Personally, I’d probably jot a note, something like, “So sorry this is late, I thought I’d already mailed it!) or something. I wouldn’t buy the “industrious student” explanation, especially since you likely had the summer off, and may very well have seen a lot of these gift givers in the interim. While I know it’s not required, I would rather they know it was an oversight than a long-procrastinated, grudgingly undertaken duty.

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SHOEGAL April 18, 2011 at 11:39 am

Send the notes absolutely – but I would add a line stating that these were accidentally set aside and not mailed – so sorry for the delay but I still wanted to make sure you were thanked. If you are sweet about it – no one will mind.

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Mojo April 18, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Just write “Sorry it’s late!” on the back of each envelope, and send them off!

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Wink-n-Smile April 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Better late than never? Yes. No explanation or apology? No.

I think you should send the notes, along with a new note stating the following: “I am so sorry this didn’t get to you sooner. In all the flurry and confusion at the time, the notes were packed, instead of mailed. I’ve found them now, and am mailing them post-haste. Please forgive my tardiness, and know that it was not due to a lack of gratitude, but simply the circumstances of graduation and moving. Your forbearance for not chastising me at Christmas is even more appreciated! I am so blessed to have such a loving, caring, and forgiving family!”

Apologies should be offered because it will bring you closer to them, and because it is the truth. The cards were packed, instead of mailed. It happens. This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened. In years to come, it will probably become a funny family story, and a warning to future giftees. “Be sure you put your notes in the mailbox, not the packing box!”

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Wink-n-Smile April 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm

OP, your family sounds lovely, by the way.

A group email might be just the thing. Don’t put any blame on your mother. Use the “it happened,” route, rather than “X did this,” and infuse it with as much good humor as you can.

The facts to present:
You wrote the notes.
The notes were placed in a box.
The notes were subsequently stored in the box for months.
You unpacked the box, found the notes, and were horrified.
You rectified the situation as soon as possible.

With any luck, they’ll think you put the notes in storage yourself. Most people have stored odd things before, so they’ll probably just laugh about it, and forgive you, if they haven’t already.

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Leslie Holman-Anderson April 18, 2011 at 1:25 pm

IMO the best explanation? “Thought I had sent them long ago and just discovered I hadn’t. Mea Culpa!”

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gramma dishes April 18, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Wink-n-Smile’s explanatory note is perfect.

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K April 18, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Just send them as is? No. If I received something like this, I’d think you were a thoughtless selfish slacker instead of a thoughtless selfish greedy hog. Which do you like better?
Put them in a bigger envelope with a note saying that you just found the notes in a box and were horrified and that you’re sorry.

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Meghan April 18, 2011 at 2:16 pm

I’m joining the Send Them Chorus. But I also think a note explaining the delay would be a good plan. Nothing too long – certainly not more than a couple sentences. You don’t want the explanation to be longer than the thank you itself. I would probably make a joke about the notes getting waylayed on the way to the mail box, but that they were just discovered, and you hope the receiver will forgive your tardy thank you. Definitely don’t mention Mom saying she would send them, or whose fault it is. Just that they were timely written, misplaced, found and now sent. I think most people will chuckle and be pleased to receive the thank you.

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Elea April 18, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Oh my goodness! I have had this happen to me as well. I had designed my own wedding invitations. (Ex)Hubby was supposed to put them in the mail, they never made it, nor did the thank you notes and invitations for several other occasions. I have since learned to handle things like thank you notes myself. It is so humiliating to find out that important letters such as invitations and thank you notes have not been sent off. The best solution is to adopt a “better late than never” attitude and get them out asap! I agree with admin that if anyone asks you can explain that they had been misplaced.

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Autumn April 18, 2011 at 2:36 pm

I agree with Hal. You say that your mother was intending to stamp and post them, so I’m assuming they were already sealed and addressed. In which case, the best thing to do, if you can afford the extra postage, would be to put each sealed note in a new envelope, along with a simple note apologizing for the delay but not over-explaining (perhaps something along the lines of “I’m so sorry this is late, Great Aunt Maude. I thought my thank you’s had been posted in a timely fashion, but having just come across them, I realise this wasn’t the case. I hope you will forgive my oversight, and I would like to tell you again how grateful I was for…(whatever the gift was). // I am now settled in well at college. A funny thing happened to me the other day actually… (cue anecdote that said relative will appreciate) etc. etc.” (I agree with Lia that many of your relatives and family friends will appreciate the correspondence alone).

Anyway, mistakes happen and I strongly suspect the recipients will be happy to receive the notes, late or not. I think the three most important things here are:
Send the notes.
Don’t blame your mother (that would be tacky and negate the gesture IMO).
Make it clear you’re sending them through genuine gratitude and a wish to communicate, not merely out of duty.

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Autumn April 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Oh, and good for you for writing the notes in the first place. I was actually in a very similar situation with my wedding thank you notes, a few years ago. I wish I’d known about this site at the time; it might have saved me from acting with the gaucheness that I did then. Oh, well!

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Mediancat April 18, 2011 at 2:54 pm

I would note that, while I agree in general, I kind of disagree with the chiding tone of “it was your responsibility.” And once Mom says “I’ll do it for you,” it’s Mom’s responsibility. I’m not going to hold it against the freshman for trusting that Mom will do what she said. (Unless Mom is a notorious liar, which is an impression I’m not getting.)

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Sharon April 18, 2011 at 3:17 pm

I agree with Admin. Just send ‘em and be very glad they were not throw away.

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Allie April 18, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Some of the suggestions about what the explanation should be are quite lengthy to be hand written. I like to tailor the note to the specific person, but something fairly brief should suffice. I liked the idea of writing the explanation on the back of the envelope, and also the idea of an e-mail to the recipients, which they will receive prior to the actual note. The explanation can be lengthier if you are typing it as opposed to writing it. Perhaps some of the no thank you stories on her arose from similar circumstances where the notes were just chucked out after they were re-discovered. That would be a waste of precious trees in my view.

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Mike B. April 18, 2011 at 11:18 pm

I’d post an embarrassed status update on Facebook, where ninety percent of your recipients will see it and understand.

The rest probably will too. This isn’t a big deal–people are happy to be remembered even if it’s technically after the grace period is over.

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AS April 19, 2011 at 10:25 am

@Mike B., I don’t know about everyone, but I personally think posting such a status on facebook is tacky. First of all, there are several people on facebook friend’s list who might not have sent anything. So, it would be like eavesdropping if they see the message on their newsfeeds. Secondly, there are people who might have sent OP something, but are not on facebook (not too many people from the older generation are on facebook; and I am assuming that most of the gifts came from older relatives).

I don’t know what etiquette tells about it, but there is just something about doing certain things (like this example) on facebook that seems very wrong – and it have nothing to do with being technophobic. It is like sending mass printed, generic thanks you cards to everyone in your address book regardless of whether or not they sent you something / attended your party. None of my friends have ever posted such a message on their status, but if they do, I’d be irked if it pops up on the top of my newsfeeds, especially if I haven’t sent them anything. It would be as if I am guilty of something.

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Jillybean April 19, 2011 at 3:15 pm

@AS – you can actually post a status update on FB and target it only to specific people. The OP could actually post one that only people are getting follow-up cards could see. She could then follow-up further with a hand written note on the back of those not on FB (and I have a lot of older generation folks on FB and have young friends who refuse to participate, so I think there isn’t quite the age bias you speak of so much anymore).

Not saying that I think it’s right or wrong to do it that way, but just wanted to point out that not all status updates have to be seen by all, they can be targeted to anyone from one individual to all but one individual.

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chechina April 19, 2011 at 3:27 pm

If the envelopes were already sealed, just write on the back of the envelope: “I apologize for the delay! Cards were prepared last June and never sent!” There’ s no need to get more envelopes or write a long note for an honest mistake in the family (I disagree with the Admin’s chiding of the OP for not sending them off herself; the mom offered to help and s/he trusted her/his mom to do it, and then something happened to keep her from doing it).

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AS April 19, 2011 at 7:27 pm

@Jillybean – it is true that status updates can be posted to be seen by only a few people. But not many people actually do that customization.

There probably isn’t much of an age bias on fb, but I know lot of people who are not on facebook, and most of them are the older generation. So, my statistics is only based on people I know.

Either way, I still think it is lazy to post a status on facebook in this case. Even if there are many people on facebook, there is no guarantee that they’ll see it, unless she specifically tags every one of them. If she is going to spend her time tagging people and making it visible only to those people, she might as well write a hand written note on the cards.

BTW, I am one of those people who think a generic thank you for messages posted on facebook, like Birthday wishes is lazy too. It doesn’t take too long to just write “Thank you ___” after every message. If you cannot do that (or have way too many active members on friend’s list), hide your date of birth. Technology is nice to have; but it cannot make up for personal human interactions. When given the option, I like to know that a person exists in flesh and blood (a handwritten thing in this case) than on cyberspace.

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Maryann April 19, 2011 at 8:03 pm

And an addendum to all of this, OP. This is a valuable lesson. Do not automatically trust your mother with a task without following up, as in, “Mum, did you send those thank you notes?”

Ultimately it was your responsibility to follow up on this, but I disagree with the OP on one thing. It seems she offered to help you, therefore it was her responsibility to get them mailed. Obviously you trusted her to get it done. She took on that responsibility for you, and while it’s ultimately likely to be no big deal, if I were her I’d be feeling pretty sheepish.

I’m sorry but I think to imply that the OP was somehow primarily responsible for this error is to basically suggest that one shouldn’t trust others with designated tasks. How often has it been here on E-Hell that someone like a maid of honor’s been taken to task for failing to fulfill duties to which she agreed? When one offers to do a favor for someone else, one is taking on a responsibility, and if it doesn’t get done, the person who offered to do the favor is the one who initially messed up. Trusting someone too much is, in my opinion, a secondary error.

But, yeah, never assume it got done, OP. Not even with Mum.

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Sarah Peart April 20, 2011 at 6:33 am

I agree that you should play down your mum´s involvement. If your mum says anything you look like a loyal and well-mannered daughter! I once apologised to my godmother for the delay before she got her thank you card as she said “Well I knew it was your mum – she always forgets to post them!” I defended my mum and gained myself the reputation of being all you could wish for in a daughter. (I was younger – 9/10) However 35 years later this reputation has stuck fast!

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jan April 20, 2011 at 6:59 am

It’s not really horrifying. It’s just a mistake. They’re just thank you notes. Mail them and forget it.

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Jessica Pickles April 20, 2011 at 7:54 am

Id forget about it! or send them a demo of you playing violin!

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Yvaine April 20, 2011 at 10:43 am

K, is that venom really necessary on this type of site?

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Enna April 20, 2011 at 11:49 am

Send them off without delay – you could write “p.s sorry for delay”. You say you don’t blame your Mum who has children to look after – next time you ask her or she offers to do a task for you see if you can 1) do it yourself, and 2) if you can’t at present, check it’s done in a couple of days or sooner depending on the requirements of the situation. That way if you can do it you won’t have the same situation repeat itself.

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lkb April 25, 2011 at 6:29 am

Another vote for sending them and adding a note (preferably not just a “sorry for the delay” scrawled on the outside and certainly without blaming anyone. Mistakes do happen.
As you know, these people took the time, effort and money to make your special day even more special. They deserve acknowledgment, again, as you know (thanks for writing the thank you notes in the first place).

Write the apology — if for no other reason than that these are also likely the people you’ll invite to your college graduation/showers/wedding/christenings etc.

Which scenario would you prefer?:
“Look Marge, an announcement from Leslie. This time Leslie’s getting married.”
“Hmmmf! Leslie couldn’t even be bothered to thank us last time.”

or
“How wonderful. (Chuckle) Remember the time the thank-you came so late. It was such a nice note Leslie sent to apologize. What a sweetie!”

I know trolling for future gifts is not the main reason for sending thank you notes, but it doesn’t hurt either!

Send those thanks/apologies.

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Maryann May 3, 2011 at 7:06 am

Correction: I meant to say I disagree with Admin on one thing, not with the OP.

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Jo May 9, 2011 at 9:07 am

I’m with those who think a ligh-hearted note explaining the delay (without placing blame) should be included. This situation is different than simply sending the notes out months late. It should be explained.

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