If You Give Me That, I’ll Pitch It In the Trash

by admin on December 8, 2011

My in-laws prefer to receive lists of exactly what the recipient wants for gift-giving occasions such as birthdays and Christmas. My BIL and SIL have been married for ten years, and she has always before provided a wish list when asked for Christmas.

This year, my MIL (who is a very sweet lady and wouldn’t hurt a fly) asked SIL for a wish list in November. She told SIL that because they (my parents-in-law) were now on a fixed income, they needed extra time to budget gift-buying.

Apparently, my SIL took umbrage to being asked for a wish list in November, because she told MIL several stores at which SIL would like a gift card. She said that she refused to “even think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving.”

MIL, who preferred to buy actual gifts rather than gift cards (thinking, like me, that gift cards are a bit of a cop-out), asked if SIL had any actual things that she wanted to put on the list. MIL says that she told SIL, “If you don’t give me a list, I will buy what I think you’ll like, not what I know you’ll like.”  Not the most etiquettely-approved move on MIL’s part either, I grant you.

SIL responded with,  “That’s ok, my garbageman will take whatever I leave for him.”

So, this year, SIL will get to sit around the tree watching the rest of us open our gifts, while she holds a small stack of gift cards in her hand.   1222-10

Just as the gift giver has no rights to how his/her gift is disposed of after being given to the recipient,  people on the receiving end of gift giving have an obligation to not go announcing that any gifts they deem unsuitable will be “regifted” to the trashman.

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

NOPH December 8, 2011 at 3:15 pm

I completely understand not wanting to get “into Christmas” too early. (I’m such a Halloween lover that my yard decorations stay up, but all characters are outfited with tiny santa hats – the day AFTER (u.s.) Thanksgiving.) Anyone over the age of ten is old enough to be taught that one NEVER says anything implying a gift will be trash, charity, or regifted. You say thank you. You then go home and write a thank you note. If you are ever asked about the gift later and why the giver never sees you wearing it/using it, try to find a very polite way to express that you did enjoy the gift. I avoid (unless it is very very close family/friends) saying I was unable to use the gift. As a woman, I’ve often been given bath/body care gift sets/items by co-workers, employees, etc. My annoyingly sensative skin only allows me to use one or two very specific (and not very pretty or fragrant) product lines. I always say thank you, write a note within two days, and then happily offer the product to my mother or female friends with tougher skin. The giver meant well by giving me something to he/she thought I would enjoy using and I have yet to be given a bath/body product that had a bad smell. It is always apparent the giver took time to sniff and picked out a flavor he/she thought I would like (I’m a Victorian Rose type). I’m usually very sad I can’t use the product and I insist my mom or best friend(s) let me smell the stuff at least. I try to mention how good the products smelled in my thank you note. Why on earth would I make a non-inner circle person 1. feel bad about something they spent time and money on for me, 2. share my personal medical issues with someone that really isn’t that close? I’m not the smartest girl out there, and if I can figure out how to have good manners about gifts I can’t/won’t use/like SIL should know that you don’t say you’ll put a gift in the trash, even to someone in the inner circle. Shame on her. So many people talk about having bad MiL’s that wouldn’t bother to buy a DiL a gift and here’s this woman not even able to half way be grateful.


ladycrim December 8, 2011 at 3:36 pm

I agree with Ellie. If someone had made that comment to me, they’d get a greeting card and nothing more.


Bee December 8, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Gift cards? Forget about it! In my family, that sort of response would mean the SIL got nothing at all for Christmas–except maybe a cheap pair of socks, and a card (JUST a card) if she was lucky. What a boor. As Ellie pointed out, people like that take all the enjoyment out of giving gifts. (Also, why throw your unwanted brand-new gifts in the garbage when there are charitable organizations out there who would gladly take them off your hands? At least that way, someone will get to enjoy them!)

On a somewhat related note, has anyone seen that terrible eBay commercial with the family singing “Twelve Days of Christmas”? The teenage daughter breaks in with a way-too-long solo about how “I want to be very specific about what I want, because I got some gifts last year that I wasn’t really feeling,” goes on to point out exactly what those undesirable gifts were, and finishes by telling her older aunt that “I REALLY don’t need another crocheted throw pillow.” This causes the poor aunt to break down in tears and rush from the room. And of course the grandparents (I think?) take this as a hint to buy the brat exactly what she wants, from eBay of course. Talk about a stocking full of coal!


Stacey Frith-Smith December 8, 2011 at 3:48 pm

I don’t know that this opinion will be that of the majority, but I think both sides could have dealt with this in a much better fashion. This is, in my opinion, the problem with gift wish lifts. Like the gift registry, they tend to run afoul of etiquette if not managed very carefully. It’s much better to give out of love, the best that can be managed, and without brow beating anyone, even figuratively, with unpleasantness that is better avoided. No one said you had to spend a fortune. If they did, or if it was implied, these comments can be disregarded. Etiquette is supposed to buffer us from these little mix ups by providing a kindly hedge around our private thoughts and allowing others the same luxury. (Now no one should be defenseless in the face of rudeness, but etiquette is a defense, if well employed. When one is a contributor to the problem, however, the best course, in my opinion, is an apology.)


Paige December 8, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Well this was a slight mess, but also rather comical. I have to say that it was rude of SIL to respond to MIL’s request in such a rude way. She should try to be less selfish and concious of other peoples budgets. I know tons of people who start Christmas shopping way before the END of November! As well it was also very rude of MIL not to just agree with buying gift cards. I disagree whole-heartedly that gift cards are a cop-out because I’d rather be able to pick out something for myself than deal with something I don’t want or won’t use (which wastes their money). If that’s what she requests, that’s exactly what she should get!


kudeebee December 8, 2011 at 4:14 pm

SIL was very rude.

MIL should set aside the money she has budgeted for her and when she gets a list, buy from it. That may mean SIL does not get as many gifts as the sales may be over or not as good as they are earlier, but that is the luck of the draw.


Michelle December 8, 2011 at 4:50 pm

I’m with Ellie on this one.


Danielle December 8, 2011 at 5:16 pm

How spoiled and selfish this daughter is! Not only is she going to be completely unhelpful when someone wants to BUY her something, she insists that you ARE going to buy her exactly what she wants, or she’s going to throw your gift in the garbage! It is unbelievable!

How people forget that you are not ENTITLED to gifts. Someone gives you a gift because they want to, so if they don’t like giving you gift cards, then they don’t, and you graciously accept that they do feel good about giving you.

Were it me, knowing that she doesn’t really appreciate the time and effort I put into buying her a gift, I wouldn’t bother any more.


Xtina December 8, 2011 at 5:27 pm

@ Cammie—I respectfully disagree with your point #1. The SIL is probably well aware that the MIL is retired and on a fixed budget and doesn’t have a lot of money to spend, so I don’t feel that this situation really fits the “lack of planning” on MIL’s part. If a person doesn’t have much money, they don’t have the luxury of buying whenever they want to.


June December 8, 2011 at 5:31 pm

This family sounds like it needs ground rules, along with a readjustment of the dynamics.

@Cammie: If you told me it’s not your fault I’m on a fixed income and I can’t plan well, you’d be off the list. Gifts are not always a top priority when working with a limited budget.

I am pleased I’m not the only one who thought to give the SIL trash bags.


NOPH December 8, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Bee- Yes! I don’t like that commerical or the Kohls one. I get the humor they were trying for, but there just isn’t anything funny about being rude, selfish, or entitled. The ebay commerical made me quite sad as many in my extended family have passed on. I would love to be able to have them all in my living room singing holiday songs again. I know it is just a commercial but I want to grab that snotty little girl and explain to her how fleeting life is and she should be fulfilled just having her family all gathered. I’m so happy to know I’m not the only one that found that commerical distasteful.


Chocobo December 8, 2011 at 5:59 pm

I’m with you, Stacey. Gift lists are a slippery slope and I don’t think I would ever encourage my children to write them — it sets up expectations that people will buy you whatever you want so long as you ask for it. Instead of focusing on the pleasure of giving and receiving, and appreciating what is given and the thought that went into it, it sets everyone up for failure when the child doesn’t get something to check off the list.

I really appreciate when my husband’s SIL says something like “the boys are REALLY into Legos this year”, it’s much more useful and much less obligatory, so that we have the freedom to pick up something we think he’d really like based on what we know.


FerrisW December 8, 2011 at 6:00 pm

The SIL’s comment was very rude. I’m not sure the comments about the MIL ‘threatening’ the SIL are warranted though- without tone we can’t tell if her comment was said nastily, or in a ‘shrug your shoulders’ sort of way.

Personally I love to get gift cards, particularly ones for activities. Saying that, I did have a funny experience with receiving a gift card- for my birthday a few years ago, I met up with some friends who each presented me with a small present. Nothing very expensive since we mostly always just exchanged token gifts, but I was very touched by their generosity. Then one friend handed me a gift card to a restaurant I enjoy announcing loudly that there was sixty pounds on there and I was to treat myself to a nice dinner at some point. Later I invited the same friend to come with me to the restaurant, thinking it would be nice to use the gift card together but she gave me a strange look and made an excuse that didn’t sound quite believable, but at the time I thought nothing of it. Instead I took another friend and we had a lovely time.

When it became time to pay, I handed the gift card to the waitress, happy to pay the difference after the total from the card had been subtracted. We’d ordered a few expensive items, wanting to use up all the money on the card, and the final bill came to around 80 pounds- only having to pay 20 pounds myself was a real bargain! The waitress returned with the bill, gift card value removed and only 10 had been taken off, and when I asked the waitress said that was all that had been on the card. I paid the rest, although my dining companion offered to pay half (which didn’t seem fair as I’d invited her out for a free meal), but left wondering if the waitress had somehow pocketed the rest of the money.

When I casually raised my concern with the friend who’d given me the card, she admitted that there’d only been 10 on it, but she didn’t want to look cheap in front of our friends so she’d lied about the value. I felt awful for suspecting the waitress, and unsure whether it was right that I was annoyed that I’d had to pay 70 for a meal I’d only expected to pay 20 on and wouldn’t have had at all if it hadn’t been for the gift card.


Calli Arcale December 8, 2011 at 6:04 pm

I have mixed feelings about gift lists. I have relatives who ask me for them, and I feel very awkward every time. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the gifts; it’s that I feel a bit irrationally guilty for contributing to the commercialization of the season. I’d rather a charitable donation be made in my name, but I’ve never found a polite way of requesting that. I fear I’ll offend if I don’t give them something to pick.

But that said, you NEVER respond the way SIL did in this story. Bad enough to refuse to provide the list on the basis that she’s not “ready” to think about Christmas yet. (Don’t want to think about Christmas? Don’t! Think about your birthday or whatever. Problem solved.) It would have been better to either think of one or two things (it’s okay to think of more later) or to say, “Y’know, I really genuinely do like gift cards, because I love shopping so much, and X, Y, and Z are some of my favorite stores.” Even if you don’t like giving out a wish list, do not act as if it is some burden to do so; they’re trying to be considerate, and it’s not nice to throw that consideration back in their faces as an inconvenience to you. Be grateful they care and you won’t find yourself unwrapping a size 14 negligee when you’re a prepubescent girl. (Yep, happened to me. I still wrote a thank-you card.)

And then you REALLY never say that if the gift isn’t up to the standards of your yet-to-be-defined wish list, you’ll discard it. I’d be strongly tempted to give her a box of trashbags if she said that to me, basically taking her at her word that it would go to the garbageman. At least it’s something she’ll use. 😀


Another Alice December 8, 2011 at 6:07 pm

The SIL has no excuse for such a rude comment. Just smile, and accept whatever gift is given. However, I cringed when I read that the OP and the MIL don’t consider gift cards real gifts. It annoys me to no end when people say that. A gift is about the other person, not yourself. Again, I give no excuse for the SIL’s comment, but I think it’s also rude to ask someone what they want (well, demand it really – I understand budgeting, but wouldn’t you set an amount for all gifts at the start and find something the receiver wants that fits it, rather than building a budget around the list?) and then say that it isn’t good enough. And THEN to say, “Well, fine, then I’ll just get what I think you’ll like.” Um, they just TOLD you.

Just my two cents: I LOVE gift cards, and for several reasons. The first is, being able to go shopping at your favorite stores is an additional gift to me. I don’t have a lot of money to go shopping, and I love it, so it’s SO nice a few months after Christmas, when you see something you love, to know you can get it and not have to spend your own money. Or, just to be able to wander around and window shop a little more freely. Especially for clothes – you might need clothes, but who has time to go to all your favorite stores and take note of the exact size and color of a very specific sweater or dress that you want? Plus, the chances of the giver wanting/being able to go out and search for it are slim to none. Maybe you love movies, and while there are none specifically that you want to buy the DVD, but you know there will be a few in the next year. To me, they’re the gifts that keep on giving! 😀

Anyway, my conclusion is just that there was some eyebrow raising on both ends, but at least the MIL was coming from a good place. The SIL was just being cruel. I agree with others that it seems that maybe there is some bad blood between them, as I can’t imagine someone insisting on the gift they want to give, and the other person saying they’ll throw it in the garbage, if everything was fine and dandy beforehand. Again, though, nothing is excused either way.


Jays December 8, 2011 at 6:36 pm

SIL was very rude. But I don’t get it … how is giving gift cards any less personal than giving a specifically chosen (by the recipient) non-gift-card gift?

MIL asked. SIL did answer … gift cards. MIL didn’t like the answer. It doesn’t excuse SIL’s horribly rude remark, but don’t ask if you’re not going to listen!


shari December 8, 2011 at 6:53 pm

I think the family is being harsh on the SIL and she was probably driven to the garbage comment – I mean if year after year she says a gift card would be great thank you has to bare the family looking down on her as it’s not a ‘real’ present by their standards I could see why she would say something like that. (not saying it’s right but who doesn’t have some family members that drive them crazy!).
Think of it another way, the SIL is sorted out nice and early and she can focus on the rest of the family!


Lizza December 8, 2011 at 6:55 pm

You know, sometimes you get gifts you don’t like or have any use for. At Christmas, my family makes a Goodwill pile of such things. (Or, if the giver is there, take it home & give it away later.) Do we tell the givers this? Of course not! They still get a thank you note. It’s the thought that counts and sometimes I think more people need to remember that.


ellesee December 8, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Rude on SIL and MIL. SIL responded with gift cards to stores A, B, C but MIL insists on gifts because giving gift cards are not good enough? Sorry, but you can’t force your holiday gift-giving spirits on somebody who doesn’t want to receive it. Secondly, SIL is way out of line with that comment.


Missy December 8, 2011 at 7:41 pm

SIL was hurtful, no doubt about that.

I disagree with gift cards being a cop-out. Whenever I make a gift list for my birthday or Christmas, Borders (or now B&N) gift cards are on the top of my list 😉 I appreciate gift cards because I can pick what I want at the store and not have to worry about family members judging my taste. To be fair to those who do think gift cards are cop-outs, it’s best to include non-gift card items on your list such as DVDs. SIL could’ve selected certain items from the stores she wanted gift certificates from and included it on her list.

Christmas isn’t the time to be childish and hurt your family’s feelings over presents.


rindlrad December 8, 2011 at 7:55 pm

MIL was rude to keep pushing after SIL expressed her wish for gift cards. However, SIL took it to the next level with her comment about throwing unwanted gifts in the trash. I don’t care if she was justifiably irritated, that was inexcusable.

If I were MIL, I would be tempted to give SIL a beautifully wrapped box of trash bags. At least when SIL throws away the gift, it will be serving a useful purpose.


Mary December 8, 2011 at 8:21 pm

I agree with Marjorie Margarine. It’s as if the SIL is asking for cash when she asks for gift cards and therefore she would know exactly what MIL spent on her gift. If I give a gift card, I usually put it in with other items so know one will know exactly what I spent on the gift.

Based on SIL’s response, she would have received a greeting card and box of candy and nothing else from me!


Angela December 8, 2011 at 10:12 pm

I was not a fan of giving gift cards until my mom explained that she loved going to whatever store with her card, and that I was buying her a shopping trip. She loves to shop so that made sense.
And yeah, the SIL was really rude. You can come up with a range or ask for a little more time.


Anonymous December 8, 2011 at 11:10 pm

I do not like it when people get irritated because you don’t have a ready answer for “What do you want for…”. Look, I don’t sit around making lists of random things I want, I can usually think of one or two things, tops. I’ve been given things I wouldn’t possibly ask for, but are awesome. I don’t care how much you spent on it either. I just don’t like asking for stuff, it feels weird. Christmas is about giving, not “gimme.”


Melnick December 8, 2011 at 11:59 pm

I find the whole concept of asking for a gift card very tacky. It means that you are forcing someone to spend a certain amount on you. One of the great things about giving gifts is that you can sometimes find a fabulous gift for a great price if you’re a smart shopper. How many times have I bought a gift that was half price one week and back to fullprice for the rest of the year – toy sales are great for that too. I can get a fabulous gift for someone and I don’t have to break the bank doing it. It also means that I can share my money among more people. You can’t do that with gift cards.

I don’t mind receiving gift cards – sometimes they are a fabulous gift especially when money is tight in our family – but I would never ask for one and I hate being asked for them.

As for this situation, I think SIL is the problem. If she was gracious about gifts in the first place she wouldn’t have to be asked for a wish list. It’s not a problem for people to be organised for Christmas. I personally try to do most of my shopping before the end of Oct. It gives you a lot more time to track down gifts and take advantage of sales.


Delhi Daze December 9, 2011 at 5:43 am

I LOVE getting gift cards! We travel by plane for Christmas and the airlines charge $50 if our luggage is over the weight limit. By the time you fill the suitcases with our bulky winter clothes and all the kids’ gifts, there’s not much room left. Last year, we had to leave some things behind because we simply couldn’t get everything in our bags.


starstruck December 9, 2011 at 10:20 am

i know i wont share the popular opinion here, and believe me the trash comment was very rude indeed, but i tend to understand the sis in law’s point of view. i hate it when people put me on the spot and ask me to tell them what to get me for christmas. if your gonna get me something then get it from what you know about me and feel that i would like. its the thought that counts, so put some thought into it. if someone ask me to give them a christmas list, i would avoid it at all cost and i personally would never ask someone for a gift list.


LovleAnjel December 9, 2011 at 10:25 am

@Delhi Daze

This is exactly our problem. I usually have a list of stores I like to shop at for the in-laws, but without fail I get something awkward & heavy that I have to take on the plane/bus. One year it was a dutch oven. Another it was a full set of knives in a knife block. I’ve started just stacking these all in a pile and saying, “If you ship them for us, I’ll send you a check to cover the postage.”


i_love_penguins December 9, 2011 at 11:41 am

What’s with all the hate on gift cards? I’ve given and received both traditional presents and gift cards. Yes, on one hand, the receiver knows exactly how much you spent and it isn’t as fun as unwrapping a box. But in most instances, don’t you already have a range you are willing or able to spend? Yes, it’s great when you get a $50 item for $25, putting it in your price range, something you can’t do with a gift card.

On the other hand, the user can use it whenever they’re short of cash, can combine it with other gift cards or even their own money, or manage to grab what they really want when it’s on sale. Sometimes people (both kids & adults) can be hard to shop for. A lot of the gift cards are really nice, so those people who say that gift cards take out the fun, check out Target for instance. I’ve seen lego kits and a whack-a-mole type game with Bullseye. Best Buy has cars and USB lights. There’s a lot of choices out there. Plus a lot of restaurants have nice kickbacks that you can either keep for yourself or give to the receiver.

Maybe SIL wants a big-ticket item like a household appliance or electronic device. Even a small amount on a gift card would reduce the amount, and perhaps several gift cards from friends/family would cover it. And that item may be more useful (or just plan appreciated more) than a bunch of “regular” gifts. SIL was rude to say that unwanted gifts would be thrown away, but it could have been frustration since MIL rejected her requested gifts for not being present-y enough. Once MIL had received her answer, she could have either bought one of the aforementioned gift cards or just taken the initiative and buy something else she thought SIL would like. Alternatively, she could have put a smaller amount on the gift card and buy an item to accompany it, whether a gift card tin/plushie or something else MIL thinks SIL would enjoy. That way, SIL gets gift card an MIL gets the pleasure for shopping. Not giving SIL a free pass by any means, but MIL and OP should not force their opinions on others (i.e. “gift cards are not a gift”).

P.S. That eBay commercial is horrible!


Ann December 9, 2011 at 3:08 pm

MIL couldn’t honour SIL’s request for gift cards? She couldn’t simply get “a little something” to give along with it? Nice way to purposely alienate one’s DIL.


Louise December 9, 2011 at 3:58 pm

“Apparently, my SIL took umbrage to being asked for a wish list in November, because she told MIL several stores at which SIL would like a gift card. She said that she refused to “even think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving.””

This is the most interesting part of the story for me and my answer depends on how this played out. If SIL’s attitude was, “Ugh! I can’t think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving, just get me some gift cards to stores A or B or something,” I think that’s rude and ungracious. If she exclaimed, “Wow, I can’t even think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving. But I know I would like gift cards to stores A and B,” I think that’s reasonable. She has in fact given MIL a list, and I think it’s off for the MIL to reject it because it doesn’t come up to her standards.

I think gift cards are great. I love receiving them; they err on the practical, which suits me to a T. I use them throughout the year and I can look at my new books or clothes and curtains and think fondly of the people who gave me the gift cards with which to buy them.


Louise December 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Oh, I forgot to say in my first post that SIL was very rude to say that she would toss MIL’s gifts. That definitely was uncalled for.


Echo December 9, 2011 at 9:32 pm

Yeah, I also don’t get the hate for gift cards. If you don’t want to buy one that’s fine, but don’t get upset when you ask someone what they want and they say a gift card.


Janis December 9, 2011 at 11:11 pm

If gift cards are a cop-out, then how on earth is a wish list not a cop-out?? Either way, the gift is not a surprise to the recipient, since it is picked out by the recipient. The only difference is that with a gift card, the giver spends the money and then the recipient picks out the gift, and with a wish list the recipient picks out the gift and then the giver spends the money.

It’s also interesting that, if the point of gift-giving is to make the recipient happy, then arguing with them over what kind of gift they should like completely defies the point. How about this: if you know someone hates gift cards, get them an actual gift; if you know they like gift cards, get them a gift card whether you personally like receiving them or not.


Enna December 10, 2011 at 7:20 am

I can see how gift cards can be a cop out however if someone wants new clothes and is old enough to choose the correct size for themselves e.g. a teenager or adult that may be more pratical, rather then running the risk of buying clothes that don’t fit or are the wronng style/shape.

SIL was rude for what she said. It woud be a bit different if she had said “I’m sorry I can’t think of anything currently, as soon as I do I’ll let you know”. Then except with grace anything that MIL does buy that is in good taste. When it comes to rejecting gifts there would have to be a very good reason for making it clear to the gift giver why it is not exceptable: e.g. buying an 18 rated DVD fo a 12 year old.

I don’t think MIL was rude for asking for the wish list earlier due to her finances – SIL was rude to her and if I was in MIL’s position I would consider not getting her anything, no point buying something if it is going to go in the bin. Maybe MIL could have repharsed “I will do my best but can’t make any promises.”


June December 10, 2011 at 10:53 am

Mixed feelings on the gift cards.
I understand the convenience, love of shopping, etc. But I also don’t like people knowing I spent $25 on their gift.

Last year, when my boyfriend’s family (now future in-laws) got me gift cards, I made sure I got a specific gifty item (wall art, etc) and sent them a photo of what I purchased. That was included in the thank you note. So instead of “Thanks for the Target gift card” it was “Thanks for the wall hanging. It really completes our decor!”


Mabel December 10, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Just as the gift giver has no rights to how his/her gift is disposed of after being given to the recipient, people on the receiving end of gift giving have an obligation to not go announcing that any gifts they deem unsuitable will be “regifted” to the trashman.

I agree with this, but I have to point out that sometimes it is necessary to say something regarding unsuitable gifts, etc. For example, grandparents who lavish children with toys the parents have no room for, that aren’t age-appropriate or whatever.

And sometimes family members have no clue. I am very tall and must try clothes on, and most off-the-rack stuff is too short. My mother and sister both kept buying me articles of clothing that weren’t anything I could or would wear (wrong size, etc.) and are things they like rather than anything I like. I wear a lot of nerdy t-shirts but they won’t buy those even as gifts. I asked them politely to please not buy me any more clothing because I always ended up taking it back since it rarely fit, and I didn’t want them to waste their money. The other problem was that they would get them on sale, and when I took them back to exchange them or return for store credit, I always ended up spending more money to get something that would fit.

Finally one year, I said regretfully “Oh, no, it won’t fit. Too bad I can’t take it back; I guess the Goodwill will be able to find someone who can wear it.” Rude? Maybe, but Mom stopped with the clothes after that.

My clotheshorse sister, however, continues to ply me with accessories I will never wear. Her gifts usually have some kind of agenda. Last year she gave me a huge fashion scarf, saying “I know you never wear scarves, but you have to wear this one. You have to!” Well, that huge, moss-green fringed scarf made a perfect coffee table cover that totally matches my living room! Thanks, sis! 🙂


Louise December 10, 2011 at 5:01 pm

I really like that idea. When I receive a gift card or cash, I make a point to say in my thank you card what I plan to spend it on, but including a picture of what you spent it on is really cool.


babs December 10, 2011 at 7:01 pm

While the SIL’s response was just rude, rude, rude, and there is NO excuse for what she said, put me in the category of appreciating gift cards. I love to shop the sales and clearance after the holidays, doubling and more the value of the card. I could give a “list” but it’s also fun to find bargains and things I can pick out myself and stuff I maybe didn’t even know I wanted. Peruse the costume jewelry, housewares, deeply discounted decorations, clothing… to have a GC in my hand and a whole store full of “stuff” to choose from is just fun to me. So, let everybody have fun opening their gifts and let SIL sit there with her handful of gift cards. Seems to me everyone would be happy. The big downside to gift cards is that you can buy an expensive item at a really good sale, and actually give something more expensive that you can afford to buy. So, in most cases, buying a gift on sale really does work better for the giver, and that’s probably what Mom was thinking.


Cat whisperer December 11, 2011 at 1:25 am

Just a couple of comments about gift cards/gift certificates.

When my dad passed away two years ago, I was the family member who had to go through his things and clear up his personal belongings.

In one drawer of his desk was a fat manila envelope. Inside the envelope were other envelopes– full of unused gift certificates and gift cards. We’re talking twenty years’ worth of these.

My dad has always been a very difficult person to buy gifts for. He had no hobbies, there weren’t many things he really openly enjoyed doing, and when you asked him what he wanted, he’d tell you a gift certificate for a bookstore or a department store. So those were mostly what people got him.

Well, after my mom passed away, he evidently stopped using the gift certificates he got as presents. He’d thank the giver and shove the gift certificate into that envelope in his desk drawer. And there it would sit.

I cannot begin to explain how I felt when I found that envelope and realized that my dad had never used the gift certificates he’d been given. I was shocked literally speechless when I found them and realized what they were. I sat there at his desk with tears streaming down my face. I was sadder than I can put into words, I was angry because some of those certificates represented a real sacrifice on the part of the person who bought it for him, I wondered why on earth during all those years, he’d assured us he enjoyed the certificates we gave him. I’d asked him, other family members had asked him, and he’d always told us he enjoyed the gift. Good grief, any one of literally a dozen family members, myself included, would have happily taken him to use the certificates if he was unsure of how to cash them in himself (my mom must have handled that for him while he was alive, all the certificates dated after her death).

I believe every single giver had meant for my father to get enjoyment out of the certificates we gave him. We wanted him to get himself something he liked, we wanted him to be happy. And finding those certificates tucked away in his desk was like a denial of the good wishes that went with the gift. How could he do that to us? Why had he done it and never said a word to anyone?

So what to do about the gift certificates? Well, where I could, I returned the certificate(s) to the givers, with a note of explanation about finding them and that I was sure my dad would have wanted the giver to have the certificate back. (Fortunately we live in California, and gift certificates have no expiration date here. Some of those certificates were 20 years old.)

Where I couldn’t determine who the giver was (many of the certificates had no name on the “from” line and no accompanying card or letter indicating a giver), or where the giver had passed away, I divided the certificates with my two surviving siblings.

Sure, gift cards and gift certificates can be great things to give to someone who wants them and is difficult to shop for. But it isn’t a perfect solution, as I found out.


MellowedOne December 11, 2011 at 9:38 am

@cat whisperer,

Well said.


c December 11, 2011 at 1:30 pm

I would have given her a greeting card with a gift card loaded with $5.00.


Adira December 11, 2011 at 1:43 pm

if someone actually wants gift cards, then what’s the problem with giving them gift cards? it’s what they want.

you could always wrap them up pretty in a giant box. plus, then they get to pick out something they actually want, instead of me wasting my money and shopping effort on a gift that won’t be what they wanted. I’d rather give a gift card, than insist on a “gift” that they won’t want. it’s a waste of money, and they miss out, too.

As a gift giver, a gift card is the perfect gift for someone that you don’t know if they’ll like something. as a gift-giver, I prefer to not waste my cash on a “gift” that the recipient won’t like and has no use for. If someone doesn’t want to give me a list of suggestions, they get an Amazon gift card.

Because the anxiety and stress that comes from trying to buy a “gift” that I don’t know if they will like, want, or be able to use, makes it an extremely difficult chore, and it’s just not worth it.

and honestly, as a gift receiver, I’d prefer to sit with a stack of gift cards to places I REALLY want to get stuff from, than open a “gift” that is something I don’t want, can never use, and don’t like. I wouldn’t go so far as to tell the person that their gift is ending up in the trash, but that’s where it would end up, and there I am with no real gift.

I’ll take the cards. and if people want to be all pissy because they “had” to give a card, then I’ll just skip the entire deal. Or only exchange gifts with people who are willing to get me something I would want and/or need, and willing to tell me what they would want and/or need. Or what gift cards they want.


kit January 31, 2012 at 9:47 pm

I am very late to respond here, but there are (possibly) other people like myself who read archives at random, so my 2 cents on the matter.

I tend to spend an insane amount of TIME shopping on people. Not so much money. I spend normally $5-$20 on ‘family member’ gifts (my husband and children have a higher limit, my friends on the lower side). This past Christmas, I managed to snag board games at $3 each, so those were given in addition to a few other major sale purchases, making my total spent around $10 per person. Now, if you are asking for gift cards, I would buy you (on a good year) a $20 card, while everyone around you opened $30-$50 in ‘value’ of presents. So, you get half a pair of normal sale price jeans, your spouse who said he wanted some clothes gets 2 pairs of jeans and an Angry Birds or favorite band tee. That seems unfair and like I cheaped out on your gift, when in fact I didn’t. On a bad year, wow, I get to give you…What, a cup of coffee? A couple pens? $5 isn’t enough to bother with a gift card for, and seems especially bad when it is compared to scores from a few good Black Friday sales,even if the cash amount spent by me is the exact same. So, to me, buying gift cards is a cop out, an insult (‘I don’t know you, I don’t want to know you, and I don’t have the guts to say either of those’), and forces me to spend more than I would otherwise.

Yeah, there are occasions for gift cards. My husbands grandparents give us gift cards or cash, and it works. They know that with 3 kids and their spouses, 9 grand kids and their spouses/significant others, and 3 great grand kids and another expected (so far), they aren’t going to know everyone well enough to personally shop for all of us. To avoid some people getting real presents and some gift cards, they only buy ‘real presents’ for the great grands, though I see that changing as they get past early childhood. My mom sends me gift cards, or e gift cards, to Amazon as I normally buy books for myself, as does she. She doesn’t want to ask me for an updated books I’ve read list every time she goes to buy me a present, book returns are difficult, I currently do most of my reading on a Kindle, and she lives in another state so shipping is a hassle on top of the other considerations. Those are both occasions when gift cards make sense, IMO.


erica September 10, 2012 at 10:51 pm

How hard would it have been for SIL to jot down a book title she would like, maybe a dvd she would like, and the like.

MIL isn’t out shopping hours and hours just for HER. She needs to get over herself.
A short list of a few items she would enjoy receiving…wouldn’t have killed her.


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