Two Tales of Gratitude Attitude

by admin on April 30, 2012

Two reader contributions today on the subject of expecting gratitude from those receiving our gifts of time and money.

Story Number 1….

I’m unsure of which category to put my story in. Possibly “The Gimme Pig that takes advantage of you had warned you first” applies. Amongst feelings of huge disappointment in these people and “if we hadn’t experienced this scenario- we wouldn’t believe it” kind of disillusionment, we also now feel foolish for ever thinking a huge favor would be appreciated.

We have family friends. She has always been a spoiled “princess” always complaining and nothing is ever good enough but the husband is an ok guy. (He does pander to her wants.) They had a huge yard job they wanted done which was beyond them. My husband does this work professionally so offered to do the work (in the name of friendship). He supplied the expertise, equipment, and labored all day. They were glad to have the work done, and when the friend’s husband asked what the cost was (I guess just to be polite and show he expected to give something) my husband told him it would normally cost $600+ but said a bottle of whiskey would cover it and they were ok with this. This has been a timeworn way of showing appreciation and covering favors done for and by us for many years, admittedly not involving this couple before and btw my husband owed them nothing!

Because my husband was working offshore we couldn’t get together for a month or so. But as soon as we could I invited them to dinner (two weeks in advance) and when they arrived, the friend’s husband said he didn’t have a bottle as the previous night a friend had visited and on offering him a drink and hearing his preference was whiskey…you guessed it! He opened the bottle he was going to give my husband! We were slightly embarrassed at his choice to tell us this and think it was ok so we just shrugged it off, along the lines of “we hope it tasted good!”  But at no stage did we say, “Don’t worry about it then.”

Who does this? In my world I wouldn’t. Good manners Choice Number 1: Say to the visitor the previous night, “Sorry, that’s a thank you gift for a good friend tomorrow,” and offer anything else…beer water…whatever. Number 2: If this WAS opened, the very least I’d do would be to get a replacement the next day to take to dinner that evening (bottle stores were open). Or Number 3, at the very least, after enjoying our hospitality, I would allow no further delay in SHOWING APPRECIATION and personally deliver a bottle of whiskey the very next day (or within the week AT THE ABSOLUTE LATEST) along with the words, “I’m sorry this took so long, your hard work was very appreciated by us and we want to make sure you know that.” That would have been thanks enough, but there has been absolutely NOTHING! Yes a Big Fat Nothing! We thought the friend’s husband (at least) was a guy who knew how to do the right thing but can only assume his wife considers having huge favors such as was done for them as their entitlement and has talked her husband round to her way of thinking. What are we supposed to think?

My husband’s reaction is to just say, “Well, that taught us huh?!”  But I am furious that a genuine nice guy (my husband) who has always been happy to help others and for whom a small gesture of appreciation is not too much to ask, has been taken for granted and TOTALLY UNAPPRECIATED. Some people say, that in such a case, just rise above it, never mention the situation again etc, but is there anything wrong with sticking up for GOOD MANNERS and APPRECIATION?! On so many levels, I would feel even more foolish by ignoring their behavior. It would be like saying, “It’s ok to show such disrespect for my husband,”…and its NOT! 0427-12

First, it would be speculating inappropriately that the man’s wife purposely schemed to deprive your husband of his due reward of whiskey.  There just isn’t any evidence to support that other than your belief that she is an entitled princess.

Second, one cannot demand appreciation from people.  Compelling someone to thank you will only yield a very insincere form of gratitude that you wouldn’t believe was genuine anyway.

Your husband has the right attitude.  It was an expensive lesson to learn but now you know to ignore all appeals for help from this couple.   You can rest assured that he did the right thing in being generous and gracious with his time and talents for the truly undeserving.

And Story Number 2…

Advice needed.  I am a stickler for thank you’s.

Hubby and I wouldn’t be seeing SIL on her actual birthday, rather for a combined family event almost three weeks after SIL’s 40th birthday. That being the case, we sent a generous gift to her home as well as a phone call on the day wishing her a wonderful birthday. That was over a week ago and she hasn’t even acknowledged the gift much less a thank you. I now know she did receive the gift as BIL emailed my hubby on another matter and mentioned that she received gift and call. Still nothing.

I want to say something at upcoming get together but not quite sure how to say or what to say without becoming the rude individual.

It’s only been a week?  Cut her some slack.   Who knows what is happening in her life right that you may not be aware of that that is distracting her from normal courtesies.   The only thing you might say upon visiting her is, “Did my gift arrive in time for you to enjoy it on your birthday?”  This gives her a conversational opening to acknowledge the gift.    But just like the previous contributor, you would be making a mistake to insist in some way that she express gratitude to you.   One has to be careful to not cultivate the perception that gifts from you are merely educational tools you will use to teach good manners to your heathen in-laws or that they come with strings attached.

{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Angel April 30, 2012 at 8:08 am

Honestly? I think that in both cases, life is just too short to worry about things like this. But you would be well within your rights to not give more gifts/do more favors for these people. Lesson learned and just move on. Don’t stop being kind and generous, but you might feel a little less resentful if you reign it in a bit.

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wowwow April 30, 2012 at 8:14 am

My first reaction to the first OP’s story was that the yard work was obviously not a generous offer between friends. If it was, you don’t care whether there was any show of appreciation shown back, especially something as insignificant as a bottle of whiskey. You obviously wanted something in return for that work, so you should have just handed them the bill. If you can’t do the work without payment or appreciation or thank you of any kind, don’t do it–charge them for it.

Same with the second story. Sure, every kind ,respectful person knows you should send a thank you, but if you can’t send a gift (card, etc.) without expecting something in return, simply stop doing it. Because we all need to learn to do the right thing –the nice thing, the generous thing– with no strings attached.

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Just Laura April 30, 2012 at 8:26 am

I do feel bad for the first OP. Sounds like the blame should be placed on the husband, though, since it was he who agreed to the deal, and he was the one who dropped the proverbial ball.

Second OP, you remind me of my dear grandmother. She hadn’t received a thank-you in 2 weeks from me, promptly freaked out and fussed at my father until he finally called me to find out what happened. She was so angry with me! Oh, I’d sent it, but the mail was delayed for an unknown reason and it was 2 weeks late. The post-make verified my story. Sometimes people have done the right thing, but for some reason we don’t know about it.

That said, I appreciate a semi-prompt thank-you as well. I sent an expensive gift basket to a friend for a housewarming. I found out it was delivered to the wrong house, so I had the company send another. I never heard from my friend, so it was 6 months before I found out they’d received it (I finally asked when next I saw this person).
For those who believe the thank-you is old fashioned, please remember it might keep your friends and family from worrying!

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Just Laura April 30, 2012 at 8:27 am

*post mark.
apologies.

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Molly April 30, 2012 at 8:32 am

Only a week? Perhaps the SIL is waiting to thank you in person when you all get together.

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Harley Granny April 30, 2012 at 9:01 am

Ok…this isn’t about whiskey, it’s about a proper “Thank You”…..I actually agree with OP #1….To have the husband of the couple acknowledge that a “Thank You” is due and he then acknowleges that he gave the “thank you” gift to someone else IS insulting and rude.
In no way would I have ignored a generous gift of yard labor..and like the OP I would be upset that my husband’s generosity was taken advantage of. That being said…..I hope the OP’s husband sticks to his lesson learned and doesn’t help these people again.

2nd OP? I’m a thank you note fanatic also but a week isn’t that long. I used to send my nieces and nephews cards and $ for their birthdays but stopped at around age 11 when no thank you cards were ever send….they asked why and I replied, well, since no one ever said anything about getting the cards, I assumed they were lost in the mail and couldn’t afford anymore MIA money.

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Cat April 30, 2012 at 9:07 am

The moral is that husband either works for money or your friends and your husband work together to accomplish the job at hand. He was treated as unpaid labor, not as a friend helping out.
I was once asked to help my assistant principal to help paint his house. Several other teachers came to help as well. When I asked for a drink, I was directed to the garden hose. His wife came by to laugh at us for toiling in the hot sun painting her house while she sat in the air-conditioned house.
Thank you notes should be written asap after opening the gift. You don’t need to write an epistle, just a note to say you received the whatever-it-was and that you appreciate it. It takes maybe ten or fifteen minutes. If you are too busy to write a note (assuming that it wasn’t a wedding with three-hundred people in attendance) within a week, you are too busy.

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L.J. April 30, 2012 at 9:12 am

Story #1: Why does the wife get the blame for her husband’s ingratitude? Do you ever wonder if people who are angry with your husband are shifting the blame to you too?

Story #2: I agree that a gentle conversational inquiry would be best. Who knows, she may have sent a thank you note and it got lost in the mail. A thank you note I sent to my sister-in-law once went astray for a few days. Luckily, it had the correct postmark on it.

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Bint April 30, 2012 at 9:26 am

If I were the first OP, I’d be furious. And for everyone saying ‘don’t expect gratitude’ – *they were offered it*. They were asked what they’d like, they said whiskey, it was agreed, and then it was snatched away at the last moment. The greedy couple even rubbed their faces in it by making a joke of this at dinner in the OP’s house!

This is far more than just ingratitude. It’s either jaw-droppingly arrogant and crass, or it’s deliberate, which is nasty.

No more dinners for these two, no more work, nothing. That pretence of buying the whiskey and giving it to someone else, then telling them when getting even more kindness from them -! This is disgraceful.

But I would point out, OP, that to assume it’s the wife’s fault is unfair. All those ‘lovely men’ who marry ‘entitled princesses’ quite often turn out to have faults of their own.

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--Lia April 30, 2012 at 9:32 am

I have a rule for myself. Before I do anything for someone else, before I do so much as loan them a nickel, I ask myself: If this person never did anything for me, if they never thanked me or paid me back in any way, would I be resentful? If the answer had even a tiny bit of yes in it, then I wasn’t going to do that favor. When I instituted the rule, I was a bitter 20 year old. I’d done a ton of favors all in the name of friendship and was wounded when a favor wasn’t returned. In the over-dramatic way of women that age, I vowed never to do anything for anyone ever again and pictured, just as dramatically, a life of selfish revenge.

So I started asking myself the question, and a funny thing happened. More and more, my answer was that I could do the favor and not care. I discovered that I wasn’t going to resent it if I wasn’t thanked. When I realized that there was the chance of resentment building, I stopped and made sure I asked payment in advance.

As near as I can see, the problem isn’t that the bottle of whiskey wasn’t forthcoming. The problem is that a man in business didn’t, before doing the yard work, say clearly what payment was expected. Generally you get a deposit too with the balance of the payment coming after the job is completed.

I apply this to birthdays too. If I realize that I’ve sent a gift and am too attached to getting thanked, I don’t send the gift. But I should stress that that’s a rare event. Usually I find that I’m not attached, so I just send the gift. At some point if I’ve sent several gifts without thanks, I ask myself if I sense some resentment in myself, and I stop giving at that point.

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Hemi April 30, 2012 at 9:48 am

Story #1- You & your husband are wonderful friends to help the couple with their landscaping. It would be nice to receive some appreciaton, but it is obvious from your description that the couple expects people to help them whenever they want for free.
It is also obvious that you do not really like the wife (She has always been a spoiled “princess” always complaining and nothing is ever good enough but the husband is an ok guy. He does pander to her wants). Maybe you are letting your dislike of the wife color your judgement of the husband’s actions in this case. I have learned from experience, if you agree to do something for someone, for free, do not expect anything- thanks, appreciation, etc. If you go in expecting something, in your case appreciation, then you may very well get disappointed. Your husband is right, chalk it up to a learning experience, ignore pleas of help from this couple in the future, and move on.

Story #2- Give it a little more time. Maybe she is planning to personally thank you or give you the thank you letter at the get together.
About 3 weeks ago, there was one of those obgilatory work showers for an expectant mom. I declined to attend but gave a nice personalized gift for baby- a diaper cover embroidered with the baby’s name and a burp cloth in a fun fabric and the baby’s name. I work with this woman every day and she still has not verbally or in writing thanked me. Sure, it would be nice to receive a thank you but she is trying to get ready for a child and working so maybe it’s taking a little time to write the notes since it was a big shower with lots of attendees and gifts. How hard would it be for her to stop by my desk and say “thanks for the gift”? Not hard at all, but if I never get a thank you, I will just live it and move on.
Another thank you note story- A friend and his wife had a child about 2 years ago. I attended and gave a personalized gift (pacy clip, changing pad, diaper pouch, burp cloth & diaper cover- all personalized- that’s my “thing” and also coordinating colors to the nursery). Several months later, still no thank you note. I had seen dad slip the notes into mailboxes at work so I knew they had been written. I knew it was a big no-no to ask but my feelings were really hurt as this couple were close friends and I had worked quite a bit with the embroidery lady to get coordinating colors. So a month after seeing dad put the thank you notes in everyone else’s box and still not receiving one, I committed a huge faux-pas and asked about the notes. He looked puzzled and said he had written it and put it in my box. I said oh, maybe it got put in someone else’s box and they opened, not realizing it had my name on it. Two weeks later, dad come in and hands me a thank you note. He said he had been cleaning out his car and found it under the seat- somehow it just slipped under and he hadn’t realized it.
So I was left to wonder- did the note accidentally fall under the seat or did he make up the story to cover? I’ll never know…

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Abby April 30, 2012 at 9:49 am

I disagree with Admin on OP #1. The suggestion of whiskey was not a demand for gratitude. The husband asked OP’s husband how he could repay him, to which the husband responded. While informal, this has now become an exchange. The guy agreed to do all that work for a bottle of whiskey. That’s a very good deal, and the other couple essentially spit in his face by saying, yeah, we know we agreed to give this to you, but we actually gave it to someone else. Since we bought it originally thinking of you, our side of the deal is complete even if we didn’t actually get it to you. That’s just really mean.

The only thing I agree with Admin on is that OP is wrong to assume the wife is to blame. The husband is the one who offered payment, accepted the terms of payment, then did not deliver.

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elizabeth April 30, 2012 at 10:08 am

Immediate families have different ways of doing things. Some, send each other thank you notes for everything, others just a call or a thank you in person would do. I think the 2nd story writer is getting needlessly upset. While a quick text or call would have been nice to let you know she got the gift, she very likely may be waiting to see you in person to truly issue a thank you. That’s what I would do and what I’d expect from another immediate family member of my own family. Frankly, I don’t really get why you felt the need to send the gift to her home. Certainly, it is nice and appreciated to get a gift on one’s actual birthday, butnot neceesary. Bringing it to the family gathering woud have been completely appropiate and you would have gotten the thanks in person.
I’m guessing your own family growing up just did things differently than you in-laws, leading you to have expectations that aren’t being met.

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PM April 30, 2012 at 10:10 am

I would find the first situation a little annoying on the OP’s husband’s behalf, but I think I would be more annoyed by the Princess’s husband’s announcing, “I had your thank you present but I gave it to someone else.” I think that’s more rude than the perceived entitledness. (Is that a word?)

The second thing sounds like the OP is looking for a reason to be offended.

Like Lia, I have a rule for myself. Before I do something for someone, I ask myself, “When this person holds out her hand out to accept this gift/favor, will he or she immediately hold her other hand out, expecting something else?” If the answer is yes, I temper my generosity a bit. But it’s kind of silly to go into a situation and say, “Well, I know these selfish, entitled people I’m helping are going to hurt my feelings in return” and the gripe later, “I can’t BELIEVE they hurt my feelings… just like I thought I they would!”

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delislice April 30, 2012 at 10:13 am

Kudos to Lia for a great attitude! I try to be the same way. If I offer or am asked for … money, some of my time, a favor, et cetera, I try to reflect on whether I would *care* overmuch if I didn’t get thanked or repaid. And like Lia, more and more I’ve found that it helps if I’m free to give with no expectation of repayment.

And, in cases where it *does* matter — and sometimes it does — I make it clear that such is the case. I’m a big proponent of simply using our words to make our expectations clear. There are diplomatic and reasonably self-deprecating ways to do that.

I’m with the OP’s husband on this one. Lesson learned. There’s not much the OP can do now except to decide whether she’s going to let go of any resentment or expectations here.

It took me a couple of years of therapy to learn that it’s futile to change other people’s behavior to match my expectations — all I can do is decide whether I choose to adjust my expectations to match their demonstrated behavior~!

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Hemi April 30, 2012 at 10:30 am

@Lia- great point of view! I think I will use your rule when I am asked for a favor.

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Lerah99 April 30, 2012 at 10:31 am

For story #1 I would take a different view. Have you considered that maybe the couple are broke and couldn’t afford the whiskey but are too embaressed to say so? To save face they make up a story about having bought the whiskey but being forced to open it for a different friend as part of being good hosts.

I suggest this for a couple of reasons:

1) You state the wife is a spoiled “princess”. This makes me think she buys exspensive clothes and toys. Often people who are so focused on looking outwardly successful, are burried in debt and barely making monthly payments on their credit cards.

2) The couple couldn’t afford someone to take care of their yard project until your husband stepped in and offered out of friendship.

It seems this may be a case of the couple trying to save face so no one will know how broke they really are. Now they are probably ashamed they can’t even afford the bottle of whisky your husband asked for in return for his hard labor in their yard. Your friends are to be pitied not berated.

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Justin April 30, 2012 at 10:31 am

I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t do things from people expecting to be thanked or provided some undiscussed compensation. I also don’t do things for people because they feel I am obligated to or they are entitled to something. I also consider business completely seperate from favors, and it is very clear as on a business transaction I ask the person to sign a quote before the work begins.

However, people who continuously expect favors without offering any form of thanks, gesture of appreciation, or favor in return often fall under the category of people I have no desire to help.

To give a story, a few years back a good friend and coworker called in to work because her car had died and she was stressed. I took an early lunch to go pick her up. I knew she was going through a rough time and she was very stressed, her car happened to fail in front of my mechanic, so I was inside talking to them when she was out getting her stuff. When she went back a few days later she found out that her car repairs had been paid in full. She did thank me, but the real reward for me was seeing her stress level go down. Word got around despite my never saying anything about what I had done. A few months later another coworker came up to me and announced out of the blue that she was late paying her electric bill and was short on funds. I think I was supposed to give her money, but instead I told her I was sorry to hear that and suggested she ask for some extra overtime shifts. I don’t respond well to people who feel they are entitled to a gift because I gave someone else one.

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Gloria Shiner April 30, 2012 at 10:42 am

I’d say the husband in the first story learned a hard lesson about these people, both of them, not just the wife.

In the second story, I’d say at least give the SIL the benefit of the doubt. A week is a short time, and she may be planning on thanking them in person, or she may even have a thank-you card at the actual celebration. I’ve gotten so any acknowledgement is fine: a personal thank-you, a thank-you on Face Book, an email, whatever. What isn’t OK is no acknowledgement. My niece has not done any of these for a shower gift, wedding gift (almost three years now), baby shower gift (child is almost two) or Christmas gift for baby. Guess who is no longer on my gift list?

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Ashley April 30, 2012 at 11:06 am

The first one annoys me mainly because my fiance and I are the type where if our end of the bargain involved some kind of food or beverage, one of us would go out THAT DAY while the person was still there doing whatever, so when they left, they’d already have it, and all would be said and done. That’s an expensive lesson to learn but at least first OP and husband now know not to help this couple in that way again.

As for second OP, if it’s only been a week, yes, some slack should be cut, as sometimes the post office is wonky, and you don’t always know what’s going on any given day in her life. I do agree that it should be brought up the next time you see her, but not from a standpoint of fishing for a thank you, but just to see if it even arrived (I’ve had TERRIBLE luck with the post office, I worry about these things).

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Cat Whisperer April 30, 2012 at 11:15 am

Arggghhhh….people you do favors for, who fail in any way to show an “attitude of gratitude” and even acknowledge what you did. This is a particular sore spot for me because of issues with settling my father’s estate and the absence of any thanks from my siblings for what my husband and I did to get his condo fixed up and sold. It would have been nice to at least get a “thank you” for everything we did, but that never happened and isn’t going to happen.

However, there is a flip side to the attitude of gratitude, which is something I want to address: when the expectation of thanks and an attitude of gratitude becomes “scorekeeping” and an expectation of gratitude far in excess of anything that’s reasonable.

That’s the way my dad did things. If he did a “favor” for you, you were going to hear from him for the rest of your life about what he had done, how much of an inconvenience it was to him to have done the favor, and how totally inadequate your expressions of gratitude were. God help you if you failed to do something he wanted you to do, or in any way angered him or caused him resentment for perceived slights or failings, because he would haul out DECADES worth of things he’d done for you in the past, at great personal sacrifice to his convenience and comfort etc. etc.

In short, my dad didn’t do favors. Everything he did for you, he expected a return in kind for the rest of your natural life. My dad kept score of everything he did for everyone and in his eyes, the books never balanced: he never felt that any thanks he got were adequate for anything he did for anyone. He hoarded up perceived grievances from as long as forty years ago and would haul them out when he got mad and throw them in your face over and over and over again.

Whatever thanks you gave him, whatever expressions of gratitude you showed, it was never enough.

What I’m getting at: there has to be a balance. When the expectation of gratitude becomes burdensome, a favor done loses its merit. At some point, you have to let go of the expectation of reward for going above and beyond the call of duty, so to speak, and let your act of generosity speak for itself.

At what point do you do that? That’s the tough point. Aren’t the greatest, most memorable acts of generosity that most of us can remember things that were given to us or done for us by people who never had any expectation of thanks or repayment? If you’ve ever been the beneficiary of a “random act of kindness” by a complete stranger who you never even got the chance to say “thank you” to, you know what I mean. That kind of generosity and kindness is awe-inspiring because it came with no strings attached and no expectation of any kind by the person who did it.

In this particular situation, it seems evident that OP is carrying some past baggage about the wife of the couple for whom her husband did the favor. Evidently wife has failed in the past to show what OP considers proper gratitude, or maybe any gratitude at all, for favors done in the past. And this has evidently carried over to the present situation.

My advice to OP is two-fold: first, drop the past baggage and look at the present situation on its own merits. OP is upset that the bottle of whisky that was apparently intended as a gratitude-gift for her husband was not presented at the first opportunity. Okay… if there was no past history of failure to give thanks, no baggage, would OP be as upset about the situation?

If the answer is “no, it wouldn’t be a big deal” without the past history of ingratitude, then I think OP has to drop the resentment for the failure to present the whisky at first opportunity. Let it go, give a little more time, and see what develops.

The second part of my advice: OP evidently has no feelings of generosity or warmth towards the wife who behaves like a spoiled princess. Whether OP’s attitude is justified or not, that’s the way OP feels and that’s a fact.

I think OP needs to own those feelings, and needs to do something about them. My suggestion would be to stop doing favors for this couple if OP feels resentment at a perceived attitude of entitlement. Once you start feeling “put upon” by someone for whom you are doing acts of kindness, the whole point of the act of kindness dissipates. It isn’t an act of kindness anymore: it’s an obligation, a chore, something you’re doing not because you want to, but because you have to.

At that point, I think you have to own your feelings and tell the person or people involved that you aren’t going to do the favor for them. As politely as possible, of course.

In any case, it seems to me that there’s some dynamic going on with the relationship between the OP and her husband and this other couple that requires a downgrade from people you go out of your way for to people with whom you have a cordial but not close relationship. The relationship is out of kilter, or the OP wouldn’t be feeling the way she does. Time to acknowledge the situation for what it is and seek a remedy.

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Amp2140 April 30, 2012 at 11:53 am

OP2: So you sent a gift and you called her… she didn’t mention the gift in the call?

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Jay April 30, 2012 at 11:54 am

First story: You can’t expect or require a thank-you, but when someone essentially offers you a bottle of whiskey in gratitude, and then comes over and takes advantage of your hospitality (!) and uses that time to say they decided NOT to give it to you after all?

Well, you still can’t require manners, but you can certainly put that “friendship” on the back burner.

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Timothy April 30, 2012 at 12:56 pm

@Lerrah99, that is possible. However, if you don’t have the money to afford the whiskey, say so. It’s embarrassing, yes. I know that, as someone constantly short on funds. However, it’s much worse to be passive-aggressive. And agreeing to get someone a gift you know you cannot afford, then making up a story to disguise that fact, seems quite rude to me. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

No, that last sentence is not sarcastic. I really do prefer to know when I’m wrong so I can learn from my mistakes.

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June April 30, 2012 at 1:17 pm

OP #1- I think your husband has the right attitude and you need to stop being so outraged on his behalf. Sounds like you have a history with the woman, which makes me wonder why you invited them to dinner. To receive the whiskey? Yes, it was rude, but you’re not punishing anyone but yourself by holding this angry grudge. I am slightly stressed just from reading your letter!

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Wink-N-Smile April 30, 2012 at 1:59 pm

My understanding is that one *ought* to write the thank you note the same day, however, one actually has a week to write it, and still be considered to have good manners. So, if SIL wrote the note at the end of the week, then it is now in the mail, and you could get it any time now.

Don’t panic until it’s been 2 weeks.

And incidentally, I’ve had items get lots (honestly!) in the mail, and not arrive at their destination for 2 or more weeks after posting.

40th birthday? She may be going through mid-life crisis. Yeah, cut her some slack. And who knows? She may be planning something special for that upcoming family get-together.

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Wink-N-Smile April 30, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Lia – you are very wise.

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kingsrings April 30, 2012 at 2:09 pm

For the first story, I don’t have much sympathy for the OP. From her description of the couple, especially the wife, they shouldn’t have expected any kind of gratitude or payback to begin with, knowing what they knew of them. Yet they still did this enormous and expensive favor for them. Why would you expect considerate and mannerly behavior from 2 people who have never shown it??

For the second story, I agree that the OP has hardly given time for a thank you note or email to be sent. Give it more time before you ding them for it!! But it does lead to an interesting scenario, one that my mother was in some years ago. She’d sent a large and expensive wedding gift to the daughter and husband of some close, longtime family friends. She knew the gift had been received, because the mother mentioned that they’d used it and what good quality it was. Yet my mother never received a thank-you note from the couple. It was shocking, as this family is very decent and has good manners. And my mom couldn’t send a follow-up note to the couple expressing concern that the gift hadn’t been received since she obviously knew it had been. But who knows, perhaps the thank you note was lost in the mail. Nothing really could be done about it given the circumstances.

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Shalamar April 30, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Just Laura, your story about your grandmother reminds me of MY grandmother. She was very strict about receiving thank-yous for presents, which was completely fine by me. The only problem was that she lived overseas, and as she got older and got a bit absent-minded, she seemed to forget that it took a while for the post office to deliver something from Great Britain to Canada. She’d often complain about not receiving a thank-you for a gift I’d literally only just received. On one occasion, she complained angrily about getting no thank-you for a gift that I hadn’t received at all – in fact, it didn’t show up until two months later. One glance at the package solved the mystery – she’d completely botched my address, so much so that it was a miracle it arrived at all!

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Jo Bleakley April 30, 2012 at 4:59 pm

The first story touched a nerve with me. We have a large circle of friends and we quite regularly exchange skills, do ‘favours’ for each other. Exchanges always go the same way, friend 1 does a service for friend 2, friend 1 says ‘what do I owe you?’, friend 1 says, “bottle of whisky, carton of smokes, could you to x for me next week?’

‘Payment’ for favours is rigidly adhered to. If someone doesn’t ‘pay’, nothing is said, but noone will do a ‘favour’ for them ever again. For someone to do $600+ work for someone, only ask for a bottle of whisky in exchange, then not receive anything, is despicable. For the person to basically brag that they gave the whisky to someone else is even worse.

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Lanes April 30, 2012 at 6:29 pm

I call hypocrisy on givers on this one.
A thank you should never be expected, end of story. Nor should you call out, critisize, or generally look down upon anybody who doesn’t say, write, or send a thank you. Expecting a thank you is a holier-than-thou entitlement where you believe the receiver owes you something; They don’t. You chose to give, and they accepted. End of transaction.

We have become so used to a return of thanks (which is another polite ‘gift’ by the receiver), that we now seem to demand it, and become upset if it’s not forthcoming. If you expect a thank you, then what you have given is not a gift, it’s payment for a return of thanks.

1st OP, on a side note, you shouldn’t hold the wife responsible for the husband’s actions, try not to hold this event against her. She may appear to ‘wear the pants’, but the husband is a man all to his own and is responsible for his own actions.
It is indeed poor etiquette for the husband to have agreed to give a bottle of whisky and then not provide it, but no timeframe was agreed, was it? So potentially, the bottle could be given at a later date and transaction remain intact. It has only been a month, too (not that you should expect any timeframe to be unreasonable, as one was never agreed).

2nd OP, I don’t believe you don’t need to cut the receiver some slack for being late, I believe you need to cut her some slack for your poor etiquette for expecting a thank you at all.

Perhaps my family and upbringing is different to the norm, but nobody expects a thank-you here. If you do something for someone else, you do it out of the kindness of your heart, and expect nothing in return. I recently arranged an extended family trip to another city, and nobody thanked me. I’m not upset, I’m not offended, in fact it never occurred to me until reading this blog that thanks could have been given.
That said, I do give thank you’s where it’s appropriate myself – but it’s not expected from me.

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gramma dishes April 30, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Jay ~~ Your response is exactly how I felt about it.

And Timothy ~~ I totally agree with you too.

Lerah99 ~~ You present a unique take on the story and it is possible you may be right. But I have very little sympathy for people who habitually mismanage their funds, playing the “we’re rich” role while secretly relying on the help of others to get basic things done. They still “owed” the whiskey as agreed, and showing up without it at the OP’s own house no less, does not present them in a good light.

It makes it appear that they consider their friends to be their own personal eager and loyal servants and their services are expected to be offered just for the privilege of being “friends” with this couple. Umm … I don’t think so! For me, that would be the end of the friendship and would most definitely be the last time I invited them into my own home or did them any substantial favors.

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Stacey Frith-Smith April 30, 2012 at 8:53 pm

I agree with Admin that there isn’t a bit of profit to be had from trolling for thanks when none are forthcoming. It’s quite shocking that someone could overlook such a large favor and offer not a whit of thanks. The best conclusion that could be drawn is that neither your hospitality nor your husband’s skill and hard labor have pleased the couple in question and both favors and hospitality should be withdrawn. Your life will be more peaceful without such boors in it. As for the second story- a week is not much time, in the way of waiting for a thank you card. Perhaps two to three weeks? Only when you have a reasonable certainty that your gift is unacknowledged should you conclude that you needn’t bother shopping for your sister anymore. For those who think that gifts and favors should be given with no expectation of an acknowledgement of gratitude for a kindness done- the lack of such expressions of gratitude can cause many generous hearts to conclude that their efforts on behalf of others is not helpful or pleasing. To chastise those who give for expecting simple thanks is foolish- it mitigates rather than fostering the kind impulses that make for so many positive outcomes. Returning favors, hospitality, generosity and gifts keeps a two way current flowing in relationships. It need not be equal on all sides, but there should be mutuality in being thoughtful. Anonymous giving is a choice that the generous of heart can make from time to time, but I don’t think that we should treat those who have taken the time to give to us as donors who are so far removed that we needn’t trouble ourselves to reply with a note of thanks.

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Kim April 30, 2012 at 11:36 pm

Lanes:
“I call hypocrisy on givers on this one.
“A thank you should never be expected, end of story. Nor should you call out, critisize, or generally look down upon anybody who doesn’t say, write, or send a thank you. Expecting a thank you is a holier-than-thou entitlement where you believe the receiver owes you something; They don’t. You chose to give, and they accepted. End of transaction.”

This is, to say the least, a rather peculiar way of looking at gifts and gratitude. In most societies it is customary to respond to gifts and favors with expressions of thanks. There is nothing hypocritical about people who live in such societies having an expectation of being thanked for the gifts and favors that they give to others. Yes, it would certainly be rude to state such an expectation openly (because it would be implying that the recipient is selfish and greedy enough to accept generosity without feeling the need to express gratitude for it), but that doesn’t mean that the recipients don’t owe them any thanks.

People who accept favors and gifts from others in societies where conventional etiquette prescribes expressing gratitude for favors and gifts, but deliberately don’t bother thanking the givers because they’ve individually and unilaterally decided to ignore that etiquette convention, are indulging their own preferences at the expense of others’ feelings.

And it doesn’t really make it any better for such “ingrates-by-choice” to proclaim that they themselves never expect any thanks when the positions are reversed. Rudeness that cuts both ways is still rudeness.

For instance, it would be rude of you to spit on your hosts’ living room rug, even if you assured them that you don’t mind if THEY spit on YOUR rug when they come to visit you. Likewise, it’s rude to accept favors and gifts from others without expressing thanks to them, even if you don’t mind them doing the same to you.

Of course, if you’ve got a circle of family or friends where everybody mutually agrees that they won’t bother with expressing thanks, then you can all be thankless together and it’s nobody else’s business. But it’s rude to unilaterally impose any such practices on unsuspecting outsiders who naturally expect, according to accepted etiquette, that favors and gifts will be acknowledged with expressions of gratitude.

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Gilraen May 1, 2012 at 12:43 am

OP1. Yes it is an expensive lesson for both. The non-whiskey payer would not receive anything from me again – after all they also got a free dinner. Though it may genuinely be a lack of understanding of proper decorum and what should be done. But they would be for now off my mist for anything social.

OP2 I agree with admin. certainly if it is a busy career with family things like that can fall by the wayside, not for good reasons, but because of life. 3 weeks then I would start to feel uncomfortable

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Lychii May 1, 2012 at 3:44 am

1st story: OP’s husband did a huge favor at his personal expense. The receiving couple should be bending over backwards to thank him. THEY should be the ones inviting OP to dinner. The bit about randomly giving away husband’s whiskey shows exactly how they value his friendship and efforts.

2nd story: You’re kicking up a fuss over an obligatory birthday gift to SIL. Do you really care that much about that thank you note?

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Bint May 1, 2012 at 5:01 am

“I call hypocrisy on givers on this one.
A thank you should never be expected, end of story. Nor should you call out, critisize, or generally look down upon anybody who doesn’t say, write, or send a thank you. Expecting a thank you is a holier-than-thou entitlement where you believe the receiver owes you something; They don’t. You chose to give, and they accepted. End of transaction.”

No. Absolutely not. To fail to thank someone for their kindness – to assume you needn’t thank them – is and hopefully will always be ungrateful, rude and a major etiquette fail.

It’s a thank you! It takes two seconds to show someone you appreciate effort they went to. To say this is ‘holier than thou’ is ridiculous. There’s a big difference between keeping score, as with story 2 here, and just dealing with a total ingrate.

If thanking someone is sooooo difficult, give the damned present back or don’t accept it to start with. And those who agree with this attitude here, good luck in life. You’ll need it. You might think thanking is unnecessary but you’ll probably find that most people cannot stand ingrates and will assume you are one.

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Enna May 1, 2012 at 8:04 am

This is a bit of a conundrum /catch 22 isn’t it? Expecting thanks is rude, but not to give thanks is also rude.

The OP in the first story, to me I think she is more annoyed at the excuse that was given: it’s very rude to promise a gift to someone espcailly a “thank you” gift then to tell that person that it has been consumed the day before by another person to me is very rude. Best to say nothing. Or, it the couple cannot afford to buy a bottle of whiskey why did the husband say he would get it? Why not try to return the favour in some other non-expensive way like help the OP’s husband with decorating? If I was in the husband’s position I wouldn’t help them out again.

As for the second OP, maybe the SIL is just waiting to thank you in person? Or the pressie might have gone astray? She could be very busy too. A week isn’t very long.

If I helped someone and I was not thanked I would consider helping them again in the future as I wouldn’t want to be taken advantage of: saying that even if someone did thank me for help but they kept on asking for it and depending on what they were asking I would say no: as I wouldn’t want to be taken advantage of. I wouldn’t remind someone to thank me.

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Meegs May 1, 2012 at 8:22 am

Sorry Lanes, but you are waaaaaaayyyyy off on this. It is rude not to thank someone for doing you a favor. There is no gray area here. It’s rude. It is not poor etiquette to expect a thank you. Additionally, the OP’s husband made an arrangement with the friend – $600 worth of yard work in exchange for a bottle of whiskey. That is so generous its almost laughable. To imply that this does not deserve a thanks and for the other party to hold up their end of the bargin and produce the bottle of whiskey is absolutely ridiculous.

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Shoegal May 1, 2012 at 8:25 am

My reaction to the first story was that the OP was over the top. She was demanding “thanks” in return for the favor her husband gave. I agree with “Lanes” – you gave a favor – you can’t ask for a thank you and you really shouldn’t be expecting it either. If you are – then it really isn’t a favor. If you expected your neighbors to be indebted to you for this very generous act – you should have presented them with an invoice for services rendered.

I also felt that if a guest of mine wanted whiskey the night before the dinner – I would have indeed opened the bottle and served him/her. I would have also made a mental note to buy more before the dinner to give away – but perhaps time got away from the neighbor and he never made it out. I would have asssumed (incorrectly it seems) that friends of mine would understand and laugh it off – but I still would have had every intention of providing the whiskey later. The neighbors could still come through with the whiskey but it also seems that they missed the OP’s deadline.

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Bint May 1, 2012 at 10:58 am

“She was demanding “thanks” in return for the favor her husband gave.”

No, she wasn’t. The other man asked them what he could give them in exchange.

“I would have asssumed (incorrectly it seems) that friends of mine would understand and laugh it off ”

If someone did $600 of work for me for nothing, I certainly wouldn’t expect them to laugh it off when I couldn’t even be arsed to bring the bottle of whiskey *I offered them* in exchange because hey, I shared it with someone else the night before. I’d expect them to be pretty hurt.

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Lanes May 1, 2012 at 3:09 pm

I seem to have given the wrong impression…

I totally agree that thanks is DESERVED, and that it should be given by the recipient. Holy cow what a person I would be if I never thanked anyone. What I mean is that it should never be EXPECTED by the giver.

For me to do a favour for you, I do it out of the goodness in my heart, and because I WANT to do it for you. I don’t expect you to thank me for said guesture.
For you to have done a favour for me out of the goodness in your heart (or for whatever reason suits you), I would still thank you, whether you expected it or not.

I can only be responsible for MY actions, not those of others, and there’s no point getting bent out of shape because somebody else doesn’t conform to my ideals.

What I’m trying to get at is that 2nd OP shouldn’t be upset because she hasn’t been thanked. Yes, it’s poor form on the SIL for not thanking her, but 2nd OP shouldn’t hold it against her or look down upon her for not doing so. If the gift was in expectation of thanks, it wasn’t a true gift at all.

1st OP is a different situation, where an agreement of transaction has been made, and thus she should expect the whisky. The only contention here is WHEN the whisky should be provided, as no agreement on timeframe was made.

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Lerah99 May 1, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Timothy & Gramma Dishes – I agree with both of you.

If I am correct and the couple in the first story are broke, it is no excuse for their poor behavior. I was simply offering an explaination that I thought might explain their behavior. However, my post failed to condem it and that was my fault.

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Binne May 1, 2012 at 5:26 pm

People are weird about thank-yous. Weird. I never give gifts or do favors with the expectation of thanks — but my feelings are hurt when no thank-you is forthcoming. And this happens frequently, so maybe I should just get over it? It’s not that I get “bent out of shape” — I just feel sort of neglected. And in a situation like the first OP, I would have felt put-upon and used and ignored if the thanks were insufficiently effusive, let alone missing entirely!

A few years ago I took a job in the city, about two hours from my home. Rather than rent an apartment, I rented a lovely big room at the top of a grand old Victorian that belonged to some friends of the family. I spent three or four nights a week there, and it was quite satisfactory. We weren’t close friends, but we had a pleasant, cordial relationship.

They were a Jewish family, although not at all religious. My first Christmas there, I wanted to do something nice for them, so I bought each of them a small gift and wrapped each one nicely, with a little gift card wishing them the best of the season. I got a small Norfolk pine and tied a few red ribbons on it. On Christmas eve I stole downstairs when everyone was asleep and left the “Christmas tree” and the presents on the kitchen table.

And that was the last I ever heard of it. Mom and dad and two kids in college, no one ever said thank you, or that was nice, or that the dog had chewed everything up. Nada. I was… what? Sad? A little. Annoyed? A little. The following Easter, they — the wife, really — left a basket of chocolate eggs outside my door, for which I made a point of thanking them. I stayed there for almost three years and never gave them anything else except the rent. I did notice that they kept the Norfolk pine in the dining room.

I agree with Bint: “To fail to thank someone for their kindness is … ungrateful, rude and a major etiquette fail.” Well said. No need to get bent out of shape about it, one is safe in assuming that their failure to say thanks meant they really didn’t feel grateful — and the giver’s only option, when faced with someone who doesn’t want a gift, or a favor, is not to give them any. Or do them any favors. It needn’t be the end of a relationship, but a cooling of the affections wouldn’t be untoward.

The bottle of whiskey is almost meaningless, unless it was a single-malt Scotch aged for 40 years in barrels made from the wood of 1,000-year-old olive trees and prayed over three times a day by Benedictine monks. The value of the transaction is not numbered in dollars. Its value is counted in attitude — a generous gift on the one hand, and a cavalier sense of entitlement on the other. No more yard work — or anything else — for those freeloaders!

With the second letter, I would give SIL the benefit of the doubt — and ask her if she received the gift. You said you sent it, so there’s always the possibility that it didn’t arrive. You can pretend ignorance of her husband’s telling you the present arrived, just tell her you wanted to make sure it arrived safely. When I got married, a rather scatterbrained friend of mine sent along a cookie jar. At least I think it was a cookie jar. It was in smithereens when it was delivered to us. I was young and gormless and didn’t quite know what to do. I gave it a few days, then just sent her a standard thank-you note. Years later (after the divorce, even) it came out that the cookie jar had been smashed to bits, and we had a good laugh about it.

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Elizabeth May 1, 2012 at 9:35 pm

@Binne, the gesture sounds lovely, but perhaps the Jewish family was puzzled at your setting up an ad hoc Xmas tree and giving them Xmas presents?? It’s appropriate to give gifts to people for the holidays that they celebrate, not the ones you celebrate. For instance, it was very nice of the mom to give you chocolate eggs on Easter. Wouldn’t you have been confused had you received a Hamantaschen for Purim??

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Binne May 2, 2012 at 3:55 am

@Elizabeth, thanks for your comment — I thought that might have been the case, and I should have mentioned it. But when the next Christmas rolled around, they actually did celebrate. They didn’t have a tree, but there was a major opening of presents on Christmas morning and a big feast with turkey and all the trimmings and a number of friends in the afternoon. I wouldn’t mind at all getting hamantaschen! I’m not Jewish, but I believe we’re all in this life together, and opportunities to be nice to those around me shouldn’t be ignored.

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Shoegal May 2, 2012 at 7:58 am

It is appropriate for the couple to thank them with the whiskey – yes – I agree but come on – all I’m saying is that I SERIOUSLY DOUBT that their intention was to hurt their neighbors and deliberately flaunt the fact that they gave away the whiskey in order to hurt them. It happened – they opened the bottle for a guest and made light of it. They remembered the payment for the yard work was a bottle of whiskey – but couldn’t possibly give them one already opened – came without it and then fessed up. I was only trying to see a different side of this and see the good in people.

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MellowedOne May 3, 2012 at 7:10 am

I agree with Lanes.

Lia posted a comment early on about a rule she made for herself regarding this subject, and I thought it so excellent an idea I’d like to paraphrase. She said before she does a favor for someone, or loans even the smallest amount of money she asks herself this question: “If this person never did anything for me, if they never thanked me or paid me back in any way, would I be resentful?” If her answer had even a tiny bit of yes in it, then she wasn’t going to do that favor. Her rule applied to gifts as well…if she found herself too attached to getting thanked, she wouldn’t send a gift. And if she had sent sent several gifts without thanks and sensed resentment building up, she stops giving.

She acknowledged that over time, the incidents of not giving/extending favors because of potential resentment diminished. A self-enforced rule that actually changed her thinking for the better, gave her improved peace of mind…sounds good to me.

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Susan May 3, 2012 at 10:32 am

What prevented these people from stopping by a liquor store and buying a replacement bottle before they came over for dinner? I assume they had to get in their car and drive over, and how difficult would it have been to stop by a store?

As for opening the bottle for a guest at their home, wouldn’t it have been easy to say that it wasn’t theirs to give? That’s not being rude – it’s the truth.

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--Lia May 6, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Thanks for the notes of support. I’m glad I could help with my question: If I never get anything back, would I regret it?

I want to stress that I’m not someone who gives without ever expecting a return. Sometimes it works like this: I give one gift (the gift could be a physical present or a favor). I don’t get thanked, or I don’t feel like I’ve been thanked enough, or the recipient turns down a chance to do something for me in return. Fine. The first one was free, and I feel no resentment. Maybe I do it again and get the same response. The 3rd time a birthday comes along (or the recipient needs a ride or a loan or whatever) and it’s up to me to give again, I ask myself if there’s any resentment there. Sometimes there is! And that’s the moment I quietly decline to give the gift.

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