A Squeaky Clean Christmas Gift

by admin on December 11, 2012

This is a story my mother and I still laugh about years after it happened. At the time though, it was majorly insulting.

I was just starting out on my own house cleaning business. To start filling my schedule, I would accept every single job. A few years later I now have a waiting list. Now I can phase out all the boorish clients. (Thank God!)

When the holidays come around, it’s pretty normal for me to receive gifts from my clients. All of my clients are upper class so these gifts would be rather lavish sometimes. I never expect them, but I graciously accept and send thank you notes after the new year.

There was this one lady’s house I cleaned. Her name was Maggie, a friend of my mother. It’s a mansion, so by the time I’m done cleaning it I wouldn’t be as “fresh” as I was when I came in. I always wear my oldest clothes (it’s not as heartbreaking when they get bleach stains ). My hair’s always pulled back and I don’t wear makeup since I’ll sweat it all off anyways. I actually joke with my clients, “The frumpier I look, the cleaner your house!” My appearance does not reflect my hygiene as I bathe daily.

I get a call from my mother one day before Christmas. She let me know Maggie dropped off a present at her house for me. I get there and it’s probably the biggest basket I’ve ever seen! It’s full of soaps and sundries. I’m excited at first, what girl doesn’t like bathroom pampering stuff ?! As I open the clear cellophane, I see it’s “Dollar Store” bar soap!! Plus “Dollar Store” shampoos, conditioners, deodorants and face washes. To top it all off there was a note, “Give me a call when you get this! I’ll tell you how to use it!”

I have never felt so disgusting in my life. I would have taken no offense if they were from a “Specialty Store”. I don’t even take offense when clients buy me cleaning products for gifts! (It’s less money I have to spend on supplies.) I might not have even taken offense if the note wasn’t included, but that just took the cake. I sucked it up and sent a thank you note, explaining that I figured out how to use them (May I burn for my sarcasm!). I never called her back and phased her out. I will still try to force myself to believe her intentions were good. 1007-12

 

{ 82 comments… read them below or add one }

Marozia December 11, 2012 at 4:53 am

What does this ‘Maggie’ want you to wear while cleaning her house, a Chanel suit? It sounds like it!!
When we had a housecleaner, she always used to wear her old clothes and my socialite mother didn’t seem to mind. In fact, she thought it was a great idea. Good for you to get rid of this stuck-up, etiquette blow-off, you can do without her business and concentrate on the people who really need your help. You accepted her gift with good graces (even with the sarcasm). Good luck for the future!

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Dina December 11, 2012 at 5:09 am

Allow me to offer a very different perception of this story suggesting there may have been a misunderstanding of intentions.
The note could have been intended to be humorous, turning the tables saying in jest that she will teach the OP, the cleaning lady, how to clean. It was the OPs interpretation of the note as being a comment on the OPs appearance on the job, while the client may have never noticed or cared.
Dollar store soaps? That is what the client chose to give . The monetary value of a gift should never be taken as an insult.
So many posts here people write strike me as possible misinterpretations of other peoples actions fuelled by our own insecurities and assumption that peoples intensions are not the best.
My mother asked my 93 year old Grandma- what is the best piece of wisdom she can give after so much life experience. Without hesitation she said “there is always another side to the story”. I may start a website with this title one day. We all have stories where we misunderstood people’s actions and intentions, got insulted or worse and then relize we totally misunderstood reality.
Please give people the benefit of doubt

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GleanerGirl December 11, 2012 at 5:24 am

Did she never see you come IN your house, but only saw you on the way out? If she only saw you at your worst, I suppose it was a reasonable assumption to make that you started out that way, as well. Still, that does not excuse the behavior. “I’ll tell you how to use it!” Eyurgh.

Frankly, if I know I’m going to be working up a sweat, getting bleach stains and other cleaning solutions all over me, I would not shower directly before the job, either. I’d probably shower right afterwards, so I’m fresh for the rest of the day, and in the morning, before work, I’d just dress and go, already secure in the knowledge that I am clean enough for the task at hand. How dirty does one get in their sleep, after all? So, if I saw a cleaning lady come in, looking as if she showered yesterday, rather than today, it wouldn’t bother me one bit. Heck, I wouldn’t care if she started out looking like she had already done another house, and looked how you look when you leave.

What’s important is how the house looks once you are gone. I’ll bet even June Cleaver, in her heels and pearls, managed to work up a sweat and spill bleach. Sheesh!

Good for you for sticking to your polite guns, saying thank you, and then phasing her out.

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Dot December 11, 2012 at 5:54 am

Yikes! That sounds horribly rude. However, sometimes decent people to things with good intentions but are a little clueless. I would think most people would figure their cleaning person won’t look their best on the job due to its nature. If Maggie was a friend of you mothers, was she perhaps older? I’ve known a few older woman (and its woman in particular when its directed at other woman) who really mean well but have no idea how insulting some things could be.

If Maggie was rude or snobby before this, than it likely was a rude gesture. But I could also see it being an nice older person trying to help but totally missed the mark.

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sv December 11, 2012 at 6:33 am

Oh, how wonderful to be the recepiant of someone else’s “generosity”!! How awesome if you had called her up and made her go through the instructions for use step by step :)

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Bint December 11, 2012 at 7:40 am

Dina,

I don’t think the lady’s intentions really matter. The OP thanked her – if it was meant as a joke then the lady should have taken her reply as one – and then laughed it off once she could. The fact she laughs off being given cleaning products for Christmas (!) by her clients shows she’s hardly looking to take offence.

However, this *is* offensive. “I’ll tell you how to use it”? Really? Intended as a joke or not, that note was very rude, not funny. It also prevents the OP from being particularly grateful for a huge stack of the cheapest toiletries, that she would probably have appreciated had she not had that written with it.

You don’t write things like that to people whom you don’t know *extremely* well and you don’t use a Christmas present to someone you employ to make fun of them. Even in the kindest light what she wrote wasn’t kind at all.

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DowagerDutchess December 11, 2012 at 8:09 am

I think this needs to be an annual reminder- if you routinely pay someone for a personal service, tip them in cash at the holidays. You aren’t offending them with money, your hairdresser doesn’t need a really cute set of dish towels, and your doorman wants a $20, not cookies.

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barb December 11, 2012 at 8:24 am

I think I would have sent a TY note that said ” Thank you for the cleaning supplies. I donated them to the local women’s shelter as I have my own toiletries I prefer to use.”

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DaDancingPsych December 11, 2012 at 8:32 am

Being that the poster never called the lady, I have trouble instantly assuming that she was intending to say that the poster was unclean. Maybe the call was meant to explain the gift in some way; we will never know. If the poster was worried that the lady meant to be offensive, then I think it’s fine to not call and simply assume the best. But I don’t think we can accuse someone of being rude until they are truly doing so.

I also do not see the problem with dollar store soaps. My understanding of this site is that the value of the gift is not what matters. Would the poster feel differently if the note was included in a basket of specialty store soaps? Would that somehow help us jump to a more positive assumption? I don’t feel that it would.

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Lo December 11, 2012 at 9:08 am

I would have been completely offended too.

It’s really more about the note than the cost of the gift. I can’t use stuff from the The Dollar Store because my skin is too sensitive, so I’ll always spring for more costly things. I wouldn’t expect anyone who didn’t know me to know that. Wouldn’t matter how much money they had, they can buy me a cheap gift, a gifts a gift.

But note makes it sound like charity. Maybe she thought she was being charitable. Who knows, maybe her wealth has given her a skewed perspective on what constitutes poverty and who would be grateful to accept a basket full of soaps and shampoos because they couldn’t afford them. Though even then who wouldn’t know how to use them??

I also doubt she meant to be offensive but it IS incredibly offense to offer a form of charity which implies “You poor thing, you can’t even wash yourself properly, please let me help you.”

I probably would have called this woman just to ask innocently, “I didn’t quite understand this note, what do you mean?” so as to explain to her politely when she gets into her reasoning, that you are fully capable of taking care of your own hygene and that you don’t need these things.

And like Barb said, donating them would be awesome! (because some people do need charity, albeit note-free)

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Angela December 11, 2012 at 9:18 am

This is just insulting. We have a woman that comes in to clean every other week and I would be shocked if she came wearing makeup and good clothes and if she left in an immaculate condition. I would never EVER imagine giving her soap and so on and saying “I’ll tell you how to use it”.
As for the dollar store, that does rub me the wrong way a little. The message is “you need so much hygiene product that I have to buy the cheapest stuff to fully supply you”.
A holiday gift should be personal (soap and shampoo included) ONLY if you really know the person. We give a lot of gift cards to stores like Target and Barnes and Noble to the kids’ teachers, haircutters and so on. One of our kids is handicapped so the aides, the bus drivers and so on get cards. We try to write a note about buying something for yourself that you’ll enjoy. Everyone seems happy.

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The Elf December 11, 2012 at 9:19 am

The note was over the top. The gift was fine, even if it was dollar store stuff. But the note….. yech!

OP’s response was just fine, though I would have dropped the sarcasm in favor of a plain professional thank you. I figure it’s hard to go wrong with simplicity. If this is the worst thing she’s done, I’d be tempted to consider that she acted with good intentions and keep her as a client as well.

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Jay December 11, 2012 at 9:28 am

Dina, I think you’re being really, really, REALLY charitable there.

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MichelleP December 11, 2012 at 9:41 am

While I agree it probably wasn’t intended to be insulting, that was ridiculous. The money spent wasn’t the issue, but no one should ever put a note on a gift like that.

@DowagerDuchess, I give baked goods to the mailman and others. I simply cannot afford to give cash to everyone I pay for their services throughout the year. Baking is my forte and I know people appreciate a homemade gift. I’m glad you can afford to do that, but not everyone can.

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Not Amused December 11, 2012 at 9:55 am

The price/value of the gift should not be considered relevant. I am not comfortable with the OP’s statement that “I would have taken no offense if they were from a “Specialty Store””. Maybe this lady is just a dollar store shopper.
I probably would have called her to see what she had to say, and if she were truly trying to educate me about hygiene, I would have laughed and thanked her for her thoughtfulness. Then, I would have marked her off of my client list.
Some people are great gift givers, some are not. Her intentions may not have been malicious, but I wouldn’t have wanted to work for her anymore if I knew she was truly looking down on me.

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PM December 11, 2012 at 10:00 am

Yikes. OP, did your mom continue her friendship with this woman?

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KMC December 11, 2012 at 10:05 am

This is like crinkling up your nose when you notice your gardener has dirt on his hands.

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LadyPhoenix December 11, 2012 at 10:27 am

You know, I don’t think the whole “Dollar Store” soaps didn’t need to be mentioned (unless the lady still had the pricetags on them, which then shows she’s not only rude, but cheap and lazy too)

However, the note was just catty. Glad you could drop that jerk like a rock for treating you like an idiot.
“Tell you how to use them”, the OP a CLEANING lady. If the OP didn’t know how to use soap, I probably wouldn’t hire her as a cleaning lady in the FIRST PLACE. Does she expect the OP to smell like lilacs after cleaning the toilets and the attic?

Straight to holiday e-hell the lady goes!

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Stacey Frith-Smith December 11, 2012 at 10:29 am

Oops! Your client has way too much time on her hands! A whole basket of soaps and dollar store delights? Another venerable columnist, Judith Martin, once offered commentary the sum of which is that a luxury is a great gift but a necessity is not. Whatever you offer should be able to be classified as a treat, be it ever so inexpensive.

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Allie December 11, 2012 at 10:38 am

I don’t know, Dina. I’m usually the first to give someone the benefit of the doubt, and I applaud your effort to do so, but I just don’t see how the note can be taken as anything other than insulting, even if it was meant as a joke. We always talk about how gifts should be received on this site, but they should also be given in a spirit of generosity and without ulterior and poorly veiled messages.

OP, I’m not sure I understand why you have chosen to mention the products were from the dollar store and why you would have taken no offense if they were from a specialty store. In my view it was the note that was the misstep here. It seems to me from what you have written you were offended by the value and source of the products first and the note was just the last nail, so to speak.

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DGS December 11, 2012 at 10:39 am

While the comment on the gift package about showing you how to use them was indubitably rude and obnoxious, the fact that the toiletries came from the Dollar Store was immaterial. She had budgeted a certain amount on a gift for the cleaning lady, and that was the amount that Maggie was going to spend. Just because she happened to be affluent does not mean that was supposed to spend oodles of money on a gift to her cleaning lady, provided that she compensated her cleaning lady appropriately for her services. So while Maggie is of course, in the wrong, for her tactless holiday “greeting”, OP did not need to turn up her nose at the soaps and may have in fact, benefitted from donating them to a women’s shelter where many people would have been grateful to make use of them.

And I completely agree with DowagerDuchess; people who are paid for personal service enjoy being tipped in cash at the holidays. My hairdresser, our lawn guy, our cleaning lady, etc. get a tip equal to the amount of one of their services (e.g. if I pay my cleaning lady $90 every two weeks, I’ll pay her $180 when she cleans around the holidays). Whether she buys personal care products, dish towels or gas for her car with that money is really none of my business.

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Lisa December 11, 2012 at 11:00 am

Dina,
Seriously? You don’t think a note insinuating that someone doesn’t know how to use soap and shampoo is not insulting? The OP was not expounding on the value of the gift, but on the meaning of the gift. The value of the gift was just a footnote to the story. Sorry, but the clients intentions were not altruistic.

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Snarkastic December 11, 2012 at 11:01 am

I’m in agreement with DowagerDutchess. Cash gifts for service industry employees are always my go to. I live in an apartment building and cash gifts for all building employees are the expected norm (if you can afford to do so).

My mother has a cleaning lady and always gives her a holiday bonus. That seems to go over very well.

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Dawn December 11, 2012 at 11:14 am

Dina, I imagine that is why many people post stories here, to help sort out any confusion about the event. I’ve seen many that state something along the lines of “please correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this to be a breach of etiquette.” if the majority of commenters and Admin all agree etiquette was breached, one could assume they did not misinterpret the intentions of the offender.

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Politrix December 11, 2012 at 11:19 am

Wow, did I come to the wrong website? Telling a person you donated their gift because you had no use for it? Presuming to speak on behalf of the entire service industry, and claiming they all would rather have cash than, say, a heartfelt, homemade gift from someone who may not be doing so well in these difficult economic times? Just… wow.
As to the OP, Maggie’s gift may have been a little “off,” and who knows what her intentions were behind the note, but unless there was blatant intent to be rude (i.e., the note said, “wow, you smell bad, what is wrong with you?”), it should be assumed that she gave the gift in good faith. I’m with the posters who think that the note was either a strange, failed attempt at humor, or the result of someone with less-than-perfect social skills. (I’m not bringing age into this because social awkwardness isn’t specific to any one demographic.)
OP, I’ve had less-than-glamorous jobs in the service industry, and around holiday time, I was always grateful for whatever I received — whether it was dime-store candy (yes, some people gave me that) or a bottle of spirits (I didn’t drink at the time, but it made an excellent hostess gift to bring to parties.) The only time I felt a little out of sorts was if I received nothing from a regular customer — and even then I figured they just didn’t have the means to tip that year. I find it very hard to believe that anyone, regardless of income/social status, would go out of their way and spend time and money to get a gift just to insult someone.

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Library Diva December 11, 2012 at 11:32 am

Agree with Bint…I can’t see a way she could have meant this kindly. The fact that they were the cheapest personal care products available underscores, to me, the fact that Maggie felt that OP didn’t wash and needed personal care guidance. They weren’t meant to be little luxuries like a chance to use Crabtree and Evelyn instead of good old St. Ives. They are, indeed, the sort of thing you give to a shelter for people who just need to be clean. This was pretty rude, but ultimately, I think the joke is on Maggie. She got dropped by someone who was working very hard for her, and if this gift is at all reflective of her attitude towards her housekeepers, she’s probably gotten dropped by a long line of them.

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gramma dishes December 11, 2012 at 11:54 am

There’s probably a fine line between being curious and being nosy, but I am sooo curious as to what your Mother’s reaction was to this ‘gift’ and note for you from her friend?

And I think some of the previous posters are being too kind to Mansion Lady. No, this woman was rude and obnoxious and really believed that the OP would be (and SHOULD be) ‘grateful’ for all this ‘lavish’ dollar store stuff. The implication is quite clear.

OP, I’m so glad you phased her out. I think you were amazingly kind and exceptionally polite and mature to do it that way. If it had been me, I’d have dropped her off my list of clients right then and there!

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Angel December 11, 2012 at 12:23 pm

I can almost guarantee that the lady was serious. The OP responded perfectly and was way nicer than I might have been. I considering giving any gift of toiletry, perfume, etc., WAY too personal, unless you know what the person uses and know that they would enjoy such a gift– you NEVER give toiletries as a gift, to me it’s almost akin to giving lingerie! Furthermore, I am with Dowager, if you normally pay someone for a service, it’s much better to give $ for a Christmas gift than almost anything else. Unless you know they love Dunkin Donuts coffee, a particular restaurant, etc., then a gift card might be appropriate.

And the note that the lady included with the gift just amped up the insulting factor. I’m not sure how else the OP could have taken it except–you smell, you are unkempt, and obviously don’t know how to use soap. Unless the gift is from a friend and is a running joke of some kind, that is a damned insult and she was right to phase her out as a client.

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Drawberry December 11, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Wow that was really crass!
Without the note it would have been a fine gift, yes even Dollar Store stuff. It might be confusing and a bit hurtful when a wealthy friend of your mothers gifts you ‘bargain store’ items for your efforts but at that point it was a thoughtful gift of items you initially expressed excitement over. The inclusion of the note was frankly uncalled for an unnecessary.

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essie December 11, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Dina, I disagree. A “jest that she will teach the OP, the cleaning lady, how to clean” could have been the intention IF the cleaning supplies were for the job, such as vinegar, toilet cleaner, vacuum bags, etc. The items were for personal hygiene and included an offer of instruction, so the implication was that the OP was dirty and stupid.

Secondly, toiletries – like lingerie -are intimate, items, only appropriate as gift items to a close friend or family members (BFFs, parents, spouses, siblings, and children), not for an employee.

Thirdly, while the monetary value of a gift shouldn’t be a consideration between friends, it is entirely reasonable to expect some thought and consideration for one’s tastes to go into it’s selection. A gift of one’s favorite shampoo or body powder says the giver knows your preferences or at least cares enough about you to find out. Toiletries from a store whose quality threshold is is notoriously low say the giver felt obligated to give something, but has no interest in you personally.

And that’s the crux of the matter. Giving an personal gift to a business associate and making intimate comments (joking or not) on a stranger’s personal hygiene.

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GardenGoblin December 11, 2012 at 12:41 pm

—You aren’t offending them with money, your hairdresser doesn’t need a really cute set of dish towels, and your doorman wants a $20, not cookies.—

Unless they are really good cookies. I walked a lady’s dog for her for a few years back in my teens and each holiday she’d give me a bag of baked goods. And oooooooh that lady could bake. One Christmas she gave me a $50 bill instead. Very generous, but honestly, far as I was concerned her brownies were worth double that.

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Cat December 11, 2012 at 12:41 pm

This sort of thing floors me. The products were bad enough; the note was unspeakable. I would have been hard-put not to send her a book on etiquette with a note, “Call me, and I’ll explain how this works for well-mannered people.”
However, there is a difference between class and money. This woman, for she is no lady, evidently had money, but was unable to purchase class. An appropriate gift would have been one month’s salary in cash in a Christmas card.

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Cerys December 11, 2012 at 12:50 pm

What if the instructions on how to use the soaps was to have been something along the lines of ‘take a day off, have a long relaxing bath and pamper yourself’? We’ll never know – but I agree with Dina that one perception may not been the intention.

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Cerys December 11, 2012 at 12:51 pm

[may not been] should be [may not have been].

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RobM December 11, 2012 at 1:03 pm

@Dina
“there is always another side to the story”
– indeed. But if we accept that the gift & note were meant in the best possible spirit, the person writing that note should have realised that such an over-familiar tone in the note could be taken the wrong way if the relationship up to that point didn’t set the ground for it.

“Dollar store soaps? That is what the client chose to give . The monetary value of a gift should never be taken as an insult.”
– agreed. But as someone wise once said: “there is always another side to the story”. I interpreted the comment about this as purely illustrating that set wasn’t designed as a proper pampering set (even as a ‘clueless male’ I’m well aware of the difference between a basket of bits and pieces from the toiletries aisle of my local supermarket and a ‘bathroom pampering/home spa day’ type gift).

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mpk December 11, 2012 at 1:10 pm

I worked for many years cleaning commercial trailers. This was after they were returned from being rented. If they weren’t hooked up to air conditioning for me, those trailers could reach 100 degrees easy. I would be sweating within a few minutes. So, there was no way i ever showered before work. And i also wore nasty looking clothes. But they were clean and so was i. I showered right after work.
I would have been really offended to receive something like this. And, believe me, i bet i was alot dirtier than you when i left work. And stinkier for that matter. So, i don’t see how her intentions could have been meant any other way than what she intended. Especially with the note included. I really wish you would have called for her instructions on how to use them. Or taken Barb’s line. That was so rude of her. And i bet she knew it, otherwise, why drop it off at your mothers instead of giving it to you directly. She may have lived in a mansion, but that doesn’t mean she had any class.

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June First December 11, 2012 at 1:15 pm

@Barb– Thank you notes aren’t supposed to be used as a reprimand. Please don’t tell the giver you got rid of their present.

That said, I work at a women’s shelter and we love donations of toiletries…except when someone gives a big box that includes half-used bottles of lotions or shampoos. We appreciate the thought, but those belong in the trash.

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Kimstu December 11, 2012 at 1:26 pm

@barb: ‘I think I would have sent a TY note that said ” Thank you for the cleaning supplies. I donated them to the local women’s shelter as I have my own toiletries I prefer to use.” ‘

And that would have been rude. You don’t tell somebody that you didn’t like or won’t use their gift, even if it was presented in a horrendously thoughtless or downright offensive way. If you truly wish to make a protest against an insult disguised as a gift, then you must RETURN the gift to the donor, accompanied by a coldly polite note saying something along the lines of “Thank you for your generosity, but I cannot accept this”.

@Dina: “Allow me to offer a very different perception of this story suggesting there may have been a misunderstanding of intentions.”

Not to be harsh, but who cares? Whatever the possible intentions behind this gift, the donor’s execution of them was unequivocally, incontrovertibly lousy—and it’s the execution that is being criticized here.

A polite person NEVER gives gifts that might suggest or imply, even humorously, that the recipient’s personal hygiene is inadequate (unless perhaps they know each other extremely well and they both like that sort of joke). Just because you didn’t mean to be rude doesn’t mean that you get a free pass for carelessly or thoughtlessly doing something that IS rude.

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Brenda December 11, 2012 at 1:47 pm

I would have been tempted to do as barb suggested, but I would probably also have dropped a box of cleaning supplies on Maggie’s doorstep with a note stating that I would be happy to show her how to use them, and included a statement for any money owed with a notice of final service.

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DowagerDutchess December 11, 2012 at 2:37 pm

@MichelleP- if you’re in the US, the mailman doesn’t need a tip. But hairdressers, doormen, dog walkers, and housekeepers do. It’s like a restaurant- if you can’t afford the tip, you can’t afford the meal.

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Goldie December 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm

While it is awfully nice of some of the commenters to try and find good intentions behind Maggie’s note, sorry, but there’s nothing good-intentioned in offering anyone that’s over five years old to “tell them how to use” soap and shampoo. Didn’t we have a discussion on this blog a few weeks ago about whether it is ethical to give someone a bar of deodorant as a subtle hint? Same thing here.

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Abby December 11, 2012 at 4:12 pm

This story made me laugh out loud! It also reminded me of the girl I used to work with on a farm, who would shower BEFORE we reported to a corn field at 5:30 a.m. to pull corn by hand, and then again after we were done. I think she would agree with Maggie that apparently there is no job so grungy you shouldn’t look your best at all times, haha.

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Another Alice December 11, 2012 at 4:49 pm

I agree with those who believe that the mention of the soaps being from the dollar store IS relevant. As one person pointed out, things that are necessities aren’t really gifts, are they? I mean, I would never dream of giving anyone a bar of soap or shampoo from the dollar store; they just as easily pick those things up themselves. Unless, of course, someone has recently complained about how much they spend on food, or bath stuff, or socks – then perhaps it IS mindful to give those items, or a gift card to the correct store, as a present. I also think how the OP framed the information is important: That there was a HUGE basket, as in, the woman thought her so dirty she’d rather get $X worth of cheap supplies in order to get more, rather than one or two actual nice things. Again, I don’t think anyone would argue quantity over quality, and I think that was the OP’s point.

In terms of the note? No excuses. I can’t imagine it was a joke, to be honest. And even if it was, it was still utterly rude. I’ve received tons of bath supplies from clients, as they don’t know me personally all that well, but still wanted to give me a gift at Christmas. All of it has been very high quality, and NONE have included a note alluding to my hygiene. Perhaps now I should be worried? ;-)

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Pam December 11, 2012 at 4:57 pm

The “Dollar Store” items do rub me a little wrong because it IS kind of like leaving a price tag on. It says “this was the cheapest thing I could buy of this particular item.”

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Hellbound Alleee December 11, 2012 at 5:02 pm

I think thew fact that the soaps were dollar-store gifts coming from a mansion-owner does matter. It’s not that she expected anything at all. But gifting off-brand toiletries gives off a very clear message: you belong to the other side of the tracks, and as one of the “unwashed masses,” I am doing you a huge, missionary-like favor offering to teach you how to look a little bit more like me.

I used to clean homes every summer. I cleaned mansions as well. I have some great memories of watching families grow up–I did this for over ten years. Some of these people were exceedingly friendly to me and treated me like a respected friend. And then a few made it extremely clear that I was “the help.” I was referred to as “my girl.” I was accused of stealing valuable jewelry once (it was found, but I never went back. Her third-degree treatment of me was beyond cruel).

I will never forget those clients who took the time to learn who I was and that I had thoughts and ideas, and shared interests. They will always be remembered fondly.

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Barbarian December 11, 2012 at 5:11 pm

If I were the OP’s mom, I would drop Maggie from my list of friends faster than a hot potato. If clueless Maggie were to ask me why I no longer call or visit her, I would reply that based on the gift she gave my daughter, her skills in friendship leave a lot to be desired.

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Tibs December 11, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Wait, hairdressers need a Christmas gift? I tip my hairdresser 20% or more after every appointment. Why do I need to tip them again at Christmas time? (This is in response to the DowagerDuchess’s comment #40..”if you can’t afford the tip, you can’t afford the meal”.)

I’ve never lived in an apartment with a doorman, never had a dog walker, and never had a housekeeper. Perhaps I’m going to Etiquette Hell, but I feel that a Christmas gift is lovely but not necessary.

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babs December 11, 2012 at 7:22 pm

I pretty much agree with the majority here. Note was not in good taste, but a little put off by the mention of Dollar Store items. Many wealthy people are wealthy because they have been frugal all of their lives. My in-laws were this way. It was the era they grew up in. Even with a lot of money, they were afraid that one day it wouldn’t be there when they needed it. They lived well, but conserved on certain items that we might feel is worth splurging on. I threw away and gave away bottles and bottles of Dollar Store shampoos and lotions when closing out their house. BTW, little off the subject but in response to not tipping mail carriers, we do give ours a gift card at Christmas (they are allowed to take gifts up to $20). I’m sure she makes a decent salary, but she goes out of her way for us and it’s a nice way to show our appreciation. She once found a home on her route for a sweet little dog that wandered up to our yard, and the new owners, who we have never met, named her our last name which today is a popular girl’s name!

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White Lotus December 11, 2012 at 7:36 pm

OK, it is weird at the very least, especially the note, but some people who are quite well off are also outstandingly frugal. Every once in a while, some article will cite some study showing that expensive toiletries don’t work any better than inexpensive ones. The giver may buy all her toiletries and cosmetics at the dollar store and finds them perfectly satisfactory as well as cheap, and think she is letting OP in on something good. However, the OP would know what products the giver uses, you’d think. The note, unless there is some in-joke, such as the OP always showing the giver how to use cleaning products, is definitely odd, but I doubt it was meant as a criticism of OP’s hygiene. I’d chalk it up to “people are sure strange sometimes”, thank her and be done with it. Since OP is offended, terminating the relationship was a good idea.

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badkitty December 11, 2012 at 7:38 pm

I’m with Stacey Frith-Smith: a gift is supposed to be a treat, not a necessity. When my husband buys me tampons and the like, even if it’s on my birthday, that is NOT a present. On the other hand, when he brings me chocolates along with the other things, that’s a gift (even if his intent is to appease, lol).

The fact that the OP is able to laugh off “gifts” of cleaning supplies just shows how flexible she is – and she basically views it as the same as a cash tip, which is fine.

Other posters who emphasize that the monetary value of a gift is meaningless are correct: it’s the thought that counts… unfortunately, some people gift in very thoughtless ways.

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