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When The Gift Isn’t What You Wanted…Regifting

At my son’s birthday party, one of his friends gave him a gift with no gift receipt. The previous year, this same friend had given him a present, also with no gift receipt. My son didn’t like/want the gift so we gave it to Toys for Tots as a donation as it was clearly not something sold at major stores. This year, after receiving the gift (also not something clearly identifiably sold at major stores) I asked the mother if she had a gift receipt since my son had something that was very similar to the gift he received. She told me she had bought other things at the same time and didn’t feel comfortable giving me the receipt with the other items on it. She then offered to get him a gift card. I told her that was fine but that I didn’t feel comfortable keeping the original gift as well as the gift card and I asked her if she wanted to pick up the original gift.

She proceeded to get increasingly frustrated with me and suggested that I was being rude and that in the past when she has gotten duplicate gifts, she just says thank you and re-gifts to another child. I am not a fan of re-gifting, especially to kids, since I feel like you’re only passing on an unwanted gift to someone else, but she got so increasingly aggravated and nasty, that I told her to forget the whole thing and that I would donate the book.

She then proceeded to tell me how insulting it was to her child that I was donating the book that he spent time on picking out for my son and that she was hurt and offended. I was already irritated about the gift receipt but then to make it about insulting her child put me over the edge.

What is the difference between re-gifting or donating to those less fortunate? It’s not like I told the child what I was doing. It was between me and the mother. But what would the problem be with letting the child know that his gift was appreciated but just not liked? My son knows that there have been times that his gift has been exchanged. The gift is appreciated but just not liked. It is exactly why we include gift receipts.

All I wanted was the receipt so that my child could pick out a gift that he truly wanted. We always include a gift receipt with our gifts to his friends.    1125-12


You are doing your child a disservice raising him to believe that he can expect to receive exactly and only the gifts he actually wants.   We see a lot of that entitlement mentality on this blog where even otherwise rational readers express their belief that they have the inherent right to receive only what they really want and can therefore manipulate the gift giving process to achieve that end.   Gift givers are under no obligation whatsoever to give the gift recipient precisely what he/she wants nor are they obligated to provide receipts with the gift.

There is an air of ingratitude in your post that manifests itself in the complete lack of any commentary on how you expressed your appreciation for the generosity of your son’s friend who could not have exercised that generosity without the financial assistance of his mother.    So you insult her with the news that her and her son’s gift choice sucked and you want to exchange it.  If gifts really are meant to be a material expression of thought, time and money the giver spent attempting to choose the best gift, then you dissed her and her child big time.   You have either willfully or ignorantly chosen to focus not on the good will and generosity of friends but rather how this gift failed to meet expectations.   Talk about sucking the joy right out of the gift giving process.   Mom Friend now knows that gift exchanges in your family are nothing more than asset transfers.

I’m not going to tippy toe around this….your friend was dead on accurate when she said that the proper etiquette is to graciously thank the gift giver even if you hate the gift or cannot use it and then quietly regift or donate it.   There is absolutely nothing wrong with regifting perfectly usable gifts, particularly new books and toys still in the box.  A donation of a new toy to Toys For Tots or Angel Tree or any other credible charity, especially at this time of the year, would be a good way to teach children the value of giving to meet a need in others as opposed to only looking out for their own self interests.

{ 165 comments… add one }
  • Libby November 28, 2012, 2:51 am

    The letter writer missed out on a chance to teach her son good manners and friendship skills by failing to understand that when you reject a gift, you also reject the giver.

    The gift-giver evidently thought highly enough of his friend to go to a store and choose a book that he thought his friend would like. It is a shame that his effort was rewarded with rejection. I hope his mother told him that not everyone places more value on the price of things and less value on friendship.

    If the birthday boy’s mother continues with her flawed parenting skills, her son may find later in life that he might be wealthy in things but destitute in friends who care about him.

  • Mer November 28, 2012, 3:09 am

    I agree here with admin. First I was very bewildered about the expectation of the recipe but thought that perhaps it’s an cultural difference. I feel that giving gift with thought “You can exchange/return this gift later on” is quite depressing. Also, I do not feel comfortable when information about monetary value of gift is brought into knowledge of gift receiver. (However, I do not know if the used term “gift recipe” means that there are special recipes for gifts which perhaps won’t show the price or something.) I can understand recipe if the gift is clothes or something similar when, even if liked very much, sizing can be off and exchanging the gift to right size serves both gift giver and receiver.

    I thing, especially now under the Christmas time it’s good to remember that gifts are “things” (of course gift can be something immaterial too) that other people feel they wish to give to you. They are not about what you would like to have. And they do not need to give you anything. They give you something because they wish it’ll make you happy and you like it. Often they end up being something you would have liked to have, especially when received from the near and dear as they know what you like. But if that’s not the case, you thank for the gift and privately think what you will do about it.

    I have to tell I was very pleased one time about my friend who we were visiting for her (very young) kid’s birthday. Unluckily two of us friends had chosen same gift and as our gift was already opened when the other friends arrived, they immediately noticed that they have the same gift. Of course they felt embarrassed (even if there really is no need) and told my friend not to open the gift so she can return it or change it. But she thanked them and said that it was very good as now they could have the same toy for their home and cottage (where they spend much time) and no need to pack it all the time. I think it was nice to do even if there was quite good reason to return the gift.

  • Another Michelle November 28, 2012, 4:15 am

    I agree with the admin on this one. Nobody gets what they want every time. My daughter is still too young to not want any present she gets, but when she does receive a present that isn’t what she wants, I will be telling her exactly that. It will be up to her to donate or keep (as her interests are changeable as quicksilver!!), but I will make sure she will politely thank the giver for the present.

  • Bint November 28, 2012, 4:29 am

    Thank you, Admin.

    All gift receipts apart, your real insult to her was when you asked her to take the original present back.

    You asked her for the receipt – that’s a tad rude when she hasn’t offered it, but pass on that. However, when she didn’t want to give it up but *offered you a gift card instead*, your reaction was just textbook bad manners. Not only do you tell her that’s ‘fine’ (how gracious!), you tell her to take her present back or you will give it away! And then you have the absolute brass neck to say you’re still ‘irritated about the gift receipt’! There’s gratitude!

    I’m not at all surprised she was offended. For the sake of one book, I’d never have told her my son already had it. It’s a book, not a sweater he can’t wear or a major present. Why repay her efforts with the reaction that it’s not ‘right’ for a book? And if she did find out he had it and offered a gift card, I’d have shown her a sight more gratitude for her generosity than you did.

    Your lack of grace here is horrible. I bet the other parents have found out about this, and I also bet they think a lot less of you for it. This isn’t even about the gift receipt, it’s about your overall attitude, and your overall attitude here is shameful.

  • Marozia November 28, 2012, 4:29 am

    How vulgar!! The friend was utterly right in being frustrated. Accept the gift, even if you dislike it, say thank you, and then do what you want with it.

    Did you really have to make a fuss about a gift receipt? And you scratch your head over the fact that this friend got frustrated with you. No wonder manners have gone down the drain with such offensive comments. And about a children’s gift of all things!!

  • EireCat November 28, 2012, 4:34 am

    Thank you, Miss Jeanne. For saying exactly what I wanted to say much, much more politely than I would have.

  • Sara November 28, 2012, 5:03 am

    Hear hear Admin. Could agree more. If my child’s friends mother said this, it would be the last time I got that child a gift.

  • Bint November 28, 2012, 5:14 am

    And how did I miss this little gem?

    “But what would the problem be with letting the child know that his gift was appreciated but just not liked?”

    The problem is that that is *incredibly* rude, thoughtless, unkind and awful!” Why on earth would you tell a little boy you didn’t like the present he bought you? How can you even need to ask?

  • secretrebel November 28, 2012, 5:17 am

    I agree with this so much. I was raised to say “thank you” for every gift and if I was something I didn’t want to keep that to myself. I know that some people prize honestly so highly that they think it’s okay to say if they wanted something else but I think that’s rude.

    Worst gift response ever was when my 30-year-old sister sent back her birthday present and then my mother asked me what I was going to get her instead…

  • Not Amused November 28, 2012, 5:20 am

    I totally agree with admin on this. The phrase “not something clearly identifiably sold at major stores” was so judgemental and nasty it made me sad to read it. I hope OP can learn to appreciate that one should be grateful and not critical when it comes to receiving gifts.

  • What. November 28, 2012, 5:44 am

    Not going to sugar-coat things, OP.
    Your actions came across as rude and rather Gimme-piggish to boot.
    Asking for his mother for receipt (so that you can exchange the gift) is hurtful enough, but telling your son’s friend outright that his gift choosing abilities are not up to standard?
    That seems childish, and not something I would expect an adult to do.
    If I were the mother, I’d be offended too.

  • essie November 28, 2012, 6:47 am

    “I am not a fan of re-gifting, especially to kids, since I feel like you’re only passing on an unwanted gift to someone else…What is the difference between re-gifting or donating to those less fortunate?”

    (1) Just because your son doesn’t like it doesn’t mean nobody else will. The next time you need to select a gift for a child, seriously consider the child, hizzer personality, likes, and dislikes, then re-gift if you seriously think the child would like it.

    (2) If you learn to do that, then perhaps one day you’ll be able to make the mental leap to considering that “those less fortunate” are more than just receptacles for your cast-offs and clutter.

    (3) If you consider re-gifting as “only passing on an unwanted gift to someone else”, then the logical and tactical answer to your question is: there is no difference.

    (4) The fact that you deemed it necessary to mention that EVERY gift from this child has been “clearly not something sold at major stores”, comes without a gift receipt, and doesn’t meet your expectations makes you sound more than just a little bit snobby.

    (5) On the bright side, I’m sure that you’ll never again have to worry about substandard gifts from this family.

    (6) Since mutual interests are usually the basis for young friendships, I don’t believe this child has been your son’s friend for at least 2 years and offers gifts that he can’t stand to keep around. Bluntly, it sounds more like you’re the one judging the appropriateness of the gifts. On the other hand, I may be completely wrong. If so, then you might want to look at the gifts as an expression of his friend’s tastes and encourage your son to try them on the basis that if his friend likes it, then maybe your son would, too.

    (7) BTW, whenever your receive an inheritance, remember that it also is nothing more than a re-gift without a gift receipt, then consider me one of the “less than fortunate”. 🙂

  • Cerys November 28, 2012, 7:13 am

    Well said, Admin. I read this post with an increasing sense of disbelief that anyone could seriously believe that they were in the right to treat a gift with such rudeness. A gift is just that – a *gift*.

  • Melnick November 28, 2012, 7:13 am

    I can’t think of anything more appalling than expecting a gift receipt with a gift. And I would be mortified if someone included one for me. I don’t need to know how much you spent. That’s why I prefer a gift to a giftcard – I never need to know what was spent.

    My mouth was open nearly the entire time I read this post! Talk about ingratitude! It sounds like you should just charge an admission fee to the party and be done with it. The thing about a gift is that it didn’t have to be given. Someone spent their time choosing something for you. Even if you don’t like it, you appreciate that they thought about you and made the effort. You don’t get to have everything you want in life handed to you. If you really want something, you go and buy it yourself – you don’t expect it to be gifted to you.

    My cousin got into a habit of telling his siblings the exact gift that he wanted for Christmas. He didn’t bother taking a gift his sister had given him (that cost her $100) for 2 years because it wasn’t exactly what he had wanted. The consequence is that this year his siblings refused to do gifts for the adults. He was very upset about it but he had sucked all the joy out of the gift giving process for the rest of them that they preferred not to do it.

    My four year old received a necklace last year for Christmas that she already had. It was a secret Santa type process and the rest of the kids had received toys. I was so proud of her for thanking them for her gift. She gave it to me to hold and though she was bitterly disappointed and felt left out when the other kids started playing with their toys, she didn’t show it. When we got in the car, I praised her for the way she acted. I also offered to exchange her gift for a toy when we got home. She was so excited. I didn’t offer it to her at the time she got the necklace because I wanted her to know that she should be gracious and not expect a substitution. I gave her a Barbie when we got home and we kept the necklace to gift to another friend further down the track. The original gift giver has never realised as my daughter has worn the necklace she already had so the giver assumes it is the one she gave her. I know too that the giver was very proud of her choice of gift for my daughter. No one’s feelings needed to be hurt.

    Also, some people are ‘gift’ people. I am deeply offended if someone rejects a gift and take it very personally. I put a lot of effort into trying to give something meaningful. Rejecting a gift can say to someone that you don’t value them or the relationship between you. You are doing your son a dis-service to teach him that he can go through life dictating what people should give to him. It sets a bad precedent for other areas in his life too. Be respectful and grateful. I personally think you owe the friend’s mother an apology.

  • --Lia November 28, 2012, 7:21 am

    I get such a good giggle out of letters like this one. At first I thought it was a tongue-in-cheek one where the LW writes from the point of view of the other party, but then I realized she was serious. It was bad enough when people started treating weddings like commercial events in which the gift is legal currency price of admission, but now it’s extended to children’s birthday parties. The only thing I can add is that the other boy’s mother, at the point the offer of the (generous and already going out of her way) gift card was refused, should have declined to get frustrated and simply said that she was so sorry the gift wasn’t appreciated and left it at that. For the future, perhaps a nice book on etiquette.

  • Steph November 28, 2012, 7:26 am

    I think that the OP is rude, ungracious, arrogant and pushy. You and your child should have thanked the gift givers and left it at that. You’re not just thanking someone for the material purchase but for the time, thought and effort they put into choosing the gift. You didn’t want the book? Then you and your child could have discretely donated it to charity instead of hurting the feelings of the other mother. I think your behaviour was disgusting.

  • Agania November 28, 2012, 7:33 am

    Include a gift receipt with a present??? Who does that? It’s as bad as leaving the price tag on a gift when wrapping it. If you don’t like the gift, regift or donate to charity. Get over yourself and count your blessings that someone has chosen to give you a gift in the first place.

  • DowagerDutchess November 28, 2012, 8:01 am

    It really boggles the mind sometimes. When you get a gift, you write a thank you note. Then you do what you like with the gift- but you don’t tell people you didn’t like it! Please, please hear these words. One day your son will lose friends over this if he follows your lead.

  • Laura November 28, 2012, 8:09 am

    Ooooh boy. This post rubbed me the wrong way. I was sincerely hoping it was some kind of joke, but alas it does not appear to be. Did I really just read that the gift was “appreciated but just not liked?” And the OP told the mother this? I’m appalled. And the nerve of that mother not to enclose a gift receipt….REALLY??? I will be curious to see what other commenters have to say.

  • Lo November 28, 2012, 8:13 am

    I don’t think it was polite of your friend to call you out.

    Other than that she is absolutely right. When your child gets an unwanted or duplicate gift from a friend, you keep your mouth shut– except of course to offer thanks. How do people not understand this?

    The only time you’d be encouraged to include a receipt with the gift for return is for a wedding or shower when you’ve bought off the registry because duplicates happen all the time.

    Honestly when I was a kid and got gifts with a return receipt from people at Christmas it always startled me. It was never for clothes that might not fit, always for items that were generally fun things for kids. What would I be needing to take it back for? Children LOVE getting gifts. Who would insinuate to a child that there’s such a thing as an unacceptable present? When I was young I would have been reprimanded for any display of ingratitude, regardless, had I even though to offer the opinion that I might have liked something else better. I may have issues with the old-fashioned way I was raised but on this my parents were undoubtably in the right.

    And I couldn’t agree with Admin more.

  • Spuck November 28, 2012, 8:19 am

    The only time you can have a discussion about gifts is if they are really inappropriate gifts. Like if Grandpa insists on giving a junior a gun against his parents wishes, or Aunt Mim keeps giving him peanut butter cookies though he has gone to the hospital twice because of his allergies.

  • Melissa November 28, 2012, 8:27 am

    I can’t even fathom telling a friend I needed a gift receipt because I raised my child to be an entitled brat. This has to be a joke, right? The snobby tone, seeming belief that the friend was the rude one for not including a receipt?? There is no way there are grown people who believe this is an appropriate way to act.

    OP embarrassed her friend (seemingly in front of others) and also comes across incredibly, mind-blowingly, blind to how rude she was.

  • sv November 28, 2012, 8:35 am

    Are you for real? I can actually feel my blood pressure rising as I read your post. The audacity!! This is how it is, OP – when someone gives you a gift, you say thank you and write a thank you note. Period. What you do with the gift after that point is up to you – regift it, donate it, burn it in a bonfire…it’s your choice and you don’t have to share that information with anyone. And as for being annoyed that the mother didn’t include a gift receipt, well, that just blows my mind. I never include gift recepits – never. Would you like to know why? Because we chose THIS gift to give. And all you are teaching your son is that birthdays are about the presents and nothing else. I am one hundred percent on the side of the other mother in this post and find your post, actions and attitude crass and appalling.

  • ferretrick November 28, 2012, 8:37 am

    This letter is so tone deaf I’m tempted to think it’s fake. Someone wrote something outrageously rude and submitted it to an etiquette site just to get a reaction.

    If it is real, well, OP, maybe you want to send your etiquette meter in for a tune up. Or just replace it entirely.

  • Ergala November 28, 2012, 8:55 am

    The only time I include a gift receipt is for something that is worn. And I ask for one at the register. Gift receipts typically don’t include the price, just the item and sku. However the OP blew my mind. What is wrong with people nowadays? My flabber is gasted.

  • egl November 28, 2012, 8:56 am

    Besides the strangeness of expecting a gift receipt to come with a present*, the emphasis on “not identifiable as sold in major stores” also strikes me as rather odd. Doubly so for a book. (Books available in my local supermarket have surprised me at times.) I’m not sure if you were hoping to return them without a receipt or are just being snobbish about where is “good enough” to provide gifts for your child.

    LW, while my immediate family uses gift lists to avoid problems, I’ve still ended up with clothes that don’t fit, books I’d never read, CDs that don’t interest me, and DVDs I can’t even watch** from more distant relatives. They’re still met with a polite thank you note, then quietly disposed of, or left to gather dust. While part of me thinks they’re wasting their money on stuff that doesn’t interest me, it’s not my place to tell them.

    *Except, maybe, clothing from someone who isn’t sure of your size.
    **I seriously can’t think of a good way to explain region coding and the rarity of region free DVD players in US to my aunt.

  • marbar November 28, 2012, 8:56 am

    Agania, it’s actually not uncommon to include gift receipts in gifts for young children. (Keep in mind that gift receipts don’t list the price of a gift, so it’s actually not akin to leaving on the price tag.) I’ve seen it done at many birthday parties for little kids. The idea behind it, though, seems to be more to allow return/exchange of *duplicate* gifts, rather than pushing the idea that kids should only appreciate “perfect” gifts. I’m guessing the OP’s son has mostly received gifts at birthday parties that included gift receipts.

    That having been said, there is an ocean of difference between saying that inclusion of gift receipts is not uncommon and saying that inclusion of gift receipts is *expected.* Unless a friend who knows that you’re a devout vegetarian gives you a gift of a Steak of the Month Club accompanied by a note saying that you need to lighten up about the no-eating-animals thing, people giving you gifts are being thoughtful and generous, and should be treated as such. My godchild receives gift receipts with more birthday party gifts than not and his parents have exchanged a few duplicate gifts for things, but said godchild is always appreciative and gracious about *all* gifts.

    I’m always amused at the idea the re-gifting is some sort of crime against etiquette and/or taste, BTW. Yes, *obvious* re-gifting is not good — receiving a crystal bowl for a wedding present that has a card in it marking it as a gift originally given to the now-giver is an example that comes to mind. But assuming that is not the case, then who cares how the giver obtained the gift, as long as he/she did so legally? I admit that I do include gift receipts with many of my gifts with the thought that loved ones can exchange duplicate gifts if necessary, but I have re-gifted things in the past, and I would hope that any loved ones who don’t love a gift I got for them would feel free to give said gift to someone who would love it more.

  • Huh November 28, 2012, 9:02 am

    If it’s a book, why not donate it to a local library? My kids love going to the library and we many times donate books they don’t want/have outgrown. Even if it’s not something the library wants in circulation, they can sell it at a used book sale to get money for the books they want (at least mine does.)

    I think my ex is the grown-up version of this. He never liked any gifts anyone ever gave him, and IMMEDIATELY went out to stores after he got the gifts to try to return them. He always claimed to not want gifts, not out of some selfless gesture, but because people never bought him what he deemed as worthy gifts! And when it came to giving gifts, he would buy things that he liked, not necessarily or at all things that recipient would like!

    I’ve gotten gifts I haven’t liked in my life and I just donate them or give them to someone I think might like them – usually not as a special occasion gift, just “Hey, someone gave me this, it’s not my size/scent/etc., would you like it?”

    The one time I asked for the recipient from a family member who got my kids a clothing item that was clearly too small, they got mad and yelled at me that they didn’t keep recipients and it was gift! The fact that it was a gift didn’t change the fact that it was never going to fit…. I ended up donating it.

  • clairedelune November 28, 2012, 9:02 am

    I am as absolutely appalled by this original post as everyone else, and congratulate Admin for once again neatly breaking down the OP’s etiquette blunders and general ungraciousness.

    One thing I’ve noticed in the comments is maybe some confusion over the idea of a gift receipt–the point of these receipts is that they *don’t* include the price of the item, so it’s not quite “just like leaving the price tag on.” (of course, if you actually do use the receipt to return the item, then you discover the original purchase price at that point.) Gift receipts seem to have become very common, I suppose in response to people like the OP. I don’t think it’s rude to include them, necessarily–my very sweet MIL is big on providing gift receipts–but it’s certainly rude to expect them.

  • alex November 28, 2012, 9:03 am

    Admin your response was spot on! OP, I cannot believe you asked the mom for a gift receipt. You didn’t mention your relationship with the boy’s mom but based on the post I am guessing you only know each other through your sons. If she was your best friend or someone else you were really close to, then I would think asking for a gift receipt is fine. And some people do include them BUT if they don’t include it just accept it and move on. Your son probably got lots of other things he could play with and you seriously missed a great teaching opportunity that we sometimes get gifts we don’t like but we don’t want to hurt the gift giver’s feelings and so we either donate them, return them (quietyly), or regift if it is something that another person could really enjoy. There is nothing wrong with regifting for kids (I feel like regifting for kids makes much more sense than adults because they get so many toys and it is easy for repeats!), as the toy or book is probably one that would very much be enjoyed by another child. So you are definitely in the wrong here and basically acted like you were entitled to something. It was really nice she offered to give your son a gift card, she didn’t even have to do that and you really shouldn’t have mentioned you were going to donate it, that is just rude, almost like- take your gift and shove it. It is not required to give a gift receipt with a gift, if someone includes one great but if not, move on.

  • JamieC November 28, 2012, 9:07 am

    I do gift reciepts for clothes and that’s about it. That said if I do need to buy a present for a kid I don’t really know that well, I stick with Legos/duplos or something like that that you can’t really have too many of.

  • Abby November 28, 2012, 9:12 am

    I think a gift receipt (from the giver’s standpoint) is a good idea and I usually include them with the presents along with verbally telling the receiver I will absolutely not be offended if they need to exchange it. FYI- gift receipts do not list the amount paid for the gift, and they are only for the items you wish to be included- the OP’s friend was confusing a gift receipt for a regular receipt. From my standpoint, if I am dropping money on a present, I would much rather the receiver gets use out of it, as opposed to it just sitting unused on a shelf, or donated.

    All that being said, I would NEVER ask someone for one! That was the first manners blunder. Also, this entire post reminds me of why I had to quit the internet baby boards I loved visiting while pregnant- too many pregnant women whining that their baby shower guests had the audacity to buy *off* the registry, and why should the pregnant woman have to supply her OWN baby needs when the guests should just buy off her list and save her the trouble (and cost). When I suggested that you just be grateful you are getting presents and if you so desperately need something, buy it yourself, people acted like I had 2 heads. The same entitlement and ingratitude radiates throughout this post and I am glad I am not the only who sees it.

    OP, you sound like a total gimme pig who does not understand the concepts of presents, and you are unfortunately raising your child with the same views. If you receive a gift you can’t use, donate it. Certainly you don’t call the giver and badger her for a receipt, and “graciously” offer to switch her original present for a new one.

  • Justin November 28, 2012, 9:18 am

    The only time I have given or received gift receipts is on clothing. Since it isn’t possible to try on a surprise gift it allows exchanges if it doesn’t fit properly. The times I’ve done exchanges like this I walk out with the same or similar item that I can wear comfortable.

    You won’t like every gift, but be gracious and move on. I have a feeling that the child in this story is being setup for a life of disappointment when he realizes that not everything will go his way.

  • yokozbornak November 28, 2012, 9:23 am

    Wow! Letters like this boggle my mind. I am trying to teach my children to be garcious no matter what type of gift they receive. I truly believe that it is the thought that counts, and if someone takes the time to choose a gift for them, then the only proper response is “Thank You!”

  • Challis November 28, 2012, 9:24 am

    I didn’t think it was a joke, but I WAS surprised when the OP had the nerve to call up the (certianly now former) friend and ASK for the reciept!

  • Just Laura November 28, 2012, 9:26 am

    But what would the problem be with letting the child know that his gift was appreciated but just not liked?

    Because that poor kid who picked out the gift and wrapped it will be heartbroken. He’ll feel that he did something wrong (even if we know that’s not the case) and possibly be embarrassed.

    Yes, I’ve regifted (I received a cashmere scarf when I lived in Florida. It was beautiful, but I already had one, and I had no reason for two in that climate… most of my friends lived in the north). Yes, I’ve donated. In each case, I thanked the giver anyway.

  • jen a. November 28, 2012, 9:27 am

    Just as a quick note – gift receipts usually don’t include a price. Also, she probably mentioned big box stores because their policies on gift exchanges are a little more flexible than smaller stores. It’s the only bone I’m going to throw the OP, but it’s still pretty weak.

    Apologies if this is a double post (I had some trouble submitting the first one), but the thing that bothers me the most about this is that the OP is submitting this story to an etiquette site. She clearly thinks that the other mother is the one at fault. It makes the story just a little bit worse, especially considering she probably frequents this site and has some idea or interest in etiquette.

    OP, you’re probably reading these comments and they may upset you, but I hope you consider changing your stance on gifts, and I also hope you consider apologizing to this mother. I’m certain your intention wasn’t to be rude or ungrateful, but you might want to think about the message your sending to your child.

    As a complete aside, I really appreciate that the “offending” gift giver purchases things from a non-major store. It’s a great thing to support smaller businesses!

  • Jessica November 28, 2012, 9:31 am

    I completely agree with Admin. I was always taught that it I got a gift that I already had or didn’t like, to pretend that wasn’t the case, say thank you with a smile like it was any other gift and not say a word about it until I was in the privacy of my own home or car. The letter writter should teach her son to be grateful for any gift he receives. And as far as “passing an unwanted gift on to someone else”, just because your child doesn’t like a gift, doesn’t mean another child won’t thoroughly enjoy it.

  • Phoebe161 November 28, 2012, 9:41 am

    Entitlement at its worst. And a timely reminder with the Christmas season starting.

    As a child, I had a very dear great aunt who didn’t have much, &, at that time, was living with my grandmother. The first Christmas she shared with my family & grandmother, we all got her Christmas gifts. She sat in the corner overwhelmed at receiving our gifts–nothing special; we were very far from being wealthy. She had none for us, & I did not say anything to her about it. The next Christmas, she got us small gifts–she gave me a nylon scarf, which as a child, I regarded as not desirable, but I thanked her & never told her I didn’t like nor needed it. (I gave it to my mother.) However, I remember having a epiphany both Christmases–you give a gift without the need for reciprocity but you receive a gift with thankfulness, for both are are given & received out of love, affection, respect, a generous spirit, appreciation, thankfulness, & selflessness. I hope & pray I never forget these lessons my great aunt unknowingly gave me.

  • Allie November 28, 2012, 9:43 am

    As you can see from the tenor of the comments, OP, I’m afraid you were wholly in the wrong here. The ONLY appropriate response to a gift is a sincere and heartfelt “thank you”. You seem annoyed that the gift-giver was thoughtless enough not to give you a gift receipt two years running. She is not obligated to do so. Your son is not entitled to the exact gifts he wants, nor any gifts at all. You are doing him a disservice by teaching him otherwise.

  • Elizabeth November 28, 2012, 9:44 am

    Demanding a gift receipt? And put out to not be supplied with it? You will begin to see a dip in attendance at your child’s parties. Who would want their child in such an environment?

  • acr November 28, 2012, 9:44 am

    Wow. My mind is blown that anyone would have the gall to write in to Etiquette Hell to complain about this. It’s like those people who write in to Miss Manners asking how they can say “cash only” on their wedding invitations…it’s like they’ve never read a Miss Manners column EVER. OP, have you ever READ EHell?

    I feel so so sorry for the gift giver in this situation. How horrible.

    IMO, the only reason to include a gift reciept is when giving an item of clothing. That way, it’s easy for the recipient to exchange the item if it is the incorrect size.

    I can’t imagine being part of a social circle where gift reciepts are expected to come with each of a child’s presents.

  • Goldie November 28, 2012, 9:45 am

    Yep, I’m with Admin on this too. Back when my kids were still young enough to have birthday parties and receive gifts, I only remember one occasion when my son opened a gift and said he didn’t like it. He was in grade school at the time, and had Aspergers, so did not always know the right thing to say. I was mortified, immediately apologized to the child whose gift it was, we kept the gift and the whole thing was forgotten five minutes later. OP, it was a kid’s birthday gift, not a paycheck. You don’t get to expect it to be a certain size and type. To be honest, your friend wasn’t under any obligation to give your son anything at all.

    I was on the receiving end of this attitude once — sort of — since it was hearsay and I did not hear it directly from the person. A relative of mine hosted a party for her child’s first birthday a few years ago, in December. We were fairly well off then, so I got her a really nice, interactive stuffed toy (though can’t remember for the life of me if I included the gift receipt) and put a decent amount of cash in an envelope with the birthday card as well. There were about fifty guests in attendance, at my estimate. A week later, I hear it from my mom, who’d heard it from a close family member, who’d heard it from the birthday baby’s grandmother (like I told you, hearsay), that the baby’s mom was really upset about the large number of guests that hadn’t included gift receipts with their gifts. Apparently, the baby’s mom said she now had a pile of toys that she didn’t know what to do with. I said, “Oh that’s not what she means. Finding what to do with these toys is easy. It’s Christmas season. All homeless shelters accept gifts right now — our local children’s hospital that serves low-income families with no insurance, also accepts gifts right now — all you have to do is drop your toys off at any of these places! Nope, what she means is, she doesn’t know how to cash them in!” Because I still don’t know if my relative has actually said that, I give her the benefit of the doubt, but if I knew for a fact that she did, it would definitely change my opinion of her — the phrase did sound incredibly entitled and greedy.

    @ Agania & others, a gift receipt does not show the price. For a substantially priced gift, if I remember to include one, I do. For kids’ birthday gifts, I confess, never crossed my mind. Don’t recall my kids ever getting one with their gifts, either.

  • Margaret November 28, 2012, 9:47 am

    Just for the record, in my family, we often include a gift receipt, because we often don’t know if kids already have that specific item. It’s also handy to have should an item break or be defective and need to be returned to the store or if there is some kind of warranty attached to the item. To us, it is just practical. And for those who don’t know, many stores will print a gift receipt with the product name and store codes etc but without the price listed.

  • WildIrishRose November 28, 2012, 9:53 am

    In all fairness to the OP, who was without question seriously rude to her son’s friend’s mother, a “gift receipt” does not have the price of the gift on it. The purpose of a gift receipt is to be able to exchange something that’s the wrong size, for instance. I would never include a gift receipt on a toy or a book, but on clothing it never bothers me. A gift receipt is not the same as a regular receipt.

    That said, the OP should be very ashamed of herself and should apologize to the child’s mother. I’m amazed at the entitlement mentality that people have.

  • Laura again November 28, 2012, 9:53 am

    I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see the other mom’s account of this same incident appear on this site!

  • Yarnspinner November 28, 2012, 9:56 am

    When I saw the title, I thought it was going to about the gift givers regifting clearly bad presents. When the first gift had no receipt and wasn’t from a recognizeable store, I thought “Oooooh, the kid just grabbed a toy he didn’t want anymore and wrapped it up.” THEN I got to the meat of the story and went “Holy Carp, Lady, do you know how rude you are being? How can you even think that demanding “better gifts” (because that’s what you did, in a roundabout fashion) is even mildly okay?

    Life isn’t fair and it never will be. It’s attitudes like yours that have created the “instant gratification, gimmee everything for free” madness that exists throughout our society. Please rethink the way you are raising your (apparently spoiled rotten) children so that they can grow up to be worthwhile people and not whining drains who expect the world to change for THEM,

    Why yes, I have faced this attitude a little too often lately. Why are you all staring at me?

  • JennJenn68 November 28, 2012, 9:59 am

    The only times I have EVER asked for a gift receipt from the store has been when I’m buying a gift from a wedding or baby registry, and then only because I remember back to my own wedding and how we received four food processors because the registry had failed to update the information. (And I can assure you that I thanked each gifter graciously and made my own arrangements with the department store whose gift registry fell down on the job!) I wouldn’t even think of asking for one for a child’s birthday party gift, and I’m kind of in agreement with all previous posters in that there’s an overpowering sense of entitlement here. It’s one of the many, many reasons why I don’t like buying gifts of any kind anymore–alas, it seems to be becoming more and more common, in my experience. (I hope that’s only because I’ve been unlucky. I would hate to think that such attitudes toward gifting were really that prevalent.)

  • Lerah99 November 28, 2012, 10:00 am


    Dear Letter Writer,
    There is a saying that you have obviously never heard: “It’s the thought that counts.”
    This situation is EXACTLY what that phrase is about.

    So your son received a book he already has or is not interested in reading.
    It is so sweet that his friend took the time and consideration to pick out a gift.
    It is his friend’s thoughtfulness that counts.
    To return that thoughtfulness with the reply “his gift was appreciated but just not liked,” is rude, thoughtless, and hurtful. How can you be so unfeeling as to think this is alright?

    How can you believe that your precious snowflake’s material desires are more important that the feelings of his friend?

    Things are just things. In 10 years your son may not even remember what was given to him. But if he still has these friendships he will be rich in a far more important way.

    Please consider your son’s future happiness and his journey to adulthood.
    Do you want him to be the kind of man who places material things above the thoughts and feelings of the people in his life?
    Do you want him to only be surrounded by people as materialistic and shallow as this post makes you appear? The kind of people who will care more about what watch, phone, car, etc… your son owns rather than the content of his character?

    I hope you read the responses to this post and realize the impact your attitude could have on your son’s development as a decent human being.

  • JWH November 28, 2012, 10:03 am

    On another note, is it appropriate to ask for gift receipts for something like clothing? If you’re a size XXL and a friend gives you a size L item, is there anything wrong with asking to exchange it for something in the appropriate size?

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