When The Gift Isn’t What You Wanted…Regifting

by admin on November 28, 2012

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… read them below or add one }

Library Diva November 28, 2012 at 10:04 am

When my sister was 8, she had a birthday party and got something not to her taste. She told the girl who gave it to her that it was ugly. My parents reprimanded her sharply, told her to apologize to the girl, and had a long talk with her after the party was over about the necessity to appear grateful and appreciative of any present you receive, whether you like it or not. Until this post, I wasn’t aware that people over the age of 8 or so routinely acted this way.

OP, how rude. What an insult to your son’s friend and his mother. They spent time and money getting a present for your child, albeit not at a major store (believe it or not, there are shops besides Toys R Us and Target), and you could not have done a better job of spitting on their generosity if it had been your goal.

I think this is easily the worst submission we’ve had on here in a while. There’s no shades of gray here. OP was completely wrong in her approach from start to finish, and she owes her son’s friend’s mother an apology. She also owes it to society to pass on to her son some of these rules listed in the comments, or he’ll become an entitled, greedy adult that others don’t like to be around.


Shoebox November 28, 2012 at 10:13 am

OP, has it ever once occurred to you that a gift is primarily an expression of esteem, thoughtfulness and kindness? If not, hopefully the response here has clued you in. By contrast, you come off throughout this story as unpleasantly cold, calculating and snobbish – and the worst of it is, evidently you’re teaching your son the same things. Poor kid.


Angel November 28, 2012 at 10:14 am

The only time I usually include a gift receipt with a present is for clothes. This way if they do not fit, they can exchange for another size. This entire post smacks of entitlement. The thing that is most upsetting is that the letter writer is passing on these values to her children. The bit about the gift being appreciated not liked? If I were the other mom I’d have let her have it! What a nasty thing to say! This supposedly is a friend of hers. Wow.

The other mom and the admin are absolutely right. The ONLY proper response to a gift is “thank you.” Not “where is the gift receipt because we don’t like this.” Not “my kid doesn’t want this so we’re going to regift it.” THANK YOU. I don’t know what’s so hard about that.


Raven November 28, 2012 at 10:17 am

Apparently I’m the only one that often includes a gift receipt with a gift. I don’t think it’s rude or taboo. What if it’s clothes, and it doesn’t fit? Or it’s a cd/dvd and there’s a problem with it? There are lots of reasons to quietly include a gift receipt with a gift. I’ve been grateful more than a few times for their inclusion in gifts I’ve received that I’ve loved but the size was wrong, or it was beautiful but had a small scratch or problem. A gift receipt is not, in my opinion, a faux pas.

As far as the OP’s actual story/problem, she could have handled it better, for sure.


Athersgeo November 28, 2012 at 10:17 am

I can see including a gift receipt with an item of clothing if, for example, you’re not sure you’ve got the right size.

I refuse to touch the rest of this mess with a barge pole because I’m struggling to believe that anyone would seriously write this letter to eHell expecting anything other than a roasting.


Carol November 28, 2012 at 10:22 am

This is silly, but the thing I got hung up on was the 2nd gift wasn’t wanted because it was similar to something he already had.

I couldn’t figure out what kind of toy would be redundant if it was only ‘similar’ to something he already had, and why that would be a problem.

Then it was revealed that it was a book, which boggled me further. If I had a book about a pony, and got another, different book about a pony, I’d still want the book because, ponies. I assume the book given in this story was at least ‘similar’ to something the OP’s kid liked or he wouldn’t have a book ‘similar’ to it in the first place.


Pam November 28, 2012 at 10:23 am

A “gift receipt” doesn’t have the price on it – just a bar code so that if the recipient needs to exchange – they can. It ONLY has the “gift” on it – not all your purchases. I include them for gifts of clothing because sizes are hard to judge… Obviously they will know what you spent if they have to return it….but it’s a little more tasteful in that the price isn’t there in black and white :)


Shalamar November 28, 2012 at 10:27 am

I will confess to asking for the receipt for a gift once. The gift-giver was my mother-in-law. To give a little background, my MIL has a history of either not asking what our daughters would like for Christmas or ignoring their lists entirely, instead buying them things that she thinks they’ll want or need. And those gifts usually miss the mark – makeup for the girl who never wears makeup, books for the non-reader, twee little angel figurines for girls who would never give such items house room – that sort of thing. 99 times out of 100, we would just smile, thank her for the presents, and then quietly give them away on Freecycle later.

On this particular occasion, she had bought our younger daughter a set of sheets and pillowcases. They were fine, but we had already bought our daughter a brand-new bedding ensemble recently – and MIL *knew* this. I can only assume that she thought “Oh, everyone needs sheets and pillowcases” and went ahead and bought hers anyway. Plus, our daughter was only 10 at the time – not the age to get excited about bedding as a gift.

Still, we might not have said anything if we hadn’t seen the look of disappointment on our daughter’s face that she tried very hard to hide. So, my husband went to his mother and said “It’s so nice of you to buy (Daughter) those things, but unfortunately we really can’t use them. Would you mind if we exchanged them?” She rather huffily gave him the receipt, and ever after that, she gave the girls money instead.


Mary November 28, 2012 at 10:28 am

The on,y time I give a gift receipt with a present is when I am giving an article of clothing so that if the size is wrong, they are able to exchange it.
I think the OP was rude and is setting the wrong example for her son.


Quill November 28, 2012 at 10:34 am

How can anyone read this blog and yet, post a letter such as this? I agree that she is doing a great disservice to her son by teaching him he is entitled to get what he wants and the thought and time of the gift giver isn’t of any great consequence. My daughter is now 13 and after receiving countless gifts from generous friends and family members it never occurred to me to ask for a gift receipt, return or do anything but have her write a thank you. (Yes, even when she was as old as three, she would write her first name on cards that have boxes to check so young children start with great manners.) Once or twice someone saw that a gift was a duplicate and offered to exchange it or give us the receipt which was most kind but if it wasn’t offered, we would donate the extra or regift it if it is something the next birthday girl would like.

Shame on the OP to think her attitude is perfectly acceptable. I am truly embarrassed for this stranger.


Anki November 28, 2012 at 10:34 am

To those people boggled by the thought of including a gift receipt with a present…none of the gift receipts I have ever seen show the price of the item on them. They will have a description of the item and a barcode, plus the store information, and you have to specifically request them at the time of purchase. I believe they may also increase the time-frame for item returns, and I personally feel their inclusion is a nice gesture on the gift giver’s part. Nice, but definitely NOT required.

I agree the OP reads as rather entitled and somewhat demanding. She seems to be missing out on opportunities to teach her son how to be gracious when receiving a gift, but we are not told how he reacted when he opened the presents. It could be that he was perfectly gracious and thankful, not showing any signs of disappointment that the gift he just opened wasn’t something he wanted. All we really have is the mother’s reaction to the gift (and the lack of gift receipt).

I continue to be boggled and frustrated by the perception that re-gifting is this shameful thing. If you have something in good condition and you know the intended recipient will love it then by all means, gift it to them! My only caveats on re-gifting are that the item needs to be in reasonable condition (no old socks a la the Dursleys) and don’t re-gift something to the person who gave it to you (or if the item is fairly unique, to someone close to the person who gave it to you).

One point in the OP’s favour: she seems to be teaching her son to be a gracious giver, in that once a gift has been given to someone the giver as a rule has NO say in its disposition. The recipient of the gift can use it, or not, as they chose. They can donate it, sell it, or throw it in the trash if they want. I’ve read and heard more accounts than I would like of people who get really bent out of shape when they feel their gift is not being “properly appreciated” because the recipient did not give it pride of place or what have you.


Trace November 28, 2012 at 10:38 am

I agree with everyone here, the OP was astonishingly rude.

But I fail to see why putting a gift receipt with the present is terrible. I don’t mean people have the right to demand the receipt, but voluntarily putting it in seems like a great idea. For starters, it doesn’t have the price on it. Hence gift receipt and not just a regular receipt. So, if the receiver likes the gift, they still never know how much you spent. And if they don’t love it, then they have a chance to get what they really like. How is that worse than re-gifting or donating an unwanted gift?

Also, without the gift receipt, how do they exchange clothes if you got the wrong size? Are they supposed to just accept a gift they can’t use because you weren’t sure on the size of clothes? Or do they ask you for the store you got it from so they can exchange? And hope that the store doesn’t have a policy of only giving them the lowest price from the past month since they don’t have a receipt.


Rap November 28, 2012 at 10:42 am

Whats wrong with appreciating the gift but not liking it?

I get gifts I don’t like all the time, particularly from my parent. I appreciate the gifts (typically antique glass or kitchen stuff) but it’s very rarely something I *like*. I don’t pitch a fit over it, I say thank you, and I add it to the closet of knicknacks.


Keller November 28, 2012 at 10:43 am

Whoa. I read this and was shocked. I wholeheartedly agree with Admin. on this.


Kimstu November 28, 2012 at 10:44 am

Admin and the subsequent posters are spot on. It’s not exactly an etiquette faux pas to include a gift receipt (especially for more casual occasions like children’s birthday parties where nobody’s really expecting their present to be a cherished heirloom anyway), but it is definitely not a mandatory or even etiquette-recommended aspect of giving a gift.

Exactly: you NEVER let a gift giver know that their present was in any way unsatisfactory, unless perhaps you’re on very close terms with them AND they explicitly ask for an honest critique. (A side benefit of this prohibition is that gift recipients learn to develop appreciation and sometimes even genuine liking for something that they originally didn’t feel interested in, because a friend of theirs thought they would like it.)

And by the way, is it just me or is there something a bit weird about not wanting a new book because you already have “something that was very similar to” it, unless you’re talking about two copies of the very same book? Why wouldn’t a kid be interested in reading a new book similar to one he already has and likes?

Still, the other mother in this case was also rude to rebuke the LW for her rudeness. Nor should she have fostered the dreary bargaining aspect of this approach to gift-giving by explaining why she wouldn’t hand over her own store receipt, or by offering to get the birthday boy an additional gift card. She should have just smilingly said, “No, I’m sorry, I don’t have a receipt to give you. I hope little BirthdayBoy will be able to find a use for MySon’s present at some point”, and left it at that.


Amber November 28, 2012 at 10:44 am

I’ve had someone in my past express displeasure at a gift I gave them. It was tremendously embarrassing, and my feelings were quite hurt. I can’t imagine why OP thinks this behavior is appropriate, unless she’s really, really thick-skinned herself.

We’ve all received gifts we didn’t like. Why hurt the feelings of someone who took the time to think of you, purchase something for you, wrap that something for you and appreciate you enough to give it to you?


Lauren November 28, 2012 at 10:54 am

You know, as a girl (GenXer), I was taught to not only thank the giver, with a note, but to WEAR whatever it was I was given by my girlfriends. Even if it was something absolutely not to my taste, I wore it at least once to school, so my friend could see me in it.
I don’t recall needing any persuasion to do this either. I could imagine how I’d feel in the other girl’s place, if I noticed my friend never wore the necklace/sweater etc I’d given her.


girl_with_all_the_yarn November 28, 2012 at 10:55 am

The only place I expect a gift receipt is with my sister, but that’s exclusively because we’ve long since agreed on providing receipts for each others gifts. To tell a person you don’t have a prior agreement with you want a different gift is beyond rude. OP, you should be grateful in today’s economy that they were able to afford to get your son a gift at all.

I’m currently having this entitlement problem with my stepmother. She expects me to donate $30 in her name to a charity I don’t support because I find their practices rather questionable. I don’t have $30 per person this year. I’ve been laid off and working a crap job so I’m really broke. It’s handmade or nothing this year. I called to ask her if she had a specific request towards what kind of cookies she wanted (she has some food allergies so I always check on what food she wants). She had a temper tantrum because I wasn’t going to donate. So she gets nothing. No cookies, no baked lovelies, she’s getting a card.


Andie November 28, 2012 at 11:09 am

Thank you, admin, for confirming a feeling I had on this issue. My etiquette training was spotty at best, but growing up I was taught to say ‘thank you’ for gifts and not to be a snot about it because I didn’t like the gift.

Gift receipts weren’t really a thing I saw until I was much older, and then it was with the understanding that they came with clothes because of sizing issues. (And maybe personal tastes. Style is such a personal thing.)

The one time someone opened a gift from me and went ‘I don’t like this, I’m going to exchange it’ it felt like a slap in the face. I couldn’t really express why I was justified to feel hurt (and like I said, my etiquette training was lacking). This friend just kept saying, as if it were reasonable: ‘But I didn’t ask for it.’ Jerk.

Anyway, this is timely. I have another friend who has learned that he’s on the receiving end of a secret santa gift from another friend who’s not doing so well this year. His brilliant idea is to take her gift and return it for cash and then give that cash back to her. He doesn’t understand why most of the people he’s told about this plan look at him in horror.


Lola November 28, 2012 at 11:09 am

There is no polite way to ask for a gift receipt. Period. And while rudeness can sometimes be offset by greed (as was the case with one recent LW who received an expensive exercise bench for her wedding as a duplicate gift,) one can’t make such a case for a children’s book.


Cammie November 28, 2012 at 11:16 am

This is what I like to refer as breathtaking. I’m surprised this situation hasn’t sorted itself out yet, but I get the impression that this is year two of a twelve or thirteen year scholastic career. I’m sure in another year or two all the mothers you have casually insulted will prefer to decline your demands for tribute.

I just had a horrible thought. Can you imagine being her daughter-in-law one day?


Gee November 28, 2012 at 11:20 am

I think the only time someone included a gift receipt with a gift was when my sister bought me a movie and didn’t know if I had a DVD player yet (this was about 10 years ago when DVDs were still fairly new technology). She bought me a VHS version of a movie, and included a gift receipt so that I could exchange it for a DVD copy.

I agree with the Admin on this one. OP and son need to learn that you will not like every gift. You say thank you, and if you don’t like it, you later quietly give it away. If someone had acted this way toward me, they would not be receiving a gift from me again in the future.


AS November 28, 2012 at 11:23 am

OP – you were irritated about not getting a gift receipt, but were surprised that friend’s mom was getting frustrated with you? Really?!? I think she was extremely polite – I’d have lost it earlier, or just hung up on you! Even after the insult of calling up to say that your son did not like the book son’s friend so carefully selected, friend’s mom graciously offered to give a gift card. I guess you are one of those people who really need to read an etiquette book and learn that no one is entitled to any gift or kindness from people; and the only response to anything you get is a sincere “thank you”. And then, I hope you can teach that to your son. You can do what you want to with the gift – just don’t tell the person what you did with it and don’t press them to exchange it for another gift!.

Also, in my experience, many non-chain stores don’t give gift receipts. And if it is a book, the child might even have bought it from a used book dealer who wouldn’t have given a gift receipt.

@Mer – gift receipts (it is “receipt”, not “recipe”) are indeed receipts without the cost, so that you can exchange it for something else in the store or cash, depending on the store’s rules.


L.J. November 28, 2012 at 11:26 am

I don’t like the tone of the LW either, but I think gift receipt are a good idea with some gifts, such as clothing. That way the recipient can exchange it for the correct size without having to mention it to the giver. A gift receipt does not list prices. It isn’t necessary for a book though. The LW should have suggested to her son that he try the first three chapters of the book; it might have become a new favorite! If he didn’t like it, it could always have been donated to the local or school library.


Cherry November 28, 2012 at 11:30 am

Wow, when I first started reading this, the mentions of “no gift receipt” made me think there would be a reveal that the gift giver was regifting her own son’s unwanted things onto other people.
But as that’s not the case… Wow.

I’m incredibly lucky in that 99% of the time I adore the gifts given to me by my friends and family. However, on the rare occasion I don’t, I use what I call the 2+1 tactic. I wear/use it twice, and make sure that the person who gave it to me sees me with it at least once. On a lot of occasions, by the time I’ve worn/used it twice, it’s grown on me so much that I now love it, and if it hasn’t, at least I can say I gave it a chance. Also, in my experience, there is nothing that makes me happier than seeing someone with something I gave them, so it’s nice to give the giver a chance to see it in use.


Annie November 28, 2012 at 11:48 am

Wow, OP, way to suck the joy out of gift-giving.

I remember back in high school getting a gift for a friend that I thought she would like. She later berated me in front of other people for getting her such a thing. Our friendship did survive, but a few years later she said to me, “Oh, do you want that tape back? I never wanted it.” I gently pointed out that the gracious thing to do would be to get rid of it without my knowledge. I am happy to say that all of her rough edges have rubbed off over the years, and she is now a delightful and gracious person.

It might be too late for you, though, OP.


Lisa November 28, 2012 at 12:02 pm

What a horrible story. OP was very rude. Here is the definition of gift: noun; something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; present.
What makes people think they can dictate to people what they will accept and what they will not, and if given the wrong item, provided with a means to change it. I feel sorry for the OP’s child; they will only grow up to be gimmie pigs themselves.


Margo November 28, 2012 at 12:05 pm

I agree with the majority here –
(1) *asking* for a receipt/gift receipt is incredibly rude, as it immediately tells the giver that their gift is not appreciated.
(2) OP missed an opportunity to teach her child appropriate behaviour – he should have thanked the giver, and any disappointment or comment about duplication should have been kept to himself, or at most, mentioned in the privacy of his own home when no-one but his parents were present.
(3) OP also missed the opportunity to encourage her son to try something which he might nit otherwise have thought to try. It appears that the gift was a book – it was not one he already had, it was just ‘very similar’ – so if he liked the one he had, he would probably like the new one. If he didn’t, or if it was a direct duplicate, then you say ‘Thank You’ and then discretely pass the book on to someone who will appreciate it, whether that is another child, a local school or library, or good will.
(4) when faced with OP’s original rudeness, the giver’s mother very generously offered a gift card. Rather than accept graciously or (better) declining gracefully and explaining that of course if there isn’t a gift receipt please don’t worry about it all, Kid will no doubt enjoy having a spare book/widget to share, OP compounded the original rudeness by then grudgingly accepting the gift card but going out of her way to reject the original gift.

While it isn’t usually very polite to tell others that they are being rude, I cannot blame the other mother in this instance – and she was absolutely right when she said OP was rude and insulting.

I really hope that OP will take to heart what has been said and will re-think her attitude. An apology to the mother concerned would not be out of place, either.

I think the only time asking about a receipt / git receipt would be OK is where the gift is a piece of clothing which doesn’t fit, and even then I’d approach it with caution – the giver may have bought the item on e-bay or in a sale and not wish to say so. (my experience is that most larger retailers will exchange a piece of clothing if it still has the tags attached, even without a receipt, and particularly if you are looking to change it for the same garment in a different size)

I have never come across gift-receipts except with clothing (I have a dear friend who quite often buys me clothes at Christmas – she has great taste and often picks things I’d never think of choosing for myself – unfortunately she has a flattering but apparently ineradicable conviction that I am about 2 sizes smaller than is in fact the case…. she generally includes a gift receipt, and when she does, I simply exchange the garment for the same thing in the right size, and don’t look at the price at all. On the odd occasion she has sent something without a gift receipt I’ve assumed that the shop does’t do them, or that it isn’t practical for whatever reason, and I have always simply thanked her and then donated or regifted the item. (Last christmas I id end up exchanging her gift for something totally different, as my local branch did not have the same item in my size. I did tell her, but only because I happened to be wearing the item I ended up with when she and I met, and she complimented me on it, so I told her it was the shirt she gave me at christmas…)


Jays November 28, 2012 at 12:13 pm

I agree completely with the admin. That said, I do include gift receipts when possible. It just seems practical. (Especially with kids!)

I do think that sometimes conversations about gifts make sense, but only with, say, close relatives. (And I mean close in more ways than blood relation.) If my mom was consistently spending a lot of money on me or the kids for things that we were just quietly regifting, she’d be hurt and upset we didn’t simply tell her (politely and tactfully) so that she tailor her choices better.

In this case, however? OP was nothing but rude.


Missy November 28, 2012 at 12:27 pm

I’m a little flabbergasted that “Toys for Tots” is OK, but re-gifting is not. The LW makes a point of saying to the mom that not only was the gift not to her taste, it was considered too much of a loser of a gift to regift.

But Toys for Tots is OK?

I’m pretty sure this is a Troll because I don’t want to think that anyone is that clueless.


bansidhe November 28, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Every so often I read something on this site that has me wondering whether I woke up on the wrong planet. This OP makes today one of those times. The idea of someone expecting a gift receipt and then demanding one when it isn’t offered boggles my mind.


The Elf November 28, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Love the response, Admin! Yes, once a gift is given, you show appreciation for it and thank the recipient. Truly, it is the thought that counts.

If the gift recipient doesn’t want it or can’t use it – happens to everyone! – then the proper response is STILL to show appreciation for it and thank the recipient. Donating it later is exactly the right thing to do, and you do it without telling the gift giver. Re-gifting is also acceptable, as long as you don’t gift it back the people who gave it to you in the first place! (I’d also avoid giving it to someone in that same social circle). There’s nothing wrong with re-gifting, and there’s nothing wrong with not including a gift receipt. Returning it is fine, without a gift receipt, if it is to a store that will accept it. But you don’t want to fish for a receipt or even where the purchaser got it. You should always show appreciation right off the top.

It’s also a great lesson for your son that it’s okay that not everyone gives you exactly what you want, and a good lesson in charity. Besides, that book might not be the first choice now, but maybe it will turn out to be something he loves in the future! I remember I got a copy of Wind in the Willows from my Grandmother, and I put it aside. The story just didn’t grab me, though I liked the illustrations. A couple of years later I picked it up out of boredom, absolutely loved it, and it’s one of the few books from childhood that I have in my library as an adult.

For what it’s worth, I hardly ever include gift receipts. I usually buy multiple things in one trip because I hate shopping so much and it doesn’t occur to me to ask for a gift receipt for the one item. The exception I make is for clothing, since it is difficult to guess sizes correctly. But since I rarely give clothing, that’s just not a big deal.


Ripple November 28, 2012 at 12:37 pm

I remember when I was very young receiving a duplicate of a puzzle book that I already had. I said out loud to the giver that I already had a copy and my Mom went ballistic. I learned then to only say “thank you” and move on.
I have gotten gift receipts a few times on clothing items. My sister’s taste in colors is totally different from mine (she likes black, I prefer lighter or brighter colors). I have taken her gifts back to the store a couple of times and exchanged for something I would prefer, but usually if I don’t like a gift, I either re-gift or give to the used item store in town, without any comment.


The Elf November 28, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Wait a tick…. This was a book? And that made it not sold at major stores? Unless it is something inscribed to the recipient or private sale from the author, returning it probably won’t be an issue. You should be able to return a new book, sans receipt, at places that sell books. Amazon might be able to take the return, too. You would likely only get store credit, but that’s not terrible.


Calli Arcale November 28, 2012 at 12:45 pm

I love gift receipts; when used properly, they are a discreet way of allowing you to give the recipient a gracious way out of an unwanted gift. Gifts can be unwanted for many reasons: clothing that doesn’t fit is the most traditional, of course (and whenever possible, I do include gift receipts for clothing), things the recipient is allergic to*, DVDs they already have, it doesn’t fit their taste or philosophy (a particular hazard with books, I’ve found), etc. But that’s all it is. The receipt should be provided discreetly (tucked inside a book’s cover, taped to the back of a DVD case, tucked into an accompanying greeting card, etc), must not list the price, and should never be requested. And no matter WHAT you think of the gift, you must be gracious about it. Thank them for the thought it shows. If you can’t keep the gift for whatever reason, dispose of it, but except in cases of allergy or major misunderstanding (e.g. giving bacon-scented soap to a Jew), you shouldn’t tell the giver that you disposed of it. All they need to know is that you are grateful. And you *should* be grateful, no matter how crazy the gift is**.

*Last Christmas, I gave all the women in my family lovely and practical wool cardigans. What I didn’t know is that my mother-in-law is highly allergic to wool. She is a lovely, gracious woman, and in an attempt to avoid revealing the unacceptable nature of the gift in public, she made a show out of trying on the matching scarf, which immediately raised a rash on her neck. (She wasn’t expecting to react that quickly.) I was mortified, of course, but the problem was quickly fixed and now I know not to give her wool again.

**My great-aunt used to give me gifts every birthday. I’m kind of glad she doesn’t anymore. 😉 She stopped when I reached adulthood. The gifts were extremely strange (except for one time, when she gave me a lovely quilt set just as I was heading off to college; best gift I got that year, quite honestly, and that set is still in use). The funniest was the year she gave me a sexy pink negligee. Size 14, which was also my age. 😀 I wrote her a nice thank you letter for the nice nightclothes. At some point I finally got rid of that thing, but I actually don’t remember how. She’s a very sweet lady, but just really can’t pick out gifts. Not everybody can. It’s okay. The gift card industry was made for them, I think. 😉


Cangralo November 28, 2012 at 1:10 pm

When I was younger, my family didn’t have much money for gifts. I remember quite a few birthdays and Christmases where the gifts came solely from the dollar store (and all were very appreciated!). So when, at 12, I got a job from the neighbors to walk their dogs for $1 per day, I was thrilled to have some money for both myself and gifting. When my new friend’s birthday rolled around, I knew she loved Beanie Babies (yeah, back then…), but I couldn’t realistically afford to buy one, so when I spotted a brand-new (with tags and even in plastic) Beanie Baby with the month of her birthday on it at a GARAGE SALE, I jumped all over it. So proud, I wrapped it up with some candy and gave it to her on her birthday.
The response? “Oh, I already have one of these. Do you have the receipt? You can get me something else.”
I was crushed. I stammered something about not having it and got away as fast as I could.

So perhaps, OP, you should reconsider your extreme rudeness. A receipt may not even exist!


LadyPhoenix November 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm

First off, OP, I find it hypocritical that you don’t accept regifts, but find it a-ok to donate the thing you didn’t want for Toys For Tots. Giving a poor, unfortunate child something that you thought it sucked? Not cool. I’m sure the child will be more than gracious for it, unlike you.

Also, the way you got on her case for it. I will add that giving you a regift is not cool (unless she and the kid thought that the present would have better use for your son), but considering the fact the mom did say they still put time and effort in giving that present — only to be for naught, make you look awful.

And you’re teaching your son this ungrateful behavior? Shame on you.


Dee November 28, 2012 at 1:21 pm

I cannot believe the attitude of the poster concerning gifts her son receives at a birthday party! Instead of expecting a gift receipt to be included so that her son can get rid of the gifts that he doesn’t like and exchange them for something that he does, she should be teaching him to be thankful that the person took time to go to a store and select a gift that they thought the birthday boy would like. If a gift just isn’t your taste or you have two, if you can return it, fine. If not, graciously thank the person and then regift or donate it to a charity. The obsession about the gift receipt is a bit over the top.

I think approaching the other mother and asking for a gift receipt was very rude. Nothing like saying “your gift stinks”. If I was the other mother, I would think twice about letting my son attend the birthday boy’s party next year. I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets out to other mothers what the OP did.

Hopefully the OP will rethink her attitude about gifts her son receives and instead teach him to be gracious and appreciative that the person took the time to select a gift for him. Otherwise she is going to have a very entitled young man on her hand–or maybe she already does.


June First November 28, 2012 at 1:24 pm

@Missy– Since Toys for Tots is for the “less fortunate”, I inferred that OP doesn’t exactly run in that income bracket, especially since she gives Toys for Tots the gifts that aren’t clearly from big-name stores.

This struck me: “It’s not like I told the child what I was doing. It was between me and the mother.”
The mother isn’t just a disinterested third party. She paid for the gift, unless her son has allowance money saved up. She helped him pick it out. And it’s her son. If she said the same thing about your son’s gift-giving abilities, I bet you’d take issue with it.


Cj November 28, 2012 at 1:36 pm

As a child I recived a duplicate disney movie. I was thrilled to recieve a second copy (tapes got fuzzy after a while… 80’s child) . I told this to the gift giver (an excited child thrilled to have 2 copies of Aladin!!!) and my poor mother was so embarrased and after they left pulled me aside and had the gift discussion. I knew not to say I did not like/need the gift but was unaware that I should not mention I already have one.


StephM November 28, 2012 at 1:37 pm

@JWH: As long as it is asked for privately and politely, I don’t think most people would have a problem helping exchange it.
“Hey, Friend. I really like this sweater, but it doesn’t fit right. Would you happen to have the receipt so I can get it in my size?”


Stepmomster November 28, 2012 at 1:50 pm

my sister and I are twins, and we shared a birthday party until we were 8, then we decided to have a separate party so we could have our separate friends. My mother had decided it was tough on the other parents whose children may or may not be friends with both of us to essentially have to buy 2 gifts. She made invitations for both parties and placed on the card in a handwritten note on the bottom that the party was only for the child whose name was on the invitation, not for both of us, and should be considered a single child birthday party. The other child would have a party at a later date. My sisters birthday party was first, and my birthday was next. If a parent brought another gift anyway (which did happen) for me, my mother put it away and made me open it for that parent in the kitchen, so not to interrupt what was a separate birthday for my sister. My sister never had a clue I received more gifts, and all was well. (same trick for my sister off in the kitchen during my party)

My mother almost pulled it off… unfortunately she didn’t count on US. We were completely unprepared for watching our sibling open presents without us, so i admit, to my shame, I was quite jealous and scowled in almost every picture of my sisters birthday party. My mother took me out of the room and threatened me with a birthday diet of bread and water, and a spanking in front of God and everybody if i didn’t get pleasant, and quick. I complied, much to her relief.

My sister had a meltdown that i have remembered for the rest of my life, that ended in her sitting in her room and crying while we continued having my party a week later. You see, I had watched her get her gifts the week before, and saw this new toy, the My Little Pony that she got, so when kids asked me what i wanted i told every single kid that i wanted My little Ponies. I opened a herd of ponies on that birthday, and was a terrible child and kept mentioning my little trick the entire unwrapping. My poor sister finally lost her mind and had her tantrum and was sent upstairs.

My mother delivered a lecture after the guests went home I still recall, about being rude, a bad host, ungrateful, not stealing someones birthday because of jealously, and mostly that every gift we got was something that was not owed to us, and we should feel terrible about how we both behaved, like ungrateful, gloating, spoiled brats. She took all of our new toys and put them up for a month and then made us write thank you cards for each. We never fought like that again, and the next birthday party we both smiled until our faces hurt, for fear of losing our gifts again.

The point OP, is that your child grow to be a gracious human being, not what they get throughout their life. The impression you make on your kid’s friends will actually hurt their social life as they grow older, no matter how they treat their friends you can end relationships if you are a nutty mom. I would apologize to that other parent and proceed differently in the future.


Lee November 28, 2012 at 1:51 pm

My BIL is exactly like the OP. If he doesn’t like a gift, he tells you without any regard for your feelings. When he and my sister got married last year, he insisted on attending the bridal shower because he wanted to make sure they didn’t end up with any gifts he didn’t want, and actually asked his aunt to return a gift that wasn’t from the registry and give them cash instead. While I always appreciate when a gift receipt is enclosed with a gift so I can return it if it is something I don’t want/need, I would never tell the gift giver that I was returning the gift, nor would I ask for a gift receipt. Hopefully the OP’s son will learn how to be appreciative of a gift, unlike his mother.


Dani313 November 28, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I usually include gift receipts just in case the recipient (or recipient’s parent) would like to return or exchange it. However, it is rude to ask for a receipt or tell a person you didn’t like their gift. I have an aunt who loves to give me scented lotions and perfumes. A great many of them I can’t use due to allergies or because I don’t like the smell. My routine is to accept the gift, thank her graciously and then wait until I’m home to decide if the lotion will be used, re-gifted or donated.

I make it a habit to give gift receipts with children’s gifts because my gift may be deemed inappropriate by a parent. Not all parents let their girls play with Barbie or let their boys play with GI Joe. Personally I love to give educational toys or books.


Yvaine November 28, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Carol–so true! LOL! I guess I need to get rid of all my books that have dragons, because I already have a dragon book, and all my books with love stories because I already have a love story. Genres would die out completely!

Rap, you can “appreciate but not like” all you want to inside your own head. But you don’t tell the giver that.


Shoegal November 28, 2012 at 2:29 pm

If you recieve a pair of socks and a pencil from someone – smile and say thank you. That is the reality of gift giving. You don’t lament that it isn’t more, that you don’t like it, that you have the exact same pair of socks and the exact same pencil – whatever – just be grateful that someone gave you a gift. You accept it and say thank you. Whatever you do with it afterwards is up to the receiver as long as it is done with discretion.

One problem I have is this: someone gives me something – yes, I smile and say thank you no matter what!!! However, this something is a picture, a sculpture, a knick knack – something the giver would expect to see sitting out in the open in my home. I don’t like the item at all – and I don’t wish to keep it – and I certainly don’t want to display it in my home so very discreetly I sold the item at my garage sale. The giver came over and was hurt that she didn’t see it out. What do you say then?


Ann November 28, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Wow. The very definition of WRONG — from etiquette to child-rearing.

Good on you, Admin, for politely calling her out.


Lizza November 28, 2012 at 2:43 pm

I don’t think it’s weird she didn’t get a gift receipt with the gifts – I’m assuming her son is rather young, and I’d never think to do that with a present for a kid! That being said, she went about this entirely the wrong way. I was taught that the only reason you ask for a receipt/to exchange a gift was if it was the wrong size, a duplicate, or didn’t work (my brothers and I would frequently get games that were not compatible with our computers.) You don’t like it? Tough. You send a thank you note anyway and then quietly donate it to Goodwill.


Malissa November 28, 2012 at 2:53 pm

As has been stated before, a gift is a physical expression of gratitude, love, friendship, or to mark a celebration, etc. The gift is not important. IT IS the thought that counts. It’s great to get a gift that is liked, but it doesn’t always work that way. The way that I was raised, you could give me a dog turd in a paper bag and I would still say that I liked it. The feelings of the gift giver are more important than the gift!


Anonymous November 28, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Okay, first things first, I agree with Admin; the OP is in the wrong here, and it’s of course very rude to demand a “replacement” gift if the original is a duplicate, or “unsatisfactory” for whatever reason. However, I think her reasoning beyond “Toys for Tots is okay, but regifting isn’t” is because, if she gives away the unwanted gift to Toys for Tots or similar, then it won’t resurface in her social circle again, but if her son Tommy gets, say, a toy airplane for his birthday, from his friend Timmy, but she doesn’t want to keep it because he already has one like that, and then he re-gifts it to his friend Tyler, whose birthday party is next on the social calendar, then there’s a chance that Timmy or his parents might see Tyler with the re-gifted plane, and wonder what’s going on, ESPECIALLY if, like in the OP’s case, it’s “not something that could be found at any major retailer.” With Toys for Tots, the re-gift is (presumably) far enough removed from the OP and her son’s social circle that this wouldn’t likely happen.


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