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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 }
  • Daphne November 28, 2012, 3:08 pm

    I totally believe that the LW is serious. I personally know quite a few people for whom the practice of gift giving is so warped, they are openly shocked and appalled when someone doesn’t include a gift receipt, spend a certain amount, or give something not specifically requested. These are the same people who regularly register for birthdays and Christmas, have third and fourth baby showers hosted by close relatives, and have no problem with asking for cash at their weddings.
    For all you who can’t believe the letter is real–count your blessings that you aren’t related to people like that!

  • Ellen November 28, 2012, 3:10 pm

    When you pick out what you want and pay for it, that is called Shopping.
    When you pick out what you want and convince someone else to pay for it, that is called (best case scenario, Dependency/worst case scenario, Golddigging).
    When someone picks out something for you and gives it, just because they want to make you smile, that is called a GIFT.
    The whole issue of the gift receipt is a red herring. The OP has forgotten or never learned what a gift is, and it looks like her child may never learn either.

  • The Elf November 28, 2012, 3:25 pm

    Re: Gift Receipts as a whole

    I see no problem with including these, though I typically don’t. They don’t include the price and do give the recipient an easy way to return or exchange the item. There’s nothing wrong with the concept of it. That said, there’s nothing wrong with NOT including one either! It’s completely up to the giver.

    There is something wrong with asking for a gift receipt, though.

  • RedDevil November 28, 2012, 3:33 pm

    OP doesn’t seem to have considered that perhaps Friend’s Mom didn’t have a gift receipt because the gift was already being re-gifted as it was? Which is why one never makes assumptions – you just don’t know that person’s circumstances.

    When I was growing up, I had one parent, and we were poor. Several gifts that we were given as children which mum considered excess to requirement (ie, we had plenty of toys already, and hadn’t specifically asked for this one) were stored in a cupboard. When a friends birthday party came up, she would wrap up one of those gifts for us to give. She was very careful not to re-gift to anybody that might notice it was a re-gift.

    Mum was always embarrassed about this – the fact that we had to re-gift, rather than buy new – but I’m glad to hear now that re-gifting is acceptable practice!

    On another note, I HATE present lists. They’re like registries. My husband’s aunt is very specific about hers – last year it was a set of specific cooking bowls in a specific colour from a specific store. Oh, and it’s on special if you buy it this week. Loses the point of wrapping presents, doesn’t it?

  • Alice_in_Bunnyland November 28, 2012, 3:47 pm

    I have to assume that the LW is playing a little trick here. No one who reads this site regularly enough to write in could have sincerely written that.

  • Angeldrac November 28, 2012, 3:58 pm

    OP, if this is what you do with a children’s birthday gift, what do you do when great Aunt Mildred gives you a hand crocheted tissue box cover? Throw it back at her and tell her it doesn’t match your bathroom?

  • just4kicks November 28, 2012, 4:00 pm

    I have five children and have been to, and hosted many birthday parties over the years. If my child spent time and effort to pick a special gift for a friend, only for that childs’ mother to deem it “unacceptable”, my child would be crushed and I would be furious! There have certainly been times where a party popped up when finances were tight, and maybe a book and/or inexpensive art supplies were greeted with gratitude and delight. How rude of the OP and what a rude, thoughtless message she is sending to her child about behaving properly no matter what the gift is.

  • Barbarian November 28, 2012, 4:22 pm

    I support Admin 200% for the reply she has made to this OP. Some other things to think about that only highlight OP’s rudeness:

    1. Kids’ birthday parties for school friends, etc: The invitees are usually not close family friends with longstanding relationships to the birthday child or the family. Gifts are not big ticket items. Child would probably only use them for no more than a year anyway.
    2. Is OP’s child so underprivileged that she has to rely on gifts from strangers to fill her child’s toy box every year? I don’t think so if she can host parties for this child.
    3. It’s a great idea to enclose a gift receipt with any gift anytime – but see #1. Parents are busy today-going from store to store to exchange up to 20 gifts per party just is not practical.

    I hope OP’s child will learn somewhere that it is more blessed to give than to receive. If he adopts OP’s attitude, he may wind up with few friends. Or even be the subject of future discussions on this forum…….

  • Mer November 28, 2012, 4:30 pm

    @Rap: I think there is nothing wrong with not liking gift but still appreciating it, but as you kind of said in your own post, you don’t need to rub it in the givers face, thank you is enough. If you don’t like it, it’s fine. You do what you do with the gift, it’s yours now and you can do what you wish with it. But I’d rather no one would state to the giver “oh, thanks for the gift but I don’t like it”. That was the difference in OP’s post.

    @AS: Yes 🙂 Thank you for the clarification, I think this was also mentioned on some other posts as well. It definitely is a redeeming point, when the price is hidden. I would think those might not be common around here. I can see they might be useful sometimes. Clothing was mentioned and warranty issues with for example electronics. I think in one situation these might have been useful, even though the situation in our case was not really a problem. My partner received a gift from friend of us, who discreetly gave me the receipt. I think that was fine, we would have the receipt if needed for warranty but gift receiver is spared from the monetary issues.

    And sorry about my bad spelling, I’m not a native speaker and, in my defense 😉 as a sort of baking hobbyist, I speak and write more about recipes than receipts. Or maybe that is why I should know the difference.

  • Allie November 28, 2012, 4:32 pm

    Rap, you asked, “What’s wrong with appreciating the gift but not liking it?” There’s nothing wrong with doing so in your head. What’s wrong is telling this to the gift giver.

    JWL, I’m afraid it’s never appropriate to ask for a gift receipt no matter what the circumstances.

    On the question of gift receipts, some comments seem to suggest it’s rude for the gift-giver to include them and I can’t agree with that. Including a receipt, gift or otherwise, is entirely at the discretion of the gift-giver and I don’t believe it is in any way rude to do so or not do so, as the case may be. I sometimes include them, usually with clothes or electronics (which might be defective). If I’m unsure about a gift (and believe me, I take a lot of time and effort carefully to select gifts I hope will be suitable) it makes me feel better knowing the recipient will have the option and convenience of a return/exchange.

  • KissofLye November 28, 2012, 4:32 pm

    Is it even possible to get a gift receipt after purchasing and already leaving the store? I would think that not only was LW being rude in asking for a gift receipt, she was also asking for something that wouldn’t even be possible because the gift giver’s mother wouldn’t have one and would have no way of getting one she didn’t get it at the time of purchase.

  • Rmmuir November 28, 2012, 4:57 pm

    The other reason that the other mother in the OP may not have wanted to give the receipt was because it was a sale item/outside of the return policy time.

    I regularly buy gifts for people in the sale, which means they get a more valuable gift for the money I’m able to spend. For example, I got a DVD I knew my Dad would love for £2 from a video store that was closing down. While I have got him something else to go with it, he would have been more than happy with just the DVD. In our family the thought is more important than the price and being thrifty is celebrated! (If I have got an excellent bargain on someone’s gift though I keep that on the down low, in case they equate money with the value of our friendship).

    Additionally, as I tend to buy in sales, I buy them when I can. For example, this year, I bought my sister’s Christmas present in July (which I did this year). A gift receipt would be useless as the store would not (and should not!) have to accept stock from that far back.

    So, yes, a gift receipt may sometimes be helpful, but there may be very practical reasons that one isn’t included.

  • Basketcase November 28, 2012, 5:08 pm

    I definitely originally thought that the gift-giver was going to be found to have been re-gifting themselves, but it appears not.
    I’ve given “exchange cards” with certain gifts in the past – often to my parents. In fact, this was great last Christmas as the book I found them (which was awesome), someone else had the same idea to give them, so they exchanged one and kept the other. I had fully anticipated this might be the case, which is why I gave them the exchange card.
    Clothing I only buy for really little kids (my nieces and nephews up to about age 5). That way, you can buy something simple and slightly too large without needing to exhange it (especially helpful when you buy it on an overseas holiday in the first place!)

    With our own little one coming along soon, I anticipate getting many gifts for them that we dont want or physically do not have room for (we only have a very small house). Donating to a worthy cause will definitely be on the agenda, as we work on the premise that once it has been given and the giver has been thanked, you have no responsibility to keep that item just to make them happy. That said, we certainly wouldn’t slap someone in the face with a “this isn’t right, can we exchange it”!

  • Joni November 28, 2012, 5:23 pm

    I always provide gift receipts when my kids attend birthday parties (and almost always receive them from other parents when we host parties for our kids). There are only so many Lego sets in the toy aisle of Target that are in the “birthday-party-giving” price range – there are bound to be duplicates.

  • Lou November 28, 2012, 5:24 pm

    OP, I haven’t got much to add to the reams of good and reasoned advice already posted, aside from this: have you ever seen the episode of South Park where it’s Cartman’s birthday, and he invites most of the class to his party accompanied with an instruction on which specific toy to buy him – then throws a wobbler when someone turns up with an off-piste present? Yeah, that could be your son in a few years if you keep this up.

  • Kendo_Bunny November 28, 2012, 5:42 pm

    Well, the the previous poster who said there is no gracious way to ask for a gift receipt, I have to disagree. There is, if the gift is clothing in the wrong size (Thank you so much for the cute jammies, but I lost/gained a size since the last time we saw each other! Would you mind a gift receipt so I can go get the right size?). I think it’s also excusable when buying people movies or books that they may already have, and when buying popular films/books, I try to include gift receipts (like my Dad getting me three copies of ‘Casablanca’ on three successive years – I like ‘Casablanca’, but I have no need for three copies.)

    However, I do think the OP was out of line for informing the mother that the gift wasn’t wanted, as opposed to being the wrong size or exactly the same thing as something already owned.

  • Drawberry November 28, 2012, 7:00 pm

    I include gift receipts for things like clothing. Clothing sizes are poorly regulated at best that while someone might be a solid size A in a particular brand they might find themselves needing a size Y in another one.

    I would also include a gift receipt for something like earrings, since earrings are going to be worn going through the body and if someone knows they have a particular allergy to a certain kind of metal I was unaware of at the time of purchasing the earrings it would be particularly helpful for that individual if they are able to return/exchange that kind of gift. My personal choice is to include a gift receipt for such intimate gifts that would be worn in some way.

    That said, gifts that are not to be worn or used in some intimate way (such as earrings or other body modification jewelry)I am much less likely to do so with. Particularly a gift for a child. I have never provided a gift receipt for a child’s gift that was not clothing related.

    It isn’t that I feel I should ‘force’ my gift on someone but rather that I was raised to not only keep your spending (and finances as a whole) private but that returning a gift that is not something ill-fitting (or again if the jewelry was a metal I could not wear, I have sensitive skin and need to wear sterling silver earrings) simply because I may not love it is not showing appreciation for what I have. I am sure others will disagree,but I was raised to believe that a gift is not meant to be something I crave for but something an individual chooses to give me under any situation they feel is appropriate to do so. The gift is not the OBJECT, but the act of giving in the first place.

    Sure I’ve gotten things I didn’t really care for or like that much. But I put them to use when the time comes about or I may pass it on to someone I know would give the gift good use. That does not mean I have to tell the individual that their gift to me has found a happy home elsewhere, but if I receive something I have no use for I find it more insulting to shove it in a box in my attic rather then donate or re-gift it to someone who would genuinely enjoy it.

    Re-gifting or donating something (especially this time of year and even more so with children’s items) is no where near being inappropriate or rude. What IS rude is to demand that people provide you with the means to return anything you deem undesirable because you do not have the grace to appreciate a gift for what it is. Which is a kind and generous action of showing affection for another individual. In this case a young child who (with the monetary assistance of his mother) picked out something thoughtful for a friend and you in turn demand a ‘refund’ on it as being less desirable. Apparently thinking as much through multiple years.

    A gift is not a means to get something you want without having to pay for it.

  • Jared Bascomb November 28, 2012, 7:02 pm

    At first I was thrown by the idea of a gift receipt — like many others I confused it with a *sales* receipt. Now that that bit of confusion’s been cleared up, I think it would be appropriate to include a gift receipt for a gift of clothing in particular, as others have noted. However, demanding a gift receipt is NOT appropriate.

    I’m curious, though, about the giving of clothing as gifts since style is very personal and proper sizing can be difficult. I’m a man of a certain age, so lots of styles would not be appropriate for me, and because I’m very tall and rather lean, sizing is complicated — I have a hard time buying for myself! — so I really don’t need gifts of clothes*. And for that reason, I don’t buy clothes for others.

    So (baby showers excluded), with all these problems, why do people give clothing as gifts?

    *The last time I got a gift of clothes was when I was in my 20s and my mother wanted to give me some as a birthday present. Probably an etiquette faux pas, but she took me to Macy’s so I could pick out what I wanted — and I stayed within a reasonable price range — and I got a nice “surprise” birthday present.
    And I retired three years ago, so I have a about a dozen polo shirts that I used to wear to work but rarely wear anymore; when I get around to cleaning out my closet, many of these will be going to charity. Clothes are the last thing I need!

  • kingsrings November 28, 2012, 7:20 pm

    I know this is true, because I have a longtime friend who was like this. She would berate gifts given to her by others to me, stating why they were wrong. That should have been a warning sign to me to not try to gift her, but still, I once spent all day shopping for the perfect Christmas gift for her. I finally found a beautiful, handmade decor that I was sure she would love. She opened it up and was obviously very displeased by it. I was so hurt by that reaction, especially since I’d spent all day shopping for it. I never saw it displayed at her house, either. I can also say I was guilty a couple of times as a kid of not hiding my displeasure at a couple of Secret Santa gift parties. I didn’t quite get it back then that the person whose gift I’d chosen would be watching me unwrap it, and they saw my dismayed expression and were hurt and disappointed that I didn’t like the gift. As an adult, I’ve also seen this behavior expressed by adults at Christmas gift exchange parties! It really spoils the mood at these parties.
    I don’t understand the mentality of people like the OP, my friend, and everyone else who is like that. The sense of entitlement regarding gifts has gotten out of control in our society now, apparently. Of course nobody should ever buy anyone a gift they *know* the recipient will dislike, but no matter what, graciously accept the gift. Expressing your displeasure isn’t being honest, it’s being rude and hurtful.

  • GleanerGirl November 28, 2012, 7:39 pm

    In my family, we are very blessed to know each other quite well. We also share very similar tastes in many areas. Therefore, it is not at all unusual for a gift-giving occasion to happen where the gifted receives two, or even up to four, versions of the exact same gift!

    Sometimes, when, as at Christmas, there is a mutual exchange of gifts, we give each other the same thing. We always laugh, and find it quite hilarious, counting up the instances of “great minds think alike.”

    And after all, we are so grateful to know that our loved ones really do LOVE us, and care and think about us when carefully choosing a gift that they know we will like, and that is much more important than dealing with some extras. I’ve never exchanged a gift in my life. However, passing it on to someone else, who will enjoy it, is always a good thing.

    The only time I ever include a gift receipt with a gift is when I’m in charge of a group present, from work or church, and the gift choice was made by a committee.

    For those who do not know, gift receipts do not have the price of the item. However, unless you are exchanging for the same item (such as clothes in a different size or color, or perhaps you found a defect in the item), you are going to find out the price when you try to get a different item, anyway. So, what is the point of the secrecy about the price?

    The OP’s comments blew me away, here. Brava, admin, for telling straight!

  • GleanerGirl November 28, 2012, 7:51 pm

    And what about home-made gifts? Craft items that someone spends a lot of time and effort creating for the gifted? These cannot possibly come with a gift receipt.

    And what is wrong with buying from a Mom and Pop store, and supporting your local businesses? It helps the neighborhood. It’s a good thing.

    Major retailers don’t need your business nearly as much as local retailers do.

  • RadManCF November 28, 2012, 8:28 pm

    I agree that the OP was way out of line, and in response to the statement that the gift didn’t come from a major retailer, I would point out that perhaps the gift been handmade by the gift giver. In that case, I feel that they would have been commiting an even worse faux pas. I’ve always felt that handmaking a gift for someone has a certain sentamentality to it, espescially if it takes considerable skill to make. If I were to build a coffee table as a wedding gift, and I recieved this sort of reaction, I would be most displeased. I would have spent at least 50-75 hours working on it, and likely spent hundreds on materials. To see all that effort rebuffed like the OP did in the story would be a real slap in the face to me.

  • Daphne November 28, 2012, 9:18 pm

    Jared I agree with you. Clothing is a very personal item and really should only be given as a gift to one’s immediate family, spouse, or very closest friends. And even then, only if you know exactly what they want. My MIL sends us clothes almost every year for Christmas and without fail they end up in the donation pile.

  • Treeang November 28, 2012, 9:52 pm

    I rarely give gift receipts because usually I have bought a gift months before. I shop clearance and keep a gift closet where my kids go and pick from that selection what they think their friend would like. I would be mortified if a parent asked me for a gift receipt. I would be so embarrassed to admit that our financial situation requires that we economize this way.

  • Rachel November 28, 2012, 10:05 pm

    I just want to say a word in favor of gift lists! Some say they take all the fun out of giving gifts, I say they take all the stress out! I hate the “if you really love me you’ll be able to read my mind” gift giving mentality. I know my mom loves to cook, but I don’t know if she would like a new cookbook or a new mixer. If I get her pots and pans, what kind, because that is very important to a lot of cooks, and something that people have strong opinions on! Of course we get each other surprises too, and we don’t tell each individual person what to get us, but the general idea is the knowledge that you are getting the recipient something they really, really want or need. The sentiment is in the giving, not in the gift itself, or the idea that YOU should get to “have fun” guessing something they might like. It is about the recipient and how you feel about them. And it is not about being greedy either. My Christmas list this year included everything from a (specific model) sewing machine to socks!

    I confess to the world: I love gift lists!

  • Lizzy November 28, 2012, 10:37 pm

    For Shoegal-when the gift giver asks where that horrible picture/knick knack is… “Oh, the cat knocked it over and it smashed to pieces… I’m so sorry”.
    In the case of a horrible 1970’s glass hurricane lamp my mother gave me, the cat really DID knock it over chasing a fly that was caught up in the shade. Good kitty : )

  • Drawberry November 28, 2012, 10:43 pm

    Re: Clothing as gifts

    I agree that clothing as gifts generally should be taken more personally however I find that it’s become a sort of ‘go to’ idea that’s pushed by department stores. Clothing is simple to buy for and generally cheap so folks with different financial situations can be drawn to purchasing clothing but may not put the kind of thought and care into picking it out. That said, three of my favorite gifts have been clothing items and all of them where from people who I was not close with at the time.

    Two came from a Secret Santa drawing in which my Boyfriends aunt drew my name and ended up getting me a wonderful scarf and fleece hooded sweatshirt. Both of which I’ve worn every winter since then and adore. This woman had only met me a handful of times!

    A good friend of mine had her Boyfriends Mother pick her out a tee shirt with a video game character she LOVES on it having only known friend for a short time prior. This was some years ago when they first started dating and my friend was shocked and honored that this woman picked up on her interests so early. She still wears the shirt on a pretty regular basis.

    While I don’t approve of getting someone clothing just as a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to give a gift for the sake of ‘culture’ or ‘tradition’ I don’t necessarily think that it’s out of the question if an individual truly feels like the receiver will enjoy the clothing picked out. It is with clothing that I feel a gift receipt is appropriate, even if you are 100% sure someone wants X or Y, but I can say I’ve never returned any clothing given to me as a gift so far!

  • Sugaryfun November 28, 2012, 11:55 pm

    I don’t give or expect gift receipts. It doesn’t seem to be the done thing here in Australia. The only time I’ve seen them was at wedding and bridal showers where the person might be expected to get six toasters or whatever. I think asking for a gift receipt is dreadfully rude! What happened to “it’s the thought that counts”?! Just say thankyou and if you choose to regift ot donate the item make sure they don’t find out about it.

    I recently had a family member give me a box of stuff she was getting rid of when she moved house saying to keep it or give whatever I didn’t want to charity. In it were the past couple of years worth of birthday and Christmas gifts from me and something I’d gotten her to cheer her up when she was stressing out about her pHd. Ouch! At least now I know not to bother giving her anything.

  • Rebecca November 29, 2012, 1:55 am

    Wow. I was raised to express appreciation for the gift, and if it’s a duplicate or something you don’t like, you don’t SAY so. You quietly store it in a closet, give it to someone else who might appreciate it, or donate it somewhere. So I’m with the OP’s friend. The rationale being, “It’s the thought that counts.” And that the giver spent time and effort choosing a gift that he/she might please you, so it’s rude to in essence tell them they made a poor choice.

    The thing the OP doesn’t seem to “get” is that no, there is no difference between donating and regifting in terms of etiquette. What the friend is saying is that you do it *quietly* without announcing it to the giver.

    If I were the other boy’s mother, I’d lose all inclination to give this family a gift ever again. Talk about ungracious.

  • Kit November 29, 2012, 2:31 am

    I think this shows what kind of mentality you have, if you give an airplane to someone and in a later birthday see the same kid giving the exact same kind of airplane to another friend. You can think “oh, he didn’t like my airplane so now he gives it away”, or you can think “aw, he liked this airplane so much that he got one for the other friend, too!”. Which, BTW, can be the case… and I would think that in case you have duplicates, you really would give the other to someone because you liked the one you already had (or you would have given away that one already before, right?).

    And someone mentioned Legos back here. To me it seems that Legos are exactly the things that won’t matter if you have duplicates. What, “oh the horror, there are two building blocks that are exact same”?? It isn’t like ours wouldn’t get mixed together with all others pretty soon anyway!

  • Sugaryfun November 29, 2012, 3:26 am

    Re gift lists, I hate them too. I get quite stressed out trying to think what to put my list and my kids’ lists (requested by family) only to be berated for not asking for the right things. I don’t feel comfortable with the amount some people spend on us when I know I can’t reciprocate but if I list only inexpensive items I get lectured about it. I’d much rather we dispensed with lists and just got each other whatever we thought appropriate.

  • Gilraen November 29, 2012, 3:43 am

    I’d never include a gift receipt. To me it is making visible this is how much you are worth to me, which is not the thought behind a gift IMO. I am with Admin in that the OP is behaving in a rather ungrateful manner and is teaching her child a level of entitlement.

    I have had cases where I bought something (for instance a book) and it turns out I was the second person to gift it. So I offered to exchange it or give the receipt, but only in such cases. In this case I exchanged it.
    I have had gifts that I really did not like but said thank you none the less and treasured the thought behind it. My mother taught me that a gift that initially not liked may turn out a treasure later as it exposes you to new things. Therefore I do not regift. To me personally it would show a denial of the thoughts and emotion that goes with the gift. I would deny the receiver my thoughts and emotions by doing so.

  • Kate November 29, 2012, 6:33 am

    I have to agree with the poster above who made reference to Cartman from South Park. I think all of us have encountered a child who we consider to be a bit of a spoilt brat with poor manners. A parent’s job is to not let their child become ‘that child’ by modelling gracious behaviour and teaching the importance of etiquette.
    I’ve received some absolute shockers of gifts over the years – several years’ worth of lace handkerchiefs when I don’t use hankies, clothing that didn’t suit me and was the wrong size, books I’d never choose for myself etc. There are so many options out there like regifting or donating to charity that it is never necessary to make a big production about not liking a gift and announce to the giver that you want to return it.

  • Mer November 29, 2012, 6:40 am

    @Sugaryfun: Ouch, that is quite sad. Was there anything else than your gifts? If not, it might be even some passive aggressive thing to do. Or it might just be that she is clueless and thinks “if she gave it to me, she might want it back rather than me throwing all of this away.” While usually I don’t think this is appropriate (not in your case at least), sometimes this might be actually good idea. I’m thinking for example if you have received some baby related furniture from family, even as a gift, but know that it has been in the family for a while and now you know you won’t be needing it anymore it might be even polite to ask if they want the furniture back or if you shall do something else for it. But I think this is not such case.

  • Waltzing Matilda November 29, 2012, 7:01 am

    I’ve never heard of ‘gift receipts’. In Australia we get a receipt when we buy something but that has the price on it. I always keep the receipt for gifts in case it’s the wrong size / someone already has it, but I’ve never heard of it being included with the gift, especially as the price is on it. Having said that, if someone told me that my gift wasn’t what they wanted – well ya boo sucks, it’s the last pressie you’re getting from me! I was raised to smile graciously and say thank you, regardless of whether the gift was what you wanted or not – there is never any excuse for hurting people’s feelings. What you do with it is your own business. Lifeline and the Salvation Army op shops have done a great trade from us over the years. I have a funny story about regifting though. A few years ago I gave the ‘Marley and Me’ book to my nephew for Christmas. He told me afterwards that he actually already had one. No problem, I bought him a different book that he wanted and all was good. I then regifted it to my cousin in England for her birthday a month or so later. Guess what came to me as a present from England the next Christmas (!!). Of course I never said anything other than ‘Thank You’. I eventually sold it on ebay, so all’s well that ends well, as they say in the classics.

  • Margaret November 29, 2012, 7:32 am

    My kid with a developmental disability easily learned the rules of receiving a gift:

    1. If it is something I already have, don’t say that! Thank the giver for such a nice gift. Mom will help me exchange it later.

    2. If it is something I don’t like, find something about the gift that is a compliment. Tell the giver that it is a pretty color or that I like things like that, even if it is something I don’t want. Never say I don’t want it or I don’t like it. Mom will help me exchange it later. If I can’t exchange it, maybe someone else will like it, but we will talk about it later.

    3. Always smile and say thank you! No one has to give me a gift! The giver is being nice to me!

    End of story.

  • Kira November 29, 2012, 9:14 am

    I agree with Admin on this one. The only time I would ever maybe even slightly consider approaching someone like that was if I had received clothing that didn’t fit. Then only if I knew the person well and most of my friends if they were to give clothes often tell me ahead to let them know. Just as the giver has no obligation, you have no obligation to keep the gift. However you are obliged to be polite and considerate that this person spent time and hard earned money on you. So just smile, be great full and give it to someone who will appreciate it or someone who can’t afford the luxury of being picky.

  • WildIrishRose November 29, 2012, 9:37 am

    @Rachel: I’m with you on gift lists! I work for four attorneys, and every year at this time, I request gift lists from them (and they get one from me). This way I can budget and get them each something I know they want or need and will appreciate, and also since presumably the lists will have several things on them, they won’t know in advance what they’re getting, so it’s a surprise!

    @Drawberry: I loved your comment about how the gift was that the giver thought enough of you to give you something, and not the object itself.

  • Harley Granny November 29, 2012, 12:19 pm

    When I 1st began reading this, I was racking my brain as to when it became costumary to include the gift receipt. (I do this often because I’m slow sometimes)
    I actually have no problem with the b’day child telling his mother in private that they really didn’t like a gift. Please stress the “in private” part.
    I have no problem with her asking the child’s mother ONCE! (if she truly was a friend) She could have just said it was a duplicate…not something similar.
    When the child’s mother said No…I would have shrugged and said no biggie, he loves that book so much, it’s nice to know there’s a back up. Thanks again!
    But to bring it up again……and again….it beyond rude.

    I can’t imagine a friend doing that to me so I truly don’t know how I would have handled someone nagging me about something like that. I know that no more gifts would be forthcoming from my house to theirs.

  • livvy17 November 29, 2012, 12:19 pm

    Hey, I’m ALL about the re-gifting, even used stuff! That used Rembrant on your wall? Send it over here. Have more diamonds than you need? I’d be honored to accept it. That heartfelt, lovingly worded letter telling me how much my friendship has meant to you over the years? I’ll treasure that forever.

    Whatever it is, if it’s given with love, I’m so thankful. On those occasions when I can’t use someone’s gift, I feel terrible about it, that they went to all that trouble. If I can pass that same treasure along to someone who I love who I think would love it, I don’t have any issue with that.

    When I give, I do include gift receipts if I have them, because I know that sometimes my gifts might be duplicate, or too large or small, etc. However, I’d be so hurt if someone told me they didn’t like what I got them, and downright angry and disgusted with them if they demanded cash/credit instead.

  • Anonymous November 29, 2012, 12:54 pm

    @Lizzy–I have a funny story about that. My mom loves real flowers, but hates fake ones. Anyway, years ago, a friend of hers (who didn’t know this) gave her a flower arrangement that consisted of fake flowers embedded in a round, solid glass “vase” (which I guess was supposed to mimic water in a real vase). Anyway, my mom hated this flower arrangement, but put it on display anyway–on top of the fridge. Unfortunately, she put it too close to the freezer door, and one day, I didn’t notice that it was so close to the door, so when I opened the freezer, the flower arrangement fell off and smashed to pieces. Later on, when my mom was talking to the friend who’d given her the flower arrangement, and the friend asked how she liked it, my mom was able to say, completely truthfully, “Oh, I had it displayed on top of the fridge, but unfortunately, my daughter accidentally broke it.”

  • Sugaryfun November 29, 2012, 5:45 pm

    @Mer There was other stuff in with it but it would be in keeping with this person’s previous behaviour to knowingly give it back to me. She also once told me that a Christmas present I’d bought her that was something she’d specifically asked for was no longer wanted (as she unwrapped it) and that she wouldn’t use it. I stammered “but you said you wanted it” and she just flatly repeated that she wouldn’t use it. I guess she never learned that you aren’t supposed to do that when you get a gift. I’m not getting her anything this year.

  • GleanerGirl November 29, 2012, 5:58 pm

    Re: Gift lists. I don’t like having to come up with one. I have what I need, and much of what I want. I make a living and buy stuff for myself. So, when someone asks me to tell them what I want for Christmas or birthday, I am almost inevitably STUMPED. Seriously. I am not kidding when I stand there and mutter something about “world peace?”

    That said, when I was a kid, I did have a long list of desired presents I could not get for myself, so I think it is fine for kids to have a gift list, and am not offended by it, in any way. And if you have a tradition of making a list, I don’t find it offensive, as long as the person making the list knows that it is not a big, bad, horrible thing to buy OFF the list. Some of my favorite gifts were things I had never heard of, until presented with them.

    Actually, for my 18th birthday, my favorite gift was a road cone (those little yellow cones put out on streets, around hazards) that had been run over, kind of torn up, and with a big black tire mark on it. A friend saw it on the way to my party, picked it up and gave it to me as a gift. I was at college, and the big thing was to steal traffic signs and the like and post them in your room. Well, I was not about to steal a traffic sign. 1) illegal, and 2) safety hazard – those signs are there for a reason! But now I had my own traffic thing! Yaay! I kept it for years, through multiple moves. Yes, I did display it.

    So, you never know what the giftee might like. In fact, you never know what YOU might like, until you get it.

    But then again, I’m the sort of person who has actually asked for bathroom scales and new toilet seats for Christmas. Got them, too. And loved them!

    And if anyone ever gave me a plaid and paisley (in puce and chartreuse) jacket, I would wear it all winter long. PERFECT! Not because I’m a fashion maven, but because it would prove that the giver really knows me. Symbolic gifts are the best!

  • White Lotus November 29, 2012, 6:05 pm

    In my family, and also in my husband’s, from widely diverse cultures and parts of the US, it is perfectly fine to exchange any gift at any time. The usual reason is it doesn’t fit, is a duplicate, the color doesn’t suit, one already has the book/movie/game, or simply utterly hates scarves/bath products/candles/the fragrance (although one never actually says the latter). One simply thanks effusively for the thought and effort and says, “would you mind terribly if I exchanged this?” or in the case of scented things, add, “for the (Blank) I saw at Norstrom’s/Sephora/Body Shop/wherever the other day? I have some products already that go with it.” And everyone says, “Sure, I didn’t know if you knew the store/line/(or I knew the right size), but you do, so take it back and get what you like.” No harm, no foul.
    I do not understand why that is such a big deal to people in this forum. Change the scarf in a color you can’t use for a shirt you will love? Great! Maybe we just all view gifts as gift certificates, with the odds of getting a hit fairly high, but a miss (especially for the most usual reasons — people know I hate candles by now — like size or duplicates ) is not a big deal, even if you change a skirt for two shirts or something.
    I do not understand why this is such a big deal. If asked for a gift receipt, I would probably produce the original, because without it you get the current (and maybe marked-down price) back, rather than the actual price paid. If I couldn’t produce it, I would offer to replace the gift, no big deal. If I were on the other side, and couldn’t obtain it, or didn’t want to put the giver to more trouble, I might say, “OK, no worries, we’ll pass it on to cousin Susie, who has been longing for it. Thank you so much. It is a brilliant idea. Child enjoys his so much.” I would not expect such a huge kerfluffle over any of it.

  • babs November 29, 2012, 8:26 pm

    About gift receipts: They are very much appreciated if a giver wants to include them, especially when giving clothing. For example, if I bought my daughter-in-law a shirt at Macy’s but it didn’t fit, by the time she goes to exchange it, without a receipt or gift receipt, she could only get the value of the price at the time of return, which could be deeply discounted. Her $30 shirt might be worth $6 by the time she takes it back! (I found this out by experience.) So, there really is nothing wrong at all with including a gift receipt, which is just the small register receipt for that item confirming the purchase in case of an exchange, with no amount on it. You only know what the person spent if you need to take it back. However…. everything about the OP’s letter was just wrong, and the Admin was right on in her answer.

  • Cat November 29, 2012, 8:50 pm

    I, too, think it’s rude to complain about a gift. It’s best just to thank the person. send a thank-you note and leave it at that.
    I have the opposite problem. I often upstage the parent by giving a child a gift that the child thinks is better than the parent’s, often far more expensive gift. Every parent wants his/her child to be happy, but they normally want their gift to be the best loved.
    My friend saved up six-hundred dollars to give his nine year old son the trumpet the lad swore he wanted more than anything. Knowing the boy loved knights and castles, I mailed him a thirty-dollar set of two wooden swords and shields. Dad called to tell me he and the trumpet, opened but never taken from the case, were sitting together in the house while the lad had run outside with a guest to play with the swords and shields.
    I managed to do this several years in a row. It was never intentional and I never meant to top the dad’s gift, but I had a real knack for doing it. I was glad when the boy joined the Navy and spent his time at sea.

  • MonkeysMommy November 29, 2012, 10:40 pm

    Wow… What is WRONG with you, OP??? If I were that parent, you wouldn’t have to worry about it happening again, your son would never see another gift from my child. People like you have a special seat in e-hell.

  • Michelle November 30, 2012, 7:12 am

    Wow, OP. You sound extraordinarily difficult to please, and you’re teaching your son to be the same way. That’s very sad. I think you need to develop a little empathy by imagining that whole conversation to be in reverse. What if she had said those things to you? You probably would have been very hurt, for yourself and on behalf of your child.

    Then again, maybe you wouldn’t have been hurt. You don’t really sound like that sort of person.

  • Enna November 30, 2012, 12:27 pm

    For clothes I think a gift recepit is important as sometimes people don’t get the right size – that has happened to be me before. Grandma brought me a top that didn’t fit and Mum had to make a real effort to explain to her that I can’t wear something that doesn’t fit.

    The OP and her firend I think both have valid points – yes it was rude for the OP to behave the way that she did but I can understant why she would think regifting is rude. How would the boy’s firend feel if he saw his present being given to someone else or to a charity? He might want to give someone a gift that they would truely enjoy. If a gift is duplicated e.g.the receiver already has that item then I can see why having the recept would be useful. It depends how it is handled. When I was youger I went to a firend’s party and the boy already had the item that was our present. Mum didn’t mind the boy and the boy’s mother saying so and was more than happy to give her the recepit to change it as she would rather he had something different and useful that he would enjoy.

    Personally I think this was a clash of personalities with both sides being as bad as each other.

  • LonelyHound November 30, 2012, 1:14 pm

    I will say my jaw hit the ground on this one. Once, during a private family Christmas (my mom, dad and sister only!) I got upset over a gift. My mother pulled me aside and said if I could not be grateful for the thoughtful gifts I got we could donate all my gifts and inform relatives I no longer need gifts since I am ungrateful. Never again did I do that!

    Since, my family is the type where if you are not sure you give a gift card I have only had to regift something once when my mom gave me a blender for one Christmas and the exact same blender the next. We loved that blender so much we gave it to a good friend who had no blender. And before people poo-poo gift cards the reason was exactly the situation above- an ungrateful gift receiver, year after year, and it would stress us out so much. Now, that gift receiver is reaping the downside to that- people who hand make fantastic blankets and quilts no longer to for her because she does not apprieciate it so she missed out on and heirloom wedding quilt because my G-ma knew she liked money better.

    Gift reciepts are a must for me but only on clothes. I am horrible on guessing sizes and prefer not to ask (unless they are little kids). I feel it allows them to either get the right size or something they like better.

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