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The Burden Of Gratitude

Is there such a thing as a Thank You note from hell?

This year two young guys we know graduated high school (both are 17 years old). One was a family friend, the other was a close relative. We gave them both a card with the same amount of cash in it as a gift. A couple weeks later we received a nice, handwritten thank you from the family friend, who told us a bit about what was in his future and how he was doing otherwise and of course, thanking us for the gift. A couple days later we received the thank you note from the relative.

First off, the address on the envelope was handwritten by his mother. (I know his mother well, so I knew it was her writing.) The thank you note was custom made and on the inside was printed a general thank you (thank you for your kindness, blah blah blah). Printed. In it, the boy wrote, “Love, Jack.” Obviously his mother made up all the notes and addressed all of them herself, and just had her son write “Love, Jack” inside all of them. I was very put off by that thank you, especially since he is a CLOSE relative, you would have figured he’d write a little more.

Later I’m with his mother and she is belly-aching about ALL of the thank you notes that they had to send out. And how it was SUCH a burden because there were SO MANY. They had to split it up and do 10 cards a day. The kid received probably close to $2,000 and she is complaining about having to send out thank yous?!?! Maybe the mom deserves Etiquette Hell more than the kid? 0627-14

People who gripe about the work needed to write and send thank you notes are greedy, lazy gimme pigs who want something for nothing.    They write those notes because they fear the negative feedback if they didn’t but they grumble and whine about it while doing as little as possible to get the job done.   I once told a young woman who similarly griped about having to write thank you notes, “Had I known how deeply offended you would be with the burden of gratitude upon receiving so many nice gifts,  I would have not added to your distress .”

And then there are the happy thank you note stories…

Hi EHell!
I recently had a great experience and wanted to share it with you. This season my mother’s family saw two high school graduations and three college graduations within eight weeks. We are so proud of all our graduates! But too much celebrating can wear anybody out, so Mom and one of the aunts hosted a combined party for all five. We have a big family, so the party was really hopping, and all five graduates found themselves with more congratulatory cards then they could fit in their respective pockets and purses. As for me, I only left the nest a few short years ago, so I know how nervous my cousins must be! I was able to pull together $20 for each graduating cousin, a small token compared to what I knew they’d be gifted with by some more established family members. Each one gave me a quick hug and “thanks” upon receiving their card, and made sure to socialize with every table at the party.  It was a great way to spend a Saturday night. Imagine my delight when, the following Wednesday back in my city, I find a thank you card in the mail! A thoughtful, handwritten note thanking me for making the trip, for the “completely unnecessary” gift and the kind words I had written to this particular cousin. By the end of the week, I had another thoughtful, handwritten thank-you from another graduating cousin! Maybe it’s tacky of me to be impressed by my own relatives, but I’m so happy to see such good etiquette right at the beginning of adulthood. 0529-14


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  • Lkb July 2, 2014, 4:36 am

    Can’t help but wonder about the other three grads in the second letter. Did they follow suit?

    • theLadyBugg July 3, 2014, 6:14 pm

      Lkb, I sent in the second note. Of the three remaining graduates, two were my own sisters. They were gifted separately (at their actual graduation ceremonies) and thanked me separately, at our parents’ home. The third cousin I still haven’t heard from… and don’t really expect to.

  • Lo July 2, 2014, 6:48 am

    In the first story, he is only enough to write his own but I blame the mother. She’s the one who’s taken this burden from him and then martyred herself for it. She has refused to hand over the reigns of responsibility to her son and will no doubt continue to impede his development as a polite person until he finally steps up.

  • Laura payne July 2, 2014, 6:59 am

    We had a similar experience with Thank You notes for my nephew. We, too, received a printed, general thank you note, address by his mother, and even signed by his mother. The graduate wasn’t even “burdoned” with signing his own name.

    • Lera99 July 2, 2014, 9:24 am

      I wonder if he refused to do it and his mom was so embarrassed that she went ahead and sent the cards out on his behalf.

      When my brother graduated from High School he was in a really rebellious phase, and refused to write any thank you cards. Considering our maternal grandmother and two of our aunts flew from California to Florida to attend the event as well as giving him generous graduation presents – my mom was horrified.

      So my mother bought thank you cards, filled them out, and had me sign my brother’s name. Just because my mom couldn’t bare the thought of her mother and sisters going to all that trouble and not being thanked.

      Luckily 4 years in the army, 4 years in college, marriage, and a child have turned my brother into a much more pleasant and responsible person.

    • Cat July 2, 2014, 12:59 pm

      I would have unburdened him from his gifts until he came up with thank you notes. Actions have consequences. The end of high school is late to learn that little fact of life.

      • Laura payne July 2, 2014, 2:49 pm

        I don’t think rebellion was the issue. Knowing my sister-in-law, she just did it for him because it would be “too stressful” for him to do it himself. Even while in College, when he had an apartment off-campus, once a week she would go to his apartment to clean his room and would gather his dirty clothes, take them home to wash and fold, then bring them back to him (and, I wouldn’t be surprised, put them away for him.)

        Yes, he’s rather coddled.

  • JO July 2, 2014, 7:22 am

    A cousin of mine was married a few years ago in May. In December, each wedding attendee received a mass-printed Christmas card with “thank you for the wedding gift” printed at the bottom.
    Few things irratate me more than people who act as though your generosity is a burden. Shut up and be grateful.

    • Lenore July 2, 2014, 1:27 pm

      Yeesh, seriously??! O.o
      My thank you notes were sent out within 48 hours of my wedding – handwritten and with a different message for each guest. I even sent the vendors notes. People travelled for my wedding, it cost me nothing to spend a couple hours trying to tame my horrendous hand writing to show my gratitude.

      • Heather A July 2, 2014, 4:15 pm

        I’ve done the same. I was just married on Saturday and had the cards in the mail on Monday. I, too, sent thank you notes to the vendors. It took me all day to them but I was happy to do so out of gratitude for those who came and shared with us or helped make our wedding day wonderful! Plus, it is easier to clear it off the plate and you can move on to the next thing!

  • Tracy W July 2, 2014, 7:38 am

    Did the mother ask for gifts in any way? If she didn’t, then, perhaps, she really didn’t value the money more than her time. How about if the people who gripe about having to write thank you cards really didn’t want the gift in the first place?

    It seems weird to criticise people for saying “no gifts” as rude and also criticise people for not wanting to write thank you cards. Perhaps if you don’t get a thank you card you should just take it as a gracious hint?

    • Karen L July 2, 2014, 1:12 pm

      If you can’t be grateful for random (unwanted) acts of kindness, then perhaps you don’t deserve friends. Fortunately, these two things tend to go hand-in-hand.

    • Kimstu July 4, 2014, 1:30 am

      If you accept a gift, you thank the giver. If you really don’t want to accept a gift, you have to return the gift to the giver. Simple as that.

      Even if the recipient didn’t “ask for gifts in any way”, how would that absolve them from thanking people who gave them gifts? EVERYBODY is strictly prohibited by etiquette from “asking for gifts in any way”, no matter how much or how little they may want gifts.

      Anybody who would accept a gift and then whine that they shouldn’t have to write a thank-you for it because they didn’t actually go around explicitly begging for gifts would be despicably, contemptibly lazy, entitled and rude.

  • Cecilia July 2, 2014, 7:57 am

    When my son was nearing graduation, I took him to a store and had him pick out thank you cards. When he received any graduation gift in the mail, he had to write the thank you note before said gift could be used, cashed or deposited. He wrote the thank you notes the day the gift was received and mailed them the day the very next day. When he received gifts in person the night he graduated, he wrote thank you’s the next day. He wrote the notes, signed, addressed and stamped them all himself.

    In the ensuing years, I have received many a graduation invitation and sent gifts and have received 3 thank you’s. When the same people send me bridal, shower or wedding invitations, I generally decline and send a congratulations card, sans gift. The 3 thank you note writers got a gift from their registry or a check. I am not trying to be petty or spiteful, but if you want me to celebrate your major life events and present you with gifts, the least you could do is spend 3 minutes writing a thank you note.

    • Cat July 2, 2014, 1:00 pm

      Well done, Cecilia!

  • abf July 2, 2014, 8:01 am

    I have a quick thank you note story to share. One of my last assignments in my high school senior english class was writing thank you notes. Our teacher instructed us how to properly write thank you notes. We then had to write 10 notes and turn them in f or our grade. I’ve never forgotten that assignment. It was a great lesson.

  • sean July 2, 2014, 8:08 am

    I honestly hate receiving thank you letters. I feel like the labor takes away from the gesture of giving someone else happiness. Even moreso, I am guilted heavily when I get a thankyou letter for something I know the recipient didn’t wholeheartedly enjoy[despite good intentions].

    • Karen L July 2, 2014, 1:17 pm

      Why is a thank you note considered such arduous “labor”? When I write thank you notes, it is an opportunity to express how much the friendship means to me. If you can’t take a few moments to appreciate your friends, then you are doing friendship wrong.

      • Kat July 3, 2014, 3:18 am

        I agree with Karen L! I adore writing thank-you notes! When I have one to send, I write it first thing in the morning, over my coffee, and taking that few minutes to meditate on my blessings sets my day off to a delightful start.

      • sean July 3, 2014, 8:21 am

        I think its part of my personality that I take it as that.. Also, I hate the idea of receiving what is sometimes a hollow gesture. obviously society dictates otherwise >___>;;;;;;; If ever get ya’ll gifts just smile and be happy. :O

  • Gen Xer July 2, 2014, 8:16 am

    I may be in the minority here but I would rather have a phone call or otherwise be thanked in person rather than a thank you note that was begrudgingly dashed off by someone doing it just for form’s sake. Sometimes I think we put way too much emphasis on having tangible evidence of gratitude.

    Don’t get me wrong…I do write and send thank you notes and expect my children to do the same when the time comes for weddings, showers, baby gifts graduations etc – the big things ( and they will be doing it themselves at that age! Mommy doing her high school graduate son’s thank you notes? Jeez! Does she still cut his meat too? )

    Gratitude is important and I don’t want to diminish it but maybe…just maybe we need to let go of the thank you note as the ultimate expression of gratitude. I agree it is still probably the best thing when you have received a lot of gifts from people you don’t see very often but for closer relatives / friends a phone call or otherwise being thanked in person would be enough for me!

    By the time I get a thank you note in the mail I have long forgotten and sometimes have to rack my brains to remember what I sent!

    • Cat July 2, 2014, 1:11 pm

      This reminds me of the famous thank-you note written by Queen Victoria when she was a child, “Thank you for the present. It is what I have always wanted, although not very much.”

    • Steve July 2, 2014, 3:11 pm

      Funny how when people rethink traditions, they never end up creating more work for themselves–only less. That’s how we can spot a rationalization a mile off.

      • Beat.Your.Heart.Out July 2, 2014, 11:43 pm

        Gen Xer is making less work for the people who wish to thank her, rather than for themself.

        Also, just because something takes less work doesn’t mean it is necessarily objectively worse. Gen Xer, in their “rethinking of a tradition” clearly states that they find receiving thank you phone calls preferable to receiving notes from people they’re close to. To them, the “less work” version is not inferior, simply because it’s apparently less work.

        Additionally, making a phone call is not objectively less work than a note.
        I have a sibling who absolutely hates talking on the phone. For him sending a note would be a significantly smaller effort.
        By your etiquette rules, are he and other people who dislike phone calls then obligated to make them, while everyone else, for whom a phone call is easier, should send a note?

        • Steve July 7, 2014, 9:18 am

          I decline to participate in the fiction that Gen Xer is proposing only that everyone stop sending notes to Gen Xer, when the comment itself plainly states otherwise.

          “My” etiquette rules do not exist. There are only the etiquette rules.

      • Tracy W July 3, 2014, 2:34 am

        Well that’s sensible – traditions start because they have a practical use, then they tend to ossify, and become less and less practical and more “that’s just what we do”, and finally the costs start striking people as too high to the benefits, so they change it to something simpler.

        • Steve July 7, 2014, 9:16 am

          Adding more rationalizations doesn’t provide any better disguise, unfortunately.

          • Rachel July 22, 2014, 12:11 am

            Steve, you have presented no evidence to the contrary. “That’s the way we’ve always done it” is not a good reason to continue. It is easy to present meaningless criticism. The tradition of thank you notes started before the advent of technologies. The only reason that the tradition continues is that self-sacrifice is expected in order for the gift giver to feel appreciated. It may be different in other’s experience, but I don’t receive or send gifts to those by whom I would feel unappreciated if they did not follow a shallow and thoughtless tradition. A phone call, a choice they make to interact with me, would be delightful. And environmentally friendly.

  • lnelson1218 July 2, 2014, 8:24 am

    A few years ago while studying overseas, I mailed Christmas gift to my brother, sister-in-law and two nephews.
    A few weeks later, I see on my Facebook page a photo of my nephew wearing the hoodie that I had bought him and he was holding the toy surprise from the Kinderueberraschung. The caption under the photo was “Ricky wanted to say thank you”
    Not the traditional thank you note, but still an acknowledgement of receiving the gift.

    • Huh July 2, 2014, 2:54 pm

      I like those thank yous too, lnelson. I’ve had a couple of people send me photos of their kid somehow using what I got them, be it a toy, a book or an outfit and I enjoy that more than a handwritten note in the mail.

    • Green123 July 4, 2014, 2:31 am

      I LOVE these kinds of thank yous! We have friends on the other side of the world and it’s lovely to see a Facebook album of their children wearing new clothes or playing with new toys they’ve been sent with a ‘thank you’ message – one of the most useful uses of Facebook!

  • goddessoftheclassroom July 2, 2014, 8:36 am

    (humble bragging alert…)

    I gave my son engraved notecards (yes, engraved; I’m weird that way) for Christmas and told him he could use them to write his thank you notes. He hand-addressed all the announcements he sent. I suggested the “Write 10 a day” approach the day after graduation, but he said, “I’ve already written them.”

    To my shame, I was not good about having him write thanks-yous as a child, but he does understand how important they are to the gift giver and what they say about character of the recipient.

  • knitwicca July 2, 2014, 8:42 am

    Some of us really, really try to teach our children how to behave properly.
    Each of our grads’ packages included Thank You cards.

    When my daughter graduated high school, she had all the Thank You notes in the mail within a week.

    When my step-son graduated, I made certain to give him a book of stamps and said “Let me know if you need more.” I showed him where to find the family address book.
    When he finished his hitch in the Navy, his dad and I were cleaning up the guest room so he could stay for us while looking for a job. In his old desk, I found his high school graduation Thank You notes.
    He had written them, addressed them, put the stamps on then shoved them into a drawer.

    • Cecilia July 2, 2014, 3:15 pm

      Points for at least writing them?

    • hakayama July 2, 2014, 7:56 pm

      Holy Mackerel! This is scary… People like this man looking after the safety of our country… 😉
      Sweet. I guess it is a “guy thing”.

    • Pants July 2, 2014, 8:37 pm

      Did you mail them? That would have been swell.

  • Cat July 2, 2014, 9:02 am

    The best thank-you note I ever received was from a teenaged boy, the son of a friend. I had sent him a very nice sweater for Christmas. I knew from the language that he had composed and had written the note himself. The first line was, “The sweater you sent me is AWESOME!”

  • Yarnspinner July 2, 2014, 9:14 am

    Two years ago, my young cousin gave birth to her first child. Before the child, we had a big shower for her to which I was invited and which I was thrilled to attend. The rest of my family could not, but they sent large sums of cash. AFTER the baby was born, congratulatory cards with more cash were sent. At baby’s first birthday many gifts were given and my family made another big offering.

    Last year, the cousin and the child’s father had a lovely, splashy wedding. (With baby serving as her Mom’s maid of honor). MORE money and gifts. Their first anniversary and the toddler’s second birthday have come up and I FINALLY heard from them: please join us for toddler’s second birthday!

    Still waiting to receive even a verbal thank you for the first load o’ loot, guys. So…no.

  • michelle July 2, 2014, 9:35 am

    Hey, at least you got an envelope to open. I remember my mom getting a “thank you” from her nephew upon his graduation. She found it by accident when she was going through some canceled check and happened to see the word “thanks” scrawled across the back of the check she’d given to him for his educational achievement.

    • Kate July 2, 2014, 3:08 pm

      He wrote the thanks where you endorse the check? Just… Wow!

    • Kat July 3, 2014, 3:24 am

      My mom taught me to always write “thank you” next to your signature when you endorse a gift check (and also send a proper thank-you note, of course!) and I believe her dad taught that to her. I’ve never heard of anyone else doing that before!

    • Sarah July 3, 2014, 3:26 am

      That comes under “You could not make it up” or “First you would have to think of such a thing” – in other words, thinking outside normal behaviour guidelines! If this were in a movie or TV programme I would laugh – but in real life, just shame that someone would do such a thing!

  • Lisa July 2, 2014, 10:07 am

    I need direction! I too am a stickler for thank you notes! We hosted a baby shower for my stepdaughter and family and friends from near and far attended and brought wonderful gifts. She said she went out and purchased the cards, and has the list of who gave what, but has yet to write and send them out. Her shower was in April, the baby was born in May. Do I say something? Offer to get her a list of addresses? Ask her how they are coming along?

    • JO July 2, 2014, 5:46 pm

      Ask her how they are coming along (being busy and sleep deprived, she may have honestly forgotten). If she argues she has no time, offer to watch the baby at her home for a few hours so she can get them done. If it still doesn’t get done, drop it. It will be a poor reflection on her, not you.

      • Lisa July 3, 2014, 10:07 am

        Thank you Jo! I’m seeing her tomorrow and will do just that!

  • Calli Arcale July 2, 2014, 10:47 am

    The only time writing thank you notes was ever a big effort for me was after my wedding, because of the sheer volume. But it wasn’t a *problem*. Hubby and I divvied them up — he thanked his side, I thanked mine — and we spent an afternoon hand-writing heartfelt personal notes specifically thanking for each item. It was a lovely way to spend the afternoon, and it brought back so many fabulous memories while going through them all.

    Never teach your kids that writing thank yous is a chore. A responsibility, yes, but if you can get them to see the joy in it, it’ll never be a problem again. 😉

  • kingsrings July 2, 2014, 10:54 am

    I have sadly heard about this latest in bad manners as well, but amongst brides instead of grads. Some friends and I were recently talking about how newly marrieds don’t seem to send thank you notes for their gifts anymore. I myself haven’t received one in ages for the gifts I’ve sent. One in the group got married last year and defended her decision to not send thank you notes by saying they were way too busy after the wedding, they didn’t have the funds for postage, it was too difficult to keep track of who gave what, and that she had shown a lot of gratitude and hospitality at the reception (hosted at their house), so she felt that that was enough of a thank you, and that any gift giver who had a problem with not receiving a thank you note was the rude one. And this gal is one of the nicest, warmest people I’ve ever met! Sadly, I’ve heard similar from other newly marrieds and gift recipients regarding thank you notes for gifts. It seems to be the latest faux pas fad in manners. Hopefully, it will end soon and everyone will realize that showing gratitude is something that never goes our of style.
    In this case, if the mother had such a hostile attitude about it that she did what she did and complained roundly about it to everyone, then they shouldn’t have sent the notes in the first place. What they did was just as rude as not sending anything.

  • JD July 2, 2014, 10:55 am

    I had a hard time with one of my kids, getting her to be prompt with notes, but once she got away from home and read Miss Manners and this site, she became a thank you note queen. Each thank you note is personal, thoughtful, hand-written, and prompt as can be. We are so proud that she finally got with it. I hope the boy in this first story will wake up and learn to write his own, but folks so often don’t seem to expect boys to practice such etiquette as thank you notes, which is just wrong. His mother doing it — and complaining — is even more wrong, if possible.
    My sister made her boys write thank you notes as they grew up — one still does, one does not. Unfortunately, the one who doesn’t is married to a woman who doesn’t, either, and they are training their kids not to write them. I just sent a gift to their oldest for her graduation — I’m hoping against hope that she’s realized how necessary it is to write a thank you! She’s a sweet girl, but no one is going to feel that way as she gets older and ignores gift-givers. Honest to goodness, I think my next gift to her will be an etiquette book, with the reason being that going out on her own, it will help her make her way. I hope she’ll read it.

  • Cathy July 2, 2014, 11:27 am

    I think you’re lucky to get ANY thank you notes…I’ve mailed two baby gifts and one wedding shower gift in the last year and never had any of them acknowledged. Really annoying, so as you can guess, those people are now off my gift list.

    • Jaxsue July 3, 2014, 12:35 pm

      Sadly, receiving TY notes – even for expensive wedding gifts – seems to be going extinct. My 5 siblings and I were raised to write TY notes. Somehow, that wasn’t passed down to 90% of my nieces/nephews (I have 16 on my side). I’ve sent baby gifts, wedding gifts, graduation gifts, even $ for mission trips, and have received TY notes, or even TY’s of any type, very seldom. I send TY’s on behalf of my older son, who has autism, and my younger son does them routinely. My mom has noticed this. 🙂 I don’t know what happened along the way…this is not how we were raised!

  • Ashley July 2, 2014, 11:38 am

    Oh no, ten thank yous a day….how ever will you survive?

    I have bad handwriting that sinks to a level worthy of the word atrocious if I have to keep writing for too long…yet somehow I managed to knock out 100 wedding thank yous in one day. Each with a written note of thanks, specifically mentioning the gift, along with some sentimental stuff, and signatures. Why? Because I know it’s the right thing to do and what my guests deserved for being awesome enough to not only show up at my wedding (which would have been more than enough to me!) but to bring a gift as well! So to hear anyone complain about having to do ten cards a day, ugh.

    • hakayama July 2, 2014, 7:48 pm

      And where was your “awful wedded husband” in this endeavor?
      I hope you disabuse him (and yourself) of the notion that it’s the woman’s job to be the social secretary for the family unit. Unless you enjoy it, and he picks up the slack in the dishwashing department. 😉
      Quietly wondering if you wrote notes in script, or you labored in printing…

      • SS July 3, 2014, 4:07 pm

        After our wedding, we sat together and my husband wrote all the thank-you’s to his side of the friends/family and I wrote all of them to my side.

  • Auntieembabes July 2, 2014, 11:38 am

    Husband has two cousins with boys who graduated high school recently. We aren’t close to the boys and as I’m due to have our first child tomorrow we don’t have much extra money. Despite that we sent cards with money to both boys. We were sent lovely photo thank you cards from each boy. While I appreciate the work that went into the photo cards (both by one of the mothers, a part time photographer). There was NOTHING handwritten on the cards at all. They were preprinted with a generic “thank you for your thoughtful gifts” and each boy’s name.
    That’s right – they didn’t even sign their names.

  • Guin July 2, 2014, 12:01 pm

    I once received word from an aunt, after sending out my wedding thank you notes, that my thank you was not good enough and she requested a new thank you note. It followed the usual format: handwritten, acknowledging the giver(s), the present, how it can be used, and the thoughtfulness of the giver.

    I did not do a second draft for her. Just wow.

    • Lenore July 2, 2014, 1:30 pm

      Did she want hand pressed flowers stuck to the card? A blood sample? Goodness!

  • Mary Bernard July 2, 2014, 12:03 pm

    I still think that getting a thank you note from a kid’s mother is better than not getting one at all. I ordered a present online for a young relative and never got a thank you note or call. I called about two months later to see if she had received the present. Because if she didn’t, I was going to dispute the charge on my credit card. Her mother told me that she did receive the present, but she had received so many presents that she was writing a few thank you notes each day, and she was going to mail them after she finished writing all of them. Fine.

    So I waited for a thank you note to come, and it never came. I finally figured out that she didn’t send me a thank you note because her mother had already told me that she had received my present. What a racket! I bet that she didn’t write any thank you notes at all, figuring that if anyone (like me) called, she would say that she busy writing the thank you notes, and if anyone called her later on to say that they never received the note (which I didn’t do), she would say, “But you were told that I received your present! So I didn’t see why I had to send you a note.”

  • Lady Anne July 2, 2014, 1:03 pm

    I do have to say that all three of our daughters have raised their own children to send think you notes. The two youngest grandkids are 14 and 10, but even they have always hand written something, and then mom has addressed it for them. Now that they are older, they do it all themselves. Very proud of both our girls and their offspring.

  • Miss Raven July 2, 2014, 1:35 pm

    My mother would have a coronary if she got a thank-you note like the one from “Jack”. We had strict rules in our house growing up. Aside from toys obviously opened at birthday parties, gifts were not opened or spent until thank-you notes went out.

    And she stopped writing our thank-you notes for us literally as quickly as possible. I was learning to write somewhat early-ish (age 4), and she went and bought cute little thank-you notes for young children with empty lines (with the little letter-size guides) that said, “Dear ____: Thank you so much for the ______! I love it! Love, ______” and coached me through filling out each with a crayon. They were a mess, but my relatives adored them.

    … This got very off-track. The point is, if a four year-old who can’t spell can write her own thank-you notes, a college-bound teenager should have no problems. How unforgivably lazy. His mom should be ashamed, but she might not even understand what they did wrong.

  • Christine July 2, 2014, 1:49 pm

    I got married 2 years ago and had a baby 16 months later. I was thrown one bridal shower, 3 baby showers (2 were surprises), and of course had the wedding and the baby. I received TONS of gifts and was grateful for each and every one. I wrote out more than 275 gift cards total over the last few years with no help from my husband other than signing his name.

    And I was SO embarrassed when I was discreetly told that I hadn’t written a thank you note for a woman who contributed to a group gift at my baby shower. I truly just made a mistake and overlooked her. I personally went up to her the next day with a note and an apology.

    That’s because my parents raised me right.

    • Cecilia July 2, 2014, 3:27 pm

      Yes, indeed!

  • D July 2, 2014, 2:00 pm

    A sincere expression of gratitude is humbling, difficult and uncomfortable. For people who believe a thank you card should express sincere gratitude, this process can be scary.

    I can understand why a teenager might find the prospect of showing gratitude daunting, and why a mother would take it upon herself to thank people for him. I can also understand why she might be resentful of the fact that she had to do his job, in addition to working so hard to help him start his life, and finally, never receiving a thank you herself.

    People complain, because they suffer. A cutting remark on how trivial their suffering is doesn’t make people realize they should be grateful; it makes them bitter and resentful.

    • Anonymous July 2, 2014, 4:22 pm

      Okay, maybe a teenager might find the task of expressing gratitude daunting, but that doesn’t mean you do it for them–you show them how. Likewise, an infant might find the task of learning to walk daunting, and a toddler might find potty-training daunting, and a preschooler might find the task of learning to use scissors daunting, and so on, and so forth, all the way from womb to tomb, but all of those things (and more things after that) need to happen. Parents should be there to provide support and guidance, and coach their kids through the difficult moments in life, but that’s completely different from just doing everything for them.

    • Anna Wood July 3, 2014, 12:36 am

      Why would anyone find saying ‘Thank you” ( a common way of showing gratitude) to be humbling, difficult and uncomfortable. A thank you note is a very special way of saying Thank you. I am always cheered when I receive a written acknowledgement of a gift, and I have never felt that saying thank you was in anyway humbling, difficult, or uncomfortable.

    • MichelleP July 3, 2014, 4:57 am

      I hope this is a joke, or trolling. “Expressing gratitude is difficult and uncomfortable”???? The mother is justified in complaining to a person who gave her child a gift for having to thank them??

      • Jaxsue July 3, 2014, 12:39 pm

        “A sincere expression of gratitude is humbling, difficult and uncomfortable.” What a statement. Have we come so far that this is a “thing”? I also think this is trolling.

      • D July 3, 2014, 12:44 pm

        I find thanking people sincerely difficult. When I write a thank you card, it usually takes me an hour, because I don’t just want to say “thank you for the gift” but I want to express that I really value what the other person gave me, and the time and energy they had to expend for me. For example, a thank you card I wrote for my grandmother made her cry (in a good way), because I spent a lot of time capturing how growing up with her made my life better.

        I absolutely understand that some people like to write “thank you for the gift” on a card, and that’s terrific for them. When I write that, however, I feel like I’m not doing our relationship justice, especially if it’s family. This, combined with a discomfort with expressing emotions, makes writing thank you cards exhausting for me.

        I think not sending a thank you card was bad form, as was complaining about having to write thank you cards, but I don’t see the son or mother as ungrateful, nasty Divas. They could be bad people who don’t care about what others do for them, but in my experience, most people are pretty nice, and when they do bad things, it’s because they’re stressed or hurt.

        If you’re really hurt by something someone else does, I’ve found voicing your objections in the following way gets a pretty good reception.

        “I felt {negative emotion} when you {action they did}. In the future, {action you’d prefer}.”

        For example, I felt like my gift was unappreciated when your son didn’t personally write me a thank you card himself. In the future, I’d really like to receive a thank you note from him when I send him a gift.

        Most people apologize and say they had no idea they had offended you, but that they will respect your wishes from now on. Or, they will explain the circumstances that lead to their behavior. For example, “I’m so sorry, my son has been struggling with depression and it’s a battle just to get him to dress himself in the morning.”

        • Kimstu July 4, 2014, 1:56 am

          Thanking people for gifts isn’t just a matter of individual preference that requires “voicing your objections” to obtain the “pretty good reception” of having the recipients “respect your wishes from now on”. It’s an ironclad rule of etiquette that any civilized person in this society can reasonably be expected to be familiar with.

          People who either don’t know about this rule or don’t care about it generally manage to figure out its importance when other people stop giving them gifts.

          Sure, people aren’t necessarily bad people just because they don’t thank others for gifts. But by the same token, I’m not a bad person just because I don’t continue giving gifts to people who don’t thank me for them.

          If some people prefer a different kind of social relationship where we like and appreciate each other but don’t bother exchanging gifts, that’s fine with me and I won’t think any less of them for it. But I sure as Ehell WILL think less of them if they can’t be bothered to thank me for a gift but still expect to go on getting gifts from me.

  • Specky July 2, 2014, 3:05 pm

    I don’t really care about the method, as long as I get some sort of thank you, mainly to let me know that the gift was received. I think my favorites have been thank you phone calls and the occasional thank you private message/chat. I like those much better than a hand-written thank you note.

  • Steve July 2, 2014, 3:17 pm

    If it’s “too much work” spending three minutes on my thank you note, how about the three hours I spent earning the money I sent you?

  • bap July 2, 2014, 3:56 pm

    When my daughter was a Sr. in high school, she was blessed one spring to be crowned the winner of our county pageant. And I do mean blessed because the title came with a large college scholarship and many gifts.
    After we got back home and as we were going through all her “loot”, she asked me for one of the printed programs. On the back was a list of the sponsors – all or most of the businesses in town and many individuals. The next evening she handed me the stack of completed, handwritten thank you notes – addressed and ready for stamps which I gladly took care of the next day. She not only covered everyone that had contributed money and gifts, but she also wrote to those that had helped in anyway from the spotlight operators to all the members of the committee that produces the show; all totaled, about 70 cards.
    The next business day I went to see the lady in charge of that year’s program to show her something related to the pageant and also to give her the notes to mail. (Looking back, I realize that seems odd, but we were also involved in another organization that, in an attempt to educate those that never wrote notes, required the students to write notes before they received any prizes/winnings and then deliver them to the chairperson (ready to mail) in order to receive the prizes. Although it may seem strange to outsiders, people in our little town are actually familiar with the practice in this other organization and think nothing of it.) The chairperson I was talking with seemed slightly surprised when I offered her the stack, but understood where I was coming from and gladly took them from me to drop in the mail.
    For the next several weeks I heard from most of the committee members of the comments they were receiving about the notes my daughter had written. Imagine my shock to learn most of them had NEVER received a thank you – and this pageant had been produced for over 50 years!

    • Wendy July 3, 2014, 2:35 am

      I have to admit to being surprised by this. It was a competition she entered and won the prizes and the like were donated by people wishing for the most part to get their name associated with the pagent a bit of cheap advertising for some. Essentially she was paid for winning and I certainly don’t give thankyou notes to my boss for paying me. The people who should of thanked them were the organisers

      • bap July 3, 2014, 4:00 pm

        This pageant would not exist if not for these donations. No one is required to give of their time, efforts or money; and yet they do for the simple idea of giving a few high school girls a fun night. In this particular pageant, the winner is not even required to make any events other than crowning the new girl the next year. And the “advertising” consists of a single line on the crowded back of the program. These girls receive generously from the local people and I feel a written personal thank you is not too much to ask.
        I feel the difference with the example of your boss paying you is that your boss needed an employee, you applied, and the boss hired you with certain expectations in mind. When you meet those expectations the boss is obligated to pay you. With this pageant there are no obligations, just donations from the goodness of their hearts.

  • mark July 2, 2014, 4:51 pm

    I have a different take on the whole thank you note thing. I give someone a gift because it is important to me to give it to them. Usually I get thanked on the spot and that is more than good enough. I think that thank you notes are a hold over from an era where instantaneous communication wasn’t available. But that isn’t really the case today.

    Unlike it appears many of you here, I don’t even usually notice if I get a thank you note or not. I know who I gave the gift to and I know they are grateful or I wouldn’t have bothered. I don’t need the note. I give a gift because I want to not to receive gratitude.

    • Brit July 3, 2014, 3:30 am

      I think thank you notes are just one way to thank someone. That’s all. You can call, thank someone in person, email, whatever…but you DO thank them.

      The big problem here isn’t about the lack of notes, that’s a red herring. It’s about the lack of any thanks at all. Really, people are sending money and gifts (quite often that have been requested) to get diddly squat in return. Not even a ‘thanks v much’ on the email. That’s not cool.

      You’ve said you get thanked. That’s different.

    • Lkb July 3, 2014, 5:58 am

      Mark, I know what you mean, and agree to some extent. However, would it not be kind to send a note to let the recipient know your generosity was indeed received? A friend of discivered all the gift envelopes were stolen from the reception hall and while the cards and checks were found in a dumpster days later, the cash was gone forever. Also, deliveries don’t always make it to their intended destination. You sound very kind and generous, but don’t you want to know your generosity was received?
      Also, a generous, tangible gift is worth a tangible card with a few sincere, personal words of gratitude.

      • mark July 3, 2014, 10:04 am

        I certainly agree is certainly is nice to get a personal note. I just feel reading a few of the responses here that some IMO take it too personally.

    • Mary Bernard July 3, 2014, 9:59 am

      [quote]Usually I get thanked on the spot [/quote]
      If you are mailing gifts to people, or having them delivered by overnight delivery, then you don’t get thanked on the spot.

      [quote]I don’t even usually notice if I get a thank you note or not.[/quote]

      [quote]I give a gift because I want to not to receive gratitude.[/quote]
      If you send someone a gift via mail or overnight delivery, isn’t it good to find out that it was actually delivered? Or would you rather not know for sure? And a thank you note isn’t necessary. A phone call will do.

      Once I mailed a birthday gift to a young relative and never heard from him if he had received it. So I called his house and left a message asking if he had received it. When I wasn’t home, he called me back and spoke to my roommate. My roommate said that I wasn’t home, and he said, “Tell Mary I called.” That did not tell me if he had received my gift or not. So, after a few days of waiting for him to call again (which he did not do), I called again and left another message. His mother called me back and said, “Honest, he swore up and down to me that he called you.” I said, “Yes, he did call me, but I wasn’t home, and he told my roommate to tell me that he had called, but that didn’t tell me if he had received my gift.” His mother said that he had received my gift.

      The following year, I sent him another birthday gift. I never heard from him. So a couple of months later, I called and left a message asking if he had received it. His mother called me back to say that he had received it, but he was so busy that he didn’t have the time to call me.

      Another time, I sent a birthday gift to another young relative. The company that I ordered from online emailed me to let me know that it was delivered. And it happened that it was delivered on his birthday! Great! I immediately put it out of my mind. I didn’t need him to call me. I already knew that the gift had been delivered.

      So I was thoroughly surprised when he called me six weeks later to thank me for the gift! He said that he would have called me sooner, but the gift had just arrived only a few days ago. I asked him when it arrived, and he named a date that was three weeks earlier. (Remember, it actually arrived on his birthday.) I didn’t say anything, and then he said, “Oh, I guess it didn’t really arrive only a few days ago.” I had a feeling that his mother had screamed at him, “You mean you STILL haven’t called Mary to thank her?” and he decided to pretend that the gift had just arrived and then got confused about choosing a date.

      So it’s not about wanting to receive gratitude. It’s wanting to know that your gift was received. And a note isn’t necessary. A phone call (or text or email) will do.

    • Jaxsue July 3, 2014, 12:42 pm

      Mark, if I am thanked when I give a gift in person, that’s fine. My issue is that, most of the time, the gifts are sent and I don’t see the person. If I don’t get any TY, whether in writing, in a text, or in a phone call, I notice. Saying “thank you” is not difficult, especially in today’s tech-savvy world!

    • Steve July 3, 2014, 12:50 pm

      Are you implying that people who expect to receive thank-you notes are not generous? Wouldn’t that be a very rude thing to write?

      In my personal life, most of the people who patiently explain to me that email, Facebook and texting have replaced snail mail were in grammar school at the time I started using email. I am not sure what new information I am expected to learn from these conversations.

    • Kimstu July 4, 2014, 1:46 am

      Thanking someone in person for a gift that you received (and opened) in person is fine. No after-the-fact expression of thanks is required.

      An after-the-fact personal expression of thanks, whether by note, phone call or email, IS required for gifts that were received long-distance or collected at a party, without personal responses specifically for the individual givers.

  • Ellex July 2, 2014, 9:58 pm

    This is tangential, but it’s bugged me for years. I have never, ever, ever once in my life *received* a thank you card from anyone older than me. Not my aunties, uncles, or grandparents. The only thank you cards I’ve ever received have been from my own age bracket. And yet I remember it being a big deal that I write thank you notes for my presents from them. As in, if grandma didn’t get a thank you note for the hideous cat door mat she sent me, she would raise holy hell with my mother. But granny never once sent me a thank you note for anything I gave her.

    Honestly, if you want kids to understand the importance of thank you notes, make sure they get them as well as write them.

  • pktaxwench July 2, 2014, 10:59 pm

    When I sent out written thank you notes after my wedding, I was labeled a ‘huge snob’ by MIL because only hoity toity rich types send thank you notes. I wasn’t surprised much, considering her background. So glad she’s finally started respecting the restraining order….

    Not everyone is civilized….

  • NostalgicGal July 2, 2014, 11:35 pm

    With relatives when younger, in person counted, for a thank you. If they sent you a gift and it wasn’t presented there; then I had to write the card. High school graduation I bought a couple of boxes of cards and a roll of stamps and as I got cards or a few mailed things I wrote out the thank you’s. I had two rounds as after commencement (where I’d received a few awards) I got another round of cards and such. My wedding shower was three days before the wedding, so most of the gifts were given at the shower; and that took about a month, mostly as I had to track down people on some of the large ‘group’ gifts (several went in together for an electric covered frypan on legs and a crockpot).

    I remember my first Christmas after starting school, it was good enough to get a small blank card, take the pencil and write “Dear yyyy, thank you for the zzzz. I like it very much.” then my name. Mom had written out the words to copy, and I knew to put the person’s name in and what it was. Then on the envelopes I wrote out the person’s name in the middle; and she filled in the rest and we used address labels for the upper left. Done at the kitchen table after supper, it didn’t take long and was n excellent lesson. After that it wasn’t that hard to have a box or two of inexpensive thank you cards on hand, and until I could be trusted to do the whole card and address they were done at the table.

    Someone else mentioned filling out preprinteds with a crayon. Wonderful, appropriate for that age, and a great thing to teach young. At graduation it was a bit of strange, as they spent a stamp to send me a card and a dollar, and I had to spend for a card and stamp to thank them, but… that’s the way you did it! Even if all they sent me was a card, I still had to send them a card to thank them for their lovely card and thought. And as others have said too, if it seems daunting; then do the ten a night rule. It will eat the pile right down.

    • Anonymous July 3, 2014, 10:19 pm

      Cards aren’t that expensive if you buy a box of them. I mean, sure you get a whole box of multiples of the same card, but the recipients don’t have to know that.

      • NostalgicGal July 6, 2014, 10:25 pm

        And if you keep an eye out for boxes/bundles/baggies of cheap cute cards, and put them in a shoebox, you can collect an assortment to dig through. For something in particular (say a wedding or graduation) indeed, the cards can look the same as long as you’ve taken the time to personalize them!

  • Yarnspinner July 3, 2014, 8:09 am

    After writing my comment about my cousin, her baby showers, wedding and baby birthdays, I went into work and was surprised (not to mention amused) by what I thought of as a random “thank you” card on my work desk.

    At my job we have a “giveaway” table. If you’ve been cleaning house and have books, decorative stuff, or whatever that you don’t want but don’t want to throw away, you bring it in and leave it on the table. I also have two coworkers who are barely scraping by on what their jobs pay and who can’t afford to decorate or purchase things like the arts supplies they like to use. So now I give them the bags of stuff I am bringing in first, and when they are done, they put the rest of it out on the giveaway table.

    And yesterday they left me a “thank you” note for always brightening their day with this random stuff I bring in. Later on in the day ANOTHER staff member (technically she would be my boss) sent me an email thanking me for a silly ceramic figurine she had seen in the stash and taken for her desk.

    While we all say “thank you” now and then for these silly things, it actually made MY day (which was kind of bleak) to get those notes from the three of them.

  • Gracie Lou Freebush July 3, 2014, 10:22 am

    I am perflexed by the attitude that a few people seem to have about gifts. They say, “I didn’t ask for it or even want it, why should I express gratitude for something I didn’t ask for or even want?”
    A: Because someone was trying to do something nice for you. Whether you “wanted “it or not, part of being a mature adult is being gracious when someone is kind to them.
    Yesterday I came home from work to discover while I was gone my 70 year old father had come over and done a bunch of yard work! I didn’t “ask” him to do this and didn’t “want” him to–he’s not getting any younger. But I called to say thank you, he said, “well, I just wanted you to know I love you. “. 🙂

  • AnaMaria July 4, 2014, 12:14 am

    After my 6th birthday, my mom wrote the words “Thank you” on an index card so I could copy it into thank you notes- since I couldn’t write much else yet, she had me draw a personalized picture on the front of each card. I remember her making me sit at the kitchen table for an hour or so each day after my birthday until finally, every thank you note was written. By the time I graduated high school, writing thank yous was automatic, and if I am blessed with children of my own someday I plan to copy my mom’s approach as soon as they are old enough to hold a crayon properly. You’re never too young to learn to say, “Thank you,” properly!

  • Cannibal Queen July 4, 2014, 12:30 am

    I tend to agree with Specky and Mark, perhaps because thank-you notes don’t seem to be such a firmly established tradition in Australia (except for weddings, for some reason). Some people send them religiously and have certain expectations about receiving them, but most people won’t think less of you if you thank them by email, phone or in person, rather than with a handwritten note. Personally, as long as the gift is acknowledged, I don’t really care what form that acknowledgement takes. What’s galling is to receive no thanks at all, which does seem to happen more and more frequently these days.

    And Ellex, you’re right! The thank-you notes do only ever seem to go in one direction!

  • Patti July 4, 2014, 11:15 am

    We were unable to attend our nephew’s high school grad party as we were on a long planned trip, but sent his card and money gift two weeks early. Since the party we have been in his company twice, neither time did he verbally acknowledge our gift. A few weeks ago, when his parents returned home from work, they found that he had packed up and moved out. Just yesterday, I did receive a thank you card, written and sent by his mother. It will be interesting watching this young man mature into adulthood, if he ever does.

  • theLadyBugg July 5, 2014, 3:31 pm

    Another example of a nontraditional TY: Most of my mother’s very large family lives on the east coast, but one brave brother up and moved several hundred miles west about fifteen years ago. (He wanted an adventure – and it’s worked out well for him.) This year was his 50th birthday, and his sister/BIL/three nieces mailed him a nice gift basket. Instead of calling or sending a thank you card, he filmed himself opening it up, reading the card, etc and posted the video on Facebook, making sure to tag his web -savvy niece. I thought that was really cool, especially since this is a guy who mostly uses Facebook to keep in touch with long distance family, it’s not like he was showing off to co-workers our anything.

  • Lena July 5, 2014, 8:27 pm

    I once got caught in a war of thank you attrition with my elderly great-aunt.

    She sent me a box of chocolates for Christmas, so I sent her a thank you note. She then sent me a thank you for the thank you note, with some money tucked in. In return, I sent her a thank you for the money – and got another thank you for the thank you, which MORE money tucked in!

    I’d been sending her hand-made, cross-stitched thank you notes, because one of my main hobbies is cross-stitch, and I end up with a lot of finished projects and nothing much to do with them. This time, I just sent a printed card, and thankfully the thank yous stopped!

    I now make a point of sending her cross-stitched Christmas, Easter and birthday cards, because I know she loves them, but thank you notes are kept simpler!

  • Dear! July 7, 2014, 12:32 pm

    I will preface my comment by saying I am from a culture where thank you notes are not customary, and in certain instances, some people can find them pretentious.

    However, to be offended by getting a printed card, is rather odd to me.

    I have started writing thank you notes, in certain appropriate situations, but I usually buy nice stationary and envelopes, and print out the messages because I have horrendous handwriting and, sadly, as I use a computer so much it now hurts my joints a great deal when writing. (Sigh. I shudder to think if I have this problem at 27, what will happen to my generation when we all get older.)

    The mother was extremely ungrateful to complain about having to send thank you cards, but I think to get worked up over a thank you card is pretty petty. The person has expressed their gratitude for your gift, and to shun the presentation makes me think you only gave the gift to be recognized and praised.

  • JD July 8, 2014, 10:18 am

    Ellex pointed out something I hadn’t noticed, but is true for me as well — I’ve sent dozens of gifts to older relatives, to receive few thank yous. Sometimes, in a phone conversation, they will mention the gift and say thank you, but often, it doesn’t happen. Yet I sent thank you notes or called and thanked them for gifts I received. I guess some older folks don’t think about the fact that younger folks, even the little whipper-snappers whose diapers they supposedly changed, should also be treated with the same courtesies as their elders. How odd! Now, I have to remember that myself, since I’m no longer a little whipper-snapper, although to my numerous relatives in their late 80’s and 90’s, I still am.
    I’ll tell you what else I don’t like about thank yous. Giving a gift for a wedding, and finally getting the thank you note just a couple of weeks before the baby shower invitation, a year after the wedding. That’s almost as bad as not thanking me at all.

  • Ross July 8, 2014, 4:27 pm

    Oh boo hoo. I also received a few thousand in gifts and cash for graduation. I sat down the Saturday after graduation and personalized over a hundred Thank You notes. Plus an extra trip to the card shop to buy more cards with some of the gift money. Get on board with the cards!

  • Dar July 29, 2014, 5:59 am

    My thank you notes for my graduation were the same type mentioned in the first letter, and I’m not at all sorry about them. I have a disability, and hand writing or typing that many thank you notes would have been impossible. If I’d wanted to personalize them I would have had to dictate each card and have a parent type, and neither my mom nor dad had the time. I came up with a general message, we printed out the cards, and I signed them-and even that was a lot, I was in pain by the end of it. We used labels for addresses so we already had addresses from the invites. My disability is not that visible, and I’m sure plenty of people thought I was lazy or were frustrated to get a typed card with a poorly done signature. But I don’t know what else those people would have had me done in that situation. If you ever receive a card like this, please give the benefit of the doubt. The reasons may not be obvious but sometimes this kind of thing is necessary.