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Do Ya Want It?

In light of a recent entry entitled, “It’s The Thought That Count,” which paints the picture of a woman being asked if she has a certain kind of teapot to which she responds “No,” and is very much not looking forward to receiving said gift, I sort of ran into a similar situation just today. My mother-in-law was out shopping for my son (of her own accord, probably for Christmas) and asks me if my parents ride Harley motorcycles (they do) because she’s found a cute Harley Davidson vest for my son. I’m not sure how to respond at first because I don’t fancy putting my active 1.5 year old in fussier clothing like vests, turtle necks, button up shirts etc. I keep it very simple with my son because that’s what works for us. I know I would NEVER put my son in this vest and would probably promptly donate the item upon receiving it.

She asks again because she’s at the store, and I respond “I’d say no just because I would probably never put him in a Harley vest,” not said rudely at all, and she responds OK and that’s that. But I later asked my husband if it’s rude to deny a gift if someone outright asks you, “Do you want this?” What is the etiquette there? Is it OK to say no, and if so, should we give reason/justification? And I’m not talking about, “Hey do you want my old toaster?”, but more, “Hey I’m at the store, do you want me to buy you this such-in-such?” Thanks!  1121-14

I ask my adult kids  if they prefer a specific item I am considering buying as a gift.   I do it quite frequently, too, because as they have grown older, moved out of the house and married, I am less sure of their preferences and needs.   I ask  my new daughter-in-law more than others lately because I do not know her tastes very well and I don’t want to waste money buying something she will feel obligated to use when she would rather not.    But our gift giving tends to be more spontaneous and not secretive so our style of gifting easily supports this open and frank discussion regarding preferences.

And in regards to buying items for grandchildren, I always ask ahead of time because I do not assume to know what my children’s preferences are in rearing their kids.   I remember receiving what I considered to be prostitot clothing for my then 18 month old daughter years ago and refusing to use them so now that it is my turn to be grandmom, I don’t make that same mistake in assuming.

If someone pointedly asks you, “Would you like/want this?”, you are quite free to be honest and say, “Thank you for asking but I don’t need it/doesn’t fit my decor/it’s not my style/I have too many/I have enough/etc. Thank you for thinking of me.”


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Goldie January 26, 2015, 9:25 am

    Yes I do ask my family if they would want this or that, and appreciate it if they say no and save us both the awkwardness (and the cash!) MIL is close family, so yes, OP, you did it right. (Especially if it’s for a child – many young kids are sensitive to one or another kind of material, or feel very uncomfortable in certain kinds of outfits, and might not even be able to wear wool, leather, vests, etc.) And, although I’ve never had a not-so-close friend or acquaintance ask me this, if they do ask, I assume it’s because they honestly want to know the answer. Like they say, feedback is a gift!

  • Girlie January 26, 2015, 9:47 am

    Admin, so nice of you to ask your DIL and such instead of surprising her with decor that doesn’t go with her home at all….

  • Gena January 26, 2015, 9:50 am

    I hate the idea of someone spending their money on a gift for me or my family that I know we would never use. My mother is constantly buying me things that I have no use for, I can’t seem to make her stop, and I feel bad about the waste of money. So if I were to ask someone “Hey I saw this XXX that I was thinking of getting for your DD” I would welcome the feedback.

    • CW January 27, 2015, 1:53 pm

      Does your mother know mine? She sends me boxes of stuff she buys for me (or my house, dogs, etc) that I neither need nor want all the time! The most recent example was when she sent a box of toys for ages 3 and up when I was still pregnant. What am I going to do with this stuff for the next 3 years? I have about 3 boxes in the garage right now. I usually let it sit for a year or two and then donate it or give it to friends who might have a use for it.

  • Sena January 26, 2015, 9:51 am

    I wish there were some way to preemptively do this with gifts. Since Christmas, I have received a cute summer outfit size 12 months (we are expecting snow tonight), a white outfit (size unkown) that is a jumper that only zips in the back, so I would have to remove the entire outfit each time a diaper needed changing, and a Christmas outfit size 6-9 months, for my 11 month old twins. I said thank you for each, but now I get to find something else to do with these things that are taking up space, as the tags were cut and there are no receipts. I appreciate that it is the thought that counts, but when there is little thought other than, “I can get rid of this,” or, “How cute!” does that thought really count?

    • Green123 January 27, 2015, 3:42 am

      Baby clothes are always welcome at charity shops (Goodwill in the US?)

      • Sena January 27, 2015, 2:42 pm

        How rude would it be for me to ask them to just donate them to charity instead of giving them to me so I have to sort them, wash them, and find time to take them (with my infant twins) to the donation center?

        I joke. Sort of.

        If it makes for extra work, it’s not a gift. It’s a burden. That was the point.

        • plainbelliedsneetch January 27, 2015, 8:04 pm

          You’re right about the extra work, but when you get more unusable gifts some charities will pick up at your door. My sister donates a bag of clothes to AmVets every few months. She can leave it on the porch, so no one needs to spend the afternoon at home waiting for a van.

        • koolchicken January 28, 2015, 3:17 am

          I have to second plainbelliedsneetch. My mother used to donate to the Big Brother/Big Sister (in our city at least they had a donation center that took everything from clothes, to cars, to furniture). Generally it was only largeish donations that they’d come out to pick up so you’d have to donate a years worth of clothes at once, but they will pick stuff up. With twins I’m sure you’ll end up with TONS of stuff to donate by years end. Just goggle local donation centers that do pickups or call your local Goodwill or Salvation Army and see if they have someone who will come to you!

          • kit January 29, 2015, 1:20 pm

            But meanwhile (before the year’s end), she still has to sort them, wash them, and store them.

  • DGS January 26, 2015, 9:52 am

    This is something we deal with all the time with our 3.5 year old son and our infant daughter. Neither my parents nor in-laws are necessarily certain of what size the children are at any given time, so before they purchase something, they will generally call or text and say something along the lines of, “I am thinking about buying ___ for ___. Would you like that for them, and if so, what size is ___ at this moment?” My Mother-in-law, who has 6 grandchildren total (so far), generally shops for them all at the same time, so she might buy matching outfits for all the boy or girl cousins or pick up a jacket in different colors and sizes for each of them, and she will generally call to clarify if we’d like a particular item for the kids, and if so, what size/color/pattern we’d like. Being direct about needs/wants helps avoid hurt grandparental feelings, or parents shoving an unwanted item away in a closet somewhere to donate or re-gift.

    My Mom has a very different taste/style than I do, and she tends to favor very expensive, designer and not always practical baby items (e.g. cashmere sweater for an infant or a very busy, multi-piece outfit for an active toddler). However, I always ask her kindly to not purchase those items and instead re-direct her towards something the child would wear, and I would appreciate, instead, like a machine washable cotton outfit. When she wants to spend a particularly large amount of money, I simply ask her that instead of buying a cashmere Burberry onesie, she buy a sturdy Carter’s winter jacket and pair of snowpants. She wants to buy something nice and useful for a grandchild, and I appreciate that, and I can calmly direct her towards what would actually be nice and useful.

    • jazzgirl205 January 27, 2015, 2:04 pm

      I know what you mean. When my daughter was a toddler, I mostly dressed her in cute dresses with shorts underneath (so she could be wild and modest at the same time). The dresses were easy to clean and were cool and comfortable. My sister believed that children were not truly comfortable or free unless they were wearing a tshirt and jeans. She would gift my dd with cheap versions of these items explaining, “I noticed she didn’t have a pair of jeans.” Apparently, that didn’t raise any red flags with her.

  • Cat January 26, 2015, 10:02 am

    Two thoughts on this subject. First, it’s not what you say as much as it is how you say it. “What a cute idea! Unfortunately, he’s at that fussy age when he fights things like vests. It was a great find and so sweet of you to think of him, but I’d never be able to keep it on him!”
    Second is that he wouldn’t have to wear it for you to use it. I’d put it on his toy bear or frame it and use it as a decoration for his room as a tribute to the Harley-riding grandparents.

    • Multi-Facets January 26, 2015, 1:28 pm

      First, that’s a perfect response. Second, that’s a really great way to recycle (and soooo freakin’ adorable! No, seriously, a teddy bear in a vest, what’s not to like about that?).

    • Amanda H. January 26, 2015, 4:03 pm

      That’s a very good point about the vest. At least those can be repurposed.

    • kit January 27, 2015, 9:34 am

      We got a pair of little leather boots for our first son from a cousin. I think these were a table decoration or something in a birthday party of the company he worked for, one bore the date company started (which happened to be my husband’s birth year!) and one the then-current year (which, obviously, was our son’s birth year). The boots were of size that would only fit a newborn who naturally has absolutely no use for such footwear – but they were obviously meant as a souvenir! And we have kept them as such, among very few of his first clothes that we have kept as keepsakes.

  • Michelle January 26, 2015, 10:09 am

    I think if you are asked, it is fine to say “no thanks”. You can give a reason if you want to, something along Admin’s suggestions, but I don’t think it’s required.

    I, too, usually ask if I am buying for adults or children I don’t know well. My mother is the type to say she loves/needs something and wants it, but if you buy it, she never uses it. It sits in the box for a few years and then she throws it out or donates it. For example, she said she fell in love with a carousel-type music box and gushed about it for days afterward. The base was about 12 inches in diameter, so it wasn’t a tiny box. I decided to buy it as surprise gift and gave it to her at Christmas. She said she loved it and thanked me a million times. That was 15 years ago and it has never been taken out of the box. Seriously, never has seen the light of day. I enjoyed giving it to her because she’s my mom and I wanted to give her something she loved. I just felt it was a waste of a really beautiful piece so I have learned to call her and ask “Do you want this? Can you use it? Will you use it?” before I buy. Nine times out of ten, she says no.

  • yokozbornak January 26, 2015, 10:30 am

    I think you were fine! If she had already bought it, I think there is an obligation to received it graciously and dispose later, but she did ask and you gave a perfectly polite response.

  • Shalamar January 26, 2015, 10:33 am

    My MIL has a bad habit of buying something completely inappropriate for us and asking afterwards. There was one year when she phoned us about two weeks before Christmas and asked “Would you like a fondue set?” My husband said “No, we’d never use one.” There was a pause, followed by a decidedly chilly “Oh. Okay.” After he hung up, my husband said in amusement “I’ll bet money that Mum is standing in line to return a fondue set right now, cursing our names.”

    • just4kicks January 26, 2015, 2:29 pm

      @Shalamar: My MIL would get her son outrageous and expensive wonderful gifts, or a butt load of cash.
      Me? Well, one year I got a mismatched pot and pan set (each piece was a different style and color) from her favorite flea market.
      I was kind about it, and thanked her profusely even though I knew I’d never use them.
      One of the frying pans still had food caked around the rim!
      As I got up to put all my new cookware in the kitchen, she said to me, “Maybe now you’ll be able to cook a decent meal!!!”
      Yeah….Thanks, “MOM”…..

      • babs January 26, 2015, 8:25 pm

        Reminds me of the towels that came out of my husband’s grandparent’s house. After they died. Although they looked like a never-used set, they clearly had been stored a long time and had an old musty smell. My MIL wrapped them up for Christmas, and beamed as if she had gone out and bought them. Really, they were nice towels and I would not have minded at all if she just gave them to me. I would have washed them and appreciated them. But it was just so odd they way they were presented to as a Christmas present. Oh well, she was a little quirky!

        • kingsrings January 27, 2015, 12:09 am

          My grandfather and his wife were known for giving such “gifts”. My mom once received in the mail an old bathrobe with food caked on it from them. No note or anything was included in the package. We don’t know what possessed her to do that. Another time at Christmas she sent me a Mrs. Santa Claus doll. At the same time my mom received a Santa Claus doll. They both had one arm extended, so we figured that she’d bought them as a set and then separated them! So tacky, and the dolls weren’t much to begin with. But it gave us a real good laugh.

          • Lady Anne January 27, 2015, 12:00 pm

            One of my aunts once gave my sister and me a large glass owl to use as a door stop. We discovered later that they were a pair of book ends.

      • Purplemoosemoose January 27, 2015, 5:17 am

        My response to the “it’s the thought that counts” saying: make sure the thought is actually there! Because if the thought is “oh, *I* love this thing and want it and need and excuse to buy it: I know – I’ll buy it for X, without giving any consideration at all to what I can observe of her tastes/wants/needs” then that doesn’t count!
        I have a Christmas birthday and often get presented with obviously cheap, last minute, token gifts, accompanied with the phrase “Sorry, I had so little time/money what with Christmas and all, I couldn’t get you something better”. That’s not a thought that counts at all.

        • kit January 27, 2015, 9:36 am

          Oh I so agree that there are thoughts that don’t really count – or at least not the positive way!

          • just4kicks January 27, 2015, 12:08 pm

            A few posts back, I told the story of opening a present from my MIL that was a glass reindeer with one of the antlers broken off.
            I thought I had done it when I opened it, and began apologizing for breaking it.
            MIL looked over and said, “Oh, no, I bought it at the flea market like that!!!”
            Thought that counts, my fat butt.

  • mark January 26, 2015, 11:03 am

    I think it speaks well of the OP to want to avoid offending someone. I think in this situation her concern is misplaced. A simple “no thanks” satisfies both etiquette and practicality. Seriously don’t overthink it.

  • PrettySticks January 26, 2015, 11:04 am

    I ran into something sort of similar – not in practice I guess, but in feel. I had a very low-key wedding, with just my close family and a few friends, and we said no gifts (only when asked, which everyone did). One of my mom’s sisters really couldn’t accept this and kept offering up gift ideas to me and to my mom. At one point she e-mailed me that her (adult) son was really having trouble thinking of something to get us, and that he’d finally decided to get us a really nice set of kitchen knives, since he was in culinary school. Problem was, we already had two sets of knives – one mediocre that we’d bought for ourselves, and one super nice that a professional chef friend of ours had bought us as a housewarming gift. And we lived in a tiny NYC apartment – that was already way too many knives. So I told her that honestly. We appreciated the thought, but we already had plenty of knives, and gifts weren’t necessary, from her or her son. I felt super rude saying it, but I would have felt super guilty taking a gift like that from her son, who I knew didn’t have a ton of disposable income (which I didn’t say to her). Anyway, I think she was pretty miffed, from what she said to my mom…

  • JD January 26, 2015, 11:10 am

    I agree that it is okay to say no, if asked. I’ve had to do this several times. The hardest is when it is someone who is excited to have found that perfect item for me and tells me he or she wants to buy it for me, only to find out it isn’t anything I want after all. I try very, very hard to express my appreciation that they thought of me, but no, I can’t use it/don’t need it/don’t want it because (insert good reason here). I must be doing it well enough most of the time. No one has yet accused me of being hard to buy for. OP, she asked, you politely answered. She’ll know next time she sees an adorable Harley item to either a) pass it by or b) tell you about it later in case this one is something you would put on your child and she thinks she’ll be back at that store soon.
    My dear daughter proudly presented me with an expensive flat iron one Christmas, thinking mine had broken. I had to tell her it was my curling iron that had broken, which took the wind out of her sails somewhat. The curling iron cost much less than the flat iron, and I already had a flat iron; I couldn’t let her spend extra money for an item I already owned! She handled it well, though, returned it and got the curling iron for less, and gave that to me. Of course, one week later, my flat iron broke!

  • Raven January 26, 2015, 11:45 am

    Yes, I agree totally with Admin. If someone asks you if you would like something, you are allowed to say no, provided you are polite about it. “You’re so kind to think of me, but I just don’t have the room for a giant Elvis bust. Thank you so much anyway. Let’s get coffee on Wednesday!”

    • Girlie January 26, 2015, 1:04 pm

      I wish I had that option when I received a giant horse head!

      • badger January 27, 2015, 5:32 am

        Was that for Christmas or for offending the mafia?

        • Girlie January 27, 2015, 7:59 am

          Christmas… they “love” horses and figured I’d love a huge horse head, too..

  • WillyNilly January 26, 2015, 11:46 am

    My thought process has always been, if it’s pre-purchase and you are saying “no thanks” it’s perfectly polite. Why have someone waste their money?

    Once it’s purchased things are purchased it gets iffier, and handled on a case-by-case basis. And it’s definitely a case-by-case in being able to suggest an alternative (“I don’t want that one, I’d rather this other thing”), that works in some cases and dome relationships but certainly not all.

    But graciously preventing a purchase I think is a good route to take pretty universally, especially if the buyer is *asking*.

  • Harley Granny January 26, 2015, 11:54 am

    I’m going to assume that because you MIL asked she would prefer an honest answer.
    You were perfectly fine answering her.

  • Shoegal January 26, 2015, 12:13 pm

    Giving an honest answer doesn’t work well with my mother. My sisters and mother often shop every Sunday – during Christmas as well. She will search a store for appropriate gifts and load them up in her cart. She’ll then ask our opinions on the items she’s selected for our spouses, siblings, children, and sometimes ourselves to see if we think they would make good gifts. If the answer is no – she is instantly angry. Sometimes she has items in her cart that I know she has selected for me and I have told her that I absolutely don’t want what she is thinking of buying. I already have tons of Spode china that I don’t really like. My husband bought me the Christmas plates one year and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I really did not care for it. So I have a whole set of it – that I display year after year that I’m not crazy about. Mom comes along and buys me Spode platters, Spode wine glasses, Spode salt and pepper shakers. Knowing etiquette as I do – I am guilty of looking past the thought to the gift I don’t want and can’t use. I know I should just be grateful that she thought enough of me to buy me a gift. What sense is there in allowing her to buy me or my relatives something they won’t appreciate – aren’t I saving everybody some aggravation by stopping her? The answer is no. If I stop her, I just prevented her from getting her shopping done. I’m actually selfishly just thinking of myself.

    This year, she bought me Christmas presents that were all kitchen related. I’m not a big cook, actually I prefer not to cook at all . I received box upon box of different kitchen gifts that I absolutely didn’t want. It got to the point where I was dreading opening another box for fear of what could be inside. Salt and pepper shakers, a gravy boat, a casserole dish, etc. Then on Christmas day she asks me what I thought of the gravy boat – I really didn’t want to lie to her so I told her that I have never made gravy once at home since getting married. She told me that I could serve hot sauces with it too – but I couldn’t think of what that would be exactly. She didn’t like hearing that. So I’ve learned it is really better to just accept the gift warmly and graciously and try to return or get rid of it later.

    • Miss-E January 26, 2015, 4:04 pm

      You could always spill a little water on the floor and then have a tragic “accident” while holding the entire set of dishes!

      Seriously though, I can understand your frustration. Your mother is spending her money on things you don’t even want and you don’t want her to waste her time or money…but you don’t want to appear ungrateful. Very tough spot to be in.

    • Beach Quilter January 26, 2015, 5:52 pm

      I have this issue as well. I am a bit difficult to give to–my wants are few and any needs I have I have the income to satisfy when I need it (although if it’s around the holidays or my birthday I have gotten so that will not replace a broken item unless it’s crucial). I truly appreciate any gift given, but, if you ask me what I want, the answer is usually “fabric” which people get tired of giving me. When pressed, “nothing” or supporting one of my favorite charities are other favorite answers.

      My mom has taken to showing me items and asking if this is something I would like, and then getting annoyed with me when I say no thank you.

      Case in point — earrings this Christmas — while I have 5 piercings, as I’ve aged I’ve gotten extremely allergic to most metals to the point that I can only wear non 14K gold earrings for a few hours maybe once a week before my earlobes get inflamed. As a consequence, I have a “standard” set of earrings that I wear and only change them for really special occasions. So, while I agreed that Christmas specialty earrings were very cute, and told her I appreciated the thought, I really wouldn’t be able to wear them. I was accused of being “difficult” for not letting her buy me something that would cause me to spend the holidays with oozing earlobes.

      • EchoGirl January 26, 2015, 8:07 pm

        I have a similar issue with my mother. She’ll buy me things she thinks I need because I don’t have them already. For example, over Christmas, we had trouble opening a bottle of wine at my place because I have only a badly-designed secondhand corkscrew I got from a roommate who didn’t want it when she moved out, so my mom bought me a “good” corkscrew as a belated Christmas gift. Thing is, there’s a reason I never replaced the annoying corkscrew — I use it about once a year.

        • TightlyKnit January 27, 2015, 11:36 am

          @EchoGirl, but that gift, while it may seem unnecessary to you, implied that your mother did think of you. It wasn’t a gift that was picked up because it was on sale, or on the way out of the store, she saw what she thought was a need in your life and tried to help fill it. I think that’s the true sign of a thoughtful gift and in this case it really is the thought that counts.

          • Aje January 27, 2015, 3:53 pm

            Well said!

          • EchoGirl January 27, 2015, 11:37 pm

            (I guess my last attempt to reply didn’t go through…)
            Okay, bad example to pick. My mother has a bad habit, however, of deciding what other people want/need and then just buying it without asking, or taking the description of an item and buying something remotely similar but useless. She bought my dad the exact same item two years in a row, she once gifted me a pillow that was the exact opposite of my personal taste in pillows, etc.

          • kit January 29, 2015, 1:25 pm

            Yes, I think corkscrew was a bad example, because, after all, that corkscrew WILL be used, even if just once a year. And now that one time a year, you will not have trouble opening the bottle! I understand how you yourself didn’t bother to buy a new one, but as you GOT a new one, it is still useful.

      • Kimstu January 27, 2015, 10:20 am

        Good heavens, @Beach Quilter, how can anyone get tired of gifting fabric?? I have the opposite problem: I can’t resist buying bunches of local handmade fabrics on my trips to India and then have a hard time finding someone who wants to share them with me when I get home.

        Yes to the “household maintenance” gifts: in my day planner I keep a list of stuff that breaks or needs replacing, so if somebody’s trying to think of a gift for me, voila, instant wish list.

      • Enna January 29, 2015, 11:53 am

        You aren’t being difficult about your health and anyone who says that you are is being short sighted.

  • Library Diva January 26, 2015, 12:23 pm

    I agree — as long as you say no politely, the questioner is asking because he or she is unsure as to whether you’d get use out of something and doesn’t wish to waste money on something you don’t want. It’s just manipulative to ask someone if they’d like something and then hold a grudge against them for giving you the honest answer you seem to have sought. A long-winded way of saying I agree with the admin: answer honestly and politely, and if the questioner doesn’t like it, it’s their problem.

  • Calli Arcale January 26, 2015, 12:47 pm

    The way I see it is that it is rude to refuse a gift being given, but it is polite to honestly* answer if asked whether or not you would like a particular gift.

    * Bearing in mind that this honesty must still be delivered tactfully. 😉 No ten-minute rant on why X is horrible, just a polite, “no thank you” will suffice.

  • Vicki January 26, 2015, 1:02 pm

    It’s not rude to give a polite honest answer to a question, whether it’s “thanks, but we’d never use it” or “I already have three green sweaters, and I don’t know what I’d do with another.”

    What’s rude, if anything, is trapping someone with that sort of question: saying “would you like a fondue set?” [or sweater or trip to Branson] and then getting annoyed if they say they wouldn’t. Either ask and accept the answer, or if you know their tastes just give them the present.

  • CuckoosChild January 26, 2015, 1:09 pm

    I was always raised to politely decline and thank the person for thinking of me when in a situation like that, and suggest something similar. Like “I love the color, Auntie, but I don’t think turtlenecks look very good on me.” Or “Actually, I’m really not fond of Jim Butcher’s novels, but I do like urban fantasy! Seanan McGuire is putting out some really nifty books these days!” (and refrain from saying why I don’t like that item if it isn’t relevant)

    Now that I’m an adult, I regularly ask siblings about specific items or categories before buying presents, like “{sister}, if I were to get you something nice at Lush, is there a scent you really like or don’t like?” Or “{brother}, you still like audiobooks, right?” Asking stuff like that is considerate, as is saving the person from spending money on something you either don’t like or can’t wear.

  • just4kicks January 26, 2015, 1:19 pm

    In a situation such as this, I have told my folks “no, thank you anyway”, pertaining to expensive items. My daughter recently started taking dance classes. My mom called over the weekend to say she saw a dance related item for my daughter in a store she was currently shopping in. It was a jacket that had “JUST DANCE!” or something to that effect. It cost around $75.00. I told her thank you, but that’s a pretty expensive jacket. I said maybe take a photo of it with her phone and text it to my daughter. I said I appreciate the thought, that my daughter would probably like it, but that’s alot of money, and alot of hassle returning it if she doesn’t.
    By the same token, she said dance tights were on sale, for about $6.00, and she is picking up a couple of pairs. That’s great, white or pink please, size medium and thank you very much!!!

  • kit January 26, 2015, 2:00 pm

    I agree – I think it is good to ask before you buy, and especially so in case of kids, and if you say “he/she/we really don’t need it”, it is better both for receiver and gifter in the end (unless your gifter is like Shoegal’s mother, that is ;)).

    OP could probably have worded it better though – not “something I would never put on my son” but rather “something not really practical/too fussy for child this young”, because right now it sounds to me like OP hinted she personally thinks vests in general are awful things that should never been put on children, or maybe that she detests Harley things although her parents love them. That makes it sound rather too strongly worded for me (but I’m not an English native speaker).

  • Lady Anne January 26, 2015, 2:59 pm

    Wish I had had this opportunity. My grandmother always, ALWAYS gave my sister and me exactly the same gift. It was bad enough when we were kids – there’s five years between us – but when we got older and had our own taste in things, it was pretty dreadful. I’ll gladly take Shoegal’s Spode off her hands; my sister actually *liked* Melmac and Correll. I like “ruffles and flourishes” and my sister’s taste ran to very plain, ultra modern. My grandmother generally managed to disappoint both of us.

    I once suggested she spend the same amount of money on each of us, and she replied “That simply isn’t done”. By whom, or why, was never clear.

    • catherine January 27, 2015, 1:58 am

      My MIL would do the same thing with the grandchildren for Christmas. She got all 4 karaoke machines one year, when my 2 daughters couldn’t carry a note in their back pocket, but their cousin was a great singer. Another year, it was remote wireless monster truck toys. My daughters were very girly, and didn’t care for boy toys, but my nephew loved it.

  • lnelson1218 January 26, 2015, 3:40 pm

    If I do buy for friends kids, (sorry folks) I do tend to have to guess sizes. However, I also try to guess large.

    Buy something that would fit a 3 year old and give it to a two year old. Kids grow. For most of the family, we all have Amazon wish list as we tend to be readers and like to actually own the DVDs. Easy on that one.

    But yes, sometimes I do find it easier just to ask.

  • Marozia January 26, 2015, 3:42 pm

    I also ask people if they would like a specific gift. If they say ‘No’, then it’s fine with me.
    As long as it’s done with tact, I can’t see anything wrong with it.

  • AnaMaria January 26, 2015, 4:01 pm

    I think you probably saved your MIL trouble and money by answering her question politely and honesty. Depending on your acting skills and how well she can read you, it might have been far more disappointing for her to see you open the gift and be less-than-thrilled about it. She will have an easier time picking out gifts in the future, too, knowing that you prefer practical clothes.

  • Miss-E January 26, 2015, 4:01 pm

    She asked because she wanted to know, nothing wrong with telling her the truth (as long as you do it kindly and not say something like “are you insane? Why would I ever put something so hideous on my child??”).

    The difference between this story and the one about the teapot is that in that other story there was no question, only an implication that a gift might be given. That scenario had more of a gray area and I think it is rude to tell someone you don’t want a gift that hasn’t even been given yet.

  • Jewel January 26, 2015, 5:03 pm

    If they bring it up in conversation ahead of time (versus buying it without discussion and give it as a surprise), I figure it’s fair game to politely add my 2 cents. It can be as simple as, “That sounds great!” to “That really doesn’t work for us.” You did great, OP!

  • lakey January 26, 2015, 6:17 pm

    If they’re asking, it’s because they want to know. So, yeah, answer honestly.

  • Cass January 26, 2015, 7:29 pm

    It can help practice the polite rejection of gifts if you have my dad! (Seriously, you can have him. :)) He is not capable of getting rid of any item of more cost than a toothpick without asking around if you want X. In 2014 alone, I was asked if I wanted a printer, a coffee table, a lamp, several chairs, and a selection of saws (inherited from his father, who grew up during the Depression and was abandoned/abused as a child which combined to leave him with a LOT of hoarding tendencies). I live in a 700-sq-ft apartment that’s already bursting at the seams with craft stuff and books, and in a climate where it rarely freezes, I don’t really need an ice saw. And to be fair he’s not thinking of my needs at all, or of a twelve-foot saw as a gift, he’s thinking that this thing should absolutely not pass out of the family. Because heirloom garage-sale chairs, I guess.

    I did take the pickled lemons and the router, though.

  • Angel January 26, 2015, 8:10 pm

    It is thoughtful of them to ask. But also perfectly acceptable to say no.

  • NostalgicGal January 27, 2015, 12:04 am

    Amazon Wish List….

    a) may have saved my marriage

    b) see what I need bad but haven’t been able to afford just yet

    c) if I do buy it or otherwise get it I take it off that list immediately

    d) we live in the boonies, Amazon will deliver to our door

    *a, DH has a long list of wants, it’s now in an orderly list and he can’t forget what he was so hep on getting last week that has been superceded by this week’s dire needs. It gets pruned once in awhile and it saves a lot of fights about ‘yes we JUST bought X, no we can’t afford Y, what do you mean you wanted Y worse, and what’s Z about’ ….

    *b, reality here, a few things are four figures, a LOT of it is under $25… we’re not begging for the moon here. A few family and very good friends we have agreements on go ahead and splurge on X, the recipient will always be happy for X. (in my case, yarn and ‘fat quarters’ as I quilt)

    I agree on if you’re asked beforehand you can politely refuse a potential gift.

  • just4kicks January 27, 2015, 12:59 am

    I’ve also posted comments before about my step grandmother giving my sister and I one, usually hideous and ill fitting shirt or sweater for Christmas, while her “real” granddaughter got a mountain of beautiful clothes and gifts.
    I mentioned this post to my mom and she said how upset she used to get Christmas morning with my sis and I sitting there holding one item of clothing that she knew would never fit us, and we would never wear if it did.
    Meanwhile, my step grandmother and her “real” daughter and granddaughter would be “ooohing and aahhhing” over the many pretty items she bought them.
    “Oh, yes!!! That’s the cashmere sweater I called you about!!!
    I couldn’t decide between all the pretty colors….I got them all….you said size seven, right?!?”

    • Cat January 27, 2015, 7:26 pm

      At least you knew the insult was intentional. I still have a pink hoodie printed with big white bubbles on it. It was not meant for me, but for a forty year old male friend. His aunt was getting up in years and he has always wondered if the pink hoodie was meant for one of his sisters and auntie forgot what was in the package and sent it to him in error.
      Somewhere there may be a lady clad in a man’s sweater who is trying not her hurt auntie’s feelings by not using her gift. Feelings notwithstanding, he was not going out in a pink, bubbly hoodie so he gave it to me.

      • Enna January 29, 2015, 11:57 am

        @ Just for kicks: what your step grandmother did was nasty and childish.

        • just4kicks February 1, 2015, 8:04 pm

          Yes, it was. I still remember my mom not wanting to go there on Christmas, because she knew her girls would be slighted so badly. One year, I was getting over a stomach bug, and we opted to stay home. I can still remember my grandfather yelling so loudly over the phone at my mom she burst into tears……And of course we went…..And watched my cousin open gifts for over an hour.

  • Enna January 29, 2015, 11:59 am

    If someone asks if you want ABC there is nothing wrong with turning it down politely and the person who made the offer should except this with grace. There are a few exceptions when you can be firm when people don’t get the hint: e.g. if someone buys a child a toy that they would be scared of e.g. a clown toy or a DVD that is too old or would be too scary for the child or is someone has a reaction to something.

  • Enna January 29, 2015, 12:01 pm

    Sorry hit the submit button too soon: e.g. if somone has an allergy or it would be against their religion/way of life. Such as buying a meat dish for a vegetarain or wine for a Mormon when it is clear they don’t consume such things.

  • Sylvia January 30, 2015, 8:18 pm

    Let her buy the vest. (Kind of surprised that your parents didn’t think of this.) No harm done, and it doesn’t take up a lot of space. Doesn’t mean he has to wear it, except for once while you’re taking pictures.

  • JackieJormpJomp February 1, 2015, 5:46 am

    I think the asking itself makes the refusal a-ok. She’s asking because she is not sure. Don’t feel bad.