The Birthday Party Raffle

by admin on November 25, 2015

This story is still talked about in my family to this day.

We had a surprise birthday party for my grandfather when he turned 70 – one of the relatives has a pool and he graciously hired a caterer, a band, and purchased all kinds of party games for everyone to play. It was fun and memorable.

Nobody was expected to get gifts, but most of us wanted to get Grandpa SOMETHING – a bottle of his favorite scotch, a card made by some of the younger kids, etc. I think I gave him a watercolor painting I did – I was a poor college student at the time. Nothing fancy, but small gifts, or no gift at all. Nothing was opened at the event, so nobody knew who did and didn’t get anything. The relative who hosted has quite a bit of money and is very generous with it, but most of us don’t have overflowing coffers. Still, we manage.

My Uncle ‘John’ never bothered to get a gift. Instead, he decided that a fitting gift for his father’s 70th birthday would be to tell everyone that he was running a 50/50 raffle, complete with homemade ‘tickets’… and that he’d give the winner the first 50, and make the second 50 my grandfather’s birthday present.

I would understand if John was impoverished – but he actually owns his own business and does pretty well for himself!

We all thought it was pretty gauche, especially since he told my grandfather about it, and apologized because people didn’t buy in to the raffle, so he had no gift to give.

It was cringe worthy. But this is par for the course with John – he refused to pay for his son’s funeral, recently, and crowdfunded it instead.   1123-15

{ 68 comments… read them below or add one }

JWH November 25, 2015 at 8:56 am

As far as I’m concerned, the only appropriate (or nearly only appropriate) crowdfunded funeral was that of His Majesty, Edward A. Norton I, Emperor of the United States, and Protector of Mexico.

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JWH November 25, 2015 at 8:57 am

Sorry … it was JOSHUA Norton. I confused my Nortons …

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Julidu November 25, 2015 at 11:32 am

I paid into that!

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Rod November 25, 2015 at 3:07 pm

That, that I’m ok with.

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stacey November 25, 2015 at 9:37 am

This might be less of an etiquette question and more of a mental health question. When people display behaviors so at variance with the norm, it begs the question “what on Earth happened to you”? The context is based on etiquette, certainly. Very poor form and obviously very poor choice of actions and timing. The root of the issue? I suspect that to be outside the bounds of etiquette.

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lakey November 25, 2015 at 12:54 pm

I don’t agree that it is more of a mental health issue. Using crowd-funding or raffles to get others to fund your own responsibilities such as gift giving or funerals has more to do with a lack of character than a mental health problem. There are people who have been diagnosed and are being treated for mental health issues, such as manic depression, and it can affect their judgement. But the vast majority of people who avoid taking responsibility are simply taking the easy way out.

Many of us have relatives who behave poorly when it comes to taking responsibility. We also hesitate to tell them the truth about what they are doing. You drop hints, you say “no”, and sometimes they still behave like this. It reaches a point where you have to speak up and tell them that they are crossing a line. I have one sibling out of 5 who is like this. It has reached a point where I am simply saying what needs to be said. It’s less frustrating that grumbling behind her back, or feeling angry and resentful.

Also, if OP’s grandfather is reasonable, he understands that it isn’t the relatives’ job to fund Uncles birthday gift.

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Aria November 25, 2015 at 3:59 pm

I don’t think being a miser is a mental health issue. Just sayin’.

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missmiminute November 25, 2015 at 8:40 pm

I think it’s best not to diagnose people online. I once wrote in about a very dramatic actress friend who is quite sane but very poorly behaved and entitled and all I got back were fifty comments about her sanity. As the above commenter said – being a miser isn’t a mental health issue.

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SleepIsabella November 26, 2015 at 2:04 am

Not to mention it’s in very poor taste to diagnose someone online, especially if they have no medical training and a degree to back up their claims. It takes tests and professional guidance to get an actual diagnoses. It’s upsetting when people use it as a catch all when someone behaves very badly in such a dismissive manner.

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kingsrings November 26, 2015 at 3:19 pm

Agree completely. I’m getting pretty tired of seeing every incident discussion on here turn into blames on mental health issues. “Maybe they have autism!” “Maybe they have manic depression!” This is NOT a medical issue discussion forum.

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daphne November 29, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Totally agree kingsrings. I often suspect some of the “it’s autism” posts as being from trolls. Partly because they do tend to elicit many responses and sometimes an argument.

Reboot November 30, 2015 at 12:59 am

It’s pretty tiresome to see as someone who has a pretty significant mental illness and yet somehow manages to be a reasonable, polite person in society. Someone being a jerk is vastly different from someone having a mental illness.

Matt November 25, 2015 at 9:42 am

I think people get a pass on the etiquette of funding a funeral when they’re burying their own children. I don’t know why that part was included.

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Goldie November 25, 2015 at 12:48 pm

+1000

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mark November 25, 2015 at 12:57 pm

I carry insurance policies on my children largely for this reason. To cover the cost of something happening to them. I would personally never crowdfund a family funeral. When my brother passed away indigent we didn’t pass around a plate at the funeral. We paid for it (mostly my parents.)

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lakey November 25, 2015 at 1:04 pm

Like everything else in life, it depends on the individual situation. I think that most of the time it is the responsibility of people to pay for the funerals of their own family members.

I would give a pass to someone who has had a child die, and is too poor to pay for a decent funeral. I would also give a pass to people who have received unsolicited donations after a death of a child has been in the news. Many younger parents may not have the financial resources to pay for a funeral. Often in these cases, people who know the family, understand the situation and do fundraising or set up a donation site, without the parents ever asking for it. In many cases like this, the parent or parents aren’t setting up crowd-funding sites themselves, others are doing it for them out of concern for the parents. This is more of a community looking out for each other, than individuals shirking their responsibility.

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Lanes November 25, 2015 at 3:06 pm

I disagree. They’re your CHILD. If I had to bury my child, I would not care what it cost, what possessions I would have to sell or debt I would have to get into to pay for it.

Regardless, I think that part was included to show this guy is a complete tight-arse, no matter the situation. The OP did mention further up that he is not short of cash himself.

If I’ve grasped what Uncle was doing correctly, he thought he’d sell raffle tickets, give 50 to the winner, 50 to grandpa, and then pocket himself a nice little profit. The guy appears to be in deficit when it comes to classiness.

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Willynilly November 25, 2015 at 3:27 pm

Where did you get the profit idea? A 50/50 raffles is just that. The winner gets 50% of funds,raised and the established “cause” (in this case the GOH) gets the other 50%. That covers 100% of cash collected, no room for profit for the ticket seller.

The benefit, not profit, to John, would be credit for giving the money to the grandfather even though it wasn’t from his personal funds.

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Dance commander November 26, 2015 at 3:30 am

Huh? 50 to the cause, 50 to the winner (quoted from your post) that doesn’t leave any perfect for profit….

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Lanes November 26, 2015 at 3:53 pm

Hmmm… showing my lack of knowledge about raffles apparently! I thought the “first 50” meant $50, not 50%.

Now I get it. Thanks for the education.

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jac November 27, 2015 at 7:58 am

Uncle would still be using someone else’s money to buy a birthday gift for his father.

Goldie November 30, 2015 at 9:09 am

If I had to (heaven forbid) bury my child, I have no idea what I would do, because I’d be too out of it for my words or actions to make any sense for years. I’ve known a few people who have gone through that. One would be fortunate to ever get over that kind of loss, even with years of therapy. Based on that, I am willing to give Uncle a break on this one.

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Vrinda November 25, 2015 at 3:16 pm

Because the original poster thinks it’s in bad taste to crowdfund a funeral, especially four your own child.

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Vrinda November 25, 2015 at 3:16 pm

Type-o, I meant “for,” not “four”

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This OP December 2, 2015 at 12:26 pm

I am okay with chiming in. I’m the original OP.

I should have given more details on this one – basically, my uncle and his son were kind of estranged. My uncle’s ex, the Son’s mother, is very low income.

He didn’t want to pay for the funeral because he thought that she was getting some kind of benefit from it. “She doesn’t have to pay! Why should I?!”

We ended up all chipping in for the crowdfunding and then she ended up chipping in like $25, and he wanted to turn around and bill her for the “rest of her half” since his family paid… We told her he was an ass, and to forget it.

Basically, I should have given WAY more details.

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Surianne November 25, 2015 at 9:11 pm

I agree. I imagine someone whose child has died is going through some pretty serious grief, and it’s not something everyone thinks to put money aside for in advance — most of us expect we won’t outlive our children. I highly doubt he asked for help out of greed or maliciousness.

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Margo November 26, 2015 at 5:09 am

I agree. I can only imagine how painful it is to lose a child, and in most cases it will be a totoally unexpected and unforeseen expense. (Perhaps on top of medical bills, loss of income due to missing work / not being able to work to normal capacity, etc)
asking for help may be, or may *feel like* the only way to manage it. and if you ar dealing with the shock and grief of losing a child then you may not be in any state to think about the best way to make/word such a request.

I agre that it ‘feels’ tacky but I would be very slow to make that judgment where someone has suffered this kind of loss.

In relation to the 50/50 raffle, yes, it’s tacky. However, I can see the possibility that the Uncle turned up having taken people at their word when they’d said gifts were not required, sen that lots of people were giving gifts and decided to try to do something himself. (were the tickets and announcement made in advance, or at the event?)

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InTheEther November 26, 2015 at 2:37 am

It depends. There’s “Oh no, no matter how I try to work it, I just can’t afford a decent funeral. I really need some help.”

And then there’s “Hey, why should I pay for the whole thing. You guys’re related to him too, you need to chip in.”

Via OP’s description, Uncle sounds like the latter.

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This OP December 2, 2015 at 12:28 pm

It was actually that his ex wife couldn’t pay and he didn’t want her to get off free without chipping in. So he refused to pay on that principle…

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This OP December 2, 2015 at 12:39 pm

I should have given way more details… the long and short of it is that they were estranged, and my uncle’s ex, the Son’s mother, is very low income.

He didn’t want to pay for the funeral because he thought that she was getting some kind of benefit from it. “She doesn’t have to pay! Why should I?!”

We ended up all chipping in for the crowdfunding and then she ended up chipping in like $25, and he wanted to turn around and bill her for the “rest of her half” since ‘his’ family paid…

But as far as straight up crowdfunding it to help with expenses, we were okay. It was more the purpose for the crowdfund that we hated.

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gumby November 25, 2015 at 11:36 am

I’m not excusing the behavior. This is deplorable. But it sounds like perhaps John’s business is not doing as well as people seem to think. My husband and I both own our own businesses. We do pretty well but probably not as well as people think. People tend to forget that there’s overhead to a business.

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technobabble November 25, 2015 at 12:24 pm

I was going to say the same thing. I work for my family business (my father is the owner), and people often assume, “Oh, they own the business. They must make lots of money,” which is wildly untrue. True, the owners get to set their own salary, but that doesn’t mean they get to take the entire business’ profits home with them. That would just be poor management.

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LadyV November 25, 2015 at 12:01 pm

CROWDFUNDED his own son’s funeral? There isn’t a circle of Etiquette Hell hot enough for that degree of tackiness. Admin, can we bring back the Etiquette Hell rotisserie?

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admin November 25, 2015 at 3:28 pm

You mean this one?

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LadyV November 25, 2015 at 5:15 pm

That would be the one!

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Lenore November 26, 2015 at 7:23 am

Someone I know posted a screenshot on Facebook wherein an old schoolmate was trying to crowdfund for tickets to her home country for Christmas. Less than one month before Christmas. I understand wanting to see your family, but I don’t think putting the responsibility and/or taking advantage of the gratitude of strangers is the right way to do it. Heck, then I wouldn’t have to wait roughly 2 – 4 years to go visit my parents. Instead of saving up my own money, I could just use Joe Public’s!

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kingsrings November 26, 2015 at 3:24 pm

I can do better – an acquaintance of mine recently crowd-funded union joining dues. He claimed that he needed to immediately join the union for such-and-such reasons, so he needed our help. Geez, whatever happened to getting a job and funding your own endeavors?

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Ellex November 27, 2015 at 4:25 pm

What sort of union dues was he trying to pay that weren’t job related?

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MPW1971 November 27, 2015 at 7:10 pm

Perhaps a dumb question but every union member I know has dues deducted from their pay.

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NostalgicGal November 28, 2015 at 1:30 pm

Exactly, I have worked in several ‘open’ shops over the years (you did not HAVE to join the union to work there but you were really really encouraged to). They took the dues right out of your paycheck. One place I was at went on strike, but I continued to report to work as I was not a union member, and I was not a ‘scab’ as I already worked there. Since I was one of the few in this grey area they put me on front desk phone to be polite to those who called in, take messages, and generally explain the place was shut down for a strike. My union member coworkers left me alone about it because I was ‘doing no useful work’ (aka product was not rolling out the door because of me). The coworkers had union dues, union pension fund and one more thing that they had directly deducted (I want to say ‘strike insurance’ but I don’t think that’s right). The ones on strike did receive some money weekly from the union, hardly what they’d be making if they were working, but.

Dee November 25, 2015 at 12:27 pm

“Nobody was expected to get gifts … so nobody knew who did and didn’t get anything … my Uncle John never bothered to get a gift … so he had no gift to give …”

Clearly, gifts WERE expected and, clearly, it was EVERYBODY’S business who gave what. The raffle was tacky, sure, but it was left as a choice for people to buy into or not. Beyond that, there was nothing about Uncle John’s behaviour that required anything of anyone else. Such outrage on the part of OP when none of the behaviour affected him/her. I wonder if OP looks for issues wherever she/he goes instead of just enjoying the moment?

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iwadasn November 25, 2015 at 6:33 pm

It would be pretty hard to ignore when the uncle was going around complaining that not enough people bought into the raffle for it to work. It’s pretty tacky to get other people to pay for your present to someone else, but it’s even tackier to tell the guest of honor that you didn’t get him a gift because you couldn’t get enough people to pay you for it.

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Dee November 26, 2015 at 12:43 pm

iwadasn – But OP insisted that everybody was intent on ignoring who gave what/anything, so as not to put pressure on anybody if they gave something inexpensive or nothing at all. For Uncle John, though, the rules seem to be different. His present was too tacky (absolutely!), too cheap (none of anybody’s business) and, in the end, nothing at all (again, none of anybody’s business).

Turning this around, Uncle John could easily write in about the cheap gifts everybody else gave – homemade cards, a homemade watercolour painting – and then lament about all the time he spent trying to give Grandpa a great gift of money and letting someone else also get a bit of a cash windfall, while playing a little game. In that case, Uncle John would appear to be the same as the OP – nosy and judgmental. So, no, I don’t give OP a pass just because Uncle John was tacky. None of her business or the business of anyone but the host, particularly since they solved the problem and shut him down. Wasn’t there something better to focus on about the party than just how tacky Uncle John was? And it’s so rich that OP takes Uncle John to task for being cheap when more than a few others were, too, including OP.

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iwadasn November 30, 2015 at 10:07 am

The problem isn’t that Uncle John isn’t spending a lot of money, it’s that he expects others to spend money for him. A relative giving a watercolor painting as a gift is fine; a relative demanding that someone else paint a watercolor for him to give as a gift would not be.

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Dee November 30, 2015 at 12:42 pm

iwadasn – But OP makes Uncle John’s not spending money into an issue, so it IS the problem, to OP. OP brags how nobody was judging anybody else and then goes on to judge Uncle John. If OP doesn’t want her/his painting (which we don’t know is of any quality – I can paint a watercolour in a few minutes but it doesn’t mean it’s worthy of toilet paper) judged then he/she needs to live by that and not judge what others give or don’t give. But it’s clear that the real issue behind this letter is OP’s particular focus on Uncle John, no matter what he does for whatever reasons.

Devin November 30, 2015 at 2:47 pm

As I read it, the only reason they knew Uncle didn’t give a gift was by his own admission. If he had just attended the party, gave well wishes, and not tried to come up with this ruse; no one would have been the wiser. It sounds like when his plan to crowdfund his gift fell through, he ousted himself as the cheap skate.

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This OP December 2, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Yeah. We literally would not have cared.

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This OP December 2, 2015 at 12:36 pm

I do lead a pretty joyful life, actually.

Gifts were not opened and mentioned at the party, except for John’s weird raffle moments. I know about the scotch bottle, as that’s what my parents got.

But several people didn’t get anything / just came to eat and enjoy the party. My point was that had John not mentioned that this was a gift / just treated it as fun, then I don’t think anyone would have overtly paid attention to it. He clearly WANTED to do something, but didn’t bother to do it ahead of time, and instead, decided to ask people to chip in for a cash gift.

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Becca November 25, 2015 at 1:35 pm

I work for a place where the owners haven’t taken a paycheck in about six years. They can keep their crew afloat (kind of) by cutting their salaries out. Granted, yes they have money from other sources but folks often assume “owning” a business means you’re over flowing pocketbooks must be really heavy!

Also a good reason to be “self employed” is because following social norms is a challenge. I know quite a few business owners who have odd quirks and others cant figure them out. Many are notorious for being cheap as well.

That aside if he needs assistance, set up a go fund me and leave Grandpa out of it! How ridiculous of him. I hope otherwise the celebration was a hit for the birthday boy and his loved ones

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Karen L November 25, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Crowdfunding wouldn’t work if idiots didn’t toss their money away to the gimme pigs. At least your family had the good sense not to “crowdfund” the 50/50 raffle.

(Oh, man, I just got the pun — gimme pigs/guinea pigs. I must be the slowest person on earth… But at least I don’t crowdfund crap!)

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Willynilly November 25, 2015 at 2:43 pm

I think 50/50 raffles are a ‘know your audience’ thing. To be honest, overall I don’t think it’s an inappropriate thing to do at a party. Obviously in this family it’s not cool, so it went over like a lead balloon, but in general they can be fun. It’s not like the organizer profits off it. And in this case there was no expectation uncle John buy a gift for the GOH, so I don’t think trying to organize a bit of fun at the party was so terrible… again the sin IMO here was not knowing it wasn’t a crowd that liked 50/50s.

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Surianne November 25, 2015 at 9:10 pm

I agree, I didn’t see anything wrong with this other than he misjudged his target audience.

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Ulla November 26, 2015 at 3:18 am

I think it might have gone quite differently if he’d given even small token gift to grandpa, and then suggested that why won’t we have 50/50 raffle for fun at the party, and give the other 50% to grandpa (and other for winner). This would be totally different case, and not tacky at all.

The tacky part was that he wanted to present the raffle money collected from other people as his present to grandpa. That is, he was going to take the credit for the present without contributing for the present himself (and no, I don’t think just organizing the raffle at the party or making few tickets can be counted as reasonable contribution in this case). Relatively similar situation would be if you collect money for group present and then put only your own name on the card, even if ten other people contributed to the present too.

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Willynilly November 26, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Except if he is openly “selling” the tickets and openly drawing a winner and presenting the prize at the party, everyone, including grandpa, knows that the funds were from everyone.

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Surianne November 26, 2015 at 4:08 pm

Hmm, I think the way I’m interpreting it isn’t that he considered the money to be his present to Grandpa, but that the organizing of the raffle was his present. Like, the idea and the work coordinating it.

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This OP December 2, 2015 at 12:31 pm

No, it was the money. Sad to say.

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This OP December 2, 2015 at 12:30 pm

I agree, we all would have played along if it wasn’t like, “Hey, better donate something, I didn’t get anything for Dad.”

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Vermin8 November 25, 2015 at 3:50 pm

I do agree that this was tacky. Either get Gramps what one can afford or just give him good wishes. It sounds like it doesn’t matter if no gift is given.
But John’s owning a business is irrelevant. First, it’s not the place of anyone other than John to make an assessment as to his financial health. Even if his business is thriving, it’s up to John to decide where the money would best go. I get tired of people declaring etiquette crimes in regard to a perceived lack of generosity based on “they can afford it.” The latter to me is a worse etiquette crime than a cheap present or lack of one.
Second, even if he is destitute, this would still be tacky. It smacks of taking credit for other people’s contributions. Give what you can and if you can’t let the person know you care in non monetary ways.

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Cat November 25, 2015 at 5:04 pm

If I did not have relatives like this, I would not have believed it. As it is, I am glad I am not stuck with this guy too.
My brother’s name was on Dad’s bank accounts so he could pay for Dad’s funeral. He refused to attend the funeral and left me to pay for it. He bought a new house on Dad’s money, which he kept for himself.

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daisy November 25, 2015 at 5:22 pm

Crowdfunding a funeral is not a new idea. See the “Saucer-burying setup” scene in “Porgy and Bess.”

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Anonymous November 25, 2015 at 6:18 pm

I think the raffle was rude. John would have been fine not to give a gift, or to give a small gift, or a DIY gift, but the raffle is rude, because it involves hitting OTHER people up for gifts of money. All John did was make the tickets, and organize the raffle (and really, a 50/50 isn’t hard to organize), and, if the raffle had succeeded, he would have gotten all the credit for it, without having contributed anything to it. Since nobody bought into the raffle, John learned through natural consequences that his actions were rude, because nobody was willing to participate in financing John’s “gift” to the OP’s grandfather.

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NostalgicGal November 25, 2015 at 8:28 pm

The raffle was past TACKEE.

Even when I’m self employed I can figure out a gift when I’m trying to pay the overhead (yeah been there too when my whole pay for the 4 day event was picking up Drive Thru McArches for the drive home)….

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just4kicks November 25, 2015 at 9:19 pm

My loser (rude I know, but true) uncle quit his umpteenth job in a row to “make furniture”.
Ok.
I was a little girl, and my folks saw a doll house he made for one of his daughters.
They approached Uncle months before my bday, and gave him money (for his time and materials) to make one for me.
This was to be my “big” gift, so I got clothes, books, crayons etc.
At my party (family only), after I opened all my gifts, my mom sent me around the room to give thank you’ s and hugs to all the relatives.
When I got to my Uncle, he said loudly, “Do you MY gift?!? I got you the doll house! And I made it too!”
I saw my folks exchange “the look”, and when everyone went home asked what was up?
My folks said “Yes, your uncle made you the doll house….but, we PAID him TO….it was a gift from US, and he took credit for it!!!”
Oh, now I know what the “look” meant….

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InTheEther November 26, 2015 at 2:50 am

There’s ways a raffle like that can be done well.
The uncle’s sounds really slapped together. Then he went to the prospective recipient and said, “yeah, I was going to give you something good, but these other people are cheap.” Never mind it doesn’t sound like he was putting any money in himself.

At the high school I attended the senior class was always in charge of several yearly programs and did a lot of fundraising for senior trip. A couple months before Christmas one of our teachers had a house fire. Didn’t lose the house, but they had to toss a lot of stuff because of smoke damage. So the class decided to put a huge jar of jelly beans out in the cafeteria with an announcement via the office. The one who guessed how many were in there (or got closest) would be given it at the Christmas program. Guesses were a dollar and secretly all the money went to a wallmart gift card for the teacher. It worked out great, a 2nd grade girl got to take the truly massive amount of jelly beans home, and the teacher was appreciative of the $110 or so she got. And had the plan completely failed, we knew better even as dumb high school kids than to rub her face in it.

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Aleko November 26, 2015 at 8:53 am

This is a classic case of going and getting yourself a bad name.

Totally agree that it’s possible that Uncle John’s business isn’t doing well at all, but of course he has to (or feels he has to) keep up appearances of affluence in order not to look like a loser to potential clients. So he may really not have been in a position to give his son a proper funeral (whatever he feels a ‘proper’ funeral is), and if so it was not unreasonable for him to ask family members and friends for help. I imagine that it’s his track record in trying to crowdfund a present from him to his father, plus his crassness in blaming the family to his father for not playing along, that makes the OP dismiss him as a shameless cheapskate.

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MPW1971 November 27, 2015 at 7:25 pm

Any excuse I can think for the behavior of Uncle John, is grasping at straws. It’s certainly a novel idea to arrange a raffle to create a gift, but there’s no way I can justify this as an acceptable “excuse” for not presenting even a token gift. Gifts need not be expensive or store-bought, but should reflect thoughtfulness and some effort – and this is neither.
On the other hand, there are plenty of nefarious motivations that can be read into this. Perhaps Uncle John was hoping to also enter the raffle himself – or maybe it would be his wife instead – and the contest was rigged to guarantee him the 50% profit? I’ve been to charity events where the winner of the 50/50 draw turned around and donated their winnings to the charity – to the great favor of the other guests – so even if I had been present at this event, and found that I had bought the winning raffle ticket, I’d be happy to give it all to the guest of honor. What good reason could there be for this?

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Mojo November 28, 2015 at 5:21 am

Uncle John just didn’t think it through.
‘Hey everyone, thanks for coming. I haven’t bought Grandpa a gift, so if you can all pony up and hand me some cash, that would be great. Oh, and if you’re lucky, I’ll let one of you take some of the cash home!’ Doesn’t sound so good, does it?

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This OP December 2, 2015 at 12:43 pm

The best part was it was a dollar to buy in so it would have all been in ones.

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