‘Tis better to give than receive, especially during the holidays. Here, our very own Mr. Manners, Jake Gaines, who is generous to a fault, sets the record straight on gift-giving etiquette, Secretive Santa largesse and well, the not-so-common thank you note.
Dear Mr. Manners,
It has happened again. I received a gift that was, in a word, awful. I am perplexed how someone who knows me so well consistently gives me less-than-spectacular gifts. What should I do?
-Owed n Olmos Park
Dear Owed A Living,
My good woman, just because you don’t love something you receive from a dear friend whom you think should know you and your taste better, doesn’t make you a bad person – it means you are like the rest of us. My theory in this situation, like many others, is to grin and bear it, and say something neutral like “That’s something else!” or Darling, you shouldn’t have. It’s just too unique” and place it in the cabinet and hope to have a use for it some day in the future. Incidentally, Mr. Manners does not approve of re-gifting. It’s plain ol’ bad karma. How would you like to receive a third or fourth re-iteration of a gift clearly not meant for you? No bueno.
Look, none of us likes to get a gift we don’t enjoy, but perhaps we need to look inward a little on this one. Is the real issue that you think your friend really isn’t as savvy about your tastes as you wish she would be? That seems to be the root of the matter. You like sleek and sublime and she sees you as country kitsch. It’s neither of your faults that you have varying taste. How to resolve? Some people give lovely and thoughtfully chosen greeting cards with a gift card tucked in. Always a sticky wicket since it puts a monetary value on the friendship. Often I love to give a donation in someone’s name to either a favorite charity of hers or mine. During the holidays that can seem like a wise idea when there are so many worthy organizations who need financial help. They’ll even send a lovely card that the donation was made in their name. And, you’ll have taken the high road because the view is so much better.
– Mr. Manners
Dear Mr. Manners,
I mailed a birthday gift to my nephew and never got a thank you note. It was valuable – it was my father’s, his grandfather’s, valuable cufflinks that given by by JFK as a personal gift. It was insured, signed for delivery and I believe, received in good order by him. How do I approach the subject delicately so as not to offend, although it seems that no one under 29 writes a thank you note anymore?
– Rubbed In Rosedale
I regret to inform you that there’s been a death in your family. Who? It’s more like what. “Good manners are not just for company” is phrase I heard growing up time and time again and it seems to be all but barely extinct. We understand this situation from our own family doings. Apparently it happens even in the best of families.
First, it does you no good to fret over a package that wasn’t acknowledged. You know it got there fine, so at least something valuable isn’t lost. You may want to call your nephew’s mother or father, to whom you are related, to re-confirm the package got there. They need to know their son didn’t acknowledge it, but it will likely do no good except for their shrug of the shoulders and garner the response of “Those kids these days”. But really, I don’t let them off the hook so easily. I would actually recommend saying you are cutting back on your largess until a little gratitude is shown. And then stick by your guns, pardner.
I always think to myself, when not receiving a thank you note, of the time it took for me, as the gift giver, to select, wrap, prepare for mail and indeed, even standing in line at the post office. The least that could be done by your nephew is a phone call of thanks, or to utilize a 44-cent stamp, paper, pen and perhaps a little time to create a thank you note that would be considered priceless to the you, the recipient. All you can do is continue to lead by example and be a giving person to others. As Oprah says, “Do your best and people will notice.” So will we.
Dear Mr. Manners,
At this time of the year at my corporation, the Secret Santa gift giving tradition continues. Should I stick to the limit on the gift that is recommended, even if I know the recipient well?
–Perplexed In Pemberton
Dear Santa Baby,
Mr. Manners loves the Secret Santa concept. I have given and received more Secret Santa gifts than you can shake a stick at and find that each year it is a challenge we are always up for. If the limit is the usual $15 to $20, then stick to it. You don’t want to overspend on someone, especially if you know her, because then that gets awkward if the gift you give is obviously beyond the budget given, which looks like you are trying too hard. However, and this is a big however, depending on how well you know the recipient, I like to find the most extravagant item I can that is actually marked down to the specified corporate request for the Secret Santa exercise.
Finding a bargain that is 80% off retail is a thrill a minute and plus, the recipient makes out like a bandit because the gift of $15-$20 is far more valuable than that amount. A silver photo frame that has been marked down from $75 to $19.99 can be found if you look hard enough. That leather passport case that is on sale for $17.49, down from $60, will be long used past this Christmas. So, the sky is endless to help the economy, do good and share your largesse (and superb taste) with a colleague. Now that’s the holiday spirit and we hope you and yours have a wonderful season, with all the cheer it brings, and that you give as responsibly as you drink.