Thursday, November 27, 2008

There will be gifts: Saying thanks

When I receive a gift, I reciprocate with an immediate gift in return: my thanks. I never thought I'd post on the etiquette of receiving, it seemed so evident to me: say thanks promptly, and unless there's an exceptionally casual relationship, send a handwritten note.

We once gave my brother a fine pocket knife, bought on a trip to Paris. He recently told me he'd lost it, and requested that we replace it on our recent return. (He even specified the brand.) We chose carefully, an
d in fact gave the project an upgrade.

This morning I received his e-mail: "Thanks for knife for winos." (The knife includes a corkscrew.)


So, brotherino, I am outing you here as an inelegant thanker, which rhymes with wanker. Let's review the basics our mother taught us:

1. Mention the actual object, never refer to it generically, e.g., "your gift" or "my birthday present"
unless you've received money (see #3). If you have a box of Thank You notecards, you can use them, but don't let a printed verse stand in for your own words.

(As for the custom of bridesmaids or friends writing Thank You notes to "help" the bride: indescribably tacky.)

2. Include a word that reflects your positive emotion ("delighted", "thrilled" "pleased", "happy to have"); if you have a negative emotion ("mystified", "appalled", "disappointed"), don't express it. Do not mention a gift's shortcomings; I once received a note that read, "Thank you for the ring but I am allergic to silver."

3. Describe how or when you will use or enjoy the gift: "I'm taking it on my next fishin
g trip" or "I'll be reading 'The White Tiger' lounging before the fire at Vail".

If someone gives you money or a gift card, say how you will use it (or think you will). But if your plans for the money would be abhorrent to the donor, tell a tiny white lie: "Aunt Eloise, your gift is a wonderful contribution to my Bali travel fund", rather than "I have to use the money to pay for a math tutor because I'm flunking calculus, must be the partying."


4. Show the donor he or she has some meaning to you other than as a font of gifts: "Grandmaman, when you visit us I hope we can see the new Art Gallery", "Fred is baking your peanut butter cookie recipe!" or even the minimal, "I'm looking forward to seeing you next time I'm home from school."


Today, sister sulks, feeling unappreciated.
Next time buy your own pocket knife, Denny.

5 comments:

greying pixie said...

It took me years to find exactly the Swiss army knife I considered to be light enough in weight but with the essential tools attached for easy travel, ie. knife for cheese and bread, corkscrew for wine - what else does a person need in life? I had already been given two versions, one far too heavy with everything imaginable including magnifying glass, scissors, etc. the other too small to cut anything worthwhile.

No, like bras, the only way to have a practical penknife is to buy it yourself!

I know this is not the intention of your posting, but it made me think how long it took me to find my perfect travelling knife.

WendyB said...

I think that's a spectacular thank you, because you'll get to tell that story for years.

materfamilias said...

Besides the fact that she just made me the loveliest granddaughter, my eldest daughter always pleases me with her promptness in sending thoughtful, well-worded thank yous. After I recently hosted an afternoon with my sisters, who gifted her with a baby stroller, she phoned me to ask for all the addresses so she could send cards out. I was surprised to receive one myself, thanking me for hosting and for all the other things she claims I've done for her.
Before she landed her present job, she worked contract to contract for several years, and was always good about sending a thank you note for the interview itself -- seems to have been appreciated.
These days, we get so little "real" mail that the hand-written, stamped envelope is a novelty in the mailbox and, really, a small way to give back pleasure to someone who's taken the time to do something for us. I've occasionally been delighted to get a little note from a friend thanking me for a dinner I hosted the previous weekend -- the more-common phone call is nice, but the card really stands out.
Great post, Duchesse -- something many folks need to be reminded of.

Duchesse said...

materfamilias: I prefer the card vs the phone call too.

cybill said...

Well said Duchesse! I'm afraid that though I felt your pain, your brothers thank-you email made me laugh and laugh.