Monday, April 4, 2016

Manners Monday: How to Gracefully Receive a Gift You Don't Like

We've all received gifts at one time or another that we were less than thrilled about. Most of us know the polite thing to do after opening a gift in front of the giver is to smile and say thank you, regardless of how we truly feel inside about said present. Sometimes gift giving can get tricky though. As a practical person, I have a hard time keeping a gift that I know I'll never use, even if I know the gift giver put thought, time and effort into selecting it. I think of the money that was spent and it always seems like such a waste to me instead of exchanging it for something that I'd actually use and enjoy. That probably sounds terrible, but I know I'm not alone. As someone who loathes clutter, to me it ends up being one more thing to store in a closet which is the opposite of how I like to keep my home.

On the flip side, when I buy gifts for my husband or family members, I always want to check in and make sure they like it and let them know if it's not of their taste or they don't feel they'll use it, that I won't be offended if they do want to exchange it or even get a refund and use the money towards something they will in fact appreciate. Over the years, I've never really had too many gift 'returns', just the odd clothing item here or there for my husband that didn't fit properly.

Recently, I created some personalized photo gifts and had so much fun selecting which photos I'd use and how I'd lay the pictures out. When I was done and ordered the items, I had a smile on my face thinking about how the recipient would be happy to receive them, after all, they were homemade gifts for very close family who appreciates sentimental photos and anything with a creative touch. Well, you can imagine my surprise then, when I found out they didn't appreciate one of them nearly as much as I thought they would. This person (a male) is practical just like I am, and didn't want to see an item with the best intentions being shoved to the back of a closet (and actually revealed that's where it would end up!). It turns out after some recent home redecorating (which I wasn't privy to beforehand), one of the two gifts no longer matched their decor.

This got me thinking about gifts and how we choose to give and receive them. Personalized gifts are always thoughtful but can sometimes prove to be a challenge. Once something is monogrammed or custom printed, it's set in stone. As a gift giver, we must be certain it's something that will be well received. Likewise, other well meaning gifts such as custom jewelry and handmade items, fit the same bill. For that reason, it's often best to give a gift that is less personalized and specific (but not quite as generic as a gift card-unless it's requested) and can be returned or exchanged if necessary. I felt torn between the practicality side and my emotions. In the end, I had to honor the gift recipients wishes and in our particular case we were actually able to return one of the items (the other was kept) and now I can provide something that will be better suited to them. It's these types of sticky situations that I do my best to decode for you and give you pointers on for your own scenarios, however that certainly doesn't mean I'm exempt from them as you can see! ;)

How to Gracefully Accept a Gift You Dislike

1. Smile-  No matter how much you want to cringe, smile instead. Now is not the time to make a disgusted, confused face or look overly surprised. In any situation, a genuine smile puts others at ease. While you may not love the gift, chances are you do love (or at least like) the person who gave it to you. Think about what their friendship means to you and it won't be hard to do so. If you need to, tell yourself it's secretly a gag gift and they're testing to see how you respond. 

2. Thank the Giver-  Whether the gift giver knocked it out of the park or their choice was a total miss, a thank you is always appropriate when someone gives us a gift, regardless of value or our personal preference for it. Someone took the time, effort and may have spent money to present something they believed you'd appreciate. Whether you are opening up a gift in front of the giver or not, always be sure to follow to follow up with a hand written note as it is proper gift etiquette. You can read this previous post on how to write the perfect thank you note.

3. Compliment the Sentiment- Even when we are confused about a gift giver's choices, know that their intentions were good. Be sure to notice something positive that can be said about the actual item(s) as it's the thought that counts. For the ugliest pair of socks: "You are so thoughtful, you remembered how my feet always get so cold in the winter" or for a horrific scent of perfume: "Thank you so much for thinking of me and look at how pretty this perfume bottle is (if it in fact is).

4. Hint at What You'd Like in the Future- If you received a gift from someone who is notorious for giving strange gifts or from someone whom you'll likely receive more gifts from in the future (ie: your finance, mother-in-law or a new friend), provide some guidance in a gentle way by sharing what you prefer. Even though you might feel they should know you already based on what you wear, what's in your home and are aware of your interests, some people still need you to spell it out. It is important not to do it in an obvious way that makes them feel that you don't appreciate the gift in front of you. After finding something positive and thanking them, state something such as "Have you had a chance to smell the new Tory Burch perfume yet? It's heavenly!" Hopefully they'll ask for a name! If you don't typically wear socks such as our example above, say: "I rarely wear socks, mine just sit in the drawer but these will make my workout outfit extra funky". That way you are still being kind but subtly letting them know you don't prefer to receive socks and why.

5. What to Do With the Gift- After receiving the gift itself, you should never feel obligated to keep it. Personally, I don't like to contribute to the landfill unnecessarily and I know my discarded items will be someone else's treasure so I will typically donate what I absolutely do not like and can't think of anyone that would either. Many times I'll keep an item for a short time (depending on who it is from such as my Grandma) such as a pretty, lidded candle that just doesn't have a scent I like, and then will eventually give it away. If you read my post on re-gifting etiquette, you know that I do re-gift from time to time, although it's very rare and it must be well-suited to the new recipient, not a reason to just save some a few dollars as it can come across as being cheap. If you choose to go that route, be absolutely sure the item will be given to someone who does not know the original giver-this is critical! Try attaching a piece of painter's tape on the bottom and write the same of the giver in case it's being stored in a closet so you don't forget. I once received a small gift back from the person I gave it to a few years later and the same person gave my daughter an obvious re-gift that was not in new condition for Christmas which was both uncomfortable and annoying to me, I would have preferred no gift at all and it got tossed. I just can't help but think of this person differently now (a gift needs to be in its original packaging and should be in new condition). 


Since my blog is designed for women and the majority of gifts we buy are for other women (our mother, sister, daughter, aunt, best friend, co-worker, etc.) I thought I'd share a few of the classic items I like to gift others that are always well received and are also presents I'd enjoy myself or already own and love. When giving a gift, it's always wise to ask for a gift receipt to enclose with the gift in case it does need to be returned or exchanged and it will avoid that awkward moment of something asking you for the receipt and explaining why it didn't work out for them.

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I'd love to hear your stories....have you ever received a gift that you couldn't possibly imagine why it was gifted to you? Have you also found yourself giving a gift that later you came to find out was not appreciated? How did you respond? I'd love to know in the comments below!

As always, thank you for reading! If you liked today's post, please share it with a friend or pin the top title image to Pinterest to refer back to in the future.



  1. I no longer give photos that have the recipient in them. They always seem to see flaws I don't. Funny how that works.

    1. Hi Paula! Yes, you are so right. People can be so vain and picky sometimes when it comes to their appearance. I have never even really been into tagging people in photos on Facebook, however one time I shared several photos as everyone asked to share my baby shower photos and one person told me she wanted her photos taken down, one was with her own daughter and one was with me. The gift I gave was actually a photo of Lily & I for a very close family member so I was a bit crushed that the overall pillow design (which was actually pretty neutral) was considered more than the two faces staring back at him. Sometimes these instances allow us to get to know people in a great way-for better or worse.

  2. What does one do, how does one react when they pick a gift from under the tree and it is a package of tea lights? I was disgusted! I pick my gifts carefully and wrap nicely. Who gifts tea lights? Shouldn't this person, whomever it was, know the gift is not appreciated? I said nothing, just set it aside.

    1. Hi Joanne,

      Thanks for commenting. I'm guessing this was a secret gift-exchange where everyone selected a gift from under the tree? Hopefully any other gifts you received weighed out this particular one because packages of tealights can readily be picked up for $1 at the Dollar store or Ikea, it doesn't strike me as well thought out. I sometimes find that with gift exchanges where the person can remain anonymous, sometimes they don't seem to care, its as if it's an opportunity to pick up a last minute, cheap gift without any repercussions or glances their way. If it was me, I would just say, "Oh, tea lights, thank you." Sometimes when I've been in those situations I've either received really funny, fun or creative gifts and other times just as you described (it could have been a re-gift they were dying to pass along themselves_.

  3. I try to keep several things in mind when receiving a gift; how well does the giver know me? What sort of budget have they to work with? Are they the type of person who genuinely enjoys giving gifts? I've gotten some real duds over the years from the in laws. Mostly, I think, because they see it as an obligation rather than a pleasure. With that in mind, I've learned to just roll with it. Excellent post about a topic I know lots of folks have a problem with.

    1. Thank you so much, Ali! Yes, there are definitely considerations as it pertains to the giver. I am never one to be offended by an inexpensive gift (we never know someone's financial situation or circumstances and sometimes they're gifting all they can afford). It definitely depends on how well the giver knows you. I can relate to the 'obligation' factor and have received some really odd gifts from a few people (usually the same people). Great attitude, all we can really do is roll with it and remember the definition of what a gift is. xx Karla

  4. I haven't received bad gifts just ones that made me feel like an after thought. I stress over giving the perfect gift and the presentation is very important to me. I'm a single mom so money is tight; so, when an exchange of gifts is done and its just handed to me or it looks like something they snagged on the way to me, I will admit, I'm hurt and usually don't exchange gifts in the future with that person. For example, this past Christmas my friend had expressed a wish to host a family game night every week, but didn't know how, so I gifted her two board games, popcorn, some fun candy and wrapped it all up in tissue in a storage container that fits perfectly under her bed. She was thrilled. She got me a plastic crescent moon necklace taped to a card she admitted to me was bought at the 99 cent store on the way to see me. Hurt. I appreciate being thought of, but we've known each other since middle school and meet up a minimum of once a week, do I matter so little? It sadly colored the way I see our friendship. :(

    1. Hi BunnyRun! Thank you for sharing your experience and being so honest with your feelings. You sound a lot like me, I love to put together thoughtful gifts and package them up just so (to me the presentation is just as important as the gift itself). I'm so sorry to hear that happened and I would be hurt as well if I were in your shoes, especially by a friend whom you've known for so long. I have experienced something similar a few times and I always give it another chance and then after that stop gifting to that person if it leaves me feeling lousy afterwards. It's hard sometimes because giving a gift is truly meant to be one from the heart and regardless of what we get in return but it's as you mentioned, it's that revelation that perhaps the value of friendship may be different for the other person than originally thought. Often that's not the case, it just comes down to poor planning and organization on their part. I hope you and your friend will be able to move past it. When things like this happen I try to think about how else that friend is a friend to me (do they entertain more in their home in invite me over more than I do, what I sometimes realize is that in areas they are more thoughtful and strong, I am weak and vice versa. If not, it may be time to share how her lack of consideration made you feel, as it was more of a last minute afterthought. xx Karla

  5. This all sounds very ungrateful. The focus seems to be on what we are getting rather than the sentiment behind it. People give a gift and we thank them for thinking of us. That's what matters, not what we do with it. Personally, I always give a gift that can be returned or exchanged, and if I have bought it online, from somewhere that has free return shipping so that it's simple for them to exchange for something they can actually use. Barneys NY is great for more extravagant gifts. Nordstrom is also fantastic. I love to shop for myself and rarely want anything that anyone gets me, but I absolutely love being thought of, and the gift (for me) is in seeing what someone chose for me.
    And sometimes, if you can't put thought into something, why not skip the gifting altogether?

    1. Dear ee, The focus of the post was on how to gracefully receive a git you do not like. For anyone who has ever received a gift that they didn't care for, or one that was offensive, used, etc., I'm sure they can relate to this post. Three of my five points were about being thankful, grateful, saying thank you and being complimentary focusing on the person who provided it and their best intentions/ thoughtfulness and not on the specific gift itself. I'm sorry you felt it was all ungrateful. The post was intended to convey how to handle the situation, not so much what we do with the gift afterwards, although that bit is included.

      I love how you give gifts that can be returned or exchanged, that is so important. I love Nordstrom for many reasons and that is one of them-it makes gift returns simple for both the gift recipient and myself. I share the same feelings about shopping on my own for myself. Anything that someone provides in the form of a gift in my opinion is a thoughtful gesture that makes me smile on the inside because it means a friend or loved one was thinking of me. I couldn't agree more with skipping the gifts though. I am not a fan of obligatory gifts, I think that's where gift-giving has gone wrong. People feel they 'have' to get something for so-and-so's birthday or for Christmas because they know they are receiving something from that person in return or because they had earlier been given a birthday day gift by that same individual earlier, etc.

    2. Thank you for your response, Karla. I didn't mean that your post seemed ungrateful, but many of the comments after were focused on receiving gifts that weren't good enough for whatever reason.
      I don't know what you think of this, but where i live, (or maybe is should say in my culture) it is expected as a wedding gift that you give a monetary gift, of several hundred dollars. For my wedding, most people followed this custom, although a few gave random gifts, or items off my registry. But there was one gift we opened and it was a couple of dish towels. (I'm thinking similar to the comment above on the dollar store gift). I do not belief this was thoughtless, or insulting, or anything negative at was from a friend or cousin of my grandmother, who had to be well into her 90s at that point and probably was not able to spend a lot of money. But the fact that she came to our wedding, and gave a gift she could afford, was so sweet to me. That was 17 years ago and we still have and use those dish towels.❤️

    3. Hi ee, Thank you for clarifying. :) I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with us. What I've found is that wedding gift giving etiquette is different among various cultures. Great attitude on the dish towels. Honestly, some of the smaller gifts are more useful than fine China, so a great gift is relative to begin with, as you mentioned you still own and use the towels she gifted you with after all these years which is awesome. My grandmother is into her 90's and I know she is on a fixed income as are most elderly folks I've found, it sounds like her gift was perfect. At the end of the day, we have to remember where a gift comes from, the heart. If we are in a position where we cannot afford much, and that is not good enough to the person receiving the present, it says a lot about that person and what they value most. One of my husband's friends gave us one of the nicest, most thoughtful (and most expensive gifts) as a new baby gift, I was shocked to be honest. He purchased an organic crib mattress, the organic mattress pad protector off our registry and several swaddle wraps for our daughter. We purchased the most expensive items ourselves. I know he is someone who had a struggling business at the time and to this day, my heart feels nothing but gratitude and it is of course our most used gift that she still sleeps on every night, but it was the fact that he stretched himself to do something so thoughtful and generous. Now that he is recently married himself, I cannot wait to bless him and his wife back when the time comes. :) Warmly, Karla


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