When Someone Returns A Gift You Gave (You Asked)

White Cream Water Lily by Marie Anakee Miczak copyright, all rights reserved by GaveThat.com

Over the past few weeks readers have had a burning question... what do you do when a friend or loved one returns a seemingly unwanted gift you gave them?

In many cases this is one of those life situations that can cause an emotional roller coaster. As I've mentioned in one of my first posts here the act of giving can be incredibly deep and meaningful to the giver. When this passing of care, love, and intimate feelings are interrupted in some way a great deal of hurt can follow. Hurt that can be greatly squelched if only the question of why was answered. The problem is many people returning gifts are afraid of a confrontation or to hurt you any further and will try to be as vague as possible. The good thing is you can find closure in some of the most common reasons why a gift has been returned below. First, how should you handle the situation when it first happens?

What to do when a person returns a gift?
Etiquette tomes all say the same thing, there is only one thing to do when someone says no thank you and that's to accept its return without confrontation or making any sort of a grand ballyhoo. Your emotions may rise and you might even be slightly shocked or put off. Try to keep all of this in check and accept the item back with grace.

In a calm tone you can also ask why your friend is giving the item back? If the reason is something you feel is a misunderstanding you can gently ask them to please reconsider taking it. If they still refuse that should be the end of it. Keep a stiff upper lip, say OK and move on. I like to think gift giving is, not about you or me, it's about them! They might be setting healthy boundaries which are deeply personal to them.

For more on healthy boundaries, including gifts, watch online this video by one of my favorite YouTuber's holistic psychotherapist Victoria Lorient-Faibish.

Affirmation: “My gift recipients have the freedom to do whatever they want with my gifts (my attention, help, etc.)—since it is now theirs.” It is OK for them to reject the gifts and you can still feel good because you gave in the spirit of true unconditional, non-demanding love.
Tom G. Stevens

Why They Might Have Returned Your Gift
While each situation is unique the factors causing a person to return a gift usually are not. The person returning your gift might be trying to send you a message or they might actually be acting in your better interest. The latter of which could be one of the best and most meaningful gifts to receive. That's why it's important not to jump to conclusions or take anything too personal initially. Especially if we're talking about an established relationship of many years.

"Talk not of wasted affection - affection never was wasted."
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
So what are the common reasons people decline gifts? Here is what I've found:
  • They simply do not like it. Yes, this has to be one of the few reasons that isn't very socially sound or high on the etiquette list. Still it's a valid reason and it can be common among close friends who frequently swap gifts anyway. What can be hurtful is when a person you do not know well returns a gift with a frank, I hate this or This is so ugly why did you give me this? comment to go along with it. This sheds a lot of light on the individual you're dealing with and what their level of gratitude and entitlement is (for more on what should have been done, read this by Emily Post). Accept the gift back graciously and think twice about giving anything else to this particular person in the future.

  • The gift didn't fit. This again is very common among close friends and relatives. Things happen! This is also another good reason to read our The Top Gifts Your Shouldn't Give article which helps guide you through avoiding particularly tricky gifts that might not go over very well. If you're gift didn't come with a gift receipt the person might feel it better to give the gift back to you instead of re-gifting it or trying to sell it.

  • They already have one. Great minds think alike and someone else might have beat you to the pass. In most cases the person returning the gift will let you know flat out that your gift is a duplicate. Take it back and either use it yourself or try to get your money back. One nice thing about the latter is you can use the refund to purchase another gift and try again.

  • They're Just Not That Into You. Quoting the hilarious and often times true book by Greg Behrendt, this is an area where very special attention should be paid. If you're giving a gift to someone because you have obvious romantic feelings you're trying to convey (good for you!) and the person returns the gift it should be clear that they're not interested. Do not take this personally and even better, consider yourself as having very good taste. This person is being honest with their feelings and you not to mention very chivalrous. There are a lot of people out there today who are not and look to use and exploit peoples feelings any chance they get for their own personal gain. Move on and keep trying with others you find interesting!

Another thing to think about when it comes to romantic gifts is that a person might be interested in learning more about you but feel it's too early in the relationship for gifts just yet. They also might feel you're trying to buy their affection (which never works by the way!). If you think this is the case save the gift and give it later, if you can, once the relationship has progressed. Betsy Prioleau in her book Swoon also makes an interesting point on why giving men physical gifts can be particularly tricky (also read further below):
"Women put stock in presents, they take them to heart and regard them more intimately than men."

  • It's a guy thing. I've been curious as to why there has been a highly disproportionate number of women telling me their gifts to men were rejected and returned, and in some cases rather rudely to boot. Betsy Prioleau in her book Swoon along with others have shed a lot of light on this recently with the ultimate answer seeming to be machismo. Along with Prioleau's telling quote above she also says physical love tokens from men have been practiced for so long and is so widespread (79% of cultures do it!) that it has become ingrained in courtship.  Some men maybe feel bad excepting things when they themselves have not given you anything (yet) &/or they have no desire to really ever start dating or forming a commitment, something gifts can strongly represent to them. Dating coach Matthew Hussey writes, "...men don't value what they didn't earn in the first place." 18th century painter Sir Joshua Reynolds noted the same hundreds of years earlier saying:
"Men are like certain animals who will feed only when there is but little provender, and that got at with difficulty; but refuse to touch it when there is an abundance before them."
This seems a likely answer to the baffling returned birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah, etc., gifts, many of which were probably merely given in friendly gestures of kindness, the way they're also given to girlfriends and family members. Steve Sims of the Bluefish concierge service gives sage advice in Glamour for getting around all this:

"Go for experiences, not [physical] items and focus on the message, not the money. If the gift is financial, it can always be topped. When it evokes a great memory, it can't." They suggest renting a dream car for a long day of scenic driving, a boat for fishing, tickets to a game or concert and so on or being extra nonchalant and extending an invitation to something you're already doing. A charity event or big bash, Salsa lessons, a concert, a lovely restaurant, a picnic in the park, a bistro you're sitting at for hours anyway. If they come, share with them, and if they never do who cares. You're having an amazing experience and the opportunity to invite others still exists.
  • They feel like you're trying to buy their time or friendship. As mentioned above some people have had run ins with people who thought the only way to a relationship was through gifts and trying to buy another persons time. In many cases these people trying to buy others can act hurtfully or inappropriately and then, in an attempt, to cover or smooth the situation shower the person with gifts. This becomes a vicious and damaging cycle in the relationship. In most cases, people who have experienced this behavior in their life will now be very leery of excepting any gifts from people they do not know well. They also do not want confrontation and will avoid it at all costs.
"If you haven't come to fully accept yourself with both light and dark facets and feelings, how can you possibly like and respect yourself? This issue sets you up for having to buy another's love with gifts, gestures and behaviors that consistently place another's desires and needs before your own." -Shari Schreiber, M.A.
Accept the return gracefully and if you value the relationship, keep it going until the person sees you as a good, trustworthy person who is giving gifts out of generosity and true care. As with many things lasting friendships can take time to materialize and that's OK because it builds perspective and meaning.

Watch holistic psychotherapist Victoria Lorient-Faibish talk about The Pattern of Control Through Generosity:

  • The gift can be seen as inappropriate. This is one avenue that can go in many directions. One of the most glaring is giving gifts privately to subordinates at work. If someone, especially women, feel their boss is giving them personal gifts the right thing to do is always to return them. Some companies also have value caps where expensive gifts are simply not allowed. In these hard economic times no one wants to jeopardize their job or position. One also has to think about married individuals accepting gifts from the opposite sex. Especially if the gift giver is single. This can make people feel uncomfortable and their wishes should be respected.

  • The relationship fails to warrant such a gift. Lately I've noticed many people coming to this page because they want to return a thank you gift specifically. The reason is possibly explained in this insightful WSJ article by Melinda Beck:

    "It's possible, of course, to over-do expressions of gratitude, particularly if you try to show it with a gift. "Thanking someone in such a way that is disproportionate to the relationship—say, a student giving her teacher an iPod—will create resentment, guilt, anger and a sense of obligation," says Dr. Froh.

    "Gratitude can also be misused to exert control over the receiver and enforce loyalty. Dr. Froh says you can avoid this by being empathic toward the person you are thanking—and by honestly assessing your motivations." (also see the video above by Victoria Lorient-Faibish as she speaks more about this as well). Read the entire article here.
Never give anyone more than they are emotionally capable of receiving, or they will have no choice but to hate you for it.
Indian Monk via Elizabeth Gilbert

  • They feel you're trying to reform them. Some gifts can have the unintended (or intended) effect of trying to tell someone something about themselves. For instance exercise DVD's for someone who the gift giver thinks is out of shape or self help books for someone who is single. Giving such gifts out of the blue and without any evidence that the gift recipient has been wanting such things can sadly turn the person off. When shopping for gifts it's always good to think about what message your present will carry. Will it say I love you or I care about you as you are?
  • They want to live a minimalist lifestyle. I've noticed a growing movement to remove what some deem clutter from their lives or they could be someone grappling with hoarding tendencies. This is usually rather obvious by minimalist decor or a general lack of interest in acquiring new things on a regular basis (another example of why getting to know people well prior to giving physical gifts is important).

For many minimalists, people in general and those deemed as already having everything experts are suggesting more and more to give gifts that are experiences. Italian Vogue editor Franca Sozzani writes, "Everyday I receive a large quantity of bags. I don't use bags. If you stopped to think about it even for one second you could come up with a new idea, a different one." and then mentions, "Choosing a book, dedicating it, is more personal, less expensive and it stays with you forever." along with a pack of movie tickets, a gift membership to a museum, spa treatments, a trip. Read the entire article here, it's eye opening.
  • They feel you've put yourself out/over extended yourself. In our current economic climate this is a very common reason to consider. One that might show incredible care in the person who has returned your gift. Even though it might not feel like that at the time, your friend might have a clearer perspective on the situation and wants to save you heartache in the future due to a loss of income or mounting bills.

In some cases people are so enamored with someone else and so interested in filling a perceived need that they will overextend themselves and give a gift they really cannot afford. If a true friend catches on to this they might feel compelled to give the gift back to you. In some cases your gift could have been acquired at a real bargain or is a possession you have long had. It could have even been a past gift. In such cases you can try and explain and re-give the gift but if they're adamant about not taking it, accept it back and move on from there. If you have a true friendship with this person there will be time enough to give other gifts.

One other thing to consider is the power of being positive in both your thinking and speech. People will often feel guilty if they received a gift from a person, especially an expensive one, and then later on hear over and over again how this person has no money or is so bad off. Once this becomes a persons MO few will want to accept gifts from them of any kind. No one who cares wants to feel like the cause of someones unhappiness and/or possible downfall. Once again, when feeling the need to share negative or unhappy news make it to someone who can really help. Broadcasting it to everyone rarely helps to get anything accomplished and can actually drive what a person needs the most to cope with life away... friends!
  • They Forgot You Gave It To Them (recycling gifts). Anonymous wrote:
Another possibility is that they have forgotten that you gave them the gift. And it doesn't always mean that they did not enjoy the gift. In one case a former lover gave me a book I'd given him 4 years previously because he thought I would enjoy it! (It was the very same copy as I'd gotten the book signed by the author.) I forgave his forgetfulness and was glad to have a copy of a great book.

  • The wedding was called off. Lillian Eichler writes in her etiquette book, "If wedding presents have been received from friends these also must be returned (along with expensive gifts, letters and the engagement ring back to the groom) with a brief note explaining that the wedding is not to take place. It is necessary to thank the donor as warmly as if nothing had happened."

Whatever the reason ultimately is, which may never actually be uncovered, please do not beat yourself up or stop reaching out towards others through giving. I like to ponder the many gifts that can be given that are hard for others to refuse such as: giving a compliment, the time of a fully present listening ear, holding the door for someone, being supportive, kind and compassionate. For more see my post Simple Gifts to Give. Happy giving!

"The gifts of caring, attention, affection, appreciation, and love are some of the most precious gifts you can give, and they don’t cost you anything” —Deepak Chopra

For anyone having a hard time dealing with rejection, depressive feelings, hopelessness call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to speak to a real person.

PS... want to see quite possibly the ultimate returned gift? Click here for one I found in Return To Sender.

Thank you everyone who has shared their personal stories with us all! Do you have a reason or story as to why you felt compelled to decline a gift? Have you had a gift returned to you? Please share by leaving a comment about your experiences.

( This is article part 1 of 2, part 2 looks at how and why to return a gift with care. )

Also Read:
- How To Decline Gifts with Grace - Saying No Thank You
- Can I Ask For My Gift Back?
- Return To Sender
- Simple Gifts to Give
- This Is Your Brain in Love (review)
Image: copyright MAM for GaveThat.com.


Anonymous said…
Wow, was this ever dead on advice! Years ago, you would see someone not accepting a gift because they knew the person couldn't afford it. Not any more! I've noticed in my own vast experience in relationships with men, giving them costly gifts is almost always a mistake. Men often don't like you to throw them birthday parties either for the same reason, (surprised?). That is because most men worth their salt do not like to feel that they "owe" you and over-the-top displays of generosity like this can actually trigger resentment. Women need to let men chase them, not the other way around. Let him win YOU with wineing, dining and presents. Your relationship will last much longer if you do. (Submitted by someone who has been married to the same man for 30 years so I think I know what I'm talking about!)
Angie said…
I didn't know that this was such a phenomenon! If I give a handmade gift and the recipient does not want or appreciate it, I would much rather have them give it back to me than give it or throw it away. A lot of time, energy, and thought goes into a handmade gift. That's just my 2 cents on the issue.
Gave That said…
Hi, thank you for your comments!

@Anonymous you bring up a couple of points that I was also thinking about but did not really cover in the article itself. 1) that gifts, especially expensive ones, can cause a person to feel indebted to the giver. Most people do not wish to be placed in such a position.

2) that people today seem to be made more and more to feel that in order for someone to get to know them--they have to show net worth or that they have something, like gifts, to offer. This is of course very wrong. People should want to get to know a person because of care, not because of what a person can give. There will always be a question in the back of a persons mind if that person really cares about them or if they're just in the relationship to get as much as possible. That of course is an awful thing to go through. It's much better to take the money you would spend on gifts and use it instead internally... seek professional help, upping ones self esteem and so on.

And yes, you are an expert in my book!!!

@Angie, yes my sentiments exactly! I think you speak for most people who create their own gifts to give--sometimes a person felt like they could not keep a gift because they were concerned it was going to be ruined in some way so they had to return it but I fully understood. I like the way you turned it into a positive and hope that readers will be able to do the same instead of feeling snubbed, hurt, etc.

Thank you again for commenting and please keep coming back and adding your insight!
Anonymous said…
What about the situation where you were close but you have drifted apart and are now only acquaintances and now 4 months later the person returns a birthday gift to you? I think this is absolutely rude and insulting and a way to try and hurt you. Maybe they feel rejected and as a way to gain control they are rejecting you back.
Absolutely ridiculous.
Gave That said…
@Anonymous, that is a hard one and I'm very sorry you went through that! Your reasoning sounds rather on the mark although some people, as seen in Part II of the post: "How To Decline Gifts with Grace - Saying No Thank You" might be doing this to send the message the relationship is over and they do not wish any further contact with the gift giver. All one can do is respect the other persons decision, move on and not let this prevent future giving! That last bit I think can be the worst scar.
Anonymous said…
somedays ago a gift was returned to me.I felt terribly bad and sad :( because I had given the gift with all my heart and when he returned the gift I felt so frustated, many feelings!!! His argumentations weren´t enough clear. He was angry with me, but I think that is not the best way to solve things. I think that one should never return a gift, it makes you feel so sad!
Gave That said…
@Anonymous I'm so sorry this happened to you--thank you for sharing your feelings and hopefully others thinking about returning this will consider how the giver may feel. Also that anger can sometimes pass and waiting before doing something final (returning gifts) might be best.
Anonymous said…
I gave small gifts to a colleague I liked with a card at Easter and Christmas, then one Christmas after giving a giftcard for them to have a meal out I sent a calendar to their house and suddenly they errupted and returned everything in its packaging unused. It was a shocking hurtful experience and has taken months to put it to rest.
Anonymous said…
I bought a present for this guy am seeing we dont really go out just meet up for abit. Anyways i bought him a present for his birthday and e didnt take it and asked me to return it. i felt so hurt and upset. but he said he doesnt like taking things of anyone. could it be that he doesnt have feelings for me and is just using mefor abit of pleasure i dont know and ant understand it. please help
Gave That said…
@Anonymous, I'm so sorry this upset you so. The conclusion you have come to is pretty much the same one that I would. He did state he does not feel comfortable taking gifts from people and it's important to respect a persons wishes even if it differs from the way you, me or others may think of doing things.

On a side note, it seems like dating in the US right now is *not* very fun compared to our grand parents and great grand grandparents. I'd personally like to see things go back to just plain having fun, being social, meeting *lots* of people which you do activity based dates with (dancing, movies, outdoor stuff) & through that maybe find "the one". Instead of meeting & focusing all attention on one person at a time and having to analyze every move, them & the relationship. This is what a pair of 80 year old's who have been married to the same person for over 60 years recently told me & I think they are right!

Also have to mention I was sent, "He's Just Not That Into You" by Greg Benrendt when it first came out to review and it's a really good book every dating woman should read. You only need to read it once and it's done with great humor but is still right on. Highly recommend it.

I must apologize for this being so long and divergent from the main topic of "giving gifts" but it feels really crummy that modern dating has gone in the direction of "hurt" that it has for many and that there *is* a better, more loving option that works. Ask grandmum or find elderly mentors to talk to and find out!

Wishing you much peace, M
Asha said…
Yes I had sent a gift to my deast guy and he didnt open the box to see wht was there and he returned back saying he doesnt deserve a gift...
Although we havent been committed so much... I show the committment and try getting the same...may be he feels pressuresized...is that the reason he wud have sent it back?
Gave That said…
I'm starting to wonder if these, "I do not deserve this gift" type responses are in reality a Freudian slip? In every case, I've personally seen, this said it really was true. The person did not deserve anything because their treatment was less than kind. In some cases downright awful. We deserve loving treatment and some people are sadly not the one to give or even receive that.

@Asha go with your intuition, it is probably 100% right. We can only respect the other persons wishes and move on. It feels good to be free actually.

Wishing you much peace, M
Asha said…
Hi Anonymous who wrote on Oct 8th ...the case is very similar and exactly same and almost same wordings as you wrote happened to me also.

The guy i was seeing bday was on Oct 4th in Maryland... and Im depressed and sad and wondering why this happened...

May be u can write to me and we share our thoughts and understand the situation better...
Gave That said…
For anyone having a hard time dealing with rejection, depressive feelings, hopelessness please seek someone real to talk to... call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or many phone books have local hotlines.

Also added a really, really thought provoking video, "The Pattern of Control Through Generosity" by Victoria Lorient-Faibish which I hope everyone coming to this page looking for answers will take the time to watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2k73P6vWEg
Anonymous said…

Another possibility is that they have forgotten that you gave them the gift. And it doesn't always mean that they did not enjoy the gift. In one case a former lover gave me a book I'd given him 4 years previously because he thought I would enjoy it! (It was the very same copy as I'd gotten the book signed by the author.) I forgave his forgetfulness and was glad to have a copy of a great book.
Gave That said…
@Anonymous , Thank you so much for taking the time to share this! I'm going to include it in the post above so that everyone will be sure to see it.
Anonymous said…
I recently gave my so called bf roses n left them on his front door with a note. He had been out if town n.I knew he had was due back. He sent me a long text message n basically told me it was infair to me or anyone because he was always out of town. I asked for some jewelry I had left that was a gift from my sis. He then told me He would let me know the next day when to pick it up. Next day he text saying my jewelry was hanging on his fence in athe bag to pick it up soon and stay safe. I arrived later n saw a bag hanging on his fence. Along with my jewelry were the roses and note I had given him. I saw it as him being malicious n evil. And felt he wanted to cause me more pain....
Gave That said…
I'm sorry that happened to you @Anonymous , I think anyone would feel the same way if it happened to them!
Anonymous said…
What about when the person who gives was see you and all of the sudden start seeing someone else?
Gave That said…
@Anonymous If I'm reading this correctly perhaps my other post on Declining & Returning love token gifts after a romantic relationship has ended would be more helpful to you: http://www.gavethat.com/2009/05/declining-gifts-with-grace-saying-no.html .

It also includes why some try to "shower a person with gifts early in the relationship", red flags and so on related to gifts.

I adore this quote by Helen Keller, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.” Switch the "Character" to "true love" and I think it's very fitting!

Best wishes to you and something better is coming!
Kanashii said…
another reason for returning a gift to the giver, which has not been stated here, is that although you love the gift you know that you will not use it (no time) and thus do not believe you deserve the gift/that someone else would get a lot more use/fun out of it than you can

just my 2 cents
Gave That said…
Thank you @Kanashii, I'm sure someone would be very understanding if they were told this was the reason.
Anonymous said…
i gave a friend a really cool building kit. She HATED it and she thinks i need to learn i should give special gifts! It is!!! HELP!!!
Gave That said…
@Anonymous comment directly above: Please do not beat yourself up. I love the quote: "Talk not of wasted affection - affection never was wasted." —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The very first reason (They simply do not like it) might apply to your situation.

I wounder if "special" really means "romantic"? If so that would be a new reason not really covered above and something I look forward to writing more about soon. In the mean time here are some favorite romantic gift ideas thus far.
Anonymous said…
Being the man in the relationship, it failed after about 2 months of dating. I had received a birthday present the month before. Finding out that I was mislead about her ex and other misleading games that some women play, I decided to return her gift in person. She wasn't home so I left it at the front door. I would have givin anything to see her expression. My thoughts were, you have nothing to give and I don't want your junk. Thanks but no thanks....The end....
Anonymous said…
It were our birthdays in December , we both celebrated our birthdays and exchanged gifts, had a great time. Nx thing I know he was pulling away and finally told me he's been seeing someone else since November. I packed everything he had given to me into a bag and dropped in front of his hosue. He messaged later on and said I broke his heart so badly by doing that, that I am disrespectful of what we left togther and he would not forgive that. My intention wasn't to hurt him. I was hurt and the pain to see the stuffs were unbearable. I didn't want to throw them out because there was a Quran included and I didn't want to donated them. So I gave him back everything. Was I wrong to do that ?
Gave That said…
@Anonymous: From a Western etiquette point of view, no (find more here) as one expert, Lillian Eichler Watson wrote that personal romantic gifts were traditionally returned when the relationship ended. (more can be found here if you're interested)

The focus seems to have never been on you or your hurt feelings which is troubling. Depak Chopra said something very profound that forever resonates with me about self-centered people who do not empathize with anyone else's feelings, "...you really don't have to consider [his] feelings when it comes to repairing your own life."
Anonymous said…
For Christmas I puchased (2) gift cards for my dad and step-mom to their favorite. i sent the gift from my office (because we get free shipping) and I also included Christmas cards from both my brother and I and my daughter. They opened the cards and returned them via UPS as RECEIVED DID NOT WANT, REFUSED DELIVERY. I was hurt but got over it quickly because this is the second time they returned a gift to me. My dad and I have been trying to mend our relationship because there are a lot of wounds that stem from he and my biological mom. We were on the mend as of recent and then this. I am somewhat confused but not really because my step-mother has a lot to do with why my dad and i don't have a great relationship. My take is that she is intimidated by us having a relationship. Whether she is or isnt the act of them returning the gift has hurt so much to the point I don't even want to address it. Some years ago when they did this I was extremely angy and wrote them a nasty letter to let them know how I felt. I wouldnt dare do that today and feel its best not even to acknowledge their cowardly act to intentionally hurt me. Any suggestions? Carole
Gave That said…
@Anonymous: I'm really sorry for the repeated hurt you have suffered in this very complex situation and really, really admire you for trying again and again to make a connection with your father. You have an absolute right to feel hurt and angry. While it's completely up to you, this something that has always worked for me. When something hurtful happens, something I do is stop that negative chain at all costs by immediately performing 8 random acts of kindness. It can be anything from writing a check to a charity to taking someone out to the movies or sending a bevy of thank you cards.

Something else surprisingly healing I've recently been exposed to is the ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness called Hoʻoponopono. At its simplest, it's saying the mantra;

I am sorry,
Please forgive me,
I love you,
I thank you.

While it seems like this is what the other person should be saying, I've found this to be one of the most freeing and powerful statements to make from a place of pain. Sometimes reconciliation and forgiveness has to and can be started alone--by just one person.
Annomouse said…
I gave my best friend a gift for everything that she has done for me as a think you she text me and said I can't buy her friendship and wants me to take it back we haven't got on to well lately but I was just trying to say thank you what can I do to prove that it's not about buying her friendship
Gave That said…
@Unknown, please see this post: Simple Gifts to Give. I'm sure, with time, the way will be made clear.
Unknown said…
I was recently give a birthday gift by my parent but refused to accept it because lf the intended and implied guilt she put on me. I told her to return the gift since she repeatedly stated that she planned on using the money to buy a fridge (which I told her two months ago to start looking for and eventually buy) and ironically, she also fixed the floors in our upper house (which were perfectly fine) and still tried making me feel guilty by bringing up the refridgerator. I felt more angry then guilty but I want to know if I handled the situation correctly. Please let me know. Thank you.
Gave That said…
Hi @alexandro There is another page here on the etiquette of returning gifts over here. http://www.gavethat.com/2009/05/declining-gifts-with-grace-saying-no.html
Anonymous said…
Sometimes gifts are returned because they were giving out of guilt. This happened to me, my ex out of the blue surprised me with a shopping spree, then a few weeks later he brought me some more gifts, jewelry, clothes, shoes, etc. Well about a month after receiving all those gifts I find out he was cheating on me and it started right when he brought me the gifts. After cussing him out, crying, and then calming down I packed up the things he brought tags still attached (as I barely wore any of it)and returned them too him along with a note that pretty much said "I thought you gave me these things because you loved me but I now know better. You gave me these things out of guilt but I can't be brought nor can my forgiveness be brought. U felt gifts would make it okay for you to betray my trust and for that I cannot keep these things because to me they represent your betrayal instead of your love for me." And then I threw the rest away. That was a year ago, and today the woman he cheated on me with is wearing those very clothes he brought me. Some people tell me I was crazy or stupid to have given them back but I understand my reason even if no one else does.
LA host parent said…
I have an unusual situation, we hosted an exchange student from Norway for a year. It was really difficult because the student and his family did not respect us or our boundaries. So many boundaries were violated in fact, it would be hard to list them all as I would be writing a very long paper.

A much older brother, 24 yrs., was constantly sending gifts, some thoughtful but most were totally inappropriate. I felt his motivation in sending gifts was to build a sense of power over us and enabling him to feel entitled to disrespect us and do whatever he wanted irrespective of the program rules and our personal and house rules. I also felt that he always tried to "overwrite" any kindness and generosity that we offered toward our student. Our student asked to visit a University, afterward the brother sent a bunch of things like t-shirts, mug, etc. from that same University. For a Christmas gift, we had given our student concert tickets. The brother traveled to the US and attended the same concert before us, and even worse sent me a letter detailing his trip to Chicago where he described doing all of the exact same things that we did with our student on a previous trip. (My impression is that it is so the brothers can reminisce as if they did it together.) He also send our student inappropriate videos and a book about how to be a sexual predator (way worse than porn) as a technically professional woman this was the most personally offensive thing that he could possibly do. (That one was returned to the parents. We received an "I am sorry I got caught" letter.) He spent considerable time and effort in trying to get his brother out of the required English and government classes, also very insulting to our culture for something that was supposed to be a cultural exchange program. These are just a few examples of many, many more. Also note as a rule of the exchange program, he should not have had any involvement at all. Further the parents did not follow the program rules either.

The students parents for a Christmas gift sent us 3 identical sweaters representative of their country with a note "to be a memory of the time we shared together". I thought that this was a wonderful gift until our student returned home and in the airport his mother gave him the gift of an exactly identical sweater that she hand knitted. Yes, they sent us a picture and described the gift. Nice! I felt that this totally devalued the original gift.

We had hoped to build a relationship with our student, but he was cold, disrespectful and intentionally witholding. He was not open and did not share anything personal. With some counseling by the exchange program we had 3 awesome months where this completely transformed and we had a wonderful kid. Now that he is back home he has stayed in contact but gradually has reverted to become very impersonal. It became such a draining and unfulfilled relationship that my husband and I finally just had to say goodbye.

Some friends that the student made during his stay will be visiting this summer. I have packed up our students remaining belongings for his friends to return to him. I want to return the sweaters that the parents gave us. They were beautiful and very expensive, however I will never wear it again. It brings me nothing but pain. Should I return them?

Gave That said…
@LA Host Parent

Wow, this was both fascinating and bizarre to read.

There is another page here on the etiquette of returning gifts: over here. http://www.gavethat.com/2009/05/declining-gifts-with-grace-saying-no.html

Thank you for taking the time to share, perhaps an exchange student will stumble on this and know what not to do. I know many who donated the item(s) which allowed them to clear out the residual toxicity while protecting their heart.

Wishing you and your family much peace and healing.
Anonymous said…
I was given some nice socks and a gift card from a friend for my birthday. The friendship was not going well and a month later it was all but over. We were close friends for about 10 years and I didn't feel right about keeping the birthday gift so I returned it. Not sure if this was the right thing to do, but I knew I would never wear the socks or use the gift card.
Anonymous said…
I was glad to listen to your video because I have struggled to decide whether to return a book to someone.
I was recently given a book by a lady in a group I knew but now I do not see them anymore.
I think it may have been a genuine gift but she does want me to take in the books content. its a nice version of the book and especially suited to me. That was why she gave it to me. I have been wondering if there was more to it than that though in which case id prefer to return it> I think it probably was a genuine gift but if not the problem is hers. However, even so it might be best to return it. Perhaps the clue is in the fact I'm wondering about it but I don't want to return it and offend her either.
Sleep on it sounds like a good idea
Gave That said…
@Kay Thank you for sharing the struggle many make when it comes to returning a gift. In case you did not already find the link, I wanted to share that there is another post specifically for those considering returning a gift: http://www.gavethat.com/2009/05/declining-gifts-with-grace-saying-no.html#.WG7MmVMrLIU. And I agree, Victoria Lorient-Faibish is amazing!
Anonymous said…
My sister called and said she has all these Christmas gifts I've given her (mostly jewelry) that she doesn't like and will never wear and is returning them (why don't I sell them on eBay) was her comments. Seems really passive aggressive and just mean. After all this time, why not just quietly give away herself if they are not to her liking. None were really valuable - nice costume jewelry. First I was hurt, now I am angry. It feels like a FU.
Unknown said…

My husband and I were invited to long-time friends adoptive son's christening and dinner. As a former teacher and parents of three adult children we decided to give a substantial check to start a college account as a gift. The check was returned to us with a note stating they could not endorse a check made out to their son. Why couldn't they endorse the check and deposit it to their bank account instead of returning it to us? What do we do now? A phone call between friends seemed like a better option than receiving the check back. What do you think?
Gave That said…
@Lois, that was a very kind and thoughtful gift based on your family's values! I think you actually answered your your own question when you wrote, "A phone call between friends...". This is something to speak directly with them about.

As aside, for anyone else who might be in a similar spot, consider savings bonds in the babies/child's name. I personally know of many who put themselves through school on these alone.

Wishing you much peace and thank you for commenting.
Anonymous said…
I have a funny story to add: I came back from a long trip recently with 4 small gifts for a good (platonic) friend of mine I've known over 15 years. He seemed to like the gifts all though he seldom shows real enthusiasm in general, not in his nature. 3 weeks later we are going on a weekend trip and I see the bag and all the gifts are still in the trunk of his car, in a bag, still wrapped in newspaper. He didn't even seem to know what was in the bag. I tried not to feel hurt but I was. When he was dropping me off at home after the trip, I gently suggested he should take the bag "inside" because the items were fragile and shouldn't rattle around in the trunk of his car. He asked me to hand the bag to him and I assumed he wanted to put it on the front seat so he wouldn't forget to take it "inside" when he got home. Instead, he was very tired from the long drive I guess and he took the bag "inside" MY house and left it piled on my stuff from the trip. I didn't see him do it and when I discovered it after he left I was then doubly hurt. But you know what? I really like one of the gifts I gave him a lot and as I calmed down I thought: 'well clearly he'll never miss it. I'll keep it (and the others) for myself. Its sitting on my desk as I type this. He is a GUY and extremely socially awkward. He doesn't mean to be thoughtless. I forgive him. But it did hurt and well...I found a way to console myself. Haha. He will never miss said items and he has a terrible memory for detail so even if he gets a vague notion he misplaced something it won't matter.(Not to mention I am very good at keeping a straight face under questioning even if he does retrace his steps that day. "What are you talking about? What bag? What was in it?"/He won't be able to tell me, I'm sure of that. He forgot about them as soon as he re-wrapped them and dropped them in the trunk.) Meanwhile re-gifting said items to myself eases my own resentments and thats the least I can do for the sake of our friendship. Plus, no need for guilt, I didn't steal my gifts back -HE GAVE THEM BACK. So now I have additional souvenirs from that trip. I love happy endings, don't you?
StrikeEagle15 said…
So I'm the guy in the relationship here, and this has to do with giving a gift back. I had this girl who would absolutely refuse to go out with me, even after she teases me, flirts and compliments me. Finally I said forcibly but in a kidding tone you're going out with me, no excuses. She seemed to accept that and even borrowed some things of mine. Except that when the time came to plan our date, she was too busy. finally I just said screw it and left her alone. Then realized she had my stuff i text her to get it back. Out of no were, she gives my stuff back but has a "gift" with them that was obviously well thought out and had lots meaning to it. She nailed who I am as a person with that gift. Pretty much represented my personality and hobbies. But here is the kicker... she did this while placing a "in a relationship status" on her FB page. I had no idea where that came from, or who the guy was, or what... in fact she posted that status 7 minutes before texted me, and even back dated it 3 months. So I'm thinking, you had my stuff for 3 months, had this gift for 3 months, never tried to talk to me because you were busy, all while you are supposedly with a guy. Believe me, her gift went straight back to her so fast it was a blur. So yeah... not cool! done with that!!!
Anonymous said…
My situation is different because I am the one who is considering returning the gift.
This is a guy in my professional environment whom I like a lot. We interacted and I felt an instant connection. But meanwhile there were numerous red flags(or what I consider to be red flags)... not responds to my messages (some stretching to even days and week), comes around only when he wants to talk, doesn't acknowledge my presence in front of someone, it is often walks on farther side of campus or not even saying hi in parties, then I saw him having walks with someone like me(recent joinee) and then it was it for me.
I stopped talking and didn't respond to any of his messages... even that didn't seem to bother him because he never tried to know why i stopped responding.It was very difficult for me to get over him and feelings for him.For closure for this matter ... On his birthday... I wished him and thanked him for the support he gave me as new joinee. After this message, he asked me to meet him and gifted me a crop top which he got for me when he was on vacations... The situation is such that his behaviour has confused me completely,whether or not he is into me or not. I just want to return this gift saying that you do these gestures for someone that is special and I don't think that was your intention for me?
What would you do?
Gave That said…

Happy New Year! There is actually a part 2 linked at the bottom of this post which speaks more about the giving back process.

You asked what I would do and, in this case, no I would not give anything back nor would I have any further contact with this individual other than workplace formalities. A precious piece of expensive jewelry, a bottle of Creed, a luxurious handbag, yes, give that back. Souvenir shirts from a vacation are in the same class as birthday cakes and flowers brought to work for colleagues. Something to be flung in the closet or donated.

Your observations of red flags are right on the mark, why would we want to continue interacting with someone of such questionable character let alone invite them into our inner circle?

Wishing you a new year of genuine care, love and success in your field!
Anonymous said…
company policy to not receive gifts even at celebration time so i said throw it away.
Judy said…

After reading this whole threAd, it makes me wonder how my case can be explained...
i have been helping out a close family friend with some business and supporting him since 2 yeArs.
However, i have stopped working with him a few months ago because i was dissapointed with how our friendship became the past few months and how it gradually deteriorated. I felt unappreciated, like it wasn’t a genuine reciprocated friendship. I felt all the attention and care was given from my side, and i ended up dissapointed in so many things, which led me to stop working with him.
In a typical Scenario, i would have told him my reasons as to why i decided to stop supporting him with his business. However i completely covered up the whole thing and ended it in a very friendly and diplomatic manner, i avoided the ugly confrontation, despite the fact that i was so disappointed and hurt. I decided to stay discreet and bail smoothly without any issues or drama. Obviously this other person must have gotten upset because a close ‘friend’ decided to stop supporting them in their business, however he acted smoothly and accepted the decision accordingly, no questions at all and no negative emotions.
Unfortunately i did not feel that this friendship was a two way road, and i may have expected too much.

This person is a complete introvert, has difficulty exposing feelings or emotions, and i felt unappreciated and disappointed time to time because of him. I kept giving and expecting nothihng back, dedicating almost all my time and attention to helping him but i only realized that i was drowning myself in the process while trying to make other people happy.
I have gone out of my way, in every single way to make this person happy and feel supported the past 2 years.

3 months after having stopped working with him and with less contact, he gets in touch and asks to have a quick catch up, and ends up giving me a personal gift which had my favorite color aswell. It was unexpected, and surprising after 3 months. This was a gift to show that he appreciates me ( a thank you gift for all the help ive offered, especially that i declined any previous payment from him only because he is a close family friend, and because i wanted to support him with nothing in return.

i was happy about the surprising gift on the spot and accepted it right away, specially the fact that there was alot of thought put it into it along with my favorite color, which made the gift even more meaningful.
However i realized 3 weeks later that i couldn’t use the gift, and wasn’t comfortable with the whole idea.
There’s many reasons why i stopped working/communicating with him. And by accepting his gift, this defeats my reasons and purposes.
I decided to return them back without saying anything or justifying my action, and dropped them off without seeing him.
It was not easy to reject the gift and return it back.
I did not expect that he would receive it back and keep quiet about it. I expected him to atleast contact me wondering why i had rejected the gift 3 weeks later. I expected that he would reach out to fix things, if he truly cared as a friend.
Another hurtful disappointment i had to handle.
Was this a real genuine friendship after all?
Anonymous said…
Thank you, for this article. My situation is that

We were in relationship within two months and I bought an iphone 12 for her as her birthday gift. And coming valentine day I bought her an earrings which is 30% discounted, She got angry and told me that I am too too stingy and she can't imagine that I bought her discounted gift as her Val's day gift so she is to returning the iPhone and earrings to me. And it's over between us. In this situation what should I do?
Anonymous said…
There is friend of mine in my circle.he genuinely like me but i don't. i do have bond with him and i respect our friendship. He gave me one plus iPods on my birthday. I accepted the gift at that time but now i feel guilty what should i do ?
I have a friend that I haven't talked to for more than 3 years but she recently got married. I ordered a gift to her and she notified me that she already has one of such item, so as to waste, she asked if she could return it and I'll get a refund. She did, and we handled it well so everyone was happy/not hurt or insulted. But I want to order a gift card for her so in replacement of the previous gift, hopefully, she will get want she want this time. Good idea? Bad idea? Should I ask her first? Thank you!
Nani X said…
I understand that I shouldn’t take my gift being returned personal *but*…

I’ve given my boyfriends gifts so much thought. He’s such a good boyfriend and such an integral part of my life, so when it’s finally time to show my appreciation for him I try to go all-out. In important celebrations like his birthday and Christmas I put a lot of effort in buying outfits he liked (and said he needed) for his birthday, as well a PS5 for Christmas. On his birthday, he tried on the clothes and said he hated them despite me getting the exact clothes he asked for. I was hurt then but I had to move forward. He returned them, I got a refund and he didn’t want to buy new clothes with it. Cool. Then for Christmas I got him a PS5 like he asked and he seemed grateful for it then. Now I see him putting it in a box and returning it or selling it somewhere. Wtf. I didn’t say anything but am so hurt by it because none of this is cheap and I spent so many hours working to be able to afford the gift in the first place. I know I shouldn’t take it personal but why is it always my gifts?
Unknown said…
Okay. I really need to know this. When the person asked you for (something/asked you to buy them something/received because they enjoyed it) and they use a portion of it and allow the rest to spoil/break THAN they give it back to you instead of throwing it in the trash. AND they act like you should be grateful...........

No. Not a joke. I really need to know why someone repeatedly does this.... For years.
pammarie2011 said…
My boyfriend made me extremely mad on Saturday by getting really drunk and saying some horrible things got me. I am begging him to return my gift because I don't want it and I am very tempted to return his and his family's gifts. I also told him I don't want to see him for Christmas. Am I being too overemotional?

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