There is so much joy in giving the perfect gift. Selecting something great, packaging it in a memorable way, then enjoying the look on their face when it’s given. I truly enjoy giving thoughtful gifts to people. Still, there are a few situations that have made me wince. Thankfully, there is also some great advice on gift giving etiquette out there to keep giving, and receiving, from becoming an awkward experience.
How to Handle Duplicate Gifts:
Situation 1: When I had my first child, I received a few duplicates of items. Whether a registry mistake or an oversight, the fact was I had a few things I did not need. On the spot, I had no idea how to handle the situation, so I smiled and said nothing. I returned what I was able to, but was stuck with some items. Those were donated (a wonderful solution given the circumstances) and I went on with life. As it turns out, there is a polite way to address the situation, that relieves the giver and receiver of much of the awkwardness.
Emilypost.com details an easy way to address the situation. The site says to explain it politely and ask if they’d mind if you exchange it. Simple, direct, and gracious. Saying something like, “Thank you. I love this so much. I actually received one just the other day. Would you mind if I exchanged it?” Wish I’d thought of that when I wound up with 2 bottle dryer mats, multiple copies of the same book, and two turtle nightlights. I likely did think of it but wondered if it would be rude. Apparently, if you’re close enough it is not, as long as it’s handled delicately. Good to know.
How to Handle an Awkward Gift Exchange:
Situation 2: This happened to me a few years ago. I brought a simple and relatively inexpensive gift to a friend around the holidays. I had intended mine to be just a little token of my friendship and as a thank you for hosting the gathering. I had no idea she also had a gift for me. She presented me with a gift that while not extravagant, was definitely larger and much nicer than what I’d presented her with. Ugh, so awkward.
Thankfully, we were close enough friends that I made a joke about it and apologized, and we laughed it off and continued on with our wonderful evening. On reflection, maybe an apology wasn’t necessary. These things happen, right? But this scenario goes straight to the heart of the matter. Should gifts be reciprocal, or should they just be given in the spirit of giving and graciousness? Obviously, I think the latter, but it still feels a bit uncomfortable. Luckily, there’s advice out there for this situation too.
Forbes.com interviewed Daniel Post Senning, co-author of “Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th Edition,” who had this to say on the subject of extravagant gifts and if they have to be reciprocated equally. “The straightforward answer is no. It’s a cliché, but gift giving is ultimately about the spirit or thought behind the present. Be truly and genuinely appreciative of your friend’s gift, and reciprocate as best as you can in spirit, if not dollar for dollar.”
What gift giving blunders have you run across? What did you do – and what do you wish you had done?