How Do You React to a Gift You Don’t Like?

January 5, 2013 at 7:30 PM 9 comments

Every Christmas we inevitably receive a bunch of gifts we don’t want to keep. Sometimes we receive a gift slip in the box, but more often then not we have no way of returning the item we received. In fact, many times we don’t even know where the gift was purchased.

When I was growing up my mom had a rule about gift giving. If she gave us a gift we didn’t like she asked that we let her know so that she could return it. She absolutely hated the idea of wasting good money by purchasing something that would hang unworn in our closet or that would end up in a box headed directly for the donation center.¬†Over the years I’ve openly told her to take back anything that didn’t fit or simply wasn’t my style.

This is in direct contrast to the way my husband’s family works. In his family you never tell the gift giver that you don’t like something they purchased. Unfortunately this often results in receiving the same unwanted item year after year. It’s not the gift givers fault. I believe they assume you like the gift since you never told them otherwise. In fact, I’ve seen family members feign excitement over a gift they’ll never use.

So what’s the rule in your family? Do you tell the gift giver that you don’t like a gift or do you smile and accept it without saying a word?

If you keep the gift what do you do with it? Do you attempt to return it without a receipt, list it on eBay, donate it or re-gift it? Have you ever thought of telling the gift giver you wanted to return the item for a different size, style, etc?

I personally hate the idea of wasting money on an item someone doesn’t want. I wish every one close to me would tell me the truth, (in a tactful manner), even if that meant every single gift I bought was returned.

What do you think? Would you be offended if someone told you they wanted to return the gift you gave them?

**NOTE** – It seems I should have been clearer in this post. I am specifically talking about close family members. For example, children, parents or spouses. I am in no way implying that you should make a comment about gifts you receive from classmates, friends, neighbors, etc. In those cases you should certainly smile and say thank you. I learned that lesson as a very small child. In fact, you shouldn’t make comments to anyone about a gift unless you know they will be receptive to it. (Like in the case of my own mom.)

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jerry  |  January 6, 2013 at 6:57 PM

    Give a gift card if you want insurance they’ll get what they want. I don’t like they lead to the most creative gifts but it’s something. I think knowing the recipient is what counts. I think it’s not so nice to tell someone you don’t like what they gave them but that’s just me.

    • 2. One Frugal Girl  |  January 6, 2013 at 9:19 PM

      Do you think it’s not nice to tell anyone? Like not your spouse, mom, etc. Should you stay silent with all gift givers?

  • 3. Tamara  |  January 6, 2013 at 8:17 PM

    I’ve thought about this a lot because as your kids get older, you have to teach them how to respond when they open gifts. We have taught our kids to always act like they like a gift and say Thank You immediately whether they like it or not. I understand your points but I think telling the gift giver that you don’t like a gift is almost impossible to do in a way that would not offend most people.

    • 4. One Frugal Girl  |  January 6, 2013 at 9:20 PM

      Tamara – I completely agree with your comment about what to teach your children. I should have clarified in my post. I’m specifically talking about close family members, not friends, extended family, classmates, etc. Would you want your children to tell you they don’t like a gift or just smile and pretend that they do?

      • 5. Tamara  |  January 7, 2013 at 1:59 PM

        I think that the system you have with your mom is great. She was clear on what she wants and you do that. But I don’t tell my mom that I don’t like gifts she gives me, because I think that would upset her. As for my kids, I think my husband and I are the only ones they should tell if they don’t like it, not other close family members.

        • 6. One Frugal Girl  |  January 7, 2013 at 2:40 PM

          I’m glad you returned to leave a follow up comment. Not everyone is receptive to comments about gifts they purchase and of course we all need to be understanding of that fact. In fact, I’m sure my mom is an exception to this rule. That’s what made me write this post in the first place. I do want my son to grow up with the same model. If he doesn’t like something I buy I would actually like him to tell me. Especially if it’s an expensive gift that will never be worn, used, etc. I suppose I want to follow in my mom’s footsteps in that regard. I do tell my niece, nephew, husband, brother and parents to do the same. Before they open a gift they know to tell me if they don’t like it. I don’t know if any of my family members have ever told me they don’t want something I bought them, but I always put that on the table just in case they don’t. In fact, maybe they don’t tell me because despite my words they think it would be impolite. Also, I want my son to say thank you regardless of whether or not he likes the gift. I always tell my mom thank you even when I decide to return something she bought me.

          Thanks again for commenting!

  • 7. Beatrice  |  January 7, 2013 at 3:07 PM

    In my family, we’ve always told each other, in a nice way, if we don’t like a gift we’ve received. But usually not right away (i.e., after opening a gift); we usually wait a week or two before saying something. It may be a little disappointing if someone didn’t like or need my gift, but I appreciate the honesty because it helps me pick out better gifts for that person in the future.

    • 8. One Frugal Girl  |  January 7, 2013 at 5:20 PM

      The thing that irritates me the most is that we receive the same gifts year after year. I’m totally with you on this one. If you are honest about the gifts you receive the gift giver can pick out something you’d like better the next time around! Oh I’m so glad to see I’m not the only one.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • 9. Saikumar Iyer  |  August 11, 2016 at 6:34 AM

    I had come back from school when my mom told there is surprise for you…i thought it was a headphone as I was taking about it for a few weeks . I had recently found out an awesome Bluetooth headphones but what i got was some poor looking wired headphone. I wanted headphone so that I could not have to manage the wire and the headphone which i had shortlisted was shown to my sis the day before yet she chose the wrong headphones were cool looking byt this looks like hell.i want the one i expected not this one how do i tell


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