The Vine: November 23, 2011
I searched the Vine archives but didn't find an answer to this gift etiquette question, so here goes: my in-laws' best friends sent us a large gift for my kiddos (an art easel) that I don't want. They always send something similarly big and cool for Christmas and seem to kind of consider my kids as extra grandkids. These folks are good people and I care for them but am not close to them.
So normally if I get a gift I don't want, I write a thank-you note and put up an eBay auction. In this case, my husband strenuously objects to my normal procedure, because these friends will ask him (even months later) how the kids are enjoying the gift, and he (unlike me) doesn't like to mislead people by saying something like "oh, that was so thoughtful of you, the munchkins just love painting!" and changing the subject. His suggestion is that if I really want to get rid of it, I call up the gift giver and tell her thank you, but we just don't have room for it, and could we possibly return it and give them their money back. To me that seems even more rude, but if I could think of an awesomely classy way to say the same thing, I'd go for it. So that's my question: is there any remotely polite way to reject a gift from nice people? Or do I just suck it up and be thankful that this first-world problem is as stressful as my day got today?
Dreaming of Less Clutter
Your use of the word "reject" should answer your question for you. Just in case: no, not really. I get what your husband is saying, in theory…but in practice, not every gift is perfectly appropriate or useful. In those cases, cases where it's the wrong thing but not in a harmful or offensive way, the best solution all around is a noncommittal but enthusiastic answer like, "It was so generous of you to think of the younguns!" and a subject change.
With that said, there's something I don't get: "sent us a large gift for my kiddos (an art easel) that I don't want." You're the parent, so you're the boss, but at the risk of seeming dense here…do the kiddos want it? Did you…even show it to them? Or did you just decide, "We don't have room for this," and put it on the (figurative) curb? Not for nothing, but I had an art easel/chalkboard rig as a kid, and it actually cut down on playroom clutter and kept chalk and crayons out from underfoot. (In fact, I think Ma is still using it for semi-storage in her boiler room.) It's neither here nor there re: the question you actually put to me, but it seems like, since it's a gift for the kids and not for you, maybe the…kids should decide what to do with it? And if they love it for a week and then ignore it, then you're like, "That's that then," and Goodwill it?
That's another thing, actually. You've made up your mind that you don't want it, I'm sure you'll elaborate on your reasons in the comments; fine. I think you should donate it to an after-school program or daycare or something. Selling it on eBay is a little sketch, in my opinion, and if you really don't have room for it, the best way to solve the space problem today is to drive it down to the Salvation Army or the local children's art program or something, no?
But as far as outright rejecting it, or suggesting they take it back: no. The closest you can come to that is maybe communicating to the couple, via your in-laws, that you live in a small place and gifts bigger than a breadbox can be problematic — but that solution is a little bossy for my taste, and if it's not demonstrably true, that's another lie you have to keep track of.
Thank them, donate the easel, done.
Tags: etiquette kids winter-holiday agita