By Lisa Gaché
Being able to select just the right gift for someone is, well, a gift. Most people are fair at it and a few special individuals actually excel in this department. They seem to know just the perfect gift to present no matter what the occasion. Homemade or hand-crafted, purchased online or store-bought, professional or personal, gifts from family members, friends and acquaintances can be high and disappointment can set in when it appears that no real thought or effort was made. Here are 5 important etiquette tips to consider when giving or receiving gifts.
1. Gift Giving. We’ve all heard the old adage, it is better to give than to receive. When choosing a gift, select something special that you know the recipient would truly enjoy and appreciate. Take the time to make sure the gift is presented in the proper manner, packaged or wrapped nicely with an enclosure card. It is never advised to purchase gifts on sale as there is usually a no return policy. I would also always make sure to enclose a gift receipt to easily return store-bought items. Be aware of purchasing gifts from stores that are going out of business or from websites online unless you know the person is certain to keep the gift.
2. Gift Receiving. When receiving a gift, be gracious and thank the gift-giver verbally upon receipt. When receiving gifts by mail, pick up the phone and call the person to let them know you have received the gift and to thank them for their thoughtfulness. Always remember to send a personalized handwritten thank you note for all gifts received whether in person or by mail.
3. No Gifts Please. This is a very confusing area for most people. Technically, if an invitation says “no gifts” then guests should honor the request. However, what happens is that some guests wind up bringing a gift anyway and then ultimately those that took the instructions literally are made to feel less thoughtful for doing so. Here’s my take on this. I am not a huge advocate of the “no gift” policy simply because it never quite conveys the best sentiment. My feeling is that is perfectly okay to shower someone with a gift. It is an additional form of expression to show how much you care. It should not be forced or feel like an obligation and it certainly does not have to be expensive, it just has to be given with love.
4. Group Gifts. Group gifts are sometimes solicited by the party organizer and should be addressed carefully. It may be acceptable to suggest to a small group of friends in your immediate social circle, however, some may take offense if it were sent to the masses. Group gifts have a tendency to put people on the spot, especially those who prefer to simply bring a birthday card or purchase a small gift on their own. The suggestion of a group gift may also be misconstrued and sometimes comes across as greedy or entitled. Some may feel that their presence at the party is what’s important and they do not want to feel pressured into contributing anything monetary.
5. The Gift Closet. Ah, the elusive gift closet! Many have dedicated one very special area to stash any unwanted gifts given from holidays and birthdays past. Sometimes it’s an official closet, but it can often be a designated area of the garage. Typically items stocked include an array of candles, soaps, scented diffusers, board games and other trinkets. Note: these are not gifts you give to your closest family or friends. These gifts should be reserved for dire emergencies only. Remember a gift-given should be done so with love and a gift from the “closet” isn’t exactly one from the heart.
Wondering about whether or not regifting is acceptable? Please see our blog entitled “The Rules of Regifting – Seinfeld Style” at http://protocallout.blogspot.com/2010/12/rules-of-regifting-seinfeld-style.html.
On a final note, if you have received a really bad gift, you know, like that flowery fruit bowl that looks like it was purchased at the drugstore, please do not make a face or show your disappointment in any way. As they say, it is the thought that counts and maybe your great-aunt Greta really thought the bowl was beautiful! Just grin and bear it and with a big smile, gratefully say “thank you!”
Beverly Hills Manners CEO, Lisa Gaché, is the foremost etiquette, manners and life skills expert for children from the parenting perspective. Her educational and entertainment company, founded in 2006, is recognized for its new school approach.