Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Consider the Source

Hello Polite Readers!

We're going to talk about gift-receiving etiquette again. This week's topic comes courtesy of my husband, who was curious about my opinion on this and thought it would be good blog fodder. Thanks love! So the question is: What do you do when someone gives you a gift that you know comes from a shop you don't like? There's no one blanket answer for this, so let me break it down into a few examples of possible situations.

1. The item is offered to you casually, rather than as a hand-picked gift for your birthday or a holiday, ie, "I got a great deal on these at the store, would you like one?" In this case, you can gracefully say "Oh, no thank you" without getting into why.

2. The item was chosen specifically for you and is given at a group gathering, but comes from a store you have a mild objection to. Say "Thank you" and try not to think about the source. Perhaps make some use of it in order to make the gift-giver happy, then quietly donate it to the thrift shop a few months down the road.

3. As above, but the gift comes from someplace you have a strong objection to, like the gift store that donates all proceeds to Puppy Kickers International. As above, say thank you, but at some later date take the gift-giver aside and say "I know you picked that scarf because it brings out the green in my eyes, but were you aware that Kicks Ahoy is associated with PKI? You know that as a dog lover I just can't stand those guys. I hope you don't shop there anymore!" Again, donate the offending object and if you're feeling really bad, donate some money to a group that fights puppy kicking.

Remember that no matter what, it's the thought that counts. So if the person KNOWS that you hate PKI and they bought an "I Kick Puppies" t-shirt for you anyway, you don't even have to pretend. Fall back on the "Oh, you shouldn't have" and then throw that thing away as soon as you get home. Just don't make a scene at the party, because that's awkward for everyone else around you.

I think the best way to avoid this sort of situation is to be pretty clear about your opinions. If, for instance, you feel strongly about supporting the local economy and you love to patronize small coffee shops instead of large national chains, make that obvious. Occasionally check-in at your favorite local businesses. Talk about the delicious meal you had at that new restaurant. When you get complimented on your dress, mention that you purchased it at that cute downtown boutique. Share your political convictions, the causes that you care about, and your religious affiliations or lack thereof (all of this at whatever level you're most comfortable with). Of course you'll avoid being annoying or self-righteous about any of this, because you're so polite!

Once people have a pretty good read on you, it will be less likely that they'll give you a gift that you find morally objectionable. As a non-moralistic example, I love the color green. I make it clear by wearing lots of green, having a Pinterest board dedicated to green, using a green color scheme on my blogs, etc etc etc. As such, whenever people want to buy me a gift, they tend to buy something that is green if possible. There are even people who have certain shades that they now associate as "AJ Green" which makes me ridiculously pleased.

Dear readers, have you navigated this problem before? If so, how have you handled it?

I am waiting for YOUR letters. Write me at and you could be featured in my next column.

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