Didn't get a thank-you call, email, or note for a gift; now what?

In mid-August, I sent my niece a birthday card with a gift card (in a very generous amount, I might add). I’ve received no phone call, email, or written note of thanks. It wouldn’t be so bad if it had been just a greeting card, but I wanted to know that she had gotten the gift card. A few days ago, I sent a brief email asking if she’d received it. I thought that an email would be less awkward and give her the opportunity to save face with an “I’ve-been-terribly-busy-and-forgot-so-sorry” type of excuse, rather than put her on the spot with a phone call. (But I admit that a phone call would be awkward for me, too.) At this point, do I forget about it and resolve not to send her any more birthday gifts? (I live 800 miles away, so any gifts are mailed.) I briefly considered asking her mother (my sister) when we talked by phone recently; they are very close and have birthday parties, so Sis would probably know. OTOH, Sis might mention it to niece and make matters worse.

Call the mother and ask if niece got the gift card. When she affirms, say something like “oh, good to know, when I didn’t get a thank you note from niece I was worried that it had gotten lost in the mail.” That accomplishes your purpose of finding out about the card and tweaks the mother for not teaching her daughter good manners.

Or in the alternative, report the card lost and give the niece hours of fun trying to get it replaced.

I don’t get the “don’t send another gift” thing. I think gifts are gifts and thank you notes are proper responses - but are not payment for the gift. If you expect anything in return, even a thank you note, it isn’t a gift.

It’s not a matter of expecting “something in return;” it’s basic good manners to express thanks in some way. If someone handed you a gift in person, would you not say thank you? And in the case of something of value, an acknowledgment that the recipient did indeed receive it (as opposed to getting lost in the mail or delivered to the wrong address, which has been known to happen). I like the idea of reporting it lost, but that might make matters worse and create hard feelings. I think I’ll ask Sis. Thanks.

Call and say you just wanted to make sure it didn’t get lost in the mail. I think Dangerosa has a valid point that if you are expecting something in return at all it isn’t a gift, but I also understand that if you sent something of value you want to make sure the intended recipient received it.

How old is said niece? Is she 12 or 13 and this is the first gift of any real value that you have sent? Is she 20 and in college and should know to send a thank you card? What if this was a christmas gift and she sent you one also, would you care that you didn’t get a thank you card?

It took me until I was about 16 before I truly understood the purpose of thank you cards. Anything that was sent to me before that got a, “hey, thanks for that _____ you gave me!” the next time we spoke. If she is younger than that it might not have occured to her to send you anything to say thank you.

My relatives aren’t so concerned with the thank you cards but I still try to send them. More often than not now I use it as an excuse to write a letter and mention in the letter that I appreciate the gift. Gifts mean a lot more to me now that I am an adult and I don’t expect them from people, so I make sure to send something in return expressing my gratitude. As a kid I expected gifts and cards for birthdays and holidays because I gave/sent them to people on their birthdays and holidays. I just thought it was something you did and that because it was expected you didn’t need to send a note. Your niece might be in the same state of mind.

“Expecting something in return” so it’s not really a gift, when the “something” is a simple acknowledgement? I disagree.

If Sycorax gave the gift card in exchange for money, or babysitting, or a favor to be determined later, then it’s not a gift – it’s a sale or a trade.

But I don’t think expecting a thank-you means the gift wasn’t a gift, and Sycorax (or anyone) who gifts without thanks has a right to be miffed.

If we accept that the niece’s birth entitles her to receive birthday gifts, then the giver is likewise entitled to receive thanks.

Of course she has a right to be miffed, and if she doesn’t give another gift again that is her right - since gifts are freely given without obligation on either end. However, if she doesn’t give another gift because she expected the thank you note, than it really wasn’t a gift - it was an exchange of a gift for a thank you note.

But then, I’m a gift curmudgeon - I don’t like gifts because I don’t like the implied obligations gifts carry - from thank you notes to return gifts.

And yes, check to make sure the gift card arrived is fair - and the best way for the receiver to let the giver know the gift was received is through a thank you note. Someone who doesn’t send a thank you note should get a direct phone call “I want to make sure you got my gift.” At that same time, what are you going to do if the answer is no?

Niece is in her 30’s, married, three children. She used to phone to thank me for her birthday gifts and this is the first time she hasn’t. I suppose I should call her, although I don’t look forward to that.

For the people that always say a gift is a gift, and make it sound like the giver has a problem, here’s something to consider. The giver has been generous, so don’t imply there is something wrong with them for expecting a thank you. Not receiving a thank you does say they can’t be bothered, and if the giver decides to not give somebody a gift next year, it’s because they have figured out were they stand in that person’s life. They have been devalued and it has been reciprocated.

Sure, its rude to not send a thank you and its inconsiderate. I’m not saying that the giver has a problem.

Its also rude and inconsiderate for some people not to recognize a birthday of a child (fortunately, not in my family where birthdays are haphazard events). Does one rude act deserve another.

Dangerosa, I’m trying to wrap my head around this, because I agree with part of what you’re saying.

I don’t give because I expect a thank-you, but I do expect a thank-you when I give something. The exchange starts because I want to give something, not because I want a thank-you.

But sometimes the exchange starts because the giver wants the giftee to feel an obligation, or gratitude. Under those circumstances, I don’t think thanks are necessary either.

Then give her a break. She probably got busy. I think all you have to do is, “Did you get the gift? I didn’t hear anything and I was concerned it got lost in the mail.” Sounds like she’s normally a polite person, so don’t bust her chops over what was probably just an oversight.

This is the sort of information that should be in the OP.

Niece is an adult. She obviously knows that thank you notes/calls are good manners. I agree that she probably has gotten busy, so a call from you to make sure she got it is appropriate.

Is it possible she has a specific purpose in mind for the card and wanted to tell you about that in the thank you? As in, ‘thank you for the gift card. I used it for that DVD set I’ve been wanting.’

I’d agree with the people who say call to check up on it. It just might have really gotten lost. And maybe she just hasn’t gotten around to the note yet.

I am a ghost in this thread, because I do not expect thank you’s from the gifts I give nor do I want them. If I could give a gift annoymously everytime I would. While I realize it’s bad manners on the face of it, I’d rather dismiss the whole gift -> thank you card exchange, even though I realize it is terribly important to most people.

When someone doesn’t send me a gift card I tend to appreciate it more. It means that they know bbs2k a bit more than the normal folk and realize that he is phobic of mail and can’t stand to be recognized for doing anything nice.

I’d rather just do the nice thing and give someone a nice gift; trying my best to make it thoughtful. That’s what makes me happy.

But I’m weird.

Resume normal discussion on etiquette.

I really think the Thank-You note needs to go the way of the dodo. I’m all for gratitude, but a simple spoken expression covers that without ritual, pageantry, or as much effort.

The OP probably would not have written her post if she’d received that. She got no acknowledgment whatsoever that the gift even arrived OK. I think that’s incredibly inconsiderate.

I understand, but I gather that this is a person who lives some distance from her and whom she does not see on a regular basis. In an ideal world, Niece would verbally thank her for the gift the next time she saw her. Make more sense now?

When you are sending a gift - especially if its worth a bit - its nice to get something more immediate so you know it arrived. Its part thank you and part “hey, don’t file an insurance claim - it arrived. (and its lovely, thank you - I really needed to start a Department 56 Christmas house collection - they are so cute)” Although if you didn’t insure it (which would mean being able to track it) you really don’t have recourse if it didn’t arrive anyway. Maybe the vendor might let you cancel and reissue the card if you had a copy of the bar code (probably not, but maybe). Its still nice, however to know it arrived. And it IS nice to be thanked for it - either verbally or in writing - in some reasonable time frame - and if this isn’t someone you see or talk to regularly, that will mean at least a phone call or email. It is the proper thing to do.

What I don’t understand is the idea that further gifts will be withheld without proper expressions of gratitude. I’m at loss to understand what that is suppose to be accomplishing. To do that to a child seems cruel. To do that to an adult seems like spitting in the wind, the adult is who they are, someone who writes thank you notes, someone who doesn’t (or someone like me, who is sporadic in my thank you notes - my family never gets them and doesn’t expect them, but I’ll write them if I go to a dinner party) - to an adult, send the gift or not - there is no obligation to give the gift, tying it to a thank you note seems petty.

Since there’s no obligation to give a gift, if one repeatedly sends gifts that are unacknowledged, one is sent the message that the recipient does not think enough of the gift, the giver or both. I don’t look at it as “I didn’t get a thank you note so they didn’t earn the next gift.” I look at it as “I don’t matter enough to this person to be acknowledged so why am I sending gifts to someone to whom I don’t matter?”