What would you do? Generous gift to stranger unacknowledged

OK, so I belong to an e-mail list that’s pretty much a community. We exchange advice, commiseration, jokes, etc. (And we use our real names, links to our Web sites, and sometimes even contact info; so we’re not a bunch of anonymous doofuses. And I’m confident that the following was not a scam.)

Right around Christmas last year one of the members threw herself a little pity party about how badly her finances were going. Not a problem in itself, we all whine about this or that from time to time, somebody says, “It’ll be OK,” and that’s it. But somebody got up the idea that maybe some of us could send her a little something via PayPal. I hadn’t interacted with her much myself, but she was an active member, I’d had a good couple of months, it was Christmas Eve and I was still glowing from our annual gathering, and I had a couple of hundred extra bucks in my account that I had no particular plans for. So ho ho ho, I sent her fifty bucks. (The suggestion was $1 to $5, or maybe $10.) I figured that oughta help make her day.

Apparently it did, because the next day her husband posted with a general “Wow, thanks” message directed to everyone in the group. OK, cool, I wasn’t the only one.

But I never got any personal acknowledgment of my donation. According to PayPal, it went through just fine. After a few weeks, I sent a polite note, hoping that things were improving and wondering whether my contribution (which had shown up on my bank statement) was helpful at all. I was polite and concerned, but I admit that I was going for a little nudge. No response.

Over this past year she’s been a contributor to the list, talking about various things (and successes), so I know she hasn’t dropped off the face of the earth.

Today was kind of a kicker, though. Today she posted to the list to thank (quite effusively) whoever had sent her – anonymously, but because of the signature obviously someone from the list – a box of treats and a card, for no apparent reason.

Is it petty of me to think, “Hey, how come a box of goodies from some anonymous person gets you spewing thanks all over everything, but you couldn’t be arsed to at least acknowledge the receipt of fifty bucks out of the blue from a total stranger WHOSE NAME YOU HAVE?” I can’t help thinking that if I had been HER last Christmas Eve, after I pulled myself together I would have been falling all over myself making sure that I slobbered over each and every person who sent even one dollar thanking them for their generosity. The “thanks” post from her husband kind of struck me as a quickie, appropriate as an addition to personal thanks, but by itself it’s more like a photocopied note on the company bulletin board.

I know that the idea of a gift is to give because you want to. But the flip side of that is that I’M always grateful for gifts I receive, and I express that. Especially when the scope or the source of the gift is so unexpected. I don’t expect her to kiss my ass; a simple, “Hey, thanks so much for the gift, we really appreciated it” would suffice.

I’m not pissed about the money. I gave it in good spirit and I didn’t (and still don’t) need it. But the aftermath kind of soured me. I should probably just write it off as a lesson learned and move on, forget it, let it go. (I’d still be reminded every time I saw her name in my inbox, though.) But I’m sooo tempted to send her a quick e-mail quoting today’s post and asking, “Say, this reminds me, did my fifty bucks last Christmas ever actually make it through to you? PayPal said so, but you can’t always count on them. Just wondering.”

I just know it would be mean and petty of me, and I should probably be talked out of it because it would make me a total ass, right?

<donning asbestos undies>

She probably feels the general thanks message was enough. Should she personally acknowledge you? Yes, that would be polite. Should you send her another follow up note fishing for personal thanks? No, that would be petty and rude.

Two breaches of ettiquite do not make a right.

Yeah, nothing good is likely to come from a snarky e-mail wondering whether they money was recieved. I wouldn’t be surprised if the amount you gave was so generous that she did intend to send you a personal thank and then just forgot–or maybe it really did get lost in the mail (My dad mailed 8 checks to pay bills in June, and not one of them ever arrived at the place it was going, causing late fees galore, and maybe a day or two without car insurance).

If you were going to ask, February would probably have been the right time. And hey, it looks like you tried, and didn’t get an answer. Now you would look almost greedy “Wasn’t I NICE to give you so much money?”

Yeah, OK, I’ll take my lumps; that’s pretty much the response I was expecting. Just checking.

(Can I still roll my eyes and grumble in front of my computer when she posts?)

That’s a good girl. :wink:

You can even shout at your computer, “Why won’t that ungrateful biotch say thank you to me!!” Which is probably what I would do. :slight_smile:

I’m not excusing her behaviour, just suggesting a possible motivation. In the case of the money, it sounds like she received a bunch of presents at once, “from the group” (I know the presents were individual, hence the quotes - I’m suggesting she saw it as the group being nice to her), so she figured that a group reply sufficed.

In the other case, she got a single gift and wanted to thank that particular person for that single gift, but had to broadcast the thanks because of the anonymity.

Like I said, not an excuse, just playing psychologist (and the obligatory IANAP).

I’m thinking it’s a little embarrassing when you have to take money from strangers. She probably didn’t want to keep reminding herself (or others) of that.

Maybe everyone else sent $100. :wink:

As my sister told me recently… “some people just weren’t raised right.”

She should have thanked you personally…if only to make sure that you knew that it GOT there, but she didn’t and maybe she doesn’t realize she SHOULD have thanked you personally. I belong to an online community that raised money one time for a member in need. We raised enough money to cover that person’s need. I was the “point person” for the fundraiser. Our members were quite generous, and I was proud of them. So, I figured there would be a thank you thread, or a thank you SOMEWHERE public. I waited. And waited. Finally, and this had nothing to do with me…I wouldn’t have cared one bit if I hadn’t been thanked…but sheesh…all of these people donated all that money, and I felt they should have that generosity acknowledged, you know? So I emailed that person and suggested that perhaps they should let people know that their need had been met by the members of the community and that they appreciated it. I felt kind of weird doing that, but for Heaven’s sake…it is only polite, you know? Of course in the situation I am referring to, the donations were all anonymous so the public and general thank you was all that was needed to BE polite. In your case? Yes. She should have thanked you personally. Thus the relevance of my sister’s comment. Some people just weren’t raised right, and they don’t know any better.

Still. You gave a gift from your heart. It doesn’t really matter how they received it, since you gave it with a glad heart.

So I’ll do it for her. 'Cause you know what? Bless you for helping a person in need. Thank you for doing that.

I will send you a great thank you for only $49!

I think you are right though…I mean, come on - how long does it take to write a personal email? Something along the lines of, “Gee, thanks Scarlett67! You really helped me in my time of need and I appreciate it.”

No good deed goes unpunished.

And some people are thoughtless clods.

That was a very kind thing to do. It is sad that the aftermath has spoiled the joy of giving it for you.

I wouldn’t necessarily expect someone to write personal thank yous to everyone automatically, since it was a group effort. However, it was definitely rude for her to ignore your followup email. At the very least, she should have said “Yes, it got here. Thanks so much!”
On the other hand, there is always the chance that she intended to reply but simply forgot, or that she overlooked the email because of being busy with holiday stuff.

There is also the chance that your generosity was so exceptional that it made her feel uncomfortable and maybe she mistakenly thought you had some kind of hidden agenda.
If someone I hardly knew gave me an expensive present, I have to admit that my first thought would probably be “What do you want from me in return?” just because most people aren’t as nice as you were!

Have you had any contact with her on the list since then? Does she seem friendly to you?
In any case, I agree that it would be best to try to resist the urge to get her back for being rude. I figure that adding some kindness and generosity to the world is never a mistake even if the recipient doesn’t appreciate it, and hopefully you’ve earned some good karma with this. :slight_smile:

Blah. Expecting thanks is hard because a lot of the time you don’t get it. It’s best not to expect it, one of my least generous teachers told me. I’m sure I’m guilty of letting down nearly everyone who’s ever expected a thank you from me in card form.

I can do you one better- I have a good friend that sent some money in the form of a postal money order (the person in trouble had overdrafts, so she went out of her way to send it in a form that she could use immediately and it not get eaten up by those charges) for a good amount of money to a friend and the person never even acknowledged THAT. Hell, for all she knows it never even arrived. What the hell is wrong with people? She waited and waited for a reply, then it just got awkward (as with the OP here) where she didn’t want it to look like she was fishing for thanks.

All I know is that if I were in dire circumstances and I opened my e-mail or my postal mail and found a chunk of money in there, I’d write a thank you note of some sort before I took a penny of it. I think not acknowledging a thing like that is really shitty. It takes about 1 minute and 39 cents to mail a thank you- hell, it takes that long and is FREE to do it via e-mail. What excuse could someone have?

The note I wrote is buried in PayPal somewhere, but I think I wrote something along the lines that I’d just completed some unexpected bonus work for a client (true) and was happy to share my surplus. And of course a wish for a Merry Christmas and that things would get better, etc. Our group is such that we’re not really in a position to have hidden agendas.

Not directly, but I’ll admit that when she posts with a question or problem, I’m strongly inclined to ignore it. So far I’ve been able to follow that inclination. :dubious:

It’s a real pisser when stuff like this puts you off the thought of helping random strangers. I’d like to do it more, but why bother if they don’t seem to appreciate it, you know?

Yes, I can understand why this experience made you feel jaded about giving to others. If it helps, I do believe the most likely scenario is that the lady did appreciate the gift, and it’s just a case of being clueless about proper etiquette or forgetful rather than intentionally snubbing you.

Perhaps it would be better next time to make your next act of kindness an anonymous act so you can enjoy the good feeling of giving without risking this kind of disappointment.
Coincidentally, I happened to see a news story today about a guy who has been going around for years anonymously giving out money to random strangers at Christmastime: http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/11/18/secret.santa.ap/index.html
I’m sure that guy would agree that you did a very good thing even if the recipient didn’t realize it. :slight_smile:

Forgive my ignorance but how exactly does paypal work? I’ve used it to pay for things on eBay.

But this person has internet access and a paypal account where she can receive money?

Sounds fishy. Not fishy as in “I’m trying to move $10,000,000 out of Ethiopia if you would only loan me $10,000 first” kind of fishy, but still fishy.

Like I say, I’ve used paypal to pay for things, but I have no idea how I’d go about receiving money from paypal. It’s probably not that difficult but still, I have to wonder why she’s in dire straights yet conveniently has internet and is able to receive donations via paypal.

She doesn’t have to be a big-time internet scam artist. She could just be a plain old fashioned mooch.

If you’re going to give your money away in order to feel good and not require a thank you I’d stick with reputable charities and when someone like this woman needs help point them towards one of those reputable charities.

I’m also suspicious that last Christmas she needed help and here it is next Christmas and surprise, she still has internet, a paypal account and is still ever so grateful for all the donations.

Every Paypal account can receive money. All you need to do is give someone the e-mail address you use for Paypal, and so long as they have a Paypal account, they can send you money. That’s it.

I don’t know if this is just a really wild coincidence but this happened at one of the groups of parenting boards I post on. Right down to the husband saying thank you…happened around the same time too!

Anyway, regardless of whether this is the same people, did you send the money to help or did you send it for your own gratification?

I’m sure it was appreciated if she was really hurting. She just may not know how to show her appreciation. It may have even embarrassed her. On my moms board we were doing a card exchange last year and one nice woman sent me a whole box of clothes for my daughter. As sweet as it was, I felt really uncomfortable accepting the gift because it felt like charity and I’d never asked for charity…although some people knew I was going through a rough time because I too threw a pity-party. Pity parties aren’t always pleas for help, sometimes us pitiful people just want a pat on the back and an “aw things’ll get better!”

Just let it go. There’s no telling why she didn’t acknowledge your gift properly. It’s been a year now so nothing is going to change. If not receiving a proper thank-you is good enough reason for you to stop, I’ll send you my address and you can guaran-damn-tee I’ll show my appreciation!
*the above was a joke, not a solicitation for charity. :wink:

I would have expected some sort of thank you note in those circumstances. I’d be a bit wary if the same thing happened this year.