Social Question

diavolobella's avatar

How would you react to someone who says that thank you notes are unnecessary?

Asked by diavolobella (7925points) October 24th, 2010

A woman I know was recently discussing her upcoming wedding anniversary party. She mentioned that a relative of hers was not attending the party because they were still angry that she did not send them a thank you note for the wedding gift they gave her. She described the gift and it was extremely generous. She was married two years ago. She said that she thanked everyone in person or by email and she felt that should be enough. She added that “besides, I’m saving a tree.” She really seemed put out that someone expected her to write a thank you note. I was floored, but chose not to say anything as she would not have liked my opinion.

What do you think about this? If you were me, what would you have said? If you were the relative, how would you have reacted?

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48 Answers

Seaofclouds's avatar

Unfortunately, I think how she feels is becoming more of the norm and thank you notes are slowly dying. I would have told her how I felt about thank you notes. I can understand her relative being upset with her (especially if it’s an older relative).

diavolobella's avatar

@Seaofclouds I was really surprised since she seems big on receiving thanks herself.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I believe in thank you notes, I’ve always assumed most people do but most of us don’t write them when we’d like. I understand her, I would have said as much but also stated it’s just my belief that big life events such as births, graduations, weddings and deaths are an exception a lot of other people make. If I were the relative then I’d not have made such a big deal to her but inside I would still be a bit disappointed; I’d have to ask myself if I was ok in attending and (maybe) gifting knowing there’d be no formal thanks for my company and gift.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I think that you did the right thing by not responding. It doesn’t sound as if she was asking for your opinion, but was just venting and possibly looking for some sympathy.

With the addition of your details about the woman’s personality, she sounds a bit overly narcissistic. I venture to guess that there is more to the relative’s reason for not attending then the lack of a written thank-you note.

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flutherother's avatar

A gift is a gift and you shouldn’t expect anything in return. It would be polite to say thank you of course and with a wedding present a thank you note might be welcome but I would consider it ill mannered to snub someone because they didn’t respond as you would have liked. Writing a thank you note is something that might not have occurred to your friend whereas the snubbing was deliberate. I think you showed tact in not replying.

poisonedantidote's avatar

I’m on the side of not sending a note, regardless of how generous the gift may be. If I thank you in person I have thanked you.

When I first started to read this, I thought it would be about something else. I was mainly fooled by the title of the question. See, to me thank you notes are highly undersirable.

This is a loose notion I have in my mind, a part of my nature, so finding words may be a little hard to do. lets see…

I can’t immagine a true good friend ever giving another good friend a thank you note. they would not even say thank you, they would probably only say “thanks”. If someone sent me a thank you note, all I would see is “we are not really friends, so lets keep this formal”

A thank you note is something you send to a stranger, like a paramedic who saved your life. it is not something real good friends do with one another.

Also, if you expect a thank you note for a gift, then you are certainly not going to get one. as its not a gift at all, because you expected something in return, namely the note.

To me, thank you notes say “im pretencious and superficial, I’m formal, and I will never help you when you really need it because we are not really friends. I only gave you the gift because of my social status and I was only realy trying to buy you. the gift was not for you, the gift was just a tool to facilitate my own gift of having everyone in the room tell me what a cool guy I am.”

As for not attending because of the lack of a note, that just screams out all kinds of things. that mainly makes me suspect the relative is not a nice person at all, and would prompt me to send the gift back, along with an additional gift of my own, and an envelope full of money, and a note telling them to stay out of my life.

I’m probably not explaining my self too well here at all, and probably making my self sound like a maniac, but there is method in my madness. ... i think

If you give me a gift, its just a material thing, so I wont really appreciate it that much. I will probably like it, and maybe appreciate it a little. But im more inclined to appreciate non material goods more. such as loyalty and trust. If i do appreciate something you do for me, be it material or not, I will thank you in person, but I will never send out a note. If i appreciate something you did for me, you wont get a note, but it will show in other ways, you will have my loyalty, and if anyone ever tries to harm you, they would have to go through me first, i would be there when you need to move home, and i would be there when you need money, but you wont get a note.

Finally, gifts are standard social practice at weddings, if you have just got married, i expect you to go on yout honeymoon and not even think about me. i would not even expect you to remember I exist, much less send me and everyone else who gave you a gift a silly note. Go and get on with your honeymoon and have fun, its all about the happy couple, and not about me.

diavolobella's avatar

@flutherother. I think the reason that the relative does not want to attend the party is that they assume (correctly, I might add) that this woman expects them to bring another gift for which they will receive no thank you note. I think it is possible they feel that this woman only cares about them if they give her things.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

I’m not really a fan of thank-you notes – if I’ve thanked you in person, I’ve thanked you. But more to the point, a gift shouldn’t be given with an expectation of anything in return. If you’re going to be insulted if I don’t write you a note, then I don’t want your gift in the first place because it isn’t coming from a truly giving place.
The woman who’s so upset she didn’t receive a note that she won’t attend a party sounds like the narcissist to me.
People often think they have to give a gift more than they really do.

DominicX's avatar

I think she is overreacting by holding a grudge against her for not sending a thank-you note. I hate to say “get over it”, but…

My parents had us write thank-you notes, but only for gifts that were sent by mail from people we might not get to thank in person. Otherwise, if we had thanked someone in person, that was enough. It would definitely be enough for me.

Seaofclouds's avatar

How old is the relative that is upset about not receiving a thank you note? I’m just curious if it’s an older relative that is use to the time when thank you notes were customary after weddings.

diavolobella's avatar

@Seaofclouds The relative is in their 70’s

Seaofclouds's avatar

I really think it’s a generational thing then. Thank you notes use to be customary after big events (especially weddings). As you can see from the responses here, most people don’t feel the need to send thank you notes anymore these days. The relative may be overreacting, but they are probably feeling disrespected by the lack of a thank you note.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I hate that people don’t send thank you notes. It is just one of those things that gets under my skin. It is a simple gesture… and I’m not sure that showing gratitude ever goes out of style. In my opinion not sending a thank you note is just laziness. I am alright with thank you emails instead of cards, but for a formal event like a wedding? You should send a card. Weddings are insane as it is nowadays, people spend a fortune on their own wedding – and the guests often spend a hefty sum just to attend the wedding with a gift. Thank you cards should be a given.

@papayalily I don’t think expecting gratitude is the same as expecting something in return. I would venture a guess that the majority of us expect a thank you in return for something we’ve done or given to someone.

diavolobella's avatar

@Seaofclouds I think that has a lot to do with it. I also suspect that she doesn’t interact with this relative except when she wants something. She also said “I wouldn’t care (if she’s mad) except she gives the best gifts.” That was why she wouldn’t have liked my response, if I’d given one. I get the feeling this elderly relative is ignored unless she has a gift in her hands.

DominicX's avatar


I would venture a guess that the majority of us expect a thank you in return for something we’ve done or given to someone.

Yes, but why isn’t thanking someone in person good enough?

Seaofclouds's avatar

@diavolobella That’s really a shame. If that’s the case, I wouldn’t be going to the anniversary party either (thank you card or not). Honestly, I’ve never heard of someone having an anniversary party unless it was a big anniversary anyway (like 25th, 50th, etc).

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@DominicX I believe in most cases it is, yes. For a formal event like a wedding? I feel like thank you cards are customary, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with sending them. So the bride ought to get off of her lazy butt and send one.


However, I do think it’s a little extreme to hold a grudge and refuse to go to the next party over the lack of a card.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie Expecting a certain reaction is then giving a gift so that you can feel good about yourself and feel appreciated. And often, people who are put out by not receiving a thank-you note are expecting a certain level of gratitude and appreciation that goes beyond what another person can really give – sometimes because an external force can’t change your internal hatred, and sometimes because you got me a 5 dollar bookmark, and I thanked you several times, and I mentioned how much use I was getting out of it, but I’m not going to spend the rest of my life indebted to you for what’s really a mediocre gift.

diavolobella's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie I agree. If someone takes the time to think about what you might like or looks at your registry, goes out and spends money on the gift for you, wraps it prettily and brings it to you hoping that you will like it, it’s not much to ask for you to pick up a pen for one minute and write them a note. I think if they are an older person, it is even more important. I think elderly people often feel ignored and they treasure any sort of correspondence they get.

I don’t think a formal note is required for every small gift a person might give you or when you exchange gifts, like at Christmas. I do think that they are appropriate for major events like baby showers, weddings, graduations and milestone wedding anniversaries.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@diavolobella But then what if you’re not interested in having a relationship with that person, and you didn’t ask them to get you a gift? Then it’s a co-dependent relationship, with each person deciding the other’s actions.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@papayalily do you really mean to tell me that isn’t what most people do? I can’t believe that you show up to a birthday party or a wedding with a gift and don’t expect a ‘thank you.’ The thank you card doesn’t necessarily show more gratitude, it shows that you went through the effort to show your gratitude in a way that mirrors the effort they went through to go through your registry, pick out a gift, wrap it, and show up in a new outfit and who knows what else. Or for that matter, to drudge up $100 to stick in a card that could have probably gone towards something else. These things are customary. Weddings are getting bigger and bigger, more expensive, people are going to extremes to have these fairytale settings… but the trend that gets thrown out the window is thank you cards? That’s just absurd to me.

I’m curious how you feel about it when you go to a friend or relatives house, and do something really nice for them. Help them tear out their old tile, or put a new engine in their car. They respond with “Well, see you later!” You’re okay with that?

The only difference is the situation. Weddings are typically formal events, and I believe that formal etiquette should apply. Sitting down and writing a note, a personal note, is really not that hard.

flutherother's avatar

@diavolobella An invitation is an invitation and another gift should not be expected. Older people stand on their dignity and formality can mean a lot to them. She must have thought highly of your friend to give her an expensive present. Has your friend thanked her in person? If not perhaps she should call round to thank her even at this late stage and to invite her personally to the anniversary.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie What most people do doesn’t mean it’s what is healthy. And as a rule, I try to stay away from speculating on “most people”. BUT…
I’ve had birthday parties where I wasn’t asking anyone to bring any gifts, much less really nice, expensive gifts. I was then expected to write them a thank-you note in order for there not to be a “thing” over this gift. Had I known that they were going to react that way, I wouldn’t have invited them at all. I’ve turned down many a gift from people who attach strings to their gifts.
I think weddings are over-the-top. I think there’s something wrong with expecting any of your guests to bring you a gift at all, much less anything beyond perhaps a nice scented candle. But just because some women turn into Bridezillas doesn’t mean a person expecting a note isn’t also in the wrong. For the record, should I ever get married, I want my wedding to be me, my spouse, my sister and my cousin, and whomever my spouse wants to invite, plus whomever is ordaining, on a beach with absolutely no presents except for thank-you gifts to my sister and cousin for being my bridesmaids. I also don’t believe in having anyone in the wedding party pay for anything expect perhaps gas money to get to the actual event. I don’t want baby-showers, or anniversary parties, or anything because I can’t stand the toxic relationships that they create. I didn’t have a graduation party – I graduated, I went to the ceremony so I could get the diploma ASAP, and I never spoke of it to anyone again. However, people still gave me gifts for something I didn’t want to celebrate or discuss with anyone, and to be honest, I resented their efforts in trying to force their way into my life instead of respecting that I didn’t wish to discuss it.

I don’t really help out friends and family with such things unless, when agreeing to it, I think “if they turned to me at the end, smiled, said “thanks for your help”, and then never ever brought it up again, I wouldn’t mind”. I have a few friends where I help out a lot more, and then they pay me back with a 6-pack or helping me install a garbage disposal the next time I need help. However, it’s maybe 2 or 3 people that I do this with. I used to help everyone with everything, but it turned out that most people weren’t as grateful as I needed them to be, and I realized that it was my fault – I was expecting someone else to do my self-validation for me, and they could never be appreciative enough, and I needed to cut that crap out.

mollydrew's avatar

Thank you notes are very important, people like to hear how much you enjoyed the gift they worked to pay for, or put a lot of thought into. Thank you notes are the “attention” each gift giver deserves. They make recycled thank you notes.

MacBean's avatar

I don’t send thank you notes and I’m always surprised and a little uncomfortable when I get one. I give gifts/do nice things when I feel they’re appropriate. No thanks is needed. I didn’t do anything special. Please don’t make a big deal out of it.

roundsquare's avatar

I’m with @MacBean on this one. In any event, the thank you notes after a wedding all seem a bit fake to me anyway. “Thanks so much for he microwave. Now I can eat hot pockets whenever I want.”

I don’t blame people for writing stuff like that. There are a lot of notes to write and wedding gifts are often generic but useful things… so there isn’t much to say in a thank you note. I think its become a formality that serves little real purpose and, as such, will die out.

In any event, I value an in person thanks more.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I think it is bad manners to not send one.If she asked what I thought about it,I would have told her.

diavolobella's avatar

I’m not sure if the additional information I posted above was missed, so I’ll repeat it. She added later that “I wouldn’t care (if she’s mad) except she gives the best gifts.” That was what struck me about the situation the most. She won’t miss the aunt’s presence, she’s just sorry she won’t get another big present. This woman is expecting that people she has invited to this party will bring her gifts, but they should have no expectation of being thanked for them except under the terms she dictates. For those who think it is inappropriate for a gift giver to dictate the method of thanks, by the same token, isn’t dictating that someone should give you a gift in the first place equally inappropriate?

I came away from the conversation with the strong impression that this woman probably only shows any interest in this elderly relative when she wants something from her (gifts, money, etc.). So, perhaps there is a pattern here of her taking and taking from this elderly lady and never showing any gratitude. Maybe the lady has had enough of it. I begin to wonder if this whole thing is really about the thank you notes or whether it is actually about this elderly lady feeling used. Maybe the lack of thank you notes is just the straw that broke the camel’s back?

I do think throwing an anniversary party when you’ve only been married for two years and expecting people to bring gifts is pretty out there.

YARNLADY's avatar

As a gift giver, I agree, I don’t care if they send me a thank you or not.

As a gift receiver, I always send thank you’s.

I guess it depends on the people involved.

perspicacious's avatar

I write thank you notes. They are not out of style—not for people with manners and class.

Austinlad's avatar

Respectfully disagree with @poisonedantidote about a verbal thank you being sufficient. This topic has been discussed on Fluther often, and I always respond to it in the following way (though I feel like I yelling into the wind):

It saddens me that the custom and art of expressing one’s appreciation in writing seems to some old fashioned in our Twitter-Email-Voicemail-IM age. Sure, thanking someone in person is nice, but a note of thank you that one takes the time to think about, compose and put a stamp on – that’s a much deeper way of saying thank you. My mother taught me this, and I will never stop doing it.

Austinlad's avatar

Thank you, @perspicacious, for saying so well in one sentence what it took me two paragraphs to articulate. AGREE… AGREE… AGREE.

BarnacleBill's avatar

She’s throwing an anniversary for their second year of marriage? Celebrating that he hasn’t kicked her to the curb for being ungrateful and ungracious?

diavolobella's avatar

@BarnacleBill Yes, that seems a bit much to me too. Like throwing a party to celebrate your long and illustrious career when you’ve held a job for two years.

roundsquare's avatar

@BarnacleBill @diavolobella On the other hand, we celebrate not having died on a yearly basis.

diavolobella's avatar

@roundsquare I actually don’t celebrate my own birthday.

roundsquare's avatar

@diavolobella Fair enough. But most people do… and staying alive is a lot easier than staying married.

diavolobella's avatar

@roundsquare That may be true, but I don’t think that many people throw their own birthday party. It’s usually done for them by someone else. I celebrated my anniversary with my spouse when I was married, but I didn’t throw a big party every year to celebrate it and expect others to come and celebrate too and bring gifts.

BarnacleBill's avatar

@roundsquare, some of us do. Others do not. :-) I personally am on the once-every-ten-years plan.

roundsquare's avatar

@diavolobella True enough. I was half joking around anyway.

@BarnacleBill I still go for the yearly plan, but people only buy me drinks.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Sighs I read something like this and wonder why people get so bogged down by things unimportant…this isn’t about thank you notes…this is about people wanting to be appreciated and to feel important and relevant…but when it becomes about the note itself and not what it’s all about, it’s so sad and pathetic, to me…if you’re giving a gift for the thank you note, what’s wrong with you…if you don’t get a thank you note and just hold a grudge without discussing it with the person, what’s wrong with you…really, gift-giving is an incredible labyrinth and to analyze it from the outside…one can really see how people barricade themselves from each other.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Exactly. I often find that we tell our children that they have to do these things because it’s how society has decided we’ll communicate our feelings towards each other. However, so many times, what’s supposed to be a symbol becomes the issue. I’d rather just get to the root of gratitude, instead of a silly forced show of gratitude.

Patamomma's avatar

If it is a situation that someone that I don’t know well has gave me or my children gifts, I try to send a thank you. If it is from relatives we have never met that live out of state, I send thank yous. If it is over the top very awesome deed or gift, I thank in person, and will sometimes send a card too.

roundsquare's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir In general I agree with you, but not entirely. The problem is that when a symbol becomes the norm, people forget that its just a symbol.

On the other hand, anyone who holds a grudge like this for so long does have some other issue/gripe/etc…

diavolobella's avatar

@roundsquare. If you look above, I think I have given a pretty fair analysis of what the other issue is. I don’t think it’s about the thank you note. I think it’s about an ongoing pattern of behavior.

Dutchess_III's avatar

In this era of phones and email and internet, thank you notes seem a bit old fashioned to me.

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