I’m a firm believer that whatever someone does with a gift is their business. Maybe they keep it. Maybe they exchange it. Maybe they sell it, regift it, or even throw it away. When you’re none the wiser, it’s easy to not care. But what happens when you are?
Just over a month ago, a neighbor put out a request for women’s winter clothing in my size. There wasn’t a whole lot of detail given in the post, but that didn’t matter to me. I followed up immediately because one can only fail the #MinsGame so many times before taking a different plan of action.
Instantly, I imagined a new home for the dozens of sweaters and tops that I had been slow to part with. Perhaps she was a teacher (if that was the case, I could include a scarf or twelve). Perhaps she was a businesswoman. Even if my clothes weren’t formal enough for her to wear to work, they would certainly be cute on the weekends.
Almost immediately, the notification pinged, alerting me to a reply in my inbox. Then came the second thoughts. It turns out that this woman was looking for clothes for her daughters. Suddenly, my offerings seemed impractical, but she quickly assured me that that was not the case. She was looking for anything, as her girls were growing quickly and both chronic illness and job loss hit her family. She also mentioned that her eldest daughter was looking for something a bit dressier to wear to school for presentations. I was sold again. School clothes I’ve got.
I gathered up a bag of clothes and dropped them outside their home. She quickly sent me a thank you and actually shared more details of their family’s struggles. She also wanted to let me know that her other daughters were also excited about the clothes. I replied that the pleasure was mine, as she was doing me a great favor by giving me the motivation to find a new home for clothes I no longer wore. A day later, she followed up with more thanks and a request to keep her family in mind if I ever wanted to get rid of anything else.
It was at that exact moment that I took to Twitter for a brainstorm session. What if I added something else? Perhaps I could buy a top or two that was more in line with the taste of high school student than high school teacher. I worried, though, that I would insult the family. Twitter assured me that, no, it would not be an insult. It was a kind gesture, especially given the holiday season. Someone even suggested that I give a gift card to let the girl do her own shopping. Brilliant, I thought.
After bagging up another bundle of clothes, I messaged the mom and arranged another drop-off. This time, I also included a small gift card. It was $25, and I added a note: If any other these tops work, maybe you’d like to pick out a necklace. If these aren’t your taste, maybe you can find something you like more! Happy New Year!
Just like the first time, the thank you arrived almost immediately. This time, it even mentioned one sweater that two of the girls were fighting over. Perfect, I thought.
Then, my inbox dinged again. She wrote that she would, in no uncertain terms, accept the gift card. She would be grateful for more clothes in the future but would be returning the gift card. The note went on for several paragraphs, but I’ll admit that I couldn’t even make it past the first sentence the first time I read it. For someone who didn’t care what people did with their gifts, I suddenly cared a whole lot.
It stung. Not because I wouldn’t be able to put the Target gift card to good use (hello, diapers!), but because I felt like the gesture was exactly the insult that I feared it would be. Rather than try to talk her out of it, though, I simply replied that I would keep her in mind when I went through my spring and summer clothes. I didn’t even acknowledge her point about the gift card. I didn’t want to make either of us feel worse.
I check my mailbox every day. So far, the gift card hasn’t been returned. I hope she changed her mind. I hope she lets her daughter pick out something more her style. I want her to keep it. Or maybe sell it, or regift it. But if she wants to give it back, that’s her right.
So Tell Me…Have you ever found yourself in a sticky gifting situation?