Should You Send Thank You Notes For Gifts?

I went to college with a guy that has been a fairly good friend for quite a number of years.  We keep in touch regularly.  He played in the fantasy football league that I ran for eight years.  He lives pretty close by.  We met his girlfriend, who later became his wife, and we felt like we might have the option of developing a good friendship with this couple.  They were fun and friendly, and when they started their family not too long after ours, it seemed even more of a potential match since having the kids play together is always a good catalyst for family friendships.

Unfortunately it hasn’t really worked out as we might have thought.

We still get together with them and see them socially, but that closer friendship hasn’t really developed.  And, it’s all because of the habits coming down to the couple saying thank you.

Or rather, the fact that they don’t.

We’ve given several gifts to their young child, one time when they came over to our house for dinner and we were introduced to the baby for the first time, and another at his first birthday, and neither time did we receive any sort of thank you note.

Habit Forming

As a kid, it was instilled into me at a pretty early age that I should send a thank you note for a gift that I received.  After receiving gifts for Christmas or my birthday, at some point in the following several weeks, I was expected to sit down and write a small note thanking my aunt or grandma or whoever for the nice gift.

I realize now that it wasn’t so much about sending the gift or writing the right words as it was about my parents teaching me proper manners.

My wife must have learned the same habits because she naturally writes out thank you notes any time that the kids get a present.  Little Boy Beagle, who is three and a half, even ‘writes’ his name on them now, and the thought is that when they get old enough, they’ll be expected to write them and send them out themselves.

But, the couple in question has never sent a thank you note.  I would even accept something on Facebook or an e-mail.  In one case, the birthday party, they had it at a facility where the kids could play in bounce houses, and because of the short window, they didn’t even open the gifts in front of their guests.  I don’t have a problem with the fact that they didn’t open the gifts, but you would think that they would provide some sort of acknowledgement of having received the gift.

I’m trying to think of reasons on why they might not send out a gift.

They didn’t know?  My father-in-law suggested that, if neither of them were raised to send out thank you notes, maybe they see it as perfectly normal to collect gifts without writing thank you notes.  In fairness, they did send out thank you notes for the wedding gift that we gave them, but I know wedding thank yous are a little more known.

I don’t know if I necessarily see this as an excuse but I’ll ask readers, is this one that maybe should be given a little more consideration or should they have learned by now to send out thank you notes.

They didn’t like the gift?  For the gift that we gave them when we first met the baby, my wife created something she’s given out multiple times, a personalized frame with the baby’s birth details.  It’s a new thing that everybody else we’ve given it to has gushed over, but maybe it didn’t fit their style or they didn’t think much of it.

Even if they didn’t like the gift, is that an excuse to negate sending a thank you card?  I always thought that you were thanking the person for the thought that they put into the gift as much as you are the gift itself.

Are we expecting something that we shouldn’t? Maybe the issue is on us. Maybe receiving a thank you note is something beyond what we should be expecting.

I just don’t believe this though.  We know a lot of friends, many of whom have had babies that we’ve exchanged gifts with either as newborns, for first birthdays, or the like.  In every other case, we’ve received thank you notes after having given a gift.

It got lost in the mail?  Maybe they did send a thank you and we never received it.  I could see this happening maybe once, but twice?  I think it’s probably a fair assumption that it never got sent.  Now, we do have a friend in common, and I’ve been tempted to ask whether they received a thank you, but I never have simply because I don’t want to even bring the chance of it getting back to the couple.  That’s not our goal.

What’s the big deal?

I don’t want to drop these people as friends, and I don’t want to make a mountain out of a mole hill, so I wonder, are we overreacting?  Or does it speak to something about the type of friends that we want to have (and that we want our kids to have) by getting bothered by this?  Our thought is that we will continue to be social with them but as far as trying to develop a friendship where we see each other outside of birthday parties or the like, it’s not as high on our agenda as it might have been a while back.

I don’t know all their is to know about manners and ettiquite, nor do I want to. I’ve never considered myself a person who would describe themselves as ‘proper’ but at the same time, when someone goes out of their way to do something for me or my family, whether it be by offering their time, their money, or a gift, I try to express my gratitude and thanks.  I’m sure that I’ve failed to do so at times, but when it becomes a regular thing, it seems hard to blame it on an oversight.

Readers, what do you think of our thoughts on this matter? Do you notice if you don’t receive a thank you note or some expression of gratitude after a gift is given?

22 thoughts on “Should You Send Thank You Notes For Gifts?”

  1. I try to be very diligent in sending thank you notes out. Truth is though, if I don’t write it on a post it, and send out the note within a few days, it has escaped my mind. I also try to teach my children to send out thank yous as well. Sometimes my thank yous come in verbal form of a phone call or a text or an email. I think this generation of people is just so busy in the hurry of life, giving a thank you note doesn’t always happen. If someone gave me a gift, I would thank them in some way, but not always necessarily in the form of a note. As a child, I was never brought up sending thank you notes, but I always told the person thank you.

  2. I think when you get married or have a baby, you should send that you’s for the gifts you receive. For birthday parties, I usually don’t send that you’s unless our daughter gets something from a relative we don’t see often and it comes in the mail. I think if it is a good friend, I wouldn’t expect a thank you but more of a casual friend or co worker, I would. I would always at least call or email or text a thanks. I’m bad with anything that requires a stamp. I just never go to the post office since everything is online now.

    • They aren’t close friends, they’re just ‘regular’ friends I guess. I don’t know, this day in age, even a Facebook message or something is better than nothing. I know that’s probably considered too impersonal for many people, but I think it’s a big step above crickets.

  3. We don’t send out thank you cards. Perhaps we should as it would make us appreciate the gift more, but we don’t. Honestly I never really think about it. I wouldn’t take it as a slight and would assume they weren’t raised with the habit. I hope none of our friends are upset we don’t send thank you cards… (But we don’t get any either, so I think we are safe).

  4. I do not send thank you notes for situations where it is an exchange such as Christmas etc. If someone sends a gift for a wedding or a child’s birth, I think it is very appropriate to send a not or a specific phone call. I find that there are a variety of social habits that were never taught in many homes. I say good morning to my students and many of them just don’t know what to do.

  5. Yes, it can be annoying to not receive thank yous. We still have yet to receive a single one for 2 weddings and a shower that we/I attended this past summer. In one case, we got an email, but it was in response to the eTransfer confirmation anyway.
    I remember hating writing Christmas thank you cards as a kid, but totally get it now and try to write them for most occasions. I was really inspired once in a course I took, where the lady (who worked in sales, so it made tonnes of sense!) wrote 5 thank you cards per day. Good service at a coffee shop? Thank you card, etc etc. It makes everyone’s day a bit brighter.

    • Good point, I remember working on the help desk at my first job out of college, and it was always nice to get a thank you note from a happy user.

  6. This is certainly a reflection of how I was raised but I didn’t know you were supposed to send thank you cards for anything other than wedding gifts.

    I really hope someone hasn’t dropped me as a friend because they thought I didn’t appreciate their gift just because saying “thank you” in person to them wasn’t enough…

  7. I wouldn’t get too carried away with it. I usually try to say thank you in some form, but I don’t think I’ve ever sent a formal thank you note in my life.

    I can understand being annoyed by it because that’s how you were raised, but I think really holding it against them is probably taking it too far.

  8. I was not raised to send out thank you cards for birthday gifts. Unless you send the gift in the mail and does not attend, then I consider thank you cards unnecessary for anything other than weddings, although in the case were they did not open the gift during the birthday party, a thank you note probably would have been appropriate.

  9. We sent Thank-You notes for our wedding but that’s about it. Christmas we do face to face exchange and when we talk to family back home they say thank-you as we don’t get to see them for the holidays. Other than that we don’t have kids but if it were a birthday gift someone gave me I’d ring them up to say thanks.

  10. I do notice when they’re not sent, but I have come to realize that not everyone was raised the way I was and it may not be fair to hold them to my expectations. We send them out as I view it as the nice thing to do…and really, it only takes five minutes to do it.

  11. I’m not a big “Thank you” note writer but your blog has got me thinking… do I show enough appreciation for the gifts and in some instances nice gestures sent my way? If I measure myself against your stick I would say probably not… maybe it is time to add a bit more to my “thank yous”.

    You may actually be up against me out there… i.e. maybe your friends just don’t know that they are being aloof.

  12. I’ve never been a big sender of thank-you cards, except for big events. For birthdays and Christmas, I always just thanked the gift giver in person. I think that if you properly thank the person, you don’t need to send a card.

  13. We always have our kids write thank you notes. The giver spent the time picking out a gift plus the money involved, the least our kids can do is spend 30 seconds writing a thank you note.

    As for your situation its tricky. I probably wouldn’t hold it against them. In the end, all we have control over is our actions and what we choose to instill in our kids.

  14. I have to admit that we don’t send thank you notes. However, I thank our friends and relatives either through phone calls or emails. I think it’s not to late to start the habit of sending thank you notes for the gifts.

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