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Old 06-23-2011, 09:19 AM   #1
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Default How do you tell someone they're bad at buying gifts?

I have a good friend who is very bad at choosing gifts. Most of the things she gets me end up being unused or given to charity shops. Now, I know this makes me sound like an ungrateful cow, but I have spent a lot of time and effort in the past, in choosing gifts for her and I am starting to feel that it isn't worth the effort.
For example, for Christmas I went out and found her a ceramic egg-holder that she had mentioned in conversation. She gave me a toiletry bag. Not just a toiletry bag, but a particularly hideous one that would be used by an ancient auntie. I'm 45 - I already have more toiletry bags than I will every used and have never mentioned needing one, so I don't think a lot of thought went into that one.
For her birthday last year, I got her a jewellery roll, as she had mentioned she was looking for a new one. This again took time and effort, as I had to visit a lot of shops before I could find one. For my birthday a few weeks ago, she gave me some body lotion. Not an unwelcome gift in itself, but this one is very strong-smelling, so I can't use it as I have perennial rhinitis and it would set off my sinuses (it takes me forever to choose a new face cream, as I have to take off all the lids and smell them!) I told my friend that, unfortunately, I couldnít use the gift she gave me because of my sinuses. She said that she didnít know. This is strange, because Iíve deliberately made a point of mentioning it when we go into a pharmacy or drugstore, specifically to avoid this type of situation happening again (sheís bought me some bath oil in the past that I couldnít use either). Instead of offering to replace the lotion, as I would have done, she said that she didnít have the receipt any more and I should give it to someone else! So Iím stuck with something I canít use, which feels like I didnít get a present at all. When you add this to the amount of time Iíve put into choosing her gifts, Iím starting to feel very miffed.
I donít know what to do about this. Iíve tried dropping hints about giving each other gift cards or vouchers, so that we can each choose something for ourselves, but that obviously fell on deaf ears, along with my comments about my sinus problems. Iím starting to wonder whether sheís Ďre-giftingí things to me that sheís been given by other people, as none of her presents shows any thought. If it was just a one-off, I could ignore it, but this seems to happen every time and Iím feeling more and more resentful Ė to the point where Iím thinking of buying her chocolates for her next birthday just to make a point (sheís type 1 diabetic).
Having typed this all out, I do feel very selfish and Iím sure thatís what some of you will think. Itís not just the quality of the gifts, itís also the fact that she doesnít seem to be hearing anything I tell her or suggest. Another mutual friend has joked to me that she has Ďselective deafnessí. So, I guess my question is: ĎWhat would you do in this situation?í
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Old 06-23-2011, 09:35 AM   #2
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My immediate response was to take the gift back to the store - all the things you already do.

I don't think there's anything you can or should do, unless you want to save her time and money. I think saying something is more rude than returning something.

Maybe you can save yourself time and money and agree to not buy gifts for each other for any occassion. Maybe tell her you'd rather spend the money on a coffee date with her instead.
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Old 06-23-2011, 09:37 AM   #3
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My aunt is like this and I think it is because she is cheap and likes finding 'bargains' so you are subject to one of her bargains.

Personally, I'm a bad gift giver so I don't give gifts for events but if I see something that fits a person, I'll buy it and give it to them. I also don't want gifts for events. So I don't do birthday or christmas gifts.

I would suggest forgoing gift giving with this friend but that is just me.
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Old 06-23-2011, 09:45 AM   #4
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If it’s something that is very hurtful to you (seems to be), for whatever reason, you should try to have an actual conversation with her. You’ll let your feelings be known, and you can gauge whether or not she has any idea that she’s being negligent. If this is a good friend, and someone you trust, be as straight forward and honest as possible. “My feelings are hurt that you gifted me lotions that I can’t use because I thought you knew about my sinus problems. It makes me feel like we’re not as good of friends as I thought we were.”

Don’t blame, but clearly state the problem and how you feel. Be prepared that she might get defensive. Sorry about this, not a fun or easy problem to have!
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Old 06-23-2011, 09:49 AM   #5
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Some people just really aren't good at gift giving or maybe they don't read other people that well or maybe it's just more important to you than it is to her. I know I get kind of...competitive? About gift giving. My mom keeps telling me, it's Christmas, no one wins at Christmas (or everyone wins I guess, depending on how you look at it). No one's holiday hinges on MY gift to them. It's ok if I don't choose the perfect thing that is more clever and perfect and original than any gift they've ever gotten before. I mean really, who do I think I am?

I don't think you can tell someone their gifts aren't good enough. Really, no one owes you a gift, or even a particularly good gift. Your choices are a. continue to do what you do and be resentful of her pitiful efforts, b. learn to see it with a sense of humor (what kind of crazy thing will she find THIS year), or c. suggest you do something together instead of buying gifts. My friends and I started this years ago - for birthdays and Christmas we have lunch or dinner or a show or SOMETHING without the husbands and kids. It is now one of my favorite things.
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Old 06-23-2011, 09:51 AM   #6
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I agree, if gift giving puts a stress on the relationship for either side just forgo it. Why now go out for lunch on each others birthday and a nice dinner sometime during the Christmas season, there would be far less stress. Hope it all works out.
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Old 06-23-2011, 09:56 AM   #7
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I don't think she likes to listen? Thats what I get out of all of this plus she seems to intune with herself and enjoys getting good gifts yet is too selfish to go out of her way to spend the money on someone else.

Tell her not to bother buying you a gifts anymore that you don't need anything unless it's a gift card and see how that goes. She may start buying you gift cards or she'll probably stop buying gifts at all, either way the crappy gifts will stop coming.
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Old 06-23-2011, 10:03 AM   #8
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It is a gift, a present, not something she owes to you. You simply say thank you. Perhaps you can reevaluate the amount of time, effort, and money you put into her gift and adjust it to something that makes you feel less resentful, but you cannot tell someone they are bad at buying you gifts.
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Old 06-23-2011, 10:09 AM   #9
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Have you ever heard of the five love languages? It might be worth reading a quick summary of them online. Probably "gift giving" is your love language but clearly it is not your friend's. You have a lot of other decent suggestions above for what to actually do about the situation but I just thought that this concept of people having different modes of expressing love might be illuminating for you.

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Old 06-23-2011, 10:24 AM   #10
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I am both a terrible gift-giver AND gift-receiver. There was book that came out a while back here in the States called "The 5 Love Languages" that talked about how people give and receive love, and while I didn't agree with the entire book it did help me realize that tangible gifts mean pretty much nothing to me, and are often more trouble than they're worth. It doesn't make me a bad person, or mean I don't care about someone, or that I'm not listening - I just stink at gifts.

Maybe this is the situation with your friend? It sounds like you're a "gifts" person while she might not be. Is this the only area of your friendship that's a big issue? Only you can decide if it's worth it to have a conversation, but it would be terrible to resent her if it's simply a difference in personality.

For reference, the other "love languages" mentioned in the book were:
- Words of affirmation (encouragement)
- Physical touch
- Quality time
- Acts of service
(Again, I'm not shilling the book, but it presents an interesting, different perspective.)

Do you think your friend is showing her love for you through one of those, or in another way? It could just be a difference in communication styles.

ETA: ERHR - Posting at the same time, I see.

Last edited by JenMusic; 06-23-2011 at 10:25 AM.
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Old 06-23-2011, 10:26 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by aimeebell View Post
It is a gift, a present, not something she owes to you. You simply say thank you. Perhaps you can reevaluate the amount of time, effort, and money you put into her gift and adjust it to something that makes you feel less resentful, but you cannot tell someone they are bad at buying you gifts.
I agree.
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Old 06-23-2011, 10:53 AM   #12
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Someone already quoted aimeebell but I also agree. I think if you maybe want to spend less effort then go ahead and do so. The difficulty in saying something, is she may not know that it isn't good. Some people, don't value gifts the way others do. I personally believe the 5 love languages does have some truth, maybe you could read it a judge for yourself? Like for me, I think gifts are nice but not necessary. To her maybe a real judge of the friendship may come from the time and conversations you have rather than the presents. She may have no clue it hurts your feelings, and hurting hers in return may not give the result you want.

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Old 06-23-2011, 11:03 AM   #13
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Don't sweat it. return her gifts if you can, and if you can't, donate them. Try to suggest things like gift cards gently, but if that doesn't take, don't worry about it. She doesn't owe you anything, even bad gifts!

Then try to relax with your gifts. Not be mean about it, but don't go out of your way either.

Then maybe you can relax about it all.

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Old 06-23-2011, 11:39 AM   #14
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"How do you tell someone they are bad at buying gifts?"

Uh, you don't.

As Aimeebell says "It is a gift, a present, not something she owes to you".

I have a friend who buys the same gift for a number of her friends ....... whereas I always take trouble and time to pick a gift to suit her personally. That's just the way it is .....

I think this could be putting a strain on your relationship and is it worth that?

Perhaps you should get her a toiletry bag for her next birthday or wrap up and return the cream she gave you
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Old 06-23-2011, 11:52 AM   #15
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I agree, she's probably just someone who is uninterested in gift-giving. Get her something cheap and easy for you to source, donate presents from her to friends or charity shops, and take her off your mental list of people for whom you spend time lovingly sourcing gifts.

My partner is a keen gift-giver, while I am completely sporadic about gifts. I will sometimes give someone nothing for years on end and then spend months making them a quilt. It doesn't mean I care about people any less, and I pride myself on being a supportive friend. I make much more effort with my partner, I start fretting about two months before his birthday, especially as it's right by Valentine's Day and we give each other presents then as well. He always finds me the most amazing cards, often connected to our little pet jokes, and I think he must be popping into card shops regularly for months in advance. I'm housebound and hopeless at card-shopping, so I make him cards instead and have fun attempting to draw silly pictures and such.

His mother is an even more keen gift-giver, and loads both of her children down with presents at Christmas. Many of the presents would be more suitable for children, I think she just gets carried away having fun. I don't see much of her, but I get presents at the same time; very little compared to what her kids get, but it's still a nice surprise as my family doesn't do Christmas presents. However, I am struggling to think of one that I've actually used! The quilting fabric was kept, although much of it was turned into quilts for friends, as it wasn't quite to my taste. And oh yes, there was a lovely peridot pendant that is perfect with a pair of earrings I have. She seems to think that I'm madly girly though, I get things like that hot pink jewellery box which was smuggled away to a charity shop a tactful amount of time later. I just laugh, as she means well, and I really do appreciate her generosity. I haven't got her as many gifts as she has me, but then I'm more broke and I have made her a couple of very nice quilted items, which tend to count for more as they're hand-sewn, so I think it balances out overall.

I also have problems with people buying me food or toiletries. I'm vegan, which is tricky since the main food people buy you is chocolate and most of them don't stop to think that the vast majority of chocolate, even dark chocolate, contains milk. When it comes to toiletries, even if they were cruelty-free (hasn't happened yet) I wouldn't be able to use them due to dermographism and eczema. I think I may try to get a hint through to my partner's mother that toiletries are a bit pointless, bring up the eczema and how I love to make my own moisturiser or something, but it won't be the end of the world if it doesn't happen. You can usually find a home for unopened toiletries, and you can always find a home for chocolate!
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