‘Tis the Season…

…To give and to receive. Whether one is more blessed than the other, and if so, which one, is an argument we can have some other time. Today our focus is on receiving. Specifically, I wanted to say a few words here about something you must give after you have received.
That’s right, I’m talking about “thanks.” “Do I hafta?” cries the exasperated reader.
The Ghostess replies kindly but firmly, “Yes, you hafta.”
A thank-you note is absolutely essential if:
A: You received the gift by mail rather than in person. At the very least, the giver needs to know if the gift arrived so that, if it didn’t, they can put in a claim for the insurance or complain to the company that was supposed to have sent it.
B: Wedding, shower and graduation gifts. These don’t’ have to be elaborate, especially if it was a big event with lots of people who gave presents, but it is required, on pain of being remembered forever as rude and ungrateful. I once sent a very nice coffeemaker to a friend’s bridal shower, and never got any kind of thank-you, verbal or written. Guess how I have always remembered that bride.
Written thanks are not absolutely essential but are always nice when The giver is a close friend or family member AND you have thanked them warmly in person. The sincere verbal thanks is sufficient, but trust me, they will be thrilled to receive a written thanks as well.
About the only time when you need not express thanks for a gift is when a large company sends you, its customer, something like a free pen or can-cosy to mark some holiday. That’s not really a gift, it’s a promotion.
On my “Writing Samples” page, I have an example of a good thank-you note. From the letter, it is obvious that the new parents are truly delighted with the silver piggy-bank that their friend has given their baby as a christening present. And that’s the mark of a good thank-you: it is sincere.
“But what if I really, really hate the present?” wonders the “do I hafta?” reader we met earlier.
The Ghostess, still kind but firm, replies: “Tough.”
In fact, “Carla and Jack” who wrote to thank “Marie’ for the piggy-bank really and truly despsised the cheapo trinket, which wasn’t real silver and in fact started shedding its silver paint in tiny, sticky flakes almost as soon as they got it home.
Furthermore, it looked less like a piggy than like a strange, outsized, vaguely pig-like insect. And finally, they weren’t all that happy to see Marie at the christening, because she annoyed everyone else there with her horse-laugh and her endless dieting stories, and the new parents hope devoutly that Marie will never bring herself and her horrible children to visit them anytime soon.
But see, you’d never know all that if I hadn’t just spilled the beans. (That’s why names and details have been changed.) And you must follow Carla’s example, by keeping in mind what legendary movie producer and language-mangler Sam Goldwyn once said:
“The most important thing is sincerity. Absolute and total sincerity. Once you learn to fake that, you’ve got it made.”


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