Etiquette for receiving apparently unwanted gifts?

by Karen
(Arizona)

We have several elderly neighbors, who we try to look out for all year. My husband and I often do little things like bringing their trash cans back from the curb.


At Christmas, we gave each neighbor a small gift with a nice holiday note.

One neighbor knocked on my door the next day--thanks me for the gift (a set of lotions) and then proceeded to insist that I take the gift back--saying that she is allergic to fragrances. I was shocked.

Later that week, a second neighbor saw me in the yard. She called over, indicating that the dog bed I'd gotten for her little dog is too small...and suggested I return it. She then left me standing outside while she ran in to get it and give it back.

Both situations were extremely awkward. Is it acceptable for these women to return an unwanted gift? Wouldn't it be better to simply say thank you and then regift, donate, or simply throw away the item if they truly do not want it?

I'm mystified!

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Jan 09, 2016
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Commenting on old post NEW
by: Anonymous

I realize this is an old post but since I came across it I would like to put my input. Sometimes people such as neighbours that only covers are the odd hello or good morning across the fence honestly they would rather just keep to themselves and during Christmas/Holidays and if they are pregnant do gift exchanges and celebrate with friends and family so if you are a neighbour that feels the need to gift a person just because they live beside you it may come across as very awkward and make them feel obligated to return the favour or to thank you when they really aren't comfortable about it. Sometimes people need to realize that these people aren't being rude they just like their privacy and would rather not get too involved with neighbours especially when holidays and special occasions arise as every occasion would become awkward and they would feel obligated to comply with the gift giving. A simple card would be a sweet gesture but personally I would never want to be put in this situation nor would I wanto make someone feel obligated to return the favour.

Jun 05, 2015
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Neighbor who repeatedly crossed the line NEW
by: Anonymous

A neighborhood lady age 70 who also happens to be the neighborhood busybody and an over-the-top do-gooder would frequently give me unwanted gifts. She is also a classic enabler, cutting another neighbor's grass without being asked to when it gets too long rather than reporting to the HOA as she should. So the long grass continues of course. She also spread news (okay, gossip) about other neighbors to me so I assumed she did or would do likewise with my information (I am a very private person). I am a single male (happily divorced). The neighbor lady is married and her husband is very withdrawn and anti-social and has shown no interest in me as a friend.. He is also very submissive to his wife's dominating behavior and, on one occasion, she went around telling all her neighbors why her husband was "in the dog house" etc. etc. The gratuitous gift-giving from this lady eventually got so bad that I told her, as politely as possible, that I did not want any more gifts from her. But they continued and, thereafter, were ALL returned. My behavior towards this lady may strike some as rude. To others in similar situations it may resonate. I found her behavior domineering and pushy which, when added to the gossip-mongering, forced me to draw a line in the sand with her. The end result is that I now completely ignore her, but the gratuitous gift-giving has stopped - and information about me is not spread willy-nilly around the street. .

Oct 01, 2014
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Is there something wrong with me? NEW
by: Anonymous

I left a baby gift on my neighbors doorstep (they did not answer the door, but had their garage open) so I left it at the front door. I live in a townhome community and most of the neighbors are private and don't talk. From time to time, I say hello to the young couple next door and make small talk if I see them outside. Since she is pregnant and about to have a baby I thought it would be nice to get them a gift. I was surprised that they didn't thank me, or acknowledge the gift at all. Its very rude and I feel insulted. If I was the one who received the gift, I would have immediately gone over to my neighbors house and said thank you, or at least left a note. The couple are in their 20's at least, and i'm 51. As a result of this, unless they are a "true" close friend instead of a neighbor.

Dec 27, 2011
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Returning gifts is rude NEW
by: Dandelion

In answer to your question--no, someone who's received a gift from you should not give it back with a litany of reasons why it's unacceptable.

If it happens, the simplest thing to do is just take it back graciously and do something else with it--if it's unopened, you could return it to the store or even give it to someone else who'd enjoy it (or use it yourself). I personally think people who return gifts are making it clear they don't want you to shop for them, so I would feel no obligation to give them anything again unless I wished to (though this means you'd need to avoid situations where you needed to give them a gift--present exchanges, weddings, etc).

Respond as graciously as you can--you certainly don't want to be rude back, even though the situation is frustrating. Best wishes!

Sep 29, 2011
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gifts received
by: Dee

some times just the little things you have done for them on a daily bases is a gift in it self,And to go out and buy something maybe a kind but not necessary. To some its uncomfortable and it can make them feel bad couse they can"t return one to you. My husband and i offten help people and don:t except anything in retun,we enjoy it ,we received a card from one couple as a thank you they gave each of us 100.00 dollars it was a nice jestor but not one we feel we could except,now we have to think of a nice way to return it to them be couse we help out of freindship. so sometimes giving a gift isnt necessary, the true gift is what you do for then daily.

Apr 08, 2011
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Re: Stereo speakers
by: Anonymous

Oh, what an unfortunate 'gift' to receive--big, ugly speakers!
Apparently they were so impressed by your new remodeling and felt they would contribute their 'cherry' on the top! Did they ask you if you would like such a thing installed? Or was it a surprise upon returning home? If they asked and you declined, you should have insisted they not give such an expensive gift but instead just thanked you with a promise to visit again sometime, and then not allowed them to install them. Either way, I would remove them and donate them to a charitable cause. I am sure there are various types of housing in your area which would love to have such nice speakers for their media room. When they come to visit again, if the subject is brought up just say, "It was such a thoughtful gesture but unfortunately not compatible with my system or need so I knew you would be please if I passed them on to someone in greater need. I donated them to ________House and they said their clients were thrilled to have them." Then leave it at that. A gift too large is always awkward. It is best to keep the gift in a comfortable range.

Apr 07, 2011
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Advice for this unwanted gift?
by: Anonymous

I am a 65 year old college professor with sufficient income to buy most things I need. I hosted a former student and his wife (they're in their 50's) for more than a week when they needed to be in the area, and was happy to do it. They surprised me by presenting me with a tuner and two big black speakers, installing it on a cabinet and attaching the tuner to my flat-screen TV. I just spent about $100K to redesign this room, and have no interest in big black speakers and more audio apparatus. The problem is, they will be back in the area and short of spending a significant amount of money on a big armoire to hide all of this stuff, they will see that it is all packed away in a closet. How should this have been handled?

Feb 05, 2011
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Thoughtful consideration
by: Giver

Keep in mind the age of the gift returners! Older people often survived the depression, only to be left with thoughts one should use it or return it. I wouldn't take it seriously. For the first neighbor, perhaps she was embarrassed at not having a gift to reciprocate and felt better returning it. I usually avoid scented lotions as it might truly irritate someone's skin. Think of their ages, their physical and financial limitations and proceed from there. Often the best gift to an older person is a tin of coffee or tea, some sweets (sugar free-just in case!) and a short visit to talk with them for a spell. Remember, the idea of giving a gift is that it was given with thought not expectations.

Jul 14, 2010
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Can't Teach An Old Dog...
by: LA

Lol, elderly people are sometimes funny and seem completely irrational but it's ok, because they're old. I'd say just forget about it and don't give anymore gifts.

Don't take it personally either, they probably think they did you a favor.

Jun 29, 2010
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Perhaps your neighbours suspect an alterior motive...?
by: Anonymous

A neighbour has left me a gift on my doorstep - it is completely unwanted because it is awkward. The reason it is awkward - they may have an alterior motive. They have bought the house next to us and are trying to get us to contribute money to a little obsession that she has. The neighbours on the other side have also had this issue but with another little project of theirs. So a box of chocolates has been left by them in the hope that we'll be nice and contribute hundreds or possibly thousands of pounds to improving the drive and turning circle they own that us neighbours use to get to our own parking spaces. This is all in the hope that they can flag it up to 'maintenance' rather than what it actually is an 'improvment' for which we don't have to contribute. They also stopped us using our parking spaces for a week when they put scaffolding up and although they didn't ask us if the date was acceptable to us we went with it, its supposed to be with thanks but the thanks I would prefer is just to be left alone.

May 23, 2010
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How rude!
by: Anonymous

Your neighbors' responses to your gracious gifts seems extremely rude to me. It would have been much better to simply thank you for the gift, and as you said, regift, donate, or even just throw out the unwanted gift. If I were you, I wouldn't be too worried about giving these ladies any kind of gifts in the future.

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