Sage Advice: "Thank You" Never Goes Out of Style

December 5th, 2018

Should a mother-in-law take offense at never getting gratitude?


No_Thank_You Image

Dear Amy: My young-adult daughter and her partner have lived together for four years. They live 300 miles away.

I am very fond of my daughter’s partner and send her a birthday gift each year.

I have never received a thank you. I’m flexible on the format – a text would be fine with me, however … nothing.

This year I asked my daughter if her girlfriend had received the gift, but that didn’t feel right, either. In the future, should I text her girlfriend and ask her directly? Should I give up on this expectation and assume the gifts are received?

The tracking number lets me know it arrived on their front porch. Of course, I’d like to hear that I selected a gift that was appreciated, but I really want to know if she got it.

I’ve sent gifts to children knowing it was up to their parents as to whether I received a thank you. When sending a gift to an adult, my expectations are that there’d be some acknowledgment.

Amy, are thank-you’s and/or acknowledgements passé?

– Did You Get It?

Dear Did You: A “thank you” never goes out of style.

And I would say that over four years’ time, a texted acknowledgment from an adult that a gift was received should be considered the minimum investment toward receiving a gift the following year.

Her behavior is embarrassing to you, because now you have to face the prospect of proactively chasing down this gift.

Let’s set aside the whole idea of even saying “thank you.” Packages get nabbed off of front porches. Even with accurate tracking, senders only know if someone actually received a package – if the recipient tells them.

And, here’s a holiday bonus for all of you clueless or awkward recipients out there:

Let’s say you receive a gift (even if you don’t like it). Oh no! What should you do? At the very least, you should send a text – or call – saying, “Hi, I got the gift you sent! You are so thoughtful to think of me. I really appreciate it. Thank you!”

A slightly more-clever (and more fun) version of this is to take a selfie or a video selfie of yourself holding the gift, and deliver this message to the sender’s phone. It takes 30 seconds, and is much appreciated.

And yes, polite and high-functioning people often also follow up with a note.

Given this woman’s behavior, I think it’s time for you to transition toward birthday cards. Then all of you can stop worrying about it.


In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2018 by Amy Dickinson

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