How You Can Easily Express “Thank You” for a Disappointing Gift [Writing Guide]

bad gift thank you birthday

Bad gifts are inevitable.

The person who gave you the gift probably values the purchase 67% more than you do.

And if you’re getting a gift from a man, the deck is stacked against you.  Their general lack of interest in others makes men worse gift givers, when compared to women.

They did spend money, time, and brain-power selecting and giving you a gift.

But, what if you don’t like it?  Don’t need it?  Think it’s a horrible gift?

What do you do then?

Etiquette tells you to send a Thank You card even when you receive a poor gift.

The gift may be painful, but writing “thank you” doesn’t need to be.

Here’s a simple trick to expressing gratitude for a disappointing gift.

Make It All About Them

Normally, it’s all about you.

When saying “thank you” for a gift that you actually like, you focus on the benefits you receive from the gift.  How you will use it.  How it’s just what you needed.  How great it makes you feel.

It’s always good manners and proper etiquette to mail a handwritten thank you note.

But for the poorly-selected gift, it’s best to simply focus on the gift giver.

Love the giver more than the gift – Brigham Young

At this point, you’ve got the gift.  Your goal now is to maintain whatever level of social comfort already exists in the relationship.

Turn the focus from the gift to the giver’s feelings, time, and efforts.

Strive to connect with the giver’s intentions.  Seek to tap into the good feelings they are sure to have had when they selected the gift for you.  Let them know you appreciate the trouble they went through in getting you the gift.

To get your brain thinking in the right direction, imagine:

  • the time they spent searching for and purchasing the gift
  • what they may have seen in the gift that made them think of you
  • what they said to you when they gave you the gift in person
  • the expense and effort they went through in mail your gift if not given in person
  • how thoughtful they were to remember you when celebrating an occasion

Once your focus is on the giver, not the gift, you are ready to write.

How to Write a Good “Thank You” for a Bad Gift

Keep your true feelings to yourself.  At least about the material item, that is.

The old adage, “It’s the thought that counts” will serve you well as you write.

Use phrases designed to take the focus off the gift and redirect them onto the gift giver.  Here are some examples:

  • I’m honored by such a unique gift and appreciate your sense of style.
  • You bring new and exciting things into my life that I would have never found on my own.
  • I’m blessed by your wonderful sense of humor.
  • It’s so thoughtful of you to remember my __________ (birthday, anniversary, promotion, etc.)
  • You’ve always had such a vision for _____________ (design, homemaking, fashion, etc).
  • Your friendship and love are the most valuable thing you could ever give me.

The point of your handwritten “thank you” is to help the giver feel value in the gift, even when you don’t.  

People are happier when they generously give gifts.  Despite how you feel about the gift, you can still evoke inner-happiness in the person who gave you the gift.

Knowing that you are in turn giving the gift of happiness will make you happier.  Thus, their gift does possess a silver lining.

With the right perspective on your thank you note, you’ll both be happier and the relationship will be stronger.

Give It a Try

Make a mental note.

Or, jot down the sample phrases from above and save them for your next handwritten “thank you” for a not-so great gift.

Turn your next disappointing gift into a happier experience… for both of you.

Happy writing!


Flickr creative commons image courtesy of Susana Fernandez.