How to Handle Surprise Gifts

Dear Ms. Demeanor:

Last year my brother's girlfriend gave me a beautiful Christmas gift and I didn't get her a gift. It was so awkward because she put a lot of thought into the gift, and I had not thought of her at all. They'd only been dating three months, so I didn't think she should be on my list. Anyway, I thanked her and mumbled something about her gift being on its way. I'm sure a similar kind of situation is bound to come up again this year. How can you possibly know all the people who are going to give you gifts? What's a good way to handle this situation, or better yet, to avoid it entirely?



Dear Marlo:

It's better to simply say, "Thank you! What a wonderful surprise!" and then follow it with a thank-you note (handwritten, please) than to mumble unconvincing excuses. Later, be on the lookout for something that would especially please the person, regardless of the season. When something strikes you, give it with a note saying, "This seemed to have your name on it. Hope it pleases you." Trust me. This is a far more genuine and gracious approach than a knee-jerk reaction.

Throughout the year, it's a good idea to pick up small gifts that can rescue you from such a situation. Usually you can find some interesting things on sale, such as pretty candles, picture frames or writing paper. Or when the holidays are around, pick up some chocolates or fancy nuts for "emergencies" like this.

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