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An I being petty?
August 17, 2011 2:20 AM   Subscribe

Am I being petty about a gift from a close friend?

I am probably being petty but this recent experience is still bugging me and I’d like a neutral opinion(s). So, it was my birthday a few months ago and one of my best friends quite nicely advises me that he’s sending me a present – we live in different towns and I am in almost daily e-mail contact with him. I work full time, live alone and have a commute to get to work, therefore I wasn’t available to sign for the present when it arrived. To complicate matters the parcel wasn’t held at my local post office (it was held on an industrial estate on the other side of the big city I live in) and they would only re-schedule delivery for Monday – Friday between hours I was still at work, or travelling to and from work. After a particularly stressful few weeks at work the existence of the parcel slipped my mind and it was recalled back to the supplier, my friend was refunded his costs, prior to this however he did e-mail me to say this was going to happen and I suggested he re-send it to my work address so I would get it – to this I was advised that I was being a ‘cheeky bastard’ and I’ve heard nothing further matter since, and no replacement present or explanation has arrived.

I really don’t understand this attitude, particularly the last comment about being ‘cheeky’. Sure it was very nice of him to send me something for my birthday (which we frequently do amongst my circle of close friends) and I don’t wish to sound ungrateful, but this attitude strikes me as ridiculous. Special bonus point which may sound petty but I think it also bears on things – it was said friends 40th birthday earlier in the year and I shelled out £1,000+ to help celebrate his birthday in foreign climes, obviously this wasn’t completely altruistic as I enjoyed the holiday as well so I wasn’t exactly being a martyr, but the point still stands? No? For what its worth we’ve been in regular contact since and our friendship or frequency of communication hasn’t altered in anyway so I’m 99% sure it’s not as if I have offended my friend in any other way to prompt this reaction.

Should I broach this with my friend and ask what’s the deal with this reaction? Should I just let it go? It’s not about the present per se (I’m 99% sure it was a book that would have cost about £40, no small gift but something easily available through Amazon) it’s the attitude which still really grates on me. Thanks in advance fellow me-fites for your reflections and advice on this insignificant matter…
posted by Mintyblonde to Human Relations (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
In some circles of my friends that phrase is almost a compliment... but I can understand you being a bit ruffled at it. Should you bring it up? Depends on your friendship, this could be a sign that there is a lot of hidden resentment on the part of your friend... or it could just be one of those things.

People say the wrong thing sometimes, people make mistakes, sometimes they don't realise they've done or said the wrong thing and didn't mean to offend. Or other times they are deliberately offensive, but the fact your friendship continues unaffected means to me it was either a comment made in fun, or a case of causing uninstentional offence.

Me? I would let it slide, if its just a blip in an otherwise smooth friendship.
posted by Admira at 2:34 AM on August 17, 2011


It would bother me a bit, especially if this person is aware of how busy you were. I don't think your request to have it sent to the office was unreasonable.

If I did broach the subject, it would be something like, "Hey, I really appreciate you making the effort to send me something for my birthday. I'm really bummed it didn't work out. Thanks for the thought!"
posted by guster4lovers at 2:40 AM on August 17, 2011


This is how your friend probably sees it: he paid to have a present sent to you, and you couldn't be bothered picking it up.

Was there really no way you could've collected it on a weekend, or had a neighbour sign for it, or something like that? It sounds to me like you were stressed out and didn't want to deal with it, which I totally understand, but having made that decision, you can't be surprised that he thinks you don't want it. From his perspective, why should he send you another present when you didn't even pick up the first?

Also note that he's probably out some money for the whole thing. They may have refunded him the cost of the present, but I'd be surprised if they refunded the postage costs, too.

Personally, I think you owe him an apology. Explain the problems with the post office combined with work stress meant the present slipped your mind, offer to cover his postage costs as a gesture of good faith (which he will refuse), and move on.
posted by Georgina at 2:40 AM on August 17, 2011 [70 favorites]


I agree with Georgina, you owe him the apology, not the other way round.
posted by joannemullen at 2:45 AM on August 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


Let it go, you're totally in the wrong. He sent it, you never picked it up and forgot about it for weeks, and then asked him to go through the hassle of re-ordering which is kind of annoying. Thank him for the gift, apologize for not picking it up, and then drop it.
posted by 6550 at 2:45 AM on August 17, 2011 [19 favorites]


This is how your friend probably sees it: he paid to have a present sent to you, and you couldn't be bothered picking it up.

...this and...

This is how your friend probably sees it: he paid to have a present sent to you, and you couldn't be bothered picking it up.

...this. In your friend's position I'd be totally pissed off that I'd made the effort to get you a present, you couldn't be arsed collecting it, and now you're askeding *me* to go the hassle of re-ordering it?
posted by rodgerd at 2:50 AM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you're too busy to pick up a present, you're too busy to keep this friend.
posted by Nixy at 2:54 AM on August 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


I think you should get some good-quality paper and write a nice thank-you letter telling him how much you appreciate that he sent you a birthday gift, and apologize for getting in a muddle with the post office and not managing to pick it up. Conclude by telling him that he's a great guy and you really value his friendship.

You write the thank-you note because it's the thought that counts. Right?

I am sure he is aware of how much you extended yourself to celebrate his birthday. That's probably the reason why nothing worse has happened to your friendship than him calling you a "cheeky bastard" over this.
posted by tel3path at 2:56 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now, obviously the depends on the kind of friendship you have, but if it were me, I would send him a gift. But hear me out...

Don't tell him you're sending it. In fact, don't address this gift issue at all. Keep on like you are now and pretend it didn't happen. Side note: make sure you send the gift to an address he'll be able to receive it at, since you won't be telling him to prepare for its arrival.

The gift needs to be something really stupid for a cheap laugh. Something like a troll doll, presented without context, with nothing except "Sorry I was a cheeky bastard! :)" sharpied across it's butt. Or a my little pony with a note that says "Our friendship is magic! Sorry if I made you feel bad." You know? Just something extremely silly so that this turns into a thing you both remember as a positive, and not as a sore spot for resentment.

(After your friend receives the gift, obviously then you can talk about it.)
posted by phunniemee at 2:57 AM on August 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Presents can be a touchy subject and it may have come across as you were demanding/requesting a replacement gift.... which is kinda cheeky.

He made an effort to send you a gift for your birthday and told you about it. You didn't mention when he said he was sending a gift that you wouldn't be able to receive it at home, then you couldn't be bothered to go pick it up from the depot and then you just forgot about it - its pretty easy to see how your friend could be hurt by that, especially if it was a gift he'd put a lot of thought into. Then after enough weeks have gone by that it gets returned to the shop you ask for a new present!

As Georgina says, he may not have been refunded the postage costs so he could also be out of pocket too.

Bottom line is - asking for a replacement gift is tacky regardless of the circumstance. It would have been ok to say that you're sorry you couldn't receive his gift, you usually have things delivered to work if they need a signature... that gives him an opening to offer to send a replacement to your workplace if he's so inclined but doesn't put him on the spot by telling him you expect a replacement gift.

Ultimately though, if your friendship seems unharmed by the incident, I'd just drop it unless he brings it up again. I think 'cheeky bastard' was meant playfully not maliciously (though its hard to say without seeing the rest of the email). How long has it been? You never know, he might just be waiting for the refund to process before he sends another one, or maybe he just forgot.
posted by missmagenta at 3:05 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Was there really no way you could've collected it on a weekend, or had a neighbour sign for it, or something like that?

Not if it went back to the Royal Mail sorting office. Their opening hours are famously short (like, M-F, mornings only, closed by lunchtime), and they can be very picky about who picks up what. For instance: my photo ID did not have the same first name a friend put on a package for me (I don't use my legal first name). I have a very uncommon surname, which matched both package and ID. I could even tell the guy the name and address of the sender that was on the package and what was in it. They still wouldn't give it to me.

Usually, the only way to get a Royal Mail office to release the package to someone else is if that person goes in with your ID (such as a passport). They won't leave it with a neighbour in most cases*. The only other option is a 50p redelivery to a Post Office closer to your house, but again, their restrictive operating hours apply.

* caveat, if you live in an area where it would be a real hassle to get to the depot and know your postie well, they will. But I don't think they're supposed to.
posted by Cuppatea at 3:42 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is this a bit if a class issue here? I can totally imagine not being able to take time off work to wait for a package---or not having the leisure time or energy to remember to pick it up on the weekend---if that was even an option.

That said, let it go. I'd be disappointed that he sent it in an impossible-to-recieve way, but I can understand how it happened. And how he may be too busy to resend, takes too much energy to resend.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:45 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry, back on track. OP, I don't think you're being petty. It was the work of several months to try to get my MIL to stop sending things a) to the wrong name and b) by Special Delivery. Some people haven't experienced the joy of the Royal Mail's "customer service" and don't get quite how hard it is to prise things out of them once it's gone back to depot. But if it was my friend I'd make a joke of it and move on.
posted by Cuppatea at 3:48 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


the parcel wasn’t held at my local post office

The only other option is a 50p redelivery to a Post Office closer to your house, but again, their restrictive operating hours apply.

This is usually the easiest option. When something goes to the sorting office I just go online and get Royal Mail to deliver it to their branch in the Coop in town which is open until 6pm and on Saturday mornings, then I go pick it up. This is in a small town of under 10,000 people so surely there's a branch like this near the OP who even mentions a local post office. Usually they don't even ask for the 50p.
posted by hazyjane at 3:53 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Royal Mail sorting office opening times vary. Some of them open from 7 am to 7 pm during the week, and 7 am to 1 pm on Saturdays. Others are more restrictive. You can choose which post office to have something redelivered to, as long as it's one in your postcode area.

They also are very strict about how they release a package to. If you have the "we couldn't deliver" card and photo ID like a driving licence, they usually will release the package to you. However, if you have the photo ID but not the "we couldn't deliver" card, they may not release it.

However, that's rather beside the point. If you'd emailed him with a "hey thanks for the gift! It's at a depot on the other side of town now so it will be a while before I can get my hands on it" the same day you got notice of failed delivery, and/or let him know that you were trying and failing to find a way to get it redelivered at some earlier point, I don't think you'd be having this problem. Since you weren't motivated to acknowledge it beyond "send me another one" several weeks later, it's not surprising that your friend (who surely has his pressures in life too) isn't motivated to get you a new gift.
posted by tel3path at 4:02 AM on August 17, 2011


I'm sorry, but even in your own words you're sounding a bit like a spoiled toddler --- either that, or like some petty dictator demanding tribute! First off, no-one is REQUIRED to give you gifts, at any time or for any reason; secondly, if anyone should be, HE's the one who should be offended: he made the effort to send a gift that you couldn't be bothered to pick up during, in your own words, "a few weeks."

I apologize if this sounds harsh, but if someone was kind enough to send ME a birthday present I'd find a way to pick it up --- and I have TWO fulltime jobs plus their associated commutes to work around.
posted by easily confused at 4:02 AM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've experienced this - trying to extract a parcel from the Royal Mail out of working hours, and attempting to breach their threshold at the weekend during the mythical hour during which they open, presumably at thirteen-o-clock.

My suggestion - bring it up again, but in a completely humourous way. I would say, in the middle of a conversation, something like:

"Oh hey so, after all the trouble you went to to send me that gift, you'll be pleased to know that, following my Strongly Worded Letter to the local sorting office, they have now extended their weekend opening hours to 3.5 seconds on a saturday at 3am, rather than the previous 0.82 seconds. My campaign continues."

Then, try and follow that up if you can with a little apology for not being able to get to it.
posted by greenish at 4:04 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


You don't sound spoiled or rude, just busy and confused.

I hesitate to infer too much cross-culturally, but is there a chance that his tone didn't come through in the email and he was perhaps not entirely serious? Or serious at all? Sarcasm and gentle ribbing can go horribly wrong in writing, especially if it's something you already feel guilty/sensitive about.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:18 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I disagree with others who make it sound like it's nothing to retrieve a package being held somewhere. I work full-time, and occasionally something I order gets sent "signature required" even when I specified otherwise. It's not unheard of that that package has to either be returned to the vendor, or that I have to pay $10-20 to change the delivery address. (I'm referring to shippers that have notoriously brief hours at their pickup locations, no Saturday pickup hours in my area, and are located on the other side of the 600k+ city where I live.) It can be a huge hassle.

However, you say yourself that the friend was doing something nice for you, the gift was likely something you could get anywhere and maybe not especially sentimental, and that your relationship is continuing as it was.

You should not bring it up, you should not ask him about his reaction, and you should not apologize. You should forget this ever happened. And for the sake of your friendship, you should probably stop viewing this incident as some kind of failed quid pro quo for the money you spent on his last birthday.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:23 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whether or not it's easy to pick up the package is a separate issue from whether the friend got the impression that the gift was ignored and/or unappreciated. In this case it seems he did get that impression and I don't blame him. Even though it's too late to retrieve the package, it is not too late to correct that impression, nor would there be much effort involved.

Having said that, I can't nth this enough: you should probably stop viewing this incident as some kind of failed quid pro quo for the money you spent on his last birthday.
posted by tel3path at 4:31 AM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


If anyone should be miffed, it should be him. He went out of his way to send you a present and you didn't do anything to get it. Now I doubt it was as serious as you think he is, I mean, "cheeky bastard" is the mildest thing anyone could possibly call someone, don't you think?

But let it go, man. I'm sure he has. And his gift has nothing to do with your gift to him of going to another country on holiday. Gifts are freely given and not connected to anything other than the generousity of spirit you have in giving them. It's not a game or competition. It's not a time for you to see who's worth more.
posted by inturnaround at 5:24 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks everyone for the responses - it makes things clearer from another perspective which is useful. I would stress however that I didn't ask for another gift, I asked for the item to be re-directed to my work address before the refund occured when my friend pointed out that it was going to be returned and refunded - I completely agree that asking for another gift is totally ridiculous and wouldn't dream of that.

Thanks agan...
posted by Mintyblonde at 5:31 AM on August 17, 2011


...oh and I should stress that the depot to pick it up wasn't open at the weekends - M/F only - and it wasn't Royal Mail, they have a sorting office near me which I frequently visit.
posted by Mintyblonde at 5:33 AM on August 17, 2011


I would stress however that I didn't ask for another gift, I asked for the item to be re-directed to my work address before the refund occured when my friend pointed out that it was going to be returned and refunded

What that means is that its going to be returned to the store he bought it from and his money refunded, he had no option to redirect it to your office. To have it delivered to your office he would have to buy you another gift and have it delivered to your work address, so from his perspective, you were asking him to buy you another gift.
posted by missmagenta at 5:47 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think you both have good reasons to be pissed off.

He's pissed that you couldn't be arsed to pick up your gift, reasonably so. If I were him I would just give up on the idea of sending you a gift too.

But speaking as someone with no car, who works normal working hours, and would have major freaking problems dealing with having to pick up a package on the far side of town ONLY during work hours (I hear you on this one, I have had so many issues with UPS alone), he inconvenienced the fuck out of you and you'd have to do a major rearrange of your day and possibly get in trouble at work JUST to pick up his package. I'd be pissed and resentful of him too right now.

But honestly, I can't think of a solution to the problem beyond "please, just mail it to my work next time." I wouldn't ask him to resend it and would just let it go and pretend the whole thing never happened.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:00 AM on August 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


Eh. These things happen. Neither one of you should get your undies twisted over it. Life is short.
posted by ian1977 at 6:35 AM on August 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


agree with those who say to let it go. you were too busy to pick it up. it was a gift that he was thoughtful enough to send you in the first place. you're not entitled to it.


Special bonus point which may sound petty but I think it also bears on things – it was said friends 40th birthday earlier in the year and I shelled out £1,000+ to help celebrate his birthday in foreign climes, obviously this wasn’t completely altruistic as I enjoyed the holiday as well so I wasn’t exactly being a martyr, but the point still stands? No?


no. the expectation of gifts and reciprocation is something you need to let go of if you really want to be friends with someone. don't give something or spend money with the expectation that you are entitled to get those things back in kind. that's not really giving.
posted by violetk at 12:27 PM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Drop the whole gift thing completely - too many variables and expectations - and go to nice dinners together instead.
posted by thinkpiece at 12:39 PM on August 17, 2011


I understand the frustration on both sides to some extent (although more on the side of your friend's); but the minute that a gift starts coming with entitlement expectations from either side, it sort of negates the whole idea of a gift. If you can let this go and still embrace the friendship, and feel honored that you were thought of in the first place, it's a good mark on your character.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:04 PM on August 17, 2011


He was wrong to not redirect it. You were wrong to let weeks go by. If I were you, I'd call him up and say "hey, can we talk about the birthday present thing, because I still feel weird about it," and then see if you two can share blame for weirdness, and by the way he's awesome, and then move on.
posted by desuetude at 9:28 PM on August 17, 2011


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