Miss Manners: Writing thank-you notes to people you don’t even know

thank you note stock

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My mother has an active social life, with multiple friendships that have lasted decades. I have been assured that I have met these ladies, but that I was “just a baby” at the time.

I have been blessed with two children in the last two years, and these kind ladies give my mother presents for my children. My mom brings some present from them practically every other week. Some presents become a beloved favorite toy, while others miss the mark. That’s to be expected of gifts from strangers. My mom then urges me to write thank-you notes to her friends.

These are unsolicited gifts from strangers. I have two young children and I do not have the time to sit down and write thank-you notes to people I don’t know.

I feel that these gifts are actually meant for the grandmother to give the grandchild -- not for the mother and the child, with the grandmother acting as a delivery service. Thus, I feel that if my mom wants them to receive a thank-you note, she should be the one to write it.

GENTLE READER: Has it become so commonplace to explicitly solicit presents that we have become resentful when people give them spontaneously -- and for the sheer pleasure of it?

Never mind; Miss Manners knows the answer all too well.

Yes, these inconsiderate strangers are using your children as a conduit for expressing their affection for your mother. How rude.


If you really want the presents to stop, by all means, make your mother look bad and cease writing thank-you letters. But know that since the relative success rate of these presents is fairly high (although it should not matter), you will also be punishing your children.

The good news is that if you just hold out a couple more years, your children will be old enough to write the letters themselves. Then you can have the pleasure of nagging them.

• • •

DEAR MISS MANNERS: We received a last-minute virtual invitation to a wedding from a family from out of state with whom we used to be close. They had previously advertised the wedding on social media, including the date, and we wondered if we would be invited.

We weren’t, which was totally fine because of our limited budget. Then, two weeks before the wedding date, we received an email inviting us to watch it virtually. We already had plans that night, but because we care for this family, we tried to bend things so we could watch it.

Unfortunately, the video feed for the reception was all goofed up. We couldn’t really see it, and then we just got a replay reel at the end.

What would you say the suggested gift amount is in that situation? For a normal wedding, I think it’s $200, but that is a bit out of our league, and the whole thing was very hodgepodge. My husband wants to send $25, but I don’t know if that’s an insult.

GENTLE READER: It is if you send it in cash. But the monetary equivalent, in the form of an even minimally thought-out present, will be far less obvious in its intended message. Which is, of course, that a virtual wedding was not worth a higher price of admission.

Miss Manners | Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Miss Manners, written by Judith Martin and her two perfect children, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Marin, has chronicled the continuous rise and fall of American manners since 1978. Send your questions to