Did You Get My Gift?

By Sharon Naylor

October 23, 2013 5 min read

If you've sent a holiday gift to a faraway friend, relative or client, and you haven't received a call or email thanking you for it, you might get anxious. "What if it got lost in the mail?" could be a worry. "What if the company I ordered it from never sent it, but they have my money?" is an angrier possibility. With these concerns swirling in your mind, you might wonder whether it's a good idea to make a phone call and simply ask whether they received it.

Don't pick up the phone just yet, and hold off on that "Did you get it?" email. Give the recipient at least two weeks to get around to writing a thank-you note, says etiquette expert and "Bridal Guide" editor in chief Diane Forden. After all, the post-holiday time can be as busy for people as the pre-holiday weeks, with holiday decor cleanup and the practical trend of visiting with relatives the week after Christmas keeping people's lives hectic. The end of the year is also a busy time in many careers, with well-intentioned recipients simply too busy at work to tackle thank-you messages.

While it would be lovely if people sent out thank-you messages the moment they receive a gift, not everyone does so. And here are some reasons why: They might have ordered custom thank-you notes featuring a photo of their child, and the notes haven't arrived yet. Or they might fully intend to send thank-you notes, and might even have the pack of new cards on their dining room table, but they haven't yet gotten around to writing them by hand and mailing them out. Whatever the reason, time passes, and soon it's weeks or even months after Christmas, and those notes still have not been sent.

If you were to call a few days after Christmas asking whether your gift had arrived, it could make the recipient feel terrible that he or she hadn't sent a thank-you note. Or the recipient could take your phone call as a chastisement, a way of putting them down for not having good etiquette. Neither of these is a desirable outcome. So the answer to your question of "Should I call?" is this: Yes, but wait awhile.

You certainly can make yourself feel better by checking the tracking on gift orders you made online, and the U.S. Postal Service now puts tracking numbers on first-class packages. (Visit http://www.usps.gov to track your parcels.) This will show you when the gift was delivered, and that answers that question: The gift you paid for arrived safely.

You might then feel insulted. You put a lot of time and thought into the gift you chose, and you spent a pretty penny buying it and having it shipped. How ungrateful of the recipient to fail to thank you properly! Or you might feel disappointed, because you really wanted to hear how much they love the very special and sentimental gift you chose just for them, one you spent weeks hunting down online, or something you made with loving care. That's understandable, but don't let it rush you into making a call too soon.

When it comes to etiquette, what matters most is how you ask. "I'm just checking to make sure your gift reached you" is perfectly to the point, with the unspoken message being that you care about their receiving a gift. If you were to call and say, "I never heard from you about your gift," that has a condemning feel to it, and you'll get an uncomfortable apology instead of a glowing, happy thank you.

If the recipient says it never arrived, then it's time to call the company you ordered the gift from to inquire about a replacement delivery or your money back. "It doesn't hurt to ask," says Forden, but it could hurt a relative -- especially a child -- whose gift never arrives, and they never hear from you, leaving them in a confusing and awkward situation. So don't just let it go and simmer over their bad etiquette. They might think you failed to send something this year.

Make the call, communicate clearly, and never ever post a "Did my give arrive?" message on someone's Facebook page. It is extremely poor etiquette to shame someone in front of everyone they know, and it makes you look terrible in the process.

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