What Would You Do?

What Would You Do? The Disliked Christmas Gift

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My son is extremely difficult when it comes to finding clothes that he likes. I can’t even put a number on the pairs of jeans he approved just to complete shopping trip, never to be worn again. Trying to buy anything for him without having him along to try it on AND be in the right mood to tell us the truth about whether he’ll wear it again is a lost cause. So, I’m sure you can identify with my skepticism when I saw the majority of his Christmas list was clothes.

Buying him clothes within our own community and keeping the receipts for a potential return is one thing, but telling his grandmother who lives several hours away he wanted a new pull over sweatshirt hoodie is quite another. To be honest, my mom tried to cover all her bases by asking me to physically measure his current favorite hoodie, and bringing not one, but two potential pullovers for him to choose from. Unfortunately, neither of them fit exactly what he wanted. One had logos on the sleeves, and the other had a big stiff official emblem on the front that he found uncomfortable.

What he wanted was something a little more plain.

My mother described a third sweatshirt that she had seen, at which my son nodded his head and said that one sounded perfect. His grandmother agreed to return the two sweatshirts she had purchased and send him the more plain one.

I advised my mother against that plan.

Knowing how picky my son is about his clothes, I reminded her that there was no guarantee that he would like the third sweatshirt either. If she sent it through the mail, and he didn’t like it, we would be stuck with a hoodie that we’d either have to send back to her, or wait until we visited them again to return it. Of course at that point there may be a chance that they wouldn’t allow us to return it.

I suggested that she give him money that he could use to go shopping for a hoodie locally. Being a little old school, she didn’t like that idea. She wanted to have been the one to pick out his present and give it to him. After my parents returned home, she sent an email stating the two original sweatshirts had been returned, the third one purchased and dropped in the mail.

I hope the hoodie is exactly what my son wants. But if it isn’t, there will be at minimum two postage charges wasted. At worst, it will be another present hung on a hanger never to be worn. Money wasted.

How about you, Clever Friends, did you receive a present this holiday season that you know you’ll never use? How would you handle this situation?

Brought to you courtesy of Brock

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • I think you’re allowing him to be wasteful with your money. He needs to feel more grateful for what he is given, even if it is his parents doing the giving. I would give him a reasonable budget for clothes each month and let him choose them within a reasonable amount of time. If he doesn’t choose quickly enough, he lives with what he has and loses the money for the month. If he doesn’t like what he bought, he can give it away and live with what he has. Things only go back if there is something wrong with the workmanship.

  • To be completely honest, sometimes we suck it up and return the item ourselves, with or without the receipt. Sometimes I just don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, so rather than asking for a receipt, we return it and hope that the “lowest price” they’re offering (as is common with most retailers) isn’t too far below what the person paid. We do this a lot with gifts for out 18 month old, since my MIL often buys him clothes I would never dress him in or toys we don’t need. We return it and buy diapers, or clothes that fit our stlye more. As for the future, I definitely suggest asking your mother to shop at stores that are easily returned to, providing a gift receipt, and/or having your son pick a few options online and sending the list to your mother – that way she can still ‘choose’ the gift.

  • I adore my MIL, but in 10 years of Christmases she has about a 25% rate of picking out clothes I like as presents. Sometimes, you just have to smile, say thanks and be grateful that someone loves you enough to get you a gift. Then return the gift yourself or donate it. Lots of stores will let you exchange gifts without a receipt this time of year as long as you’re willing o take store credit.

  • @SmallIvy – I’m not sure if I understand how I’m letting him be wasteful with my money….the gift is from his grandparents, and they are trying fairly hard to ensure he likes his present. yes, he should be grateful, but if he doesn’t like the hoodie, he’s not going to wear it, AND it will just sit in his closet.

  • @Morgan – I’d definitely return it myself….if she hadn’t purchased it at a local sports store (to her) which is hours away from us. Advising her to buy things at stores that I could easily return or exchange items is certainly a great idea!

  • @Brock I was more referring to his practice of letting you buy things for him with tepid approval and then not wearing them. If he doesn’t wear them. he is wasting your money. If you need to take them back, he’s wasting your time and money. The fact that he wastes them means that he sees little value in them. I agree that with a gift he doesn’t have a say in the selection, so it is more forgivable.

  • @Smallivy – I can certainly agree with that…..there’s definitely a change in process coming for his clothes buying. The last round of school clothes I simply gave him money, and he went shopping on his own. So far, so good…what he bought he wears regularly. If he bought things he decided he didn’t like, well….he just wouldn’t have anything to wear. It seems he was more conscientious when the responsibility was put on his shoulders. Thanks for the discussion!

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