Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What I Think About--Thank You Cards

When I was a kid, my parents made my sister and I write thank you notes for gifts.  When we went out to eat we were expected to say "please" and "thank you" to the people assisting us.  As horrifying as it sounds, we were even expected to say "thank you" to people at the grocery store, the gas station, or clients to our family business.

Were you raised with a similar value--the value of appreciating what others do for you and letting them know it by saying or writing "thank you"?

I know this seems like a petty post but I am actually disgusted shocked by how ungrateful people are. These days almost no one sends thank you cards for gifts or acts of service.  In fact, brides now send out mass-photo thank yous rather than writing notes (which makes me want to send a nice photo of the gift I would have bought them if I'd been a bit more thoughtful).

If you are like me you know someone (or many someones) who will not say thank you for anything.  If a gift is given, this person is under no obligation to call and say thank you, let alone write a nice card. Of course being pressed for time is a popular excuse for a lack of thank you decorum (if you'd like to read my diatribe on what I think about being "too busy" click here).

I think the popularity of ingratitude is upsetting--am I alone on this?

Now I know someone out there is going to read this and think, "if you are only giving a gift or service to receive a thank you then your heart is in the wrong spot."  I can't agree more.  And I don't give gifts because I want a thank you; however, I think it is pertinent to teach our children to be grateful and humble (Hebrews 12:28 "...let us be thankful...").  If we want to teach our kids this, it's probably important to do it ourselves.

My children are expected to "write" notes of thanks for gifts (M.E.'s thank you cards are always randomly folded paper with stuff glued to it but she puts serious effort into them!)  and to say thank you to people who help them. It isn't about appearing to have good manners, it's about teaching them to have an attitude of gratitude.

I truly want to cultivate in my children 
a spirit of gratitude.

Now I know that some people get bogged down when writing thank you notes but let's not make it more difficult (or time consuming) than it needs to be.  Here is a basic format:
  1. Salutation  (Dear Grandma Sue,)
  2. Mention the kindness (Thank you for the gift/party/service).
  3. Mention how appropriate the gift was or how you plan to use it (Your meal was a life saver/We used the money to buy _____).
  4. Use one line to up-date the recipient on your life (I start school again on May 7th or We had a great honeymoon). OPTIONAL
  5. Signature (Many thanks, Sally).


Dear Elizabeth,
Thank you so much for taking the time to pick out a necklace for my birthday; I look forward to wearing it to work.  You've always had great taste and I appreciate you thinking of me.  I'm heading out of town for a week but would love to meet you for lunch.  I will call soon.

Now, some thank you rules:
  • wedding gifts (within 3 months of the wedding)
  • sympathy flowers and cards
  • a party held in your honor (baby shower, engagement party, bridal shower)
  • shower/party gifts (yes, this includes gifts from birthday parties)
  • gifts received in the mail (this lets the sender know you got it)
  • being a guest in someone's home for more than 1 night
  • notes/gifts of congratulations
  • an act of service (a friend who babysits your kids, etc.)
  • gifts, cards, or flowers given for a hospital stay
  • After being interviewed
  • After being a dinner guest
  • After receiving holiday gifts
  • Don't use mass thank yous; they are impersonal and lack appreciation.
  • Don't take too long to send your thanks.  General rule of thumb is 1 week after the gift/service is received.  Exceptions being weddings (3 months) and gifts for a hospital stay (these should go out whenever the person is well enough to write them).
  • Don't patronize someone by telling them you are "too busy" to say thank you.  People see through this and you won't be seen as being too busy; you'll be viewed as being self-important or ungrateful.  

If you really can't dedicate a few minutes to write a thank you, at minimum call and say thank you (but not to an answering machine).  In my opinion, though, phone calls take a lot longer than writing a thank you card.

Some people find e-mail thank yous a bit impersonal so take a bit of time to add a few more personal details if you take this route.

A good rule of thumb is this:
you can never be in the wrong for thanking someone so err on the side of being too thankful.

I bet you can guess what I think about Thank You cards--
Send them

P.S.  I had *another* question to Real Simple published.  You can find it on page 86 of your magazine or here.  I love how Etiquette Queen Julie ends her thoughts: "A personalized thank you note will tell the gift-giver everything she needs to know."

What are you thoughts on Thank Yous?  Do you send them?  Do you have your children send them?

Do you have someone in your life who won't say "thank you"?  How do you deal with it?

Are you opposed to sending thank yous? Why?

 I can handle your criticism.


  1. Well. I love thank-you cards. I love writing them and I love getting them. I never expect one & really don't notice if I don't get one when giving a gift. But when I do get a handwritten thank you in my real mailbox ---I love it! It makes me feel special. (plus I'm a little OCD about handwriting & love to see what people's writing looks like)

    I too was always expected to write thank-yous as a kid. I will make my kids do it too. Right now, I do the writing & read it to Eli. HE decorates it with scribbles (I mean beautiful coloring) & stickers. It's fun!

    However, I do think having a baby should give people a free "get out of thank-yous" card. Especially if its your first one. Life is so crazy in those first 6 weeks. Although this last pregnancy...writing thank-yous was very therapeutic for me. I combined the birth announcement & thank-you card into one. I just wrote a small personal note on a little piece of card-stock and added it to the envelope. Saved postage & time & was still personal.

    Am I really the first commenter again? It's part of my routine...what can I say. I get up, shower, dress, get Eli's breakfast somewhat ready for when he gets up, then I wait for my boys to get up. Which often-times includes me checking email/blogs in my quiet living room. Sorry to be a comment-junkie!

  2. I agree with you completely! That being said, I am TERRIBLE at sending Thank You's and to be honest, I don't enjoy it at all. I love to show people I am grateful, but when it comes in large quantities it's mind numbing for me. I feel that when I'm writing them, it's not always from the heart and I don't like that. I like to MEAN it.

    I teach my oldest to be thankful, but honestly I think it's silly to do this with very ittle ones, because they don't fully understand and don't MEAN it. I am very passionate about whole heartedly doing things or I think it's pointless.

    I was not taught to write Thank You notes when I was young, but we were taught very good manners and thanked everyone in a different way...visits with hugs or returning favors or sending gifts.

    I think you should only do Thank You notes if it's truly coming from the heart.

    Oh and I absolutely REFUSE to buy Hallmark cards. I think they are a sorry excuse for saying something. I don't take them to heart when I recieve one, so I don't bother wasting the money buying them for anyone else, I SHOW them how I feel about them, myself.

  3. I found it quite interesting reading in the magazine, some of the follow up comments to your question. I might even blog about that later.

  4. @Shelly--I'm always grateful for comments--whether they agree or disagree with my stance. I'm privileged to be a part of your routine--it makes me feel connected to you!

    @Amy--I hate Hallmark Thank Yous too! We make our own thank you cards. I know that M.E. might not "get" why she is thanking people but I think right action leads to right feelings. Sometimes whether we "feel" it or not we have to do things--sort of a dying to self for the sake of others. And boy have I had my share of thanking people I'd rather not :) Ha ha!

    The responses to my question were what I thought--that it was rude NOT to open the gifts but I heard there was a "trend" to not open gifts which is why I asked (and the trend is based more on hurting guest's feelings--Please!). It feels cold to me but I wanted to know what others thought. I look forward to your blog on this!

  5. I also think we lack an attitude of gratitude in our culture and society. I'm upset that kids aren't drilled to say 'thank you' or be grateful, even for something as simple as receiving a piece of candy, which is always a privelege in my book.

    That said, I do have mixed feelings about sending 'thank you' notes. I think that there are certainly occasions that necessitate them, such as getting married, or when someone extravagantly blesses you. Yet, agreeing with Shelly, there are just some times in life where things are absolutely CRAZY. I know, I know, we never have too little time to be grateful, but I wouldn't say that sending the words 'thank you' on a piece of paper is the only way to convey your gratitude.
    I have been unfortunate enough to experience the negative side of thank you notes, where I just didn't get them out. Coincidentally, it was after I had my first born, I was working part time (going back to work just 3 weeks after I had my son), and going to school. I was absolutely busy, drained, and not to mention, highly emotional. There was a person that became furious with me because I hadn't sent a thank you note, never mind that I had thanked them profusely after receiving the gift, and consequently thanked them in person for the same gift. I was quite disappointed and shocked that a piece of paper was more important to them than any other efforts I had made to convey my thankfulness for their gift. It ultimately conveyed that only until I could adequately meet their standard of gratitude would I be able to be in their good graces again.

    Again, no one is ever removed from the responsibility of being grateful, I just think that some people can become quite communistic in their expectations of a thank you note, to the point that they completely miss the point of giving, and ruin a friendship because of unmet expectations.

    That said, I appreciate your thoughts, and it actually is quite helpful to be refreshed on the etiquette that has eluded our society for so long.


  6. I happen to LOVE thank you notes... I should follow this by saying however that I am THE worst at remembering to send them out! After our wedding I seriously spent the next day writing all our thank yous, I did do a photo card but also included a personalized thank you note in each one because I wanted them to be sincere. Then we moved, started new jobs, and life got so hectic that I didn't get them out! So six months later (I know this is horrible!) I sent them out anyway. I figured a very late thank you was better than none at all.

  7. @Whitney--I've been there too--bogged down when it came to thank you cards. And I can say that when I've taken the time to personally call someone to thank them that has been enough. Apparently you came into contact with the REAL thank you Nazi! I'm sorry for that experience. And I want you to know my heart here is not to super demand thank you cards so much as an expression of thanks. I recently gave a gift to someone who still hasn't taken the time to even text me a thank you, let alone send a card or call (perhaps the person disliked the gift???). I think some manner, any manner, that expresses gratitude is appropriate (That being said, I do like to get thank you cards--I mean, something in the mail that is not junk or a bill is pretty dreamy!). Ha ha!

    @Brenna--I agree, better late than never. I've received a thank you nearly a year after the wedding--and it was good to know that the gift was received and appreciated (even that late in the game).

    Your idea about personalizing a photo card is a great idea!


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