July 07, 2013

Manners 2.0: Twitter storm over $30 Wedding Gift

I was fascinated by the recent story of an angry bride who started a twitter storm when she complained about a wedding present that wasn't expensive enough - a $30 gift basket.  An article about it by Michelle McQuigge (Canadian Press) ended with this:

"There's various things that underpin how wedding are done differently, but one thing that's consistent and that supersedes weddings is that when someone gives you a gift, you thank them graciously for it, full, stop."

That comment stopped me short!  Maybe she lives in a world where people stil teach their kids basic manners. I starting noticing something odd that began about 20 years ago. I sent dozens of wedding and birthday gifts, but received only one "thank you" in all those years - yes you read that right.  Just one person had the fundamental good manners to say "Thank you for the gift." It isn't hard to buy small notes or cards and write five words and sign it and put a stamp on it. Even an emailed "thank you" would be better than nothing.

I once had a wedding gift delivered to the bride's address. When asked what they needed, the mother suggest a very expensive item. A long time later, the subject of the wedding came up, and I could not stop myself from asking if anyone had ever received my gift. Even then, I didn't get the magic "thank you".

I noticed the same trend when giving people free services - almost no one said "thank you".  Now don't get me wrong, I do things for people, businesses and organizations without any expectation of reward, but it would be nice to have your efforts appreciated. (You may ask why I continue helping people with such a sense of entitlement... I don't know!) Over many years, only two have thanked me.  A church thanked me for re-designing their website with gifts as well as a "thank you"! And a local pizza business sent me a pizza for saying nice things about them online.

Many years ago, I created a community website which survives now on selling business advertising. Over that time, I created and hosted many free web pages for small organizations, saving them hundreds of dollars, and not a single group ever said "thank you". Even free promotion and web design (again worth hundreds) for large community events went unnoticed, even in thank you lists.  I gave businesses free ads, and once again, not a single "thank you". Now maybe they just expect this sort of thing, but it's value is 20-30 times the value of any promo gifts that I've been given.  Really, how hard is it to hit "reply" on the email about it to say "thank you". Recently I retouched photos for facebook friends (well ok, just people I used to know). Surprise! No "thank you" for that either. They simply uploaded the repaired photos without a word.

I can hardly be blamed for concluding that manners have gone the way of the dodo bird. Or does this happen only with the people that pass through my life?