What Should I Do If My Daughter-in-law Returns My Holiday Gifts to Stores

Updated on May 13, 2017
P.S. asks from Bronx, NY
26 answers

This is a regular occurrence - she takes my gifts to the P.O. and returns them to the store from which I sent them from an online purchase. We did have a falling out a year ago - over my daughter and her relationship with my son. But I have tried to carry on as normal, still sending the whole family gifts and cards and money on holidays and birthdays.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

I want to thank everyone who took time to read and respond. You are all wonderful!
To answer some of you, I do get credit back on my credit cards when she does this. I did send her an email to try to start a dialogue, but she refused to answer me. She is very angry with me because I have defended my daughter when she (DIL) attacked my daughter. Since then it just has not been good and it is eating away at me. I live over 1200 miles away from my son's house and only see the grandchildren once or twice a year. She permits the grandchildren to keep my gifts.
Thanks again everyone.

Featured Answers

S.G.

answers from Los Angeles on

It sounds like she would appreciate gift cards (but ask her where she likes to shop), passes or memberships (zoos, museums, fitness facilities she might frequent, theaters) or perhaps ask her for a list of things she would like. It is unfair to expect someone to keep gifts that they do not like and will not use. Everyone has enough "stuff" to deal with these days, there is no point in adding to the clutter.

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J.C.

answers from Philadelphia on

Give her cash. It sounds like you don't know her taste enough to buy her gifts she will like. My own mom and dad give me cash. I think it is the best gift anyway.

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N.G.

answers from Boston on

Actually she is sending you a nasty message. Otherwise, she would just take the unwanted gift to a thrift store or regift it.

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D.B.

answers from Boston on

It depends on how you know this is going on. If she's returning them and demanding a gift card or cash reimbursement, are you getting a notice from the store because it was on your account? Or is she announcing to you that she has done this and is she acting irritated that you are "creating work" for her by making her go to the P.O.? Or is a third person (like your son) telling you about it?

If she's saying it directly to you, then I'd calmly say, "You can rest assured that this won't happen again." And stop sending her things from stores.

If you get some notice on your credit card about a return, you can either ask her about it and ask what she would prefer, or just stop sending gifts you buy on line. Maybe you don't know her taste, maybe she's one of those who gets offended if people shop from home vs. physically going out to browse. Or, if it's all based on a prior argument, you can just skip the discussion about it, and take the not-very-subtle hint that these gifts are not appreciated. If you keep buying, no one is benefiting - she's angry at you or disappointed at the gift choice, and you're getting your feelings hurt. There's no reason to keep doing it the same way if it's not working out!

If someone else is informing you of this, it's either someone who wants to get you to stop, or who is trying to hurt your feelings and drive a bigger wedge between you and your daughter-in-law. But still, assuming it's true that she is returning the gifts, what's the point in continuing?

Trying to "carry on as normal" makes no sense if you have wildly different taste than your daughter-in-law. Switch gears. Do you know enough about them as a couple to know what they like to do? Is there a restaurant they love? A movie theater they frequent? Send gift cards or movie passes for those locations - it shows you know what they like but lets them choose the day and the selection. Do they enjoy a museum in their area? Buy them a year's membership. Do they garden? Get a gift card from a particular, local garden center. Or send cash. Or send something "perishable" like a plant, flowers or perhaps a food assortment that cannot be returned. But only do that if you are sure they will use it and not resent you further.

If this rift between you and her is that big, I'd work on repairing it or at least apologizing (whether or not you think you are wrong) rather than trying to ignore it by buying gifts she's going to return just to annoy you or show you her displeasure in general. And finally, if you are not appreciated and not thanked for what you send, just cut way back and just send cards.

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J.C.

answers from Anchorage on

How do you even know she is returning them? Is she returning them out of spite or because they are not her taste/style ect? I have returned gifts before, it wasn't a reflection on my feelings about the gift giver, they simply were not something I would use.

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G.♣.

answers from Springfield on

"But I have tried to carry on as normal, still sending the whole family gifts and cards and money on holidays and birthdays."

Is there more to your relationship that gifts? There needs to be more to your relationship. That's where you need to focus.

If she sends your gifts back and gets something else, who cares? The gift is supposed to be for her. I don't always hit the nail on the head when I buy gifts for others, but my desire is for them to have something they want. If what I got wasn't it, I really do want them to get something else - something the actually would like.

But if she is sending the gifts back and you are receiving a credit on your account, then she is sending you a message that she does not want your gifts. If that's the case, the gifts are not the problem. Your relationship is.

Could it be time to focus on the relationship? On getting to know her better, spending time with her, showing an interest in her life?

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M.S.

answers from Washington DC on

I would work on the relationship first. Maybe she is returning the gifts as a message. You guys need to talk and sort things out and then you should probably stay out of their relationship issues.

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B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

Just do gift cards.
It's easier every which way around.
Cash/money is always the right size and the right color.
Her relationship with your son (her husband) is totally between her and her Hubby.
Don't give advice/opinion unless asked, and even then - be prepared to bow out with
"Gee, that's a tough one but I don't think I'm qualified to give advice on that matter. Maybe you should see a counselor about that.".

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

Does she get credit for the returns, or are you just getting reimbursed and notified?

I don't usually broadcast when I don't like a gift. But if I get a gift receipt and can exchange it for something more suitable (without the person necessarily knowing) I don't see anything wrong with that. That's usually why they include the gift receipt.

I would ask your son (or your DIL) where she likes to shop and just get gift certificates for that, or as others mention - to an experience place (like their favourite restaurant, a spa she likes, movie tickets, etc.) - something they will use.

If you think this is intended as a dig left over from the falling out, then that's kind of a different issue. If so, then I'd just leave it be for a while or work on rectifying that.

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W.W.

answers from Washington DC on

ETA: Didn't the original post ask about her DAUGHTER - not DIL?!

Welcome to mamapedia, P.!

How do you know she's returning the gifts? Are you getting a refund on your credit card or what? Or is she demanding money from the store?

Instead of SENDING them? Why not GO to her? She's your daughter.

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T.D.

answers from Springfield on

you can stop sending them. you can switch to goft cards so she can pick out what she wants or you can just send them to me instead. (just kidding.)so either stop sending gifts or send gift cards instead.

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C.N.

answers from Baton Rouge on

Once you give a gift, it belongs to the recipient, and she can do whatever she wants with it - return it, sell it, donate it, light it on fire and dance naked around it.

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N.B.

answers from Oklahoma City on

Send her a Visa/MasterCard prepaid credit card or cash.

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C.N.

answers from Philadelphia on

The idea of a gift is that the recipient can do what he or she likes with it. If the giver has specific strings or expectations then it's not really a gift. So either accept that you are giving gifts and have no control over what happens next, or have a conversation with your family about what your expectations are.

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C.T.

answers from Santa Fe on

I'm afraid you are taking this too personally. It's ok if someone feels the need to return something...perhaps it's not her style or her size or whatever. It probably doesn't have anything to do with her feelings about you. When you give a gift you have to give it with no strings attached...as in don't worry what she does with it. How about gift cards from now on? Then she can pick out what she likes.

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R.B.

answers from San Francisco on

"I notice you usually return my gifts. That's fine, if you can't use them, there's no point in keeping them. What would you like me to get you instead?"

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A.W.

answers from Kalamazoo on

Well, since the only person on the planet you can control is yourself.....either continue to send gifts and get over it, OR stop sending them. easy peasy.

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S.S.

answers from Atlanta on

I don't understand how you know she is returning them. Are you getting a credit on your credit card?

Does she live far away? I would stop sending and start talking. You have a fence to mend. Start mending.

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R.K.

answers from Boston on

What Diane said. All of it!

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L.U.

answers from Seattle on

Maybe she didn't like it. Maybe it's not a smell she likes. Maybe it's not something she would wear.
Would you rather she keep a box of stuff that she doesn't like or would you rather she get herself something she would use?
Butt out of the relationship between your son and daughter in law. It's not your business. It's theirs.

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K.M.

answers from New York on

She doesn't want your gifts. Stop sending them. Be thankful that she still allows you to have a relationship with your grandchildren. Just send gifts to them.

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M.6.

answers from New York on

Well, I'm not quite sure I understand. Is she returning them and then you are getting the money back? Or is she returning them for the money? If you are getting the gift money returned to you, I would stop sending gifts - clearly, she wants nothing from you and you should respect that. If she is simply returning for the money because she doesn't care for your taste in gifts, then take the hint and either send money or gift cards in the future.

Not sure what the big deal is?

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E.T.

answers from Rochester on

Speaking as a DIL who typically returns or gives away gifts I get from my MIL and my husband's siblings. I don't have a good relationship with my MIL and SIL. I'm ok with my BIL. There was a lot of hurt back before my husband and I were even married and I have a hard time trusting them. I don't return/give away the gifts out of malice. I don't keep them because after being with my husband for 14 years, they still have no idea of the things I like or do. I've gotten an electric (?) wine bottle opener. I rarely drink wine. I've gotten scented candles, lotions, and soaps. Scented items spark migraines for me. I've gotten gift cards to expensive department stores and trendy clothing stores. I hate to shop. I've gotten slippers that are way too small. They finally have gotten to the point where they give a large denomination gift card to someplace like Target or cash that is intended for both my husband and me. Send her cash or a gift card to a place like Target or Amazon. Be careful with Visa/MC gift cards. Some of them have an activation fee and I've had trouble with places not even accepting them (especially if they have been partially used somewhere else or have dropped below a certain amount). Don't stop sending a gift, but make it a gift that she can actually use. Even if she just uses the Target gift card to buy toilet paper or something for the kids.

Updated

Speaking as a DIL who typically returns or gives away gifts I get from my MIL and my husband's siblings. I don't have a good relationship with my MIL and SIL. I'm ok with my BIL. There was a lot of hurt back before my husband and I were even married and I have a hard time trusting them. I don't return/give away the gifts out of malice. I don't keep them because after being with my husband for 14 years, they still have no idea of the things I like or do. I've gotten an electric (?) wine bottle opener. I rarely drink wine. I've gotten scented candles, lotions, and soaps. Scented items spark migraines for me. I've gotten gift cards to expensive department stores and trendy clothing stores. I hate to shop. I've gotten slippers that are way too small. They finally have gotten to the point where they give a large denomination gift card to someplace like Target or cash that is intended for both my husband and me. Send her cash or a gift card to a place like Target or Amazon. Be careful with Visa/MC gift cards. Some of them have an activation fee and I've had trouble with places not even accepting them (especially if they have been partially used somewhere else or have dropped below a certain amount). Don't stop sending a gift, but make it a gift that she can actually use. Even if she just uses the Target gift card to buy toilet paper or something for the kids.

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J.C.

answers from New York on

Stop sending gifts. She obviously is using your kindness to be cruel.

R.A.

answers from Boston on

I'd pick your battles with this one. Send an amazing gift card or whatever. If you already have a shaky relationship, I'd just forget about this issue.

E.J.

answers from Chicago on

Well I guess if you still want to send her something (in an effort to not exclude her if everyone else is getting a gift) I would just send a gift card. Ask your son where to.

So this is more then about the gift (per your SWH). Without knowing why you had to come to your daughters defense and without knowing the history of your relationship with your DIL, it might just be best to let time pass and focus on being a good grandparent.

Maybe as time passes it will lessen the tension and open up a door for the two of you to reconcile.

You may always be closer to your daughter then your DIL, but if they are both adults, it's best to stay out of their relationship. You can do that and still support your daughter.

You know, life is short and it's kind of important to set the scene for how you would like the dynamics to be when your son and daughter (and DIL) just have each other.

Good luck

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