Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

On Thank-You Notes, It's Better Late Than Never

DEAR HARRIETTE: Is it ever too late to send a thank-you note? My kid got lots of cool presents for his birthday. I sent a blanket note of thanks through the online invitation we sent out, but when my kid started writing notes, we all got distracted.

Can we jump back on it? Is it still OK a couple of months later? -- Neglectful Mom, Washington, D.C.

DEAR NEGLECTFUL MOM: Stop beating yourself up and pick up the pen. Sit down with your child and complete your list of thank-you notes.

To answer your question, it's never too late to say "thank you." These days, it is acceptable to send thank-you notes via your online invitation service, although it is nowhere near as personal and engaging as handwritten notes sent by regular mail.

I feel like this act of etiquette is becoming a rare art form. Imagine how heartwarming it is when someone receives a note of gratitude via any mode of communication!

DEAR HARRIETTE: I got a lot of presents for the holiday, most of them things I don't want. What's fantastic is that they came with gift receipts. I can take them back if I want, and what I want most is the money. I'm short on cash but long on stuff.

Do you think the people who gave me the presents would be offended if I simply cashed in their gifts? I suppose I don't have to tell them, but what if they ask? Do I tell the truth? I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings. -- Gifted, Shreveport, La.

DEAR GIFTED: Anybody who gave you a present with a gift receipt in it meant for you to have the option of keeping the item or returning it. You should not feel that you are in any way betraying the sentiment behind the gift by returning it for cash.

I encourage you to send thank-you notes for all your gifts. If you return one, there is no need to state that in the note. Instead, express gratitude for the giver's thoughtfulness and for remembering you during the season.

If asked how you liked the gift, you can say that you thought it was lovely but that you returned it because you wanted to pool your resources to do something else. Express your gratitude for the opportunity to do that with this person's gift.

If asked what you did with the money, respond truthfully. If you bought something else, say so. If you paid your phone bill or rent, say that. If you put it in the bank, say that. By revealing what you actually did with their gift, you will provide insight for the givers in the future. Being coy, shy or unresponsive when asked what you did will only make you and the other person feel awkward, which is totally unnecessary.