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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Gift Return?

   
Author Topic: Gift Return?
Verloren
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I have an interesting dilemma, and thought you all might have some good input for me.

I received a belated Christmas present from a friend. The present is a couple books. They are not entertaining books, but instead some scientist's view about religion, which I emphatically disagree with. In fact, his premise is that religion should be banned and those who believe in a God or supreme being are either stupid or mentally disturbed, or both.

WITHOUT getting into whether you would agree with the author or not, my dilemma is that I find myself in possession of 2 books that I will not read and that are offensive to me.

I delicately questioned my friend, and he indicated that his son highly recommended the books, but my friend had not read them (he knows my beliefs), although he says he is half-way through the first and thinks it is very good.

My questions are, would you keep a book that is totally against everything you believe? If you kept it but didn't read it, would it seem rude to always say that you hadn't gotten to it yet (or similar) whenever the friend asked? Would you tell your friend why you didn't want to read it, or is that just as rude? Would you return the books so the friend could get their money back or gift it to someone else, or is that even ruder?

Thanks (in advance) for your input!

-V

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Stephan
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Richard Dawkins?

Though not one of your choices, I would say read them. I read a lot of stuff I very much disagree with. At least you know where people are coming from with opposing beliefs.

If you are set on having no parts of the books, return them. Your friend was rude by giving you books he should have known you would not want.

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katharina
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quote:
My questions are, would you keep a book that is totally against everything you believe? If you kept it but didn't read it, would it seem rude to always say that you hadn't gotten to it yet (or similar) whenever the friend asked? Would you tell your friend why you didn't want to read it, or is that just as rude? Would you return the books so the friend could get their money back or gift it to someone else, or is that even ruder?
I'd shove them somewhere out of the way. If questioned if I'd gotten to them, say, "No, I haven't read them. Thank you for being so kind to give me a present." At that point, your polite obligation is done. If he presses, you can then say that with so little time to read, you have put other books first.

If he STILL presses, he is being outrageously rude. At that point, you can say that you didn't think they were to your taste.

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erosomniac
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eBay.
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Dan_raven
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1) Read them. They present the arguments that others will throw at you from now on. Learn them and find their flaws.

I've often read books I disagreed with, and had wonderful one-sided arguments with the stupid authors. (Included in these authors with whom I've yelled at are Ayn Rand, Plato, and Jordan)

2) I would tell a friend that I did not read them because I disagree with the premise so much. I would not tell an acquantence. A friend might debate some finer points with you, but will not be mad. An aquaintance might be miffed.

3)If you don't want to read them or tell your gift giver why not, then just set them aside and sell them off later. It is very unlikely that he'll ask you about them ever again, unless he's trying to convert you to his philosophy. If he presses, then you tell him why.

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Mucus
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Read it, learn from it, "an unexamined life is not worth living" and all that.

You often learn the most from books or readings that you disagree with (or challenge you) and it would be silly only having books that you agree with.

Thats why I sometimes read religious pamphlets left at my doorstep or dare I say it, some of OSC's writings [Smile]

As for the rest, I would tell the friend exactly how I felt *after* reading the book. I would treat the book as an invitation to a discussion (or a debate) ... I see no need to hide what I truly felt since if they were truly a friend, they would know if I was hiding my feelings about it.

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stihl1
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Sell them on Amazon, if you're friend asks just tell him you weren't in to them.
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aspectre
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Return it with "I know I'm not going to be reading this. Please pass it on to someone who will."
Too many people are recommending false politeness.
It's polite to accept a gift that one might use or enjoy, or know that one could pass on to someone who would enjoy the gift. And false to accept a gift merely to waste storage space when one knows that one could not even concientiously pass it on to another.
Besides, one owes it to the gift giver a decent idea of what ones tastes are like so that they don't waste their time and/or money by giving one yet another gift that will be unappreciated.
Yes, "It's the thought that counts." And a thoughtful recipient returns feedback to the giver which allows him/her to use his/her gift-making/shopping efforts fruitfully.

[ January 17, 2007, 08:01 AM: Message edited by: aspectre ]

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erosomniac
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quote:
Originally posted by aspectre:
Return it with "I know I'm not going to be reading this. Please pass it on to someone who will."
Too many people are recommending false politeness.
It's polite to accept a gift that one might use or enjoy, or know that one could pass it on to someone who would enjoy the gift. And false to accept a gift merely to waste storage space when one knows that one could not even concientiously pass it on to another.
Besides, one owes it to the gift giver an decent idea of what ones tastes are like so that they don't waste their time and/or money by giving one yet another gift that will be unappreciated.
Yes, "It's the thought that counts." And a thoughtful recipient returns feedback to the giver which allows him/her to use his/her gift-making/shopping efforts fruitfully.

Assuming, of course, that the gift giver is capable of accepting criticism.

The number that are capable is, it seems, startlingly small.

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KarlEd
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Send them to me and if questioned say that a friend borrowed them and never returned them. [Big Grin]
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Bella Bee
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It depends how this gift was meant. I'm pretty amazed that, knowing your beliefs, this person gave you books like that. It's the equivalent of giving me a Bible or a book on Theology - I might and do read these things on my own time, but I'd be worried if a friend actually gave me one...

If you're sure that the gift was kindly meant, I'd just put the books away, or throw them away or sell them and never mention it again. If you're ever asked if you read them, say you didn't have time, or that they weren't really your thing, or whatever. It’d still be pretty obvious that you didn‘t really like the gift but it would be less hurtful to the giver. To me that seems the most gracious thing to do in this situation.

I'd rather accept a useless present from a friend than risk hurting their feelings - some people can be very sensitive about perceived ingratitude. If you returned a gift to someone who bought it for you honestly thinking that you'd love it, you'd have to be frank about how much you valued your friend otherwise.

If you're sure that the gift was meant as a barb or 'wake up call' or something like that, then I think you need to have a talk with your friend explaining your deeply held convictions and maybe implying that you were somewhat hurt and surprised by their gift choices. I'd be far more worried about how little my friend seemed to know me than about having a book I didn't agree with in my house.

If it's 'the thought that counts' then giving the present back may imply that you don't care, or want, the other person's thought.

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MightyCow
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Maybe your friend is just trying to save your soul. It could be a gift with the best of intentions behind it.

If nothing else, think of it as a wonderful and rare opportunity to get to know your friend better. You can read the books, to better understand his ideas, and engage in a healthy discussion of how you both understood the books' messages.

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SenojRetep
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I'd read enough to verify my dust-jacket assessment (As an aside, I agree that reading things written by people with different views is good, but it can also be an invitation to feelings of anger, frustration, and contention. I don't mind an oppositional viewpoint, as long as it doesn't strike me as being negative, argumentative or defensive. There are books I won't read because in the reading I feel myself becoming a worse person, because of a combination of my own imperfection and the author's combative and adversarial stance and/or style), and then if I was confirmed in my judgement of the books I'd return them. I wouldn't want to keep something I saw as oppositional to my moral beliefs in my home, and I wouldn't want to sell them because I'd feel it was an inappropriate use of a gift. Just give them back with a simple, 'Thanks for these books, but I just don't think they're right for me. I thought you could give them to someone who would enjoy them more.'

<edit>If I gifted someone a Book of Mormon and they found it morally repugnant, this is exactly how I would want them to handle the situation.</edit>

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Lyrhawn
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Personally I might browse through them just to get a feel for the oppposing side, at the very least it'd help me form arguments against them when the time came.

Chances are slim that I'd return them, it just isn't worth the hassle.

Those that suggest ebay and Amazon are closer to the mark. I'm not getting any use out of them, but someone else might, and I might get some money to buy a book I'll actually enjoy too, so I call that a win/win just with more effort than I usually like. If they ask you whether you liked them or not, then you be honest and say "well, they weren't really my cup of tea, so traded them for something I'd enjoy more, but thanks for the thought."

If they won't accept that, well, I don't think it's your problem. If they don't know you well enough to know that your beliefs are that antithetical to the book they got you, how close can they be? Not really the best argument, but what might be better is the fact that they shouldn't be offended when you tell them you appreciate their efforts, but they just missed the mark, so you exchanged them in an effort to actually be able to enjoy the present.

I've never have someone tell me they didn't like a gift they've gotten, but I HAVE had this issue with my mother before. Every now and then she'll get me something that's nice, but that I'll really never use. I used to not tell her, and she'd find out I don't like or use it, and that'd upset her. So she made me promise I'd tell her when I didn't like something. The following year I didn't like something so I told her so and she was obviously upset. Realizing it was a lose/lose situation for me, I stuck with telling her when I didn't like something. In the end, I think she was happier when I was getting things I really liked and could use, she was just disappointed that she hadn't nailed it the first time.

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aspectre
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"Assuming, of course, that the gift giver is capable of accepting criticism.
The number that are capable is, it seems, startlingly small.
"

So if someone gave you a pair of size5 or size11 boots when you wear size8, you'd keep them in your closet to "be polite" rather than return them to the giver?

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Tante Shvester
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I'd just thank them for the gift, and say no more. If I had a gift receipt, then, by all means, I'd bring them back to the store and exchange them for something I'd like. Otherwise, I'd send them to Karl and tell them that I lent them to a friend who hasn't returned them yet.
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MidnightBlue
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quote:
Originally posted by aspectre:
"Assuming, of course, that the gift giver is capable of accepting criticism.
The number that are capable is, it seems, startlingly small.
"

So if someone gave you a pair of size5 or size11 boots when you wear size8, you'd keep them in your closet to "be polite" rather than return them to the giver?

I think there's a big difference between a gift that might be really enjoyed were it the correct size and a gift that is seen by the recipient as offensive and a personal attack. (Not that Verloren said anything about a personal attack, but he certainly said they are offensive.)
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Verloren
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Thank you all for your responses!

The books in question were written by one Sam Harris (for those who were wondering).

Since it seems that he gifted them to me only because they were recommended by someone else and he had not read them yet, I have decided not to be offended (magnanimous of me, I know [Wink] ).

I have actually decided to read at least the first one. As several people pointed out, it can be good to read books with premises that you disagree with.

After finishing it, I will definitely take the opportunity to have a conversation with my friend (we carpool together, so I have 30-40 minutes when I can't really do anything else anyway). We've had a couple interesting discussions where we don't agree, so it shouldn't be too bad.

Also, I will say that I have found the first 20 (or so) pages interesting so far. I have many issues with Mr. Harris' reasoning, conclusions, and rhetoric; but he makes some interesting points as well.

Again, thanks for all the suggestions everyone!

-V

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