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How to write thank you notes for gifts you don't like

"You cannot make yourself feel something you do not feel, but you can make yourself do right in spite of your feelings."
Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973), American writer
From time to time we all receive gifts and presents that we don't like, don't want, or don't need. Whether it's a hideous ornament, a book you know you'll never read, or yet another pair of socks, even dud gifts need to be acknowledged with a gracious thank you note.
But what to write in your note? The trick is to focus on gratitude rather than appreciation, and to simply say thank you without saying anything that is untrue.

First of all, here are 5 basic rules for writing a thank you note for something you dislike:

1. Keep your note short and simple

2. Don't gush (Oh my goodness, this is so beautiful!) or write things that you don't feel and aren't true (I've always wanted one of these)

3. Emphasize the giver's thoughtfulness and generosity

4. Focus on an aspect of the gift that you liked (i.e. the quality or colour of an item of clothing), or something positive that can be related to the gift (i.e. your love of reading, in the case of a book)

5. Finally tempting though it may be never, never be snide or rude, however horrible the gift

Phrasing your thank you note

After the greeting (Dear Rita,), use the first line of your note to describe the gift in some detail (Thank you for the graffiti design dinner plates...). This personalises your note and helps to disguise your lack of praise and enthusiasm for the gift. You may like to add an adjective to your description suitably abstract ones that may be interpreted in a variety of ways include: unusual, intriguing, original, impressive and unique. Similarly, you may wish to focus on more abstract aspects of the gift, such as when or where you might use it, how you've read a review of it in the papers (no need to say whether the review was good or bad!), or generally enjoy that kind of item.

For example, in the case of a book you might mention when or where you might have the chance to read it (on your commute to work, during an upcoming holiday...) or your love of reading (You know how much I love to lose myself in a good book!).

Regarding an item of clothing, you might focus on the quality, the warmth or the colour, or perhaps the fact that the item is currently very fashionable. An ornament that is not to your taste may still be praised for its craftsmanship, uniqueness etc.

Remember to thank the giver explicitly for their kindness, generosity or thoughtfulness, or mention how touched you are (It was so kind of you to think of me this holiday season), then finish by turning the focus onto them and asking, for example, about their health, work, family or vacation plans (How is Freddy finding his new job? I do hope you are all doing well and keeping healthy in this cold weather.) Sign off with a friendly greeting and, of course, your signature.

And that's it, job done!

Don't worry too much that the recipient may 'read between the lines' and realise that their gift wasn't the greatest success. You've done your duty by thanking them graciously. And, after all, to some extent you want them to realise that the gift wasn't the greatest, in order to avoid receiving something similar next time!

A special note on clothing

Clothing gifts are, of course, a particularly difficult area due to sizing. It is easy to see an item that is much too big or too small as an insult, but remember that it is very likely to have been bought with the best of intentions. If you're lucky the receipt will be included, allowing you to exchange the item for a different size, or completely different item. If not, then it is worth considering asking if they still have it and explaining that the sizing is unfortunately wrong. If nothing else, alerting them to the problem will prevent you receiving a similarly wrongly sized item next year!

Thank you note samples and templates for gifts you don't like

Here are some examples that will, I hope, give you a little inspiration for writing these notes for items you don't like:

A romance novel (which you would never dream of reading)

Dear Sara,

How kind of you to remember my birthday and send me 'The Temp and the Tycoon' by Liz Fielding. It looks quite a read, and I could certainly do with a little romance and escapism in my life right now!

How are things at school? Any plans for a summer vacation this year?

Looking forward to catching up with you soon.


A pair of socks (such a boring gift!)

Dear Susan,

You're very sweet to have sent me a Christmas gift, thank you. Socks, of course, are always useful and I shall put them into service immediately.

I hope your Christmas with the grandkids was a lot of fun. How old are they now?

Thanks again, and all the best to you for the New Year,

A hideous tie (that you will never wear)

Dear Geoff,

Many thanks for the purple and orange pop art tie very original and such a bold look. I really appreciate you thinking of me, especially when I know that you are so busy with work at this time of year.
Let's get together in the near future.

Best regards,

A large vase (which you find hideous and don't want to give house-space)

Dear Lesley,

Thank you very much for the purple lusterware vase. It's quite a statement piece and makes a big impression! I was interested to read the artist information included with the vase. I notice that she has exhibited internationally, including in Paris.

How is you house remodelling progressing? You must be very excited about how it is all going to look. Do send photos when it is finished!

Take care of yourself, and do give our love to Steve.

With love and best wishes,

An item of clothing that you dislike

Dear Annie,

Thank you for the pink roll-neck sweater what a generous gift. The quality is lovely and it's both light and beautifully warm. I'm so touched that you thought of me, especially when you're only just back from your vacation.
So, how was the cruise? I hope it was wonderful and that you're feeling tanned and relaxed. I can't wait to see your photos. I'll give you a call in a few days to fix a time for us to have lunch.

Thanks again for the gift.

Looking forward to seeing you very soon,