Whatever happened to Thank You notes?

When we heard from Jane Fraser of Exeter, New Hampshire, we liked what she was writing about: thank you notes! As she said to us at BoomerCafé, as a boomer she has seen a lot of change over the years, but there are some things she wishes had stayed the same. Hence, this short essay from a slightly forlorn boomer, Whatever Happened to Thank You Notes?

Does anyone remember thank-you notes? If you’re a baby boomer but didn’t grow up as I did when such things were routinely done, I’ll explain. Thank-you notes are short, handwritten notes on nice notepaper sent in a timely fashion after you receive a gift.

ThankYou_4_SnapseedIt has always been considered good manners to thank someone who gives you a gift. It lets the giver know that you received their gift, that you liked it, and that you appreciated the giver’s effort. According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word ‘gift’ means, 1) “Something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; present,” and 2) “Something bestowed or acquired without any particular effort by the recipient or without its being earned.”

The fact that you were born does not mean people owe you a gift. The fact that it is Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever, does not mean that you are automatically entitled to a gift either (please refer to #2).


Jane Fraser

That being said, when you do receive a gift, it is gracious to thank the giver. I realize that, in this technological age, email is much quicker and easier. But a handwritten note, written from the heart and expressing thanks, especially in this technological age, makes a special impact. You might even type up a note on your computer, print it, and sign it personally.

Ignoring the giver’s effort by non-acknowledgment is rude. Not only that, but it will probably ensure that you don’t receive another gift from them any time soon. When you don’t take time to thank someone for a gift, the unwritten, unsaid message they receive from you is that you don’t care about them or their gift.

This also goes for face-to-face gifting. Of course, saying ‘thank you’ is nice. But follow up with a note afterward. It’s really just the Golden Rule in practice— do things for others you’d like done for you. The reverse is also true: do not do to others what you do not want done to you. Simple, but effective.

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  1. It was refreshing to read this article. I thought I was the only person who felt this gracious act was a void in our frantic, electronic world. Sadly, I have received few thank you notes or even email versions for the past several years for wedding, baby, birthday, etc. gifts.

  2. My grandmother and I used to talk about this a lot, she has since passed away (age 96) but I believe would appreciate a reply on her behalf : ) My 2 nieces and 2 nephews have never acknowledged a gift from me (and only rarely from her) with a thank you note. She used to say she was going to stop sending because the only way she knew it was received was when she saw the paid check and I have found that to be true as well. I’ve never withheld because of that but I believe this Christmas they may all receive a beautiful box of Thank You stationery with their other gifts (they are 23, 21, 18 and 13). Thank YOU Erin for that not so subtle idea! My grandmother would love it!

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