Bafflement about Thank-You Notes
I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting a lot of thank-you notes lately from people who already thanked me, and I don’t understand it. I’m getting them from people I saw in person, who opened the gift in front of me and then properly said, “Thank you!”
When I read magazines, I read about people sending thank-you notes to people who were right there at the baby shower with them. I read about people who have their friends bring self-addressed thank-you notes, so the object of the shower does not have to spend all her time addressing them.
Since when are people sending thank-you notes after saying thank you in person? As my mom told me, thank-you notes are meant for people you can’t thank in person. For example, your great aunt sends you a gift through the mail because she lives two states away, is 83, and can’t travel to you for your birthday.
Is this a symptom of a larger problem, where words–promises, contracts, even marriage vows–must be backed up with paper to be considered valid? One’s word used to be one’s “bond.”
Is it the result of a campaign by greeting card companies to make us think that a verbal “thank you” is inadequate?
Is it an upper-class thing, originally done by people who actually had time for it, now guilted onto lower classes? I come from working-class/farming families.
This leads to people who already have very little extra time or resources–those preparing for a wedding or a baby–to spend unnecessary time sending thank-you notes to people they’ve already thanked.
This sort of relates to another issue. I once heard some friends say about another friend’s upcoming wedding, “They’re going to open gifts right there. That’s so tacky.”
When I was a kid, tagging along to every wedding my parents went to, at every single one, the couple opened gifts. It was normal and expected.
At our wedding, we didn’t, probably because I had heard my friends call it tacky, and got worried.
But if we had done that, maybe we could’ve skipped the whole thank-you note thing, by saying “Thank you!” in person!
As it was, what with finding a new place and moving right after the wedding, and both commuting an hour each way to work, we barely even had time to come home and breathe, let alone do thank-you notes. It took a long time.
I do try to do thank-you notes promptly, normally, but there were quite a lot of wedding gifts.
Some people say that it’s good manners to send a note even after you’ve already said the “thank you” in person.
But this was in the book I used as a child, Manners to Grow On by Tina Lee:
A thank-you note is not necessary when someone gives you a present in person, as a warm thank you when you accept it is enough. –p. 21
—probably written somewhere around 2005