Do I Have to Reciprocate a Lavish Birthday Gift?

If you are Victoria's friend this is probably what you are getting for your birthday.

If you are Victoria’s friend this is probably what you are getting for your birthday.

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

So for my birthday, I received a gift card for Petco from my coworker for $50.00, which I think is a lot for someone I don’t know too well and have never hung out with socially. His 30th birthday is next week- do I need to spend that much on him? 

Sincerely,
Overwhelmed with Generosity

Official Etiquette:
Miss Manners says that present giving should be roughly even, but that thoughtfulness can be equivalent to monetary value. If you do not wish to exchange gifts, you can tell your friend that you would prefer to just acknowledge birthdays with good wishes.

Our Take:

Jaya: I have no idea what to do about this question, but I would not feel like it’s an obligation to get him $50 worth of anything. I will also use this as an opportunity to apologize to all my friends. after like age 20 I am such an “I’ll buy you a drink at the bar” gift friend, even to my closest.

Victoria: Hahah yeah, I hate buying birthday gifts for friends. Like, it’s such a crazy thing. Who can keep track of whether you gave them something, did they give you something, and if you do it once, is there an expectation to keep doing it?

Jaya: Exactly! Like, we all know a gift is a gift and not an obligation, but an awful lot of people treat it like one.

Victoria: Yeah. I think there is the option, in this situation, where you can say “oh this is too much, I couldn’t possibly accept it”and then they say “no, no it’s fine.” And then I think you definitely don’t have to reciprocate. I mean, since she already took it, I might give him a $10 or maaaaaaybe $20 certificate to somewhere. But seriously, only because his bday is so soon after hers. Otherwise I would say forget it.

Jaya: Yeah, and next year do not repeat.

Victoria: Definitely.

Jaya: I think some people are just gift givers. Like your family, you give gifts a lot right?

Victoria: Yes, but ONLY to immediate family. And actually, its more my mom that sends stuff to us.

Jaya: Ahhh. But yeah, I think some people are just gift givers. And really do not expect things in return.

Victoria: That’s true! And like, I make people cakes all the time, but certainly do not expect 5 different cakes for my bday.Though if you want to…

Jaya: Oh shit, you’ve thought I was an asshole this whole time!

Victoria: No! I’ve never made you a cake because we celebrate our birthdays at the same time and I have been PROHIBITED from making a cake for my own bday party.

Jaya: Ok, as long as we never stop celebrating our birthdays together, because my cakes will never be as pretty as yours.

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