my boss thinks a board member kept the money from a baby gift collection

A reader writes:

I have a weird etiquette problem. I’ve been at a nonprofit for over eight years in a position that works very closely with our advisory board. I recently had a baby and I’ve been out on maternity leave. My husband and I decided that it makes sense for me to resign from my job to stay home with our son for a few years. I went to my office so my coworkers could meet the baby and so I could tell my boss, Angela, in person that I wouldn’t be coming back.

But then things got awkward. Angela asked me what gift the board had sent me, and said she’d been curious ever since they took up their collection. When I told her I had no idea what she was talking about, she was shocked. She told me that at the first meeting they had while I was out on leave, they decided to send me a baby gift and took up a collection. It totaled a generous amount of money: four or five hundred dollars. Then one board member, Susan, took the money and said she’d take care of ordering and sending the gift. Angela gave Susan my home address. Apparently Susan just pocketed the money and never ordered anything, probably because she volunteered to handle it and then just stuck the cash in her wallet and forgot all about it as soon as the meeting ended. That wouldn’t be unlike her. They’ve had a couple board meetings since the collection and Angela told me that Susan has never mentioned the gift or tried to return anyone’s contribution. Angela is horrified with Susan. (Angela is a director but not the head of the organization. There’s a VP and President above her, but they don’t have much to do with the advisory board. The board is international and their engagement was Angela’s and my responsibility.)

So my question is actually an etiquette one. I’m not sure what to do next about thanking them. Do I send them a thank-you note? Susan flaked out and pocketed their money, so I never received anything, so I have nothing to thank them for. “Angela told me you gave Susan money for a gift for me – Thanks!” doesn’t seem right. But I don’t want to be rude and have them all think they sent me a nice gift and I’m ungrateful and unprofessional and never thanked them for it! But they never actually sent anything. And just waiting until one of them mentions a gift so that I can say, “Oh, gosh, I’m afraid one never arrived. It was so nice of you to think of me!” won’t work either, since I’ve just resigned and won’t be seeing them anymore.

Do I send nothing and pretend this never happened? Should Angela let them all know somehow that Susan never sent anything with the money they gave her? At this point, it’s been nearly six months since Susan took the money, so it’s not like it’s only been a few weeks and she just hasn’t gotten around to it yet. I don’t know what to do.

And to be clear, it’s not about wanting the present. Our son is the first grandchild on either side and has more than enough stuff. I never expected anything from the board and am honestly just pleasantly surprised they thought of me. I’m really just stressing about how to handle it with them so they don’t think I’m ungrateful and rude, while I have nothing to thank them for and they should probably know they gave Susan $500 and she just kept it.


I definitely don’t think you should send a thank-you note for a gift you never received.

And I do think someone needs to say something to the board and/or to Susan. If this was an innocent mistake on Susan’s part, she’ll presumably be mortified and want to make it right. And if it wasn’t an innocent mistake, the rest of the board needs to know that. And if Susan actually did send a gift and it got lost on its way to you, that’s worth knowing too, so that you and Angela aren’t thinking this was Susan’s fault.

It sounds like the easiest thing to do here would be one of the following two options, but they’re both things that would have to come from Angela, not from you:

1. Angela could contact Susan directly and say, “Hey, I mentioned to Jane the baby gift from the board, but she was confused — she said she never received anything. I wanted to mention it to you in case you have a tracking number or some other way of following up on it.” This is what I’d do if you’re both convinced that this is an innocent mistake.

2. At the next board meeting, Angela could just say, “I know at the last meeting, the board took up a collection for a baby gift for Jane. Jane mentioned she’d never received it, so I wanted to pass that on to y’all in case something went amiss in the sending.”

If that doesn’t flush out what happened, I think you can still move on at that point with the peace of mind that you took reasonable actions to try to figure this out.

{ 239 comments… read them below }

  1. Jaguar*

    I, meanwhile, think you should send a thank-you note. What I would do is write two – one explaining what happened and one that doesn’t and dances around the no-actual-gift part – and give them both to Angela and let her decide which one to distribute to the rest of the staff. That way, Angela retains control of how to deal with the issue with Susan and you get to show your appreciation for what everyone did.

    1. Leatherwings*

      A thank you note explaining what happened would be so odd though. I can’t imagine a world in which that sounds nice or good.

    2. CMT*

      That’s kind of weird, though. Don’t write a thank you note until/unless you get an actual gift. It’s great that OP has alerted Angela to the fact that she never got a gift. Now this whole issue is out of OP’s hands and Angela can decide what she wants to do with this information.

    3. Dang*

      Honestly it sounds almost passive-aggressive to me to send a thank you note when you didn’t receive a gift, especially if Angela knows the situation.

      1. Jaguar*

        Really? I’ve always written notes in the vein of “thank you for your consideration” and not “thank you for the thing.” The gift itself is besides the point. I thank people and show appreciation for their thought and consideration. That wouldn’t sound passive-aggressive to me and the thought and consideration is still there: they raised the money for OP.

        1. ZSD*

          Wow, I think I would be pretty hurt if I went to the trouble of picking out a personal gift for someone and then got a thank-you that just referred to my “consideration” rather than naming the gift and explaining why they liked it. I mean, yes, you can thank them for thinking of you, but I think you should also thank them for the gift itself.
          That said, one thing I’ve learned from AAM is that there are regional differences in gift-giving and gift-receiving norms, so maybe this kind of thank-you is completely normal where you’re from. I’m originally from the Midwest, for the record.

          1. Jaguar*

            Okay, I’m way off, then. I typically mention the actual gift in passing since it’s not a delicate issue as it is in this letter. “Thank you for the [blank]” and then move onto general appreciation because I’m thanking them for the money they spent and their consideration. Letters that focus on the gift itself seems tacky to me.

            1. TootsNYC*

              and yet in every single etiquette book that covers this, the examples always focus on the gift, and say very little about the emotional stuff.

            2. Kyrielle*

              I always read notes like that as you are so glad I thought of you but the gift is all wrong, because you don’t talk about it. I’d never send you anything similar again, and I’d feel a bit sad that I misjudged.

              I’ve always been taught to say what you love *about* the gift as well as thanking for the appreciation/consideration.

              1. orangecat*

                Yep. “Thank you for the gravy boat shaped like a skunk, it will look so wonderful next to the Thanksgiving turkey this year.”

              2. Cordelia Naismith*

                Agreed. If I got a thank you note like the one described above, I would think they didn’t like the gift but were trying to be polite. If the recipient actually liked the gift, I would expect them to say something specific about what they liked about it. They don’t need to write me a novel about it, but a sentence or two about the gift itself would let me know they actually liked the thing.

              3. LQ*

                I’ve gotten notes like that and always assumed that meant they didn’t like the gift. Which is fine, but all the etiquette stuff I’ve seen and my grandmother’s expectations were if you liked the gift you are explicit about how. Once my much younger cousin sent me one that skipped mentioning the gift directly and I texted her to let her know where the gift receipt was.

                1. Kyrielle*

                  Yep. I’ve been teaching my seven-year-old to find something to say about the gift. It’s not usually hard if the gift is on target; it’s more a matter of getting him to use fewer exclamation points once he starts thinking about it.

                  Unless the gift is a total miss. In which case he gives me this *look* and needs help coming up with something to say that’s honest, but polite.

              4. Turtle Candle*

                One thing that I always loved in Miss Manners was her examples of thank-you notes, which she inevitably picked something completely ridiculous for. “Thank you for your gift of monogrammed satin pen-wipers! I’m sure they will be a delight as Ermentrude and I keep up our correspondence.”

          2. the gold digger*

            My husband’s mother sent us stuff we did not want and did not like (although Primo is still enamored of the life-sized cast-iron cat). I did not want to encourage her (Primo had tried to stop the gift giving completely but no luck), so would write only about how thoughtful she was. I did not want more cheap pressed-board nesting tables painted with hibiscus and hummingbirds. Or more framed photos of her and Sly. Or more hand-painted vases. Or more adopted manatees. Or gardening catalogs. Or twenty-year old guides to opals. Or used books I had read years ago.

            1. Drew*

              “Another box of books I’ve already…wait a second, some of these have MY NAME written in them! She bought me my own discarded books back! That’s not what recycling means, Primo!Mom!!”

            2. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude*

              … adopted manatees?…

              I am mostly a lurker, but I deeply enjoy the chronicles of you and Primo :)

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              It sounds like MIL is giving you junk she doesn’t want anymore… (minus the manatees, of course)

          3. Unegen*

            Ugh, I really hate that and always have. It smacks of “justify to my satisfaction why I gave this thing to you.” Thanks is one thing; “explaining why they liked it”? Overboard. Way, way overboard.

            1. Jaguar*

              Yeah, that’s my feeling as well. And being on the other side of letters like that, they always read a little off to me, like the writer is talking about themselves in a thank you note to someone else.

              1. Ellie H.*

                I really disagree. Thank you notes are part of your relationship with the other person. Whoever gave you the gift is interested in you and in your happiness and the continuance of the relationship, etc. etc. (ideally – I guess this wouldn’t apply to gifts given as part of a very formal business relationship, but I think we are often thinking about thank you notes for presents from family, friends or people we have a warm relationship with) Unless we’re assuming bad faith and that the gift giver is actually disinterested in both the person and how happily the present is received? Assuming this isn’t the case – you like the recipient, so of course you are interested in hearing about what they like about the gift and also how they are doing in general. What else is there to write about in a note or letter? You’re not having a conversation so you can’t ask questions, and you pretty much can only say “Hope you’re doing well!” once per missive.

                1. JessaB*

                  Heck Mr B just sent an email to his supervisor. The company does a swag thing (really cool stuff) around this time of year and he works at home. Not only did we love the useful stuff (I wanna know what company they use for their amazingly cuddly fleecy blankets,) he actually put in it that it was good for our entire family, our cat now thinks his company’s box is her best bed in the house. (We mostly send a thing like that to let the office know that we actually received the package.) So yeh at least in our gift culture (he’s from Boston, I’m from NY originally) we do say why we like it.

              2. LawBee*

                Thank you notes are really easy, though.

                “Dear Jaguar,

                Thank you for your gift of the monogrammed throw pillow. It looks amazing on the couch! We’ll think of you every time we snuggle up with it.


            2. Cordelia Naismith*

              Completely disagree. Just saying thanks without actually talking about the gift itself = I did not actually like this and wish you hadn’t given it to me, but I don’t want to hurt your feelings.

            3. Journalist Wife*

              But you can at least mention the gift broadly – like what it was. If you were really excited and used it for something creative right after receiving it, then it’s appropriate – “Thank you again for the new hand-mixer, my family loved the spice cake I whipped up with it last weekend…” – but if it isn’t something like that, you can just say “thank you for the baby wipe warmer and supplies; I appreciate your thoughtfulness”. But I would never not mention specifically what the gift was – unless it was cash, of course.

              Otherwise, you run the risk of people assuming you didn’t bother to pay attention to what you were given by whom (I am thinking of things like weddings and baby showers where you ask someone to write down what people gave you as you open gifts, etc). But for what it’s worth, I am also from the Midwest (U.S.) so maybe it really is a regional thing.

              1. JessaB*

                If it’s cash and I can, I usually say what I got with it. “Thanks for the Bed Bath and Beyond gift certificate, I really needed the towels I got with it.”

                “Thanks for the thoughtful gift, we all went out to dinner on you.”

                1. Turtle Candle*

                  Yes. Or even, “Thank you for the lovely gift! We’ve put it in our vacation fund, and we will think of you when we go out to a nice dinner in Kalamazoo!” or whatever. (It’s particularly useful if what you actually did was take the check and use it to pay for getting your drywall repaired–because even if that’s the case, assuming that the $100 or whatever that you put toward the drywall would have had to come out of somewhere in your budget, that’s theoretically $100 you have freed up for your next vacation or splurge or whatever.)

            4. LD*

              It may feel overboard, but it is a long established criteria for thank you notes. The idea is that you appreciate that someone took the time and effort to pick out a gift and give it to you. And hopefully it is a gift that the giver actually thought about that would please the recipient. Thank you notes also serve a practical purpose, to let the giver know that the gift was received and not lost. The note is a small thing if you want to continue a relationship that includes the tradition of gifts.

        2. OP*

          And, see, I always talk about the gift in my thank you notes. “Thank you so much for Thing. I love XYZ about it and plan to use it in ABC ways. Every time I enjoy Thing I’ll think fondly of you. Regards, OP”

          I was just completely at a loss of how to write a note without having a Thing to talk about, and when the gift that never arrived was supposed to be a surprise that I technically shouldn’t even know about, which is why I wrote in. Alison’s advice is as solid as always and I’ll be forwarding the link to Angela.

          1. Michelle*

            I think Angela needs to handle this. She should start with it’s an innocent mistake and then go from there. Susan’s reaction should tell the real story.

            Also, I was always taught to mention the present and how you would you use in thank you notes as well.

            1. Anonamoose*

              + 1,000,000.

              OP, as the receiver, you haven’t actually received anything to thank. The thought is appreciated, always, but it’s still too soon to send a card. Have Angela tackle this mess!

          2. EddieSherbert*

            I don’t think you need to write a thank you note…. in theory, you have no reason to even know they did something (since you never got anything – it just came up in passing).

            If you’re unsure of letting Angela handle it, could you contact Susan and use the same script for #1 that Alison suggested?

          3. Journalist Wife*

            OP, I am sort of wondering about the timeline – like did Susan plan to get you something, but then you resigned and she was like, “Screw it” and stuck it in petty cash somewhere? (I still think that would be way tacky and at best she should have returned the money to the group)…but I’m curious about that part. Like maybe she waited a month or two figuring she’d pick out something good when she had the time or when she heard more about something you might need ($500 would buy something pretty pimp for a baby but usually the basics like crib/stroller/etc are easy to sort out on a registry if you’re still lacking something big like that)…but then she heard you weren’t coming back and forgot about it or figured why send something to someone who isn’t coming back, etc…??? Is that possible?

            1. OP*

              I had my son and went on leave in early April, the board took up the collection at their meeting a week after that, and I resigned and heard about the collection in September.

              1. Anonamoose*

                Well that may changes things…very ‘maybe’. Maybe Susan heard you resigned and thought that she would return it to the originators and then forgot? Although I personally still would have sent the gift despite the resignation – but maybe others are different.

                1. Daisy*

                  I can’t see how that explains a five-month gap between the money collection and the resignation. I really doubt Susan was suddenly, finally poised to get around to buying something in September.

              2. Journalist Wife*

                Ah. Yeah. Then definitely sounds like Susan totally flaked and pocketed the money (regardless whether or not it was malicious, she still stole it.) Sorry you’re having to deal with this awkwardness haunting you so long after the fact! I sincerely hope your boss follows up so that 1.) you can have some peace of mind about it, and 2.) so we get a good update letter later (I realize one of these two reasons is me being selfish, but I loves me some update letters!)

          4. Not So NewReader*

            OP, please do not write that thank you note. That is just plain out of place and that is probably why you are having difficulty finding words. Don’t do this.

            I am kind of miffed with Angela, if she knows there is a problem then she should tell someone on the board. The last person in the world she should tell is you.

            It sounds like that check got mailed in September. OP, I have seen letters take TWO MONTHS to get to their recipients, sometimes longer. (The recipient lived NEXT DOOR to the post office.) I use the mail a lot at work so that puts me in a spot where I can see these things happening on a regular basis. I am not slamming the post office here and do not wish to make a tangent conversation. The PO handles tons of mail and sometimes stuff happens.

            Before anyone makes accusations, the best thing would be to tell Susan the check never arrived and maybe she can go back to the PO and get some help. I live in a rural area and when one of my personal checks got lost the mailman was able to check around for it himself. The folks at the PO where I mailed it also checked around the building to make sure it did not fall behind something. The envelop with the check did eventually surface and the recipient got my payment. My point is that the post office WILL help if Susan says something.

          5. Artemesia*

            you just cant do a note for a non gift without sounding passive aggressive or snotty especially as word gets out. Angela needs to handle it; if she won’t then you should seek advice from another biard member since you don’t want to sound ungrateful. the place for Angela to start is with ‘did the gift go astray’ rather than ‘did you pocket the money.

          6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            OP, don’t write a thank you for a gift you didn’t receive; I agree with others who think it reads off/passive-aggressive. Let Angela handle bringing it up directly with the Board.

            And it’s totally ok to talk about the gift—the best thank you’s are personalized and seek to grow the relationship between you and the gift giver. That almost always requires talking about a shared experience (or planned future experience) related to the gift.

        3. BPT*

          It would seem passive-aggressive to me too.

          Like, she writes a thank you note saying, “thank you for raising money for a gift.” Obviously nobody knows what the gift was supposed to be, especially since Angela didn’t even know. So that’s going to bring up questions of 1) why didn’t she mention the gift? and 2) what was the gift?

          If it comes out that there was no gift, that’s just going to look really weird. It’s going to seem that OP was trying to passive-aggressively point out that she never received a gift. Or it’s just going to seem odd that she wrote a thank you note for something she never even received.

          You only write thank you notes when you’ve actually received the gift. Now that Angela knows, it’s up to her to address it with Susan and explain it to people who donated.

          1. MoinMoin*

            Yes, agreed. I think at best she could write a “thank you for being excellent coworkers, I’m going to miss you” note and include in there a vague sentence about how well they treated her during her pregnancy/leave and she appreciates it, or something.

          2. Mephyle*

            “Thank you for raising money for a gift. I’m sure I would have liked it very much if I had received it.”
            Like BPT says, you only express thanks if you got a gift.

            1. Noobtastic*

              After hearing a funny commercial about people who used “the wrong shippers” to send their gifts, you could write a note saying,

              Dear Board Members:

              Thank you for this thing which might once have been a lamp. I so enjoy jigsaw puzzles! I’ll think of you every time I look at the glue!

              Of course, it’s all a big lie, but…

              Yeah, that probably wouldn’t come off so well, either.

        4. Jaydee*

          But in that case you’re sending a thank you note after actually receiving a gift. Whether you focus on the thing or the thought behind the thing, there was actually an item given and received. In this case, at least one person – Susan – knows that no gift was actually sent. So if she gets a thank you note, she’s going to instantly figure out that LW knows there was supposed to be a gift and that she either dropped the ball on sending it or pocketed the money. And if other board members talk to Susan to find out what the gift was, they will likely find out pretty quickly that no actual gift was sent. And then they’re left wondering why in the world LW sent a thank you note for a gift she never got that she didn’t even know they were sending.

          Alison is absolutely right that if anyone is going to bring this issue up with the board it should be Angela.

        5. wendelenn*

          Now I want to post the picture of Katniss from when the Gamemaker/judges are assessing her and she shoots the apple from the pig.

          Jennifer Lawrence’s tone and fake bow are perfection.

        6. J*

          Yes, but you don’t have the gift. Sending a thank you note without the gift indicates that you know there should have been a gift (that’s the “consideration” part). Unless you’re just saying “thanks for letting me work here”, which is equally weird.

        7. Vicki*

          No, because they were considerate and the money /gift disappeared.

          You thank them for their consideration if nothing falls apart.

          OP – you never knew about this. There’s nothing to send thanks for. Angela needs to address this.

    4. BRR*

      I don’t think that’s what the LW should do. They should wait to see what happens first. They can then write a “thank you for the gift” note or a “thank you for thinking of me” note.

      1. Sadsack*

        Yeah, this is for Angela to talk to Susan about. There should be no pressure on the OP to resolve this.

    5. The IT Manager*

      No. You’ve encountered information about a lost gift and now someone needs to deal with it so you either get the gift or the contributors get their money back.

      Do not muddy the waters which could make it appear the gift was received when it was not.

      1. OP*

        That’s a really good point that I hadn’t thought of: if I send even a generic “thank you for thinking of me” note then they’ll think I got the gift and they’ll never know Susan kept the $500. I definitely won’t do that, then.

      2. Jaguar*

        Well, I was operating from the assumption that receiving the money / gift is unimportant and OP wanted instead to thank their coworkers for their generosity. If getting to the bottom of where the money went is more important, I agree, don’t send anything.

        1. TheCupcakeCounter*

          I think both are true. I think she genuinely appreciates her coworkers thoughtfulness and wants to recognize that but is also unsure if she should let them know she never received anything so they are aware that their donation was “re-purposed”.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Both your assumptions appear to be correct, but it makes no sense to send a thank you for a gift not received. If someone said they wanted to send flowers to me for my birthday and never sent them, I wouldn’t send them a thank you card. I would brush it off and thank them for thinking of me and say flowers are unnecessary.

          But if I’m not having a conversation with someone in person, and I hear second-hand that they raised money to buy me a gift that never arrived, then there’s no way in hell I’m sending a thank you card. If I thank them for the thought and they find out I never received a gift, I look passive-aggressive and petty. If I thank them for a gift that never arrived, I look delusional and am basically covering up for whomever stole their money.

          I have yet to find an etiquette guide that advises sending thank you’s for nonexistent gifts, and I don’t think encouraging the OP to send one is helpful.

    6. MashaKasha*

      No, no, I wouldn’t. There is no non-odd way to write such a note. OP only knows about the collection through the grapevine, and didn’t know until very recently. I cannot think of a way to write a note like this that would not start a ton of trouble.

    7. Shannon*

      If Susan actually stole the gift, this would muddy the waters considerably. Something can’t be stolen if the OP acknowledges receipt of it.

    1. EyesWideOpen*

      I have to concur. Angela, at this point, is the only person who can address this issue with the Advisory Board. I have to agree with Alison that a thank you note is not appropriate as you have nothing to thank anyone for.

      The ball should now be in Angela’s court and only Angela’s court.

    2. MegaMoose, Esq*

      I agree. You wouldn’t have known anything was up unless Angela had said something, and now that she knows what’s up, I think it’s really on her to do something about it. Maybe you could touch base with her in a week or so asking if she has any updates and noting that you feel uncomfortable not having sent a thank-you note?

    3. Jesmlet*

      +1 for letting Angela take the reins here. No thank you note and have her go with option 1 (though I might do option 1 during the board meetings just so all bases are covered)

    4. Kelly L.*

      + a million. I’m glad to see my first instinct was the same as Alison’s and much of the commentariat’s–that Angela needs to take the next step.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Just my opinion but Angela never, ever should have mentioned this to you.
      I am shaking my head, what on earth did she think you could do to remedy the situation. sigh.
      This is not yours to handle, OP, that is why this feels so difficult.

      1. Mabel*

        Angela asked the OP what the gift was that the board sent her. I don’t think that’s so outrageous. Why wouldn’t it be OK for her to ask about a gift that she had a part in giving? It doesn’t sound like Angela was fishing for a “thank you” or anything like that.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        I don’t see why she shouldn’t have asked. It wasn’t a secret–they collected money from a group of people and Angela had no reason to think that Susan wouldn’t follow through. Assuming the OP received a gift is completely reasonable, especially if Angela contributed.

        Angela does need to be the one to follow up on this, though. I have a relative who is terrible about acknowledging gifts and I always start with the “did it arrive?” tack. I do genuinely want to know that it arrived, too, so I know if I need to go after the shipping company.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t think Angela was in the wrong—she was excited for OP and wondered what the ultimate gift was. Her only other option was to ask Susan (which it sounds like she’ll now be doing, anyway). It’s true that Angela should now handle this issue, not OP, but I don’t think Angela was out of bounds by bringing up the gift.

      4. Annonymouse*

        A few things with this:
        1) a collection was taken up and presumably Angela contributed to it. She would want to know how OP liked the gift she helped give.

        2) until Angela and OP talked neither of them knew there was a problem- Angela assumed Susan gave her a gift and had no reason not to believe it.

        Now if Angela was demanding OP talk to Susan and get this sorted out I would agree with you.

        But other than that it was just normal conversation that two people would have that revealed a problem.

  2. BobcatBrah*

    Here’s an interesting thought. Perhaps there was no gift collection and Angela made it up on the fly to excuse why you didn’t get a gift from your coworkers. You said yourself that you wouldn’t put it past Susan to be forgetful, and Angela likely knows that as well, and she felt guilty when you showed up with the baby.

    It’s not as crazy as it sounds!

    1. OP*

      Oh, no, she would never do that. My coworkers actually all threw me a really thoughtful surprise baby shower before my maternity leave, where everyone gave a favorite picture book. (And I wrote them all prompt thank you notes!) This collection was a surprise from our nonprofit’s advisory board. Angela wouldn’t make something like this up. It would be so out of character for her.

      1. Sparrow*

        I love the picture book idea for a low-key shower and I’m surprised I haven’t come across it before. Definitely making a mental note for the future!

        1. MashaKasha*

          I love it too!!

          My 21yo still has these moments sometimes where he’ll find a picture book he liked as a young child and look through it, reminiscing. Can’t say he’d ever want to do the same with his old onesies, even if I still had them!

        2. Marillenbaum*

          One of my friends had this kind of baby shower. She’s a huge Shakespeare nerd, so the theme was “Get thee to a nursery”, and everyone brought a favorite book for Future Human.

        3. SouthernLadybug*

          My book club does this when someone is pregnant. We have a shower at one of the meetings, with books as the gifts if people choose to give.

        4. Mander*

          A friend of mine did this too. We all brought one of our favorite books from when we were a kid. Surprisingly in a group that was half expats there was only one duplicate — not that many kids books from the 70s on the store shelves in England!

        5. Chocolate Coffeepot*

          I’m a librarian, and this is what we always do when a staff member has a baby. It’s always fun to see what books the baby will have. Surprisingly, there are usually not any duplicates.

        6. TheCupcakeCounter*

          The last 3 or 4 baby showers I have been invited to ask for a book in lieu of a card and you write a little note and sign your name in the book so that baby and mommy always know who it came from. My coworkers did this for me.

        7. Turtle Candle*

          Carolyn Hax often recommends ‘children’s book’ showers for people who are uncomfortable having showers thrown for them but want to recognize the generosity of their friends/co-workers/whatever by not shutting down the idea entirely. It’s a great combination of relatively low pressure/low expense (children’s books can often be got for super cheap at used bookstores, especially) and friendly (because people can explain why they gave The Very Hungry Caterpillar or The Story of Ferdinand or Bread and Jam for Frances, if they want).

      2. hayling*

        Such a cute idea! I went to a baby shower (and I think also a first birthday party) where all the guests wrote notes to the baby inside a copy of “Oh The Places You Will Go” which I also thought was lovely.

    2. Joseph*

      I don’t think so. OP said this: “Angela asked me what gift the board had sent me, and said she’d been curious ever since they took up their collection. When I told her I had no idea what she was talking about, she was shocked. ”
      This sounds like *Angela* brought up the “what did the board get you?” conversation – which she obviously wouldn’t have done if she didn’t know there was a collection taken up.

    3. Not Karen*

      “to excuse why you didn’t get a gift from your coworkers”? Why is an excuse needed in this situation? Getting one’s coworker a baby gift is not an expectation, last I checked.

      1. Kelly L.*

        And it’s not even her co-workers. Her co-workers did get her gifts–this was an advisory board, which is usually at more of a remove. There’s no reason Angela or OP would know to expect something from them, other than the fact that they told Angela they were doing it.

      2. Annonymouse*

        It’s less that I feel than
        “My coworker went on leave, we contributed to a gift and they didn’t receive anything.”
        That Angela and OP are dealing with.

        If I contributed to a gift for someone and the person collecting it kept the money I’d be mad.

        I contributed to help that specific coworker for a specific reason (birth, death, illness, wedding) not so you have a nice bonus.

  3. Liz*

    As someone who has taken a lot of gift collections (always voluntary, always individually), I keep a spreadsheet to track who gave what and how it was spent. It helps keep my count accurate and just in case someone wants to see the details, it’s all right there.

    Do people really “forget” a few extra hundred in their pocket? Nice pockets!

    There’s nothing for LW to do. She’s resigned, she let the company know the relevant detail- never got a gift. It’s up to the company to go from there. If she ever does get a gift, then you send a thank you. Otherwise, nothing to do!

    1. Boop*

      Oh man, I’d love to put on a pair of pants I haven’t worn in a few weeks and be all “oh yeah, there’s that $500”!

      1. AnotherAlison*

        My mom actually does this. She will hide away cash (and jewelry) for “safekeeping” when they go on vacation or something, and then she forgets. She’s only in her early 60s, but I genuinely worry about her for when she gets older.

        All I can ever find is $5 that a kid leaves in his pants pocket when I do the laundry.

        1. BPT*

          My granddad has repeatedly warned us that after he passes and we have to go through his house, DO NOT throw anything away without checking every nook and cranny. I can’t even begin to imagine the money/items he’s hid in books, behind dressers, at the bottom of drawers, behind pictures, in boxes, etc.

          1. Murphy*

            My Nana said the same thing. Check every pocket. Sure enough, my mom found a decent amount of money.

          2. SS*

            My MIL has told us the same thing. When we go to visit her, we usually always have to help her find something of value that she hid but forgot where. Most time we never come across it.

            1. Esquire47*

              Yes! Love Arrested Development… That family sure could have written to AAM about their myriad of working-with-family issues!

          3. Puffle*

            After my grandmother passed, we found family jewellery wrapped in a paper towel at the bottom of a plastic carrier bag filled with old clothes. Good thing we checked!

            1. Just changed jobs*

              My friend’s parents found a large wad of cash in the freezer when cleaning out the grandparents’ house. We laugh because it puts a new spin on “cold hard cash”
              You can’t make this stuff up.

              1. catsAreCool*

                I read a book about dumb criminals, and in one story, a criminal stole cash that was hidden in the freezer and then spent it it at a nearby store while it was still cold. Turned out to be pretty easy to find him.

          4. JessaB*

            I know when my grandmother died I went through all her purses and there was money in all of em. I swear and not just the luck penny that people put in purses when they give them as gifts either. But like a 10 or a 20 in the zipper pocket.

        2. Kelly L.*

          My winter coat always has a $5 in it when I get it back out in the fall. The only exception is if I get low on money and try to raid the coat before it’s actually cold. That obviously voids the spell, because then I never find anything but receipts and mismatched gloves.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I’ve done this occasionally. Not hundreds, but $50 when I was a high school student (so, to me the equivalent of $200 or $300 today).

        1. JessaB*

          I always had a 20 in high school. My father gave it to me and insisted I put it the back hidden pocket of my wallet. It was for “if someone ditches you or weather requires you to take a taxi.” I also had one of those keychain pen knives with a box that could hold a folded bill.

          If I spent it and didn’t have it if dad asked to see it, I was in trouble. But if I needed it, he’d replace it when I get home.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            My dad did the exact same thing. He said it was my “emergency taxi so you don’t have to walk home/hitchhike/take a ride with someone you don’t trust” fund, and made me promise–promise!–that I would not spend it, so I put it in a separate useless little zip pocket that I didn’t use for anything else.

            Thinking about it… I ought to check my old beat-up high-school purse next time I see my parents for Christmas. I bet it’s still there. :D

            1. Turtle Candle*

              (Er, by ‘promise I would not spend it’ he meant ‘except on anything other than a taxi.’ It was not some kind of mind game where it was for a taxi but I had to promise not to spend it on a taxi. ;) )

          2. Noobtastic*

            My Dad warned me never to go anywhere on a date that I could not pay for, myself, as well as transportation home.

            In other words, don’t let a guy take me out for lobster and a ride in his speedster, leaving me both “in his debt” and stranded without his goodwill to take me home.

            It does cause a bit of awkwardness when someone invites you out for a fancy date, and you have to say, “Sorry, I can’t afford that.” “But, it’s my treat! I’m paying!” “Still can’t afford it, should something go wrong.”

            However, after witnessing a bit of life, I still stand by that “Don’t go anywhere you can’t afford to pay for AND transportation home” rule. Why? Even if your date is a perfect gentleman, sometimes people misplace/lose/forget their wallets, or are actually pickpocketed (OK, that one was me, but still, it obviously happens). Life happens. Plan for it. And revel in the times you don’t need your emergency plans.

            On the plus side, I can blame the smirking sneak-thieves for the rule, rather than the idea that all men are dangerous and I shouldn’t trust them. So, yay, thieves, for making dating life less awkward?

    2. MashaKasha*

      I’ve known people who, as an old coworker of mine used to put it, would forget their head if it wasn’t attached to their body.

      Personally, if I had several hundred dollars in my possession that wasn’t mine, I would not sleep well until I’ve bought and sent the gift and even then I’d have a log of all the information with tracking numbers, receipts, and so on. So I can’t imagine myself finding a gift collection in an old coat pocket. But I know people who very well could!

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        Yes, this is me too! I always feel like having the cash is a liability until the money is spent and I’ve actually given the gift to the person. If something happened to it, I would feel terrible and would feel obligated to replace it out of my own pocket, and since I really don’t want to do that, I’m hyper-aware that I still have the cash/gift in my possession and have to deal with it as soon as possible.

        (This is why I am generally not the one to volunteer to take up the collection and actually buy the gift, but I’m usually happy to contribute!)

      2. Noobtastic*

        I used to be “the responsible one.” Now, because life happened and screwed with my body (and brain), I frequently wind up finishing a sentence with “Uuuhhhhh. What? … OH, YEAH!” In other words, I’m not what you call “high functioning,” and if I don’t do something QUICKLY, I am likely to forget about it.

        Either I get other responsible people to remind me, or I write reminders (logs? You betcha! Great things, logs! All kids love log!). But then again, if I’m that scatterbrained, I would NEVER actually volunteer for such a duty. I might take it on if they assigned it to me (sticky notes EVERYWHERE until it was done), but volunteer for it? No way.

        This leads me to think that either Susan is very new to a life-changing brain-ceasing-to-function-as-it-once-did thing, or else Susan thought, “Oooooh, free money!”

        My money’s on the latter, unfortunately.

    3. MsChanandlerBong*

      “Do people really “forget” a few extra hundred in their pocket? Nice pockets!”

      Yes, some people do. A friend of mine was supposed to talk to his boss about a discrepancy with his pay–a $6,000 discrepancy. Every day, I’d ask him if he talked to his boss. “Nah, I forgot.” I was more upset about the $6,000 mistake than he was! I was like, “Must be nice to know you’re owed $6,000 and not care that much about it.” I’d be following up on a $50 mistake regularly, never mind $6,000.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          My former boss was independently wealthy and had a stack of 3-years worth of uncashed paychecks in his desk drawer. It used to make me crazy – I wanted to ask him to sign them over to me if he didn’t want them (this was before direct deposit was a thing). But I did find 20 bucks once in the pocket of a coat I tried on in a store. I guess someone returned the coat after wearing it.

          1. JessaB*

            Oh heck no the accountants should be all over him about that. No way. You do not do that to somebodies books. And rich people don’t often stay rich by ignoring small amounts. If I were the bookkeeper, I’d be in his face. I don’t care if he opens some small side account and donates the whole amount to some charity, but you don’t leave me with trailing liabilities for months at a time. I can’t close out the books. That makes my job a mess.

        2. Noobtastic*

          That’s when you know someone inherited that money.

          People who are self-made don’t do that. They may very well be generous, incredibly generous, but they are AWARE of their spending.

          Then they raise children who are incredibly generous, but haven’t got a clue.

    4. Chocolate Coffeepot*

      What boggles my mind is that (apparently) none of the board members asked Susan what gift she’d picked out. I’d want see pictures!

      1. JessaB*

        This. In the minutes of the next meeting there should be an unfinished business line to ask Susan what she got and if she didn’t spend the whole amount to have it returned to the account for the next person, or returned to the people who put in, proportionately to what they gave.

      2. Noobtastic*

        I know, right? If I’m involved in a group gift, I want to either be there at the presentation or at the very least see a picture. Especially if I care about the person receiving it, or it has the potential for severe levels of cuteness.

    5. SarahTheEntwife*

      I could totally see myself doing something like this. This is exactly why I wouldn’t be the one to volunteer to handle the baby-gift-buying, but because I don’t usually have envelopes with hundreds of dollars in my pockets, if I didn’t handle it right away it would be weirdly easy for it to drop off the radar.

  4. jaxon*

    For what it’s worth, it’s hard to imagine the board member did this on purpose; presumably she has to (or had to) interact with the letter writer all the time, and certainly she would be “found out” if she did something nefarious.

    It seems straightforward to me that Angela should just contact Susan and explain what happened.

    1. jaxon*

      Also for what it’s worth, I have worked with a lot of boards in my various jobs, and I understand the impulse the shield them from ever having to feel bad about anything they do with your organization, even if it’s just pointing out simple mistakes that need to be rectified. Sometimes staffs will tie themselves in knots with worry rather than just calling a board member to remind her that her pledge payment is 6 months past due (or whatever.)

      1. NW Mossy*

        This definitely happens in other contexts too! I see the same dynamic in the service teams at my company – they often are reluctant to discuss an issue with a customer if it means pointing out that the customer is wrong or made a mistake. That impulse is sometimes so strong that it manifests in us taking responsibility for things that are not our fault at all simply to avoid a 2-minute conversation that probably is a much bigger deal in our heads than it is in the customer’s.

    2. Kyrielle*

      Yeah, if I were Angela, I’d contact Susan assuming she _did_ send it but it got lost along the way. Susan being forgetful is one thing, but I’m not going to accuse her of forgetting several hundred when packages go missing all the time. (Especially if it was a several-hundred-dollar baby item – if she got a stroller or something else big like that, it might be obvious in its packaging and a tempting target for thieves.)

      If she did forget it, she can admit it or not, but that’s on her – if she *didn’t* forget it, no false accusations have been made to poison the relationship.

      But that’s if I were Angela. If I were the OP, I would let it go at this. You’ve really handled it by now – Angela is aware, and as you’re no longer working there, you don’t need to follow up further (unless the gift eventually arrives, in which case you’d send a thank you, obviously!).

      1. OP*

        I’m 99% sure it didn’t go astray in shipping. We’ve set up alerts with all the major shipping companies to notify us whenever a package will be arriving at our address. All deliveries are accounted for.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Whups, yeah. That’s not a probable explanation then. (Hm, maybe I should set that up! I haven’t had any packages go missing but it has happened in town…..)

        2. ZVA*

          Even if this is the case, I think it’s wise to give people the benefit of the doubt in situations like this, or at least look like you are! That way you’re covered in case it does turn out to be some kind of honest mistake. It would reeeally suck to basically accuse someone you work with of theft and be wrong.

        3. Newby*

          It still works as a polite fiction to minimize public embarrassment. If Angela asks her about the possibility of the gift going astray in shipping, she can fix the problem without admitting to everyone that she made a huge mistake or feel like she was accused of intentionally stealing the money. People tend to be more difficult to deal with when they are feeling defensive. Also it would prevent any awkwardness in the future.

          1. JessaB*

            Yes but when you ask if it went astray you artfully check the address. Let me make sure I didn’t screw you up Susan, I did give you X address right?

      2. Noobtastic*

        “tempting target for thieves”

        That is a distinct possibility! I’ve had things get “lost in shipping,” so that could be an explanation.

        Susan may have gotten delivery confirmation, and thought, “Welp, that’s my job done. Gee, I wonder why OP hasn’t sent a thank you note. How tacky.”

        Which is why I’m very grateful that OP has Angela to do the investigating on this. OP really CANNOT do anything about this, without looking like a gimmie-pig, whereas Angela certainly can. And if Susan says she sent the gift, then the assumption is she sent the gift.

        IF Susan says she sent the gift (and even better, if she still has tracking info/delivery notification, but really, that’s not likely to be kept for five months for a non-official business transaction – I highly doubt it), then the assumption is that the package was delivered to OP’s home, but was stolen from her doorstep.

        In that case, believe Susan, and send a thank you card with the explanation:

        Dear Board members:
        I have just been informed that you so very kindly sent me a gift for my baby. Unfortunately, some smirking sneak thief is enjoying the Toddler’s Turnip Twaddler and Penguin Plushie set. I’ve seen a picture of the set and I can say that I would have LOVED seeing my child play with that. The tie on the penguin is adorable and the corded phone is so cute and vintage. I showed the picture to my mother and she laughed and said I really missed out on… something about political satire? What that has to do with babies I don’t know, but I’m sure it would have been wonderful. Thank you so very much for the thoughtful gift! I’ll think of you every time I see a penguin or eat a turnip, twaddled or not.

        One way or another, OP, you’ll be able to express gratitude to them, eventually, and that is important, because you never know when you might be back in the saddle, and hoping to get work from them.

        But definitely do not send anything until you know what happened to the gift.

  5. Naomi*

    For what it’s worth, I would not even notice if someone never sent a thank-you card for a gift I gave them. Especially a group gift where someone else purchased it and I didn’t even know what the gift was. If it even occurs to the board members to think of it, they’ll probably think “OP is a new parent and must be busy” rather than “OP is ungrateful for the gift.”

    I do think that Angela should try and get to the bottom of this, because it raises concerns about Susan’s trustworthiness, but OP shouldn’t worry too much about her own reputation being affected.

        1. Noobtastic*

          Exactly. Get a reputation for doing the right thing, and when you’re expected to do something like a thank you note, and you don’t do it, people will wonder about it, and say, “That’s not like OP. Did she not GET the gift?”

          Even the stickiest stickler is much more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt, based on her knowledge of your generally excellent manners.

      1. Noobtastic*

        These days, sending a thank you note is just as correct as it always was, but many people simply don’t know it, and frankly, it happens less than half the time that it ought to.

        That is why so many people won’t think anything of it, because they don’t send these notes, themselves.

        However, if you have a stickler on the board, it can stick in their craw. That’s why I suggest you make sure that Angela finds out what happened. Once you know what happened, you’ll know how to proceed (thanking them for the gift you eventually get from a forgetful Susan, or the gift she sent and got lost, after you find out what it was, or after the horrible news “leaks,” and the board has dropped Susan, you can send a note along the lines of “I heard the news! Although I was shocked at Susan’s behavior, my heart was so warmed at the thoughtfulness of the board, at large.”

        In short, it’s not your fault you didn’t get anything, and you can’t do anything until the situation is explained one way or another. Once it is, however, definitely send a note. If you can’t send a thank-you note for a gift you never received, then send a “I heard the news! I was so shocked at ___(shocking news of theft)___/___(shocking news of horrible postal service)___, but that was soon countered by my gratitude when I realized your thoughtfulness and consideration by wanting to give me a gift, in the first place. I truly enjoyed working with you, and… (go from there, maybe mentioning a special memory or a funny experience involving them). This could be more of a “just keeping in touch” letter than a thank-you note. Send pictures of the kid. Tell them that you don’t know what the future has in store, but if you ever go back to that line of work, you hope you’ll be privileged to work with at least some of these board members again.

        These are, after all, potential powerful networking contacts that you should try to maintain. Even if you mean to stay at home, forever, you never know. Illness and accidents change all sorts of plans, and if you should be forced to give up being a SAHM, then you definitely want them in your corner. Especially the sticklers.

        In fact, this situation, and how you deal with it, will make you all the more memorable. If everything had gone smoothly, your thank you note would have been appreciated as proper and correct, but not really out of the ordinary. Now, you have built-in drama, whether it was a case of theft or accident, and they’ll remember that you handled it with class.

      1. Sadsack*

        Yes, but that is a gift given directly from you. The way this situation is described, I wouldn’t necedsarily be on the lookout for a thank you card either.

        1. BPT*

          Every gift my office has ever given collectively the recipient has sent a thank you not to the organization.

          1. BPT*

            But still to say- a thank you note is not warranted in this case because nothing was ever received. It’s just not uncommon to send a thank you note for a group gift.

          2. Elsajeni*

            But how often does that note reach all the individual people who contributed to the gift? I think that’s the real question here — would the individual board members notice and think poorly of the OP if a thank-you note never arrived — and I’m guessing that most of them either wouldn’t notice, or would assume that a “to the whole group”-type thank-you note had arrived and they just hadn’t heard about it.

            1. Noobtastic*

              I’d say that depends on the organization, and how things are usually handled.

              At my old job, any “to the group” card was handled in the same way a “From the group” card was – put in a manilla envelope with a list of all the names in the group on the front. It got passed around, with each person checking off their name when they got it. Once all the names were crossed off, it was given to the admin to deal with (mailing a “from the group” and trashing a “to the group”) from there.

              However, I dare say there are plenty of groups who would not see a “to the group” thank you card, as it would usually go through the admin, who is in all likelihood the one who was in charge of mailing out the gift, in the first place.

              And some groups don’t see a lot of “to the group” cards, as thank you notes are not part of that group’s general culture, or maybe the general procedure in that group may be that the person sending a thank you sends it to one person who then passes the message on to the others, via email or water-cooler chat, and it’s easy to miss a person or two that way, so they’d probably, individually, figure they were the ones who got missed that time.

      2. BPT*

        Same. I try not to expect gratitude for anything, but it still manages to irk me. Plus it brings up this exact issue – did they not get my gift? Did they think I didn’t give them a gift? Or are they just not acknowledging it?

        1. Liz in a Library*

          Because I tend to jump to worst-case scenarios, if the person never mentions a gift I sent, I absolutely assume something happened and they didn’t get it. It doesn’t have to be a note, but I do worry if there’s nothing.

          That said, I don’t think I’d notice with a group gift if there was no thank you. I’d assume the person who sent the gift was in contact with the recipient.

      3. Former Usher*

        Once when I mailed a check to a couple for a wedding, my thank you “note” consisted of the recipient writing “Thank you” on the memo line before cashing my check. That’s one I’ll always remember!

        1. MoinMoin*

          Oh no, I totally do that! I send a thank you note also, but now I worry how that would come off if the note ended up getting lost in the mail or I spaced sending it.

        2. HushHush*

          LOL WHAT?! This day and age you don’t even get canceled checks back from all institutions so it wouldn’t even work >_<

            1. Kelly L.*

              I can view mine online, but I don’t look at them that closely. Just “Yup, that’s my writing, that was the rent.”

          1. LavaLamp*

            When my bank cashes a check I’ve written it posts a picture to my account, so I could see someone doing this.

        3. Noobtastic*

          I cannot write the verbal response I had to that.

          Unfortunately, while I was ticked off on your behalf, I was not truly surprised. It happens too often.

          Did you know that there are some people who actually believe that if they send you a wedding invitation you are OBLIGATED to give them a gift, whether you attend the wedding or not? They actually say they read it in a wedding etiquette book, presumably the same one who says they have “up to a year” to write their thank you notes, and that “only the ones who actually attend the wedding” are required to receive a thank you, which can be presented to the AT the wedding in the form of a cutesy place card that has their name on the front and “Thank you for your gift and for sharing our special day” on the back.

          I’m not one for book-burning, but if I ever find that particular “etiquette” book, I might just have to use it for making spills for the fireplace, because gadzooks!

      4. BTW*

        That is terribly poor etiquette on their part! We had a housewarming party and received unexpected gifts (we just wanted to party and celebrate haha!) and I went out the very next day, made up all my thank you’s and sent them.

        On the other hand, I opened my card box some time after our wedding and noticed there were some addressed thank you’s left in there. I was mortified that I forgot to send those few but it was waaay too late by that time.

        I too, notice when thank you’s aren’t sent. I work hard for my money and I’m happy to give it to those who matter to me but a thank you is always appreciated. My cousin did this really cute thing where a year after their wedding, they sent everyone this cute postcard collage of their “first year.” I thought that was a really neat idea. She also gave us copies of pics of us and our immediate families (ie: my parents, sister and I) and our couple photos (hubby and I) from her wedding so that was really nice. And I do have them up in my house.

        1. Noobtastic*

          It’s not too late. However, if you send them now, you have to enclose them in a large envelope, along with a note of apology, saying that you wrote them, and put them out to be mailed, but only just now found that they did not make it to the mailbox!

          It’s humiliating, but they WILL appreciate it, and long-term, you’ll have a better relationship with those people because of it.

          More people don’t care, these days, than do (about actual thank you cards), but all people like to be remembered. Even if you know for a fact that these people aren’t sticklers, it’s still a good idea to go ahead and send it to them. It will warm their hearts to know that you care enough to eat a bit of humble pie for their sakes.

        2. Noobtastic*

          BTW, the way to avoid unwanted gifts at a party is to simply throw a party and not tell anyone what the occasion is. Or if you do tell, don’t tell them until the party is in full swing.

          For example, if you want to throw your own birthday bash, that’s fine, so long as you don’t announce, “It’s my birthday!” until halfway through, when you bring out the cake.

          For a housewarming party, just call it a party, and partway through, say “Thanks for coming to my first party in my new place! Now it really feels like a home.” Tadaa!

      5. Noobtastic*

        You’re going to the wrong weddings.

        Only attend the weddings of people who are constant commenters on Miss Manners’ column. They are the only ones who are safe…

        OUCH! I chomped on my tongue! The dangers of having it in my cheek.

    1. Collie*


      My and my dad’s offices sent gifts to my family after my brother passed away. I live pretty far away from my family and, while they did send brief cards of acknowledgement and thanks to the groups, I did not (though my name might’ve been signed). It’s a nice gesture to say thanks, but when you’re dealing with overwhelming circumstances, particularly when they’re connected to the gift-giving event, I generally think people understand or perhaps don’t notice.

      Besides, do we really give gifts with the goal of being thanked? I’ll emphasize again that a thanks is nice, but I’d also argue it shouldn’t be why you’re giving a gift to begin with.

      1. Naomi*

        I’d agree with that. The point of a gift is to do something nice for someone, without expecting anything back. Not to say that people shouldn’t send thank-you notes, but in the same way that it’s tacky to point out someone else’s breach of etiquette, it seems rude to keep score of who did or didn’t thank you. If you don’t expect thank-you notes, then if you get one it’s a pleasant surprise and if you don’t it’s no big deal.

        1. Noobtastic*

          I agree that it’s best not to expect anything in return for your gift, and to avoid “keeping score.”

          However, it’s also good to keep in mind that in the business world, standing out for doing something positive, even as simple as sending a thank you note when the majority to not, is a very good thing for your career.

          For example, after a job interview, whether you get an offer or not, sending a thank you card will make you memorable, and they’re more likely to want to interview you again, for that position or for others that may come up in the same company in the future.

          That’s the benefit of the “pleasant surprise.”

          Not chiding you, here, for not sending a card in your hour of grief. You were overwrought. It’s all totally understandable. I’m just saying that if you do send a card, it’s a good thing, and the rarer it is, the more positive effect it will have on your career.

          If we were in a society where everybody followed all the etiquette rules, things would run much more smoothly (and AAM would be much less interesting!), but it would also be much harder to stand out from the crowd in a good way. Thank you notes are a surprisingly simple way to stand out and make oneself quite memorable in a competitive world.

    2. Kai*

      I’d notice if it were a gift that I alone gave to someone, but I wouldn’t think twice about a group gift given in a professional context. And I agree that even if I DID notice the lack of a note, I would feel pretty forgiving about it–especially in the case of a new parent.

      1. Noobtastic*

        I’m likely to forgive a new parent or newly-bereaved person all kinds of things, to tell the truth. Both situations put an incredible mental and physical strain on a person.

    3. Parenthetically*

      Yeah, I get that this is a REALLY sensitive issue for some people, but I give gifts for the pleasure of it, and I don’t keep track of who has or hasn’t sent a thank-you note in return. It’s become a thing among my group of friends at showers to say at the beginning of gift-opening, “Can we all agree that part of our gift to Janet and Fergus is releasing them from writing thank-you notes for all these things?” Everyone agrees enthusiastically, the honorees open their gifts, thank the givers profusely, and everyone goes on their merry way with no further obligation.

      1. I used to be Murphy*

        Best. Idea. Ever! I always write personal thank you cards, but yeah, when I was a new mum it took me a long time to get my head screwed on straight enough to tackle them (it just seemed so overwhelming and caused significant anxiety). If I’d had even a few friends who’s said “no thank you card necessary” I would have hugged them. And cried.

      2. MK*

        I must say that the idea of later sending thank-you notes for things one personally hands over to you is very odd to me. If the gift was sent or left with many others to be opened later, yes, I would make a point of thanking the giver (probably by phone, but that’s cultural). But if you hand me a gift and I open it and thank you then and there, what on earth is the purpose of the note? You need written evidence that I am grateful?

        1. Emma*

          Heck, I was actually told growing up that the etiquette was exactly that – thank you notes are for gifts that you didn’t receive directly from the person, or didn’t open in their presence (since part of the thanks was meant to be for the actual gift received, not just the fact that a gift was given). So I wrote notes to my grandparents on the Christmases they couldn’t make it, but sent gifts, but not on the ones where they were there in person for the gift exchange.

          1. A grad student*

            I believe Miss Manners agrees with this- if I recall correctly, she says a thank you is required for a gift. If the person gives it to you personally, you thank them then, no note required. If someone sends you a gift, the thank you note is then necessary to express your gratitude.

        2. Snorks*

          The way I had it explained to me was if you get a gift in person that you can’t use now e.g. a DVD you should write a note later saying how much you liked watching the DVD.
          Personally I find that overboard, but it does seem to be a thing.

        3. Noobtastic*

          I believe the etiquette rule (in U.S.A.) is that if you personally hand a gift to a person in an individual capacity, they express their gratitude to you right there and then, and that’s an end to it. Although it’s not at all improper to say thanks again, after actually having a chance to use the present. “Boy, you sure knew what you were doing when you picked out that X thing for me. BEST X ever!” is always nice to hear, if it’s true and spontaneous. But it’s not necessary in this case.

          However, anything mailed should be acknowledged with a note, and all gifts from weddings/showers should also be acknowledged with a note. Even if you are present at the shower, there are so many gifts at once, it’s just considered proper to do a note. Frequently at a shower, I’ve seen it happen that the place is so busy and noisy that the person opening the gifts may shout out across the room, “Thanks for the cute onesie, Jane,” and Jane is talking to Janet and can’t hear the thank you. So, notes are correct.

          If everyone there says “We all are excusing you from doing notes for this particular party” that is both cool and correct, IMO.

    4. TootsNYC*

      actually, the “gift gone astray” is why you probably would be wise to remember, and also to follow up.

      Because it can happen!

  6. AnotherAlison*

    I’d allow that Susan really did forget. Probably not a forget as in, “Gee, I have $500 extra in my wallet, how did that get there?” but more along the lines of procrastination and intending to do it soon but not.

    Maybe I’m just thinking that because buying the group baby gift is kind of my worst nightmare, and I’d put it off, and then I’d get bogged down with work/travel, and before I knew it, you would have the baby and I’d be mortified that I didn’t do what I said I would do.

    1. OP*

      This is what I think probably happened. Susan means well and often volunteers to handle things during committee meetings, but then needs frequent reminders and tons of assistance and hand holding from our staff. If nobody did that for the purchase of the baby gift, I’m really not surprised that she forgot all about it. I doubt it was malicious, just flaky.

    2. Development Professional*

      OMG, yes this is what I was thinking too. I could easily be Susan, having every intention of sending something, but the more time passes that I’ve procrastinated, the more mortified I become that I haven’t done it yet. And that leads to more procrastination/avoiding the task. And suddenly, the baby is 3 months old and the mother is in the office and it’s still not done. And the situation just gets more awkward with every passing day.

      If Angela just follows up, and maybe even implies that she could take the money and arrange the gift so Susan doesn’t have to, I bet Susan would be so relieved!

      1. Sadsack*

        Yeah, but would you actually do that while holding $500 of other people’s money? I know we shouldn’t judge Susan because we don’t know what happened, but she better have a good explanation.

        1. Rafe*

          I can’t imagine anyone, no matter how flaky, would just … forget, especially with this much contributed. Seriously. That doesn’t compute as any kind of viable scenario to me. It’s either lost (most generous speculation), or she spent the money on herself fully intending to repay it but now can’t, or she never intended to repay it. At least she didn’t get an American Express or Visa card and give it to the OP with no money put on it.

          1. I used to be Murphy*

            Honestly, if I was in one of my bad places and I was particularly scattered I could see myself forgetting to buy the gift (and then feeling awful and meaning to and then forgetting again and… vicious cycle). Hell, it was my cousin’s birthday 3 and a half months ago and I still haven’t given him his cash (he always gets cash from me – he’s a teenager). Hell, I’m pretty sure I forgot to give him a Christmas present last year. I suck at this kind of stuff. I would think I’d be better with work stuff, but there is a reason I never, ever volunteer for these types of jobs.

            If it were me, I’d still have the money and just need a gentle prodding. Or, better yet, someone to say “look, Used To Be Murphy, you clearly suck at this. Give me the money and I’ll go get the gift.” at which point I’d toss the cash at them so fast.

          2. AnotherAlison*

            I don’t think she literally forgot. How Dev Prof explained the chain of procrastination is exactly how I see it going. I haven’t done this with money, but I have done it with other volunteer tasks. . .and I’ve witnessed others do it, too.

            As for the amount, I’m imagining $500 may not be a lot of money to the board members. I obviously don’t know that, but the fact that they rustled up that amount off the cuff makes me think that they may be well-off board members.

            1. Government Worker*

              We had a 30 people on our board of directors at my last job. $500 would still be a very generous gift, but it would likely have been $100 each from 2 or 3 very wealthy people and reasonable contributions from the rest.

              1. Moonsaults*

                Yep. Also 30 people chipping in just $20 is $600! Depending on the board of course but $20 each is pretty typical in my experience. So really easy to think of in this situation as well.

            2. Emilia Bedelia*

              I envisioned that they wrote checks- it would be easy to forget if she cashed the checks immediately

          3. Colette*

            If it’s an envelope of money, she could easily have stuck it in her purse or a jacket pocket meaning to buy something and it faded in to the background.

        2. Brandy in Tn*

          I think if youre that bad about getting things done, you shouldn’t be volunteering to do things. You need to let someone organized handle things or they wont get done.

        3. Moonsaults*

          I imagine her putting the cash in her account and figuring she’ll pay for whatever she gets with her credit/debit card. If she’s having it shipped to the LW’s address, it’s easier to just buy things on Amazon, right? So she does the deposit and she’ll “get around” to ordering something. Only that time never comes in this case.

          She sounds forgetful and the amount of times I’ve been the one who had the “forgetful” Secret Santa in office exchanges, I assume that Susan is that person :(

        4. Ellie H.*

          That would almost make it worse for me. I am a huge avoider of things (it’s my worst quality, I really would like to fix or reduce it) and I would be so horrified whenever I thought about how much money it was that I would be really hoping to fix it before anyone noticed, like by sending something super late, or pretending it got lost in the mail and you contacted the company about the problem and they fixed it. I hate that I can see myself doing this, and I hope I wouldn’t with other people’s money but I can definitely imagine it.

          FWIW, especially considering that the “flakiness” explanation is the most likely, I would definitely go the route of “it seems like maybe the gift got misdelivered and never arrived? should you contact the company?” – which again, Angela would have to do not OP. Then Susan could either GET the gift or acknowledge to everyone and someone else will take it over,

      2. Government Worker*

        And this is how I ended up sending one my oldest friends a first anniversary present instead of a wedding present.

        1. Becky*

          Lol That’s how I ended up sending my niece a particular gift for Christmas instead of for her second birthday six months earlier.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I just labeled it a really late wedding present, and bought the last place setting off her registry.

      3. Noobtastic*

        It could be that. It’s possible that her procrastination and mortification reached critical mass, and now she’s holding on to that money, feeling more and more horrified, and feeling like it is TOO LATE to do anything, and just hoping the whole thing will blow over.

        Like when you find thank you notes that you wrote, but never sent. It’s really hard to come out and send them late, and have to acknowledge that you flaked, and the longer you wait to do it, the harder it is to do it.

        She may be very grateful for Angela to take over.

  7. Collie*

    I’m curious if checks or cash was collected. I realize it says “cash” in the original letter, but did Angela specifically say cash was collected? It’s probably most likely — if Susan collected checks, they’d have to be made out to her, and based on her record, I doubt that’s the way folks would want to go. If it was checks, though, then there’s probably a bigger case to be made for Susan did this knowingly.

    I don’t think this is necessarily OP’s to figure out or deal with, though.

    OP — you wouldn’t have sent a thank you if it hadn’t come up somewhat by chance. I wouldn’t send one now.

    1. SarcasticFringehead*

      I think there’s a bigger case that Susan did it knowingly if she actually cashed the checks. If she forgot to do even that, then it’s even less of a big deal to me, because nobody’s out any money (although that theory requires everyone who wrote a check to have also forgotten, which is its own flavor of highly unlikely).

      1. Collie*

        Exactly. I think I had some thought processes going on that didn’t translate to what I actually wrote. Thanks for filling that in. :)

  8. AMD*

    I have to agree that you shouldn’t send a thank you note. It would just make things more awkward. Do you trust Angela to follow up on it? If so, just wait until you get a gift and then send the thank-you then, or let it drop. I understand wanting to appreciate people who donated money for a gift for you – but you don’t have a total picture of what happened yet either.

  9. Jenbug*

    Angela could also frame it as “I wanted to verify that you had Jane’s address correct because she didn’t receive the gift from the board” which sounds less accusatory.

    But I agree that she definitely needs to follow up on it and you should not send a note.

  10. Long time listener, First time caller*

    Great comments, but, did everyone forget about ine boss? cw? who pocketed money for a collection? Can’t remember specifics, but it was in AAM. This is about the only blog I read regularly. Allison?

      1. Kelly L.*

        That second one had an update, too, didn’t it? We tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, but it kept getting worse!

  11. TootsNYC*

    I think this is Angela’s to do, and if I were her I’d bring it up at the board meeting, as Alison suggested.

    And do it with the assumption that someone just forgot, or the package went astray.

    But I’d do it at the board meeting so I could tap into the peer pressure (if was needed), either to get Susan to not procrastinate (either w/ the gift buying or w/ the package tracking), or to get her to pony up the cash she was hoping to pocket.
    And, if Susan is a “keep the money” type of person, it will alert the rest of the board members.

    1. TootsNYC*

      (not that she is already procrastinating if the gift went astray, but the knowledge that everybody knows it didn’t get there will encourage her to act quickly)

  12. ArtK*

    Under no circumstances is OP obligated to send a thank you note for a gift that was never given. This is one of those situations where “it’s the thought that counts” fails, miserably.

    It’s up to Angela to deal with Susan, either directly or via the Board. Susan may be innocent or she may not be, but right now, she is responsible for a large amount of money that can’t be accounted for. It’s on her to resolve and it’s on Angela and the other donors to insist on that.

    1. J.B.*

      I would make sure to follow up with Angela about it though, to make sure that the board really is clear that OP did not recive the gift. Aside from the issue of where the money went, OP doesn’t want to be considered someone who doesn’t thank for gifts in the future (like trying to get back into the workforce.)

      1. OP*

        Yeah, that’s one of my biggest concerns. I don’t want to leave a bad impression with them. I’ll send Alison’s suggestions to Angela and I’m sure she’ll do something. She was pretty appalled.

  13. Brandy in Tn*

    Anytime we do anything group wise, the gift is brought in unwrapped and put on an empty desk for us all to peruse by or a picture is taken and sent of the gift. Something so you know what was sent. And we leave the receipts out too.

  14. Just changed jobs*

    This exact thing has happened to me and I was thinking of writing to ask this question too! In my case, I left a job but not the company. My old boss told me he did a collection and had purchased a gift card but just “keeps forgetting it at home”. I’ve been gone for 7 months. I still see the old boss at meetings, but we aren’t in the same building. My concern is also that the old coworkers will wonder why I never thanked them.

    1. misspiggy*

      If you still see your old coworkers I’d definitely bring it up, so that it doesn’t make the relationship between you and them difficult. You could chat about how things are in their team and say something like, ‘I see Old Boss is as much of a flake/as busy as ever, bless him – isn’t it amazing that he still hasn’t got round to bringing in the gift card he got for me with your collection?’

      1. Kyrielle*

        I wouldn’t. That puts him on the spot and could create animosity between him and Jcj where none exists now. Now it’s awkward, but if his direct reports think this has happened and become upset with him, he’s likely to blame Jcj even though it’s his own delays that lead to it. I wouldn’t bring it up unless the former coworkers do.

  15. Meg Murry*

    I also noticed that they took up the collection at the first meeting when OP was on leave, and then OP decided not to return from maternity leave at some point. Any chance some grump said “Nevermind Susan, save that collection for the next employee that doesn’t quit during maternity leave”? Not that that is a good attitude to have, but I could see it happening.

    I could also see Susan flaking and accidentally shipping the gift to herself instead of OP, and then planning to deliver it to the office when OP returned from maternity leave, only to find that OP *isn’t* returning (or she hasn’t realized that OP isn’t returning)?

    But yes, I agree with everyone else that this is on Andrea at this point. The only thing OP needs to do is make sure there weren’t any random gifts received off the registry that didn’t come with a name on them (I have friends that got really nice gifts shipped to their house, with no indication as to who bought it), or that there isn’t a random card with a gift card or check in her house that got tucked away accidentally.

    1. Jessie*

      I agree. I could definitely see this being unintentional. Susan procrastinates because she’s not sure what to get or something like that and then flakes.

      Here’s one option the OP could take (feel free to chime in if you think this is inappropriate): OP could contact Susan and let her know that she heard there was a collection for a really nice baby gift for her and that, while she’s super grateful for the thought, she’s been overwhelmed with gifts for the new baby and would rather everyone keeps their money. Ignoring the fact that a baby gift should have been given by that point. That gives Susan the opportunity to save some face and give everyone back their money.

    2. OP*

      It’s possible, I suppose. But when Angela asked me what gift the board sent, it was while I was at the office to resign. The board had collected the money months before and didn’t yet know I wouldn’t be coming back.

  16. DMC*

    I work with a nonprofit. I would recommend that, somehow, this issue make it to the rest of the board — whether through Angela or you. You don’t have to jump to any conclusion that Susan STOLE the money, though it certainly does appear that way. However, the fact that people gave money to something that never materialized IS important. This board member may have access to other funds from the nonprofit, and it is imperative that, if she did misappropriate your gift money, she not have access to additional funds. Hopefully Angela brings this up to the board, but if not, and I were another member of the board, I’d certainly love to know that you never got the gift that we all donated toward.

  17. OP*

    Thank you so much, everyone, for all of your advice and input. I hadn’t realized until today just how much anxiety I’d been feeling about this situation. I feel much better now. I’ll send Alison’s suggested scripts to Angela and trust her to handle it. Thank you for helping me see that it’s out of my hands and not my responsibility to sort out, and for the reassurance that they probably won’t even notice not getting a thank you note. It’s a load off my mind.

  18. Charlotte, not NC*

    Just for some peace of mind, OP, anytime I’ve given a group gift in a work setting, the recipient mailed in a group thank you card that was thumb-tacked to an announcements bulletin board. I rarely noticed, so if one was never sent, I may not even realize it.

  19. Person of Interest*

    You could also show your appreciation for the board without mentioning the gift, i.e., just send them a note about your departure from the organization and say how much you enjoyed working with them etc. etc. Totally independent of the gift, and you are still leaving them with the good impression about your thoughtfulness, without the gift issue being the last thing they possibly remember about you. I know as a board member I appreciated getting a personal note from the ED when I left the board; I’m sure this would be a nice gesture on your departure, and would help you maintain the positive relationships.

  20. Cucumberzucchini*

    Why couldn’t the OP just send a note to the board saying, “I just was informed by Angela that the Board thoughtfully put together a very generous gift for me and I just wanted to tell you thank you so much, it was so sweet. The reason I’m sending this thank you note months later is I wasn’t aware of the gift until just now – it must have been lost in the mail. I so am touched by the thought and didn’t want to miss an opportunity to thank you all .”

    Then let them figure out the rest. I don’t know why stating the facts in a non-judgemental way would be weird.

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