The Match Game

One of my Old Money friends called from the US the other day, a little irritated. Normally an optimistic and upbeat person, I was concerned by the tone in her voice.

When I asked her what was wrong, she confessed: the habit of not sending paper thank-you notes had infected her circle of Ivy League-educated friends. Apparently, she had taken the time to think about gifts for three friends, go out and purchase the gifts, gift wrap them (she does this herself) and have them delivered (not shipped) to each friend to mark a big day the four of them always shared and celebrated.

What did she receive in return? A thank you note from one friend, yes, but then…two emails from the other two friends, briefly expressing their gratitude.

“It’s another brick on the wall!” she railed, echoing Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey. The ‘wall’ being the set of behavioral norms that define, support, and provide and certain sense of continuity and comfort to people of a certain class.

“I expect my friends to match the effort in saying ‘thank you’ that I put into finding the gift. Is that unreasonable?’ No, I replied, I don’t think it is. I added that it’s probably a good formula: if someone buys you a cup of coffee, say thank you. If someone sends you a gift certificate online, say thank you with an email, at the very least. If someone takes the time to go out into the real world, select a gift for you and give it to you, send a real-world paper thank you note.

Let’s call it the Match Game: match the expression of gratitude to the effort made in giving the gift.

My friend liked the idea. She calmed down, and laughed at herself: her life was so good that this was what she had to get upset about. “But it’s still important, isn’t it, Byron?”

Yes, it is. Let’s put that brick back in the wall.

  • BGT



21 thoughts on “The Match Game

  1. Good Lord! Exactly the issue I struggle with at the very moment. I wholeheartedly agree that a “Thank You” should match the effort that was made by the other person. Some people believe it’s simply about exchanging exact same amounts of goods or money and believe it to be an overly materialistic way of thinking but I don’t think that’s the point. It’s rather about acknowledging the other person and ensuring that they feel seen and valued for their effort. Perhaps it could be described as “energy” flowing back and forth between people?
    Thank you for bringing this up!

  2. And match the paper on which the note is written with that of the envelope. A mistake I have been recently guilty of (n’est ce pas?), as I was unaware I had ran out of paper, but wanted to avoid any delay.

  3. Sitting down today to write a condolence note. Thank-you’s, births, deaths, all major life events must continue to be acknowledged. Even elephants have etiquette. These sorts of notes, and polite responses, are more real than any social media/V-R platform.

  4. I will always remember my grandmother’s wise words. Kindness is at the heart of good manners. Not acknowledging a gift is unkind. Social norms change over time, but showing gratitude will always be part of good manners.

  5. I agree completely with your friend, Byron. At 67 now, I’ve bridged the time when we all wrote letters (or typed as my Harvard educated grandfather preferred) to emails and our brave new world. I keep a stock of small notecards with my initials on the front that I can use as a thank you for a dinner party or a condolence card in the sad event of someone passing. I’m not sure anyone I ever send these to really cares for this form of communication over email but I live in Idaho so… ;o)

  6. Thank you for this, Byron. A thank you note received in one’s mailbox delights the soul and causes one to want to continue encouraging others. An empty mailbox, however, is disheartening. I shall continue modeling a mannerly lifestyle of generosity, kindness, and courtesy despite lack of reciprocation in the hopes that somewhere someone will notice and pick up the torch, or as you say, the brick. I know you and your readers realize that, in the grand scheme of things, this is not a big deal, but it sort of is. “Nobility is a graceful ornament to the civil order.” – Edmund Burke

  7. Your friend is right. Long gone are the days of anyone using personal stationery, sadly. From the time I was young, when I received any sort of gift, I was sat down to craft a thank you note, or a phone call was made. It became second nature. I am now 51 and refuse to give in to thanking people by way of text or email. It’s terribly impersonal and lazy. There is nothing so nice as a handwritten card for any occasion, or a thank you note.

  8. Thank you. More and more often, I feel as though I am from another planet as I wade through what passes for society in 2018. Thoughtlessness, vulgarity, and crass behavior of all types are the new norm.

  9. Manners and courtesy are a direct reflection of the care and consideration one has for other people. Be they family, someone you work with or complete strangers such as a shop assistant or flight attendant in an aeroplane. Manners have nothing at all to do with money, so-called class or which side of the pond one is from. They can be expressed without even sharing a common language between people. Sadly, they are eroding, and the contributors to this page need to simply, and in a dignified way, exercise their own good manners, until the end. Every now and then you will be refreshed when you meet someone like yourself . My motto is: Do not accept anything you cannot accept. Do your part to change it for the better. You’ll feel better however small your contribution might seem.

    1. “Do not accept anything you cannot accept.” Great motto. Thank you, David. Hope you’re well. Let’s have coffee when you’re back in town. – BGT

      1. Hello Byron, will do. I’ll be back in October. I am presently in Buenos Aires and drinking an espresso having just eaten a divine, but rather massive Argentine steak. I think that the Gaucho belt I am thinking of buying will need to be a size larger. Regards, David.

    2. Well put, David. Thanks for the pep talk. Also, thank you, Byron, for broaching this subject in the first place. To discover like-minded people here has been most refreshing.

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