A few months ago, my wife's father and his girlfriend told us they wanted to get us a big leather chair for Christmas. We didn't really want a leather chair, nor did we have anywhere to put it, so we told them "We really appreciate the offer, but don't really have room for that right now. If you wanted to get us a piece of furniture, one thing we actually do need is a coffee table."

And we sent them a few pictures of some basic white Ikea coffee tables, and we went a few months without hearing anything on that front. Fast forward to last weekend, they came to visit, as they do 3-4 times a year, and they told us they had brought our coffee table. The first thing we noticed while unloading it was that it looked nothing like what we wanted. (completely covered in mirrored glass if you're curious)

At the time, we didn't know what to say, so we just said "thanks" and left it at that, but it looks terrible in our house and we don't see any way that we'd be able to keep it. We want to get rid of it, preferably selling it and using the money to buy the coffee table we wanted, but we don't want to hurt any feelings in the process.

In researching what it would take to sell it, we found out that the table likely cost at least $350, which is 2-3 times what the tables we were looking at cost and is also likely a significant amount of money for my father-in-law (this is by far the largest gift we've ever gotten from him). He and his girlfriend are both fairly agreeable people, but they kept telling us how proud they were of the table that they had picked out and how much they thought we were going to like it.

How can we get rid of the coffee table and explain our choice while keeping hurt feelings to a minimum?

2 Answers 2


I'd suggest having a frank discussion with the in-laws. Keep in mind that this needs to be handled carefully (you seem to be aware of this) or the relationship can be damaged for a long time.

I'd start by saying, "We really appreciate your thinking of us and getting us this table. I don't really know a good way to put this, so I'm going to apologize before I even start. This table is way more expensive than other models we were looking at and, as you can see, doesn't fit with anything else here. I don't want to sound like we don't appreciate the gesture but, well... we really don't know what to do with this. Can you help us out?"

That makes it sound like you're asking them to be part of the solution and not like they're part of the problem. It also says that you know it sounds like you don't appreciate it, which you state isn't true. Also, it doesn't say it's ugly (which I'd want to do) and it's not what you wanted (which is true, but not the right thing to say).

They might become angry and say something to the extent of "it's obvious you don't appreciate our gifts, so we'll save you the trouble in the future" or "that's really ungrateful... we went through a lot of time and expense to pick this out". The response to this is to not argue; merely repeat what you have said: you appreciate the gesture, but you can't accept it.

I'd suggest that your wife should be the one to have the conversation with her family. That would make the conversation easier on her folks. If it's you that has it, she needs to be there, nodding and agreeing with you. Otherwise it's you against her family, and that won't work out well for you or your wife.


Using a false excuse is never a good idea.

Absolutely do not say "it's too expensive for us", that just opens the door to a counter argument. Be real, you tried it out, and it doesn't fit/match with your plans for the house. Ask them if they would like it back, otherwise you will sell or donate it. There is no way to beat around the bush with something like this. Be polite. Any reasonable person would accept the return/selling/donation with minor hurt feelings, if any. If they're not reasonable people, you were screwed to begin with.

Whatever you do, do not backtrack by adding other excuses. Excuses will be argued against. "It doesn't fit with our decoration scheme, therefore I don't want it" is very final, and not open for negotiation, as it's based entirely on YOUR opinion!

Since it's her side of the family, your wife should be the one to make the phone call. You should stand by during the call in case your input is needed on anything further (they want to exchange the table, get you a gift card, etc.)


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