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This month I'm going to visit London, how Pokémon fans knows for a very limited time in London will open a Pokémon center and I'll be there in that period. I'm very happy for what was a lucky coincidence (I booked the flight before the announcement) and I want to share my happiness with my Pokémon loving friends by giving them a small gift from the shop along with a small personalized handwritten note.

One of those friends is an Internet friend. We have never met in person nor do we chat a lot, but we share some interests outside of Pokémon and we happily keep in touch about once a month.

I want to send her a small gift also (with a monetary value between €5 and €15 depending on what I find). The problem is that I don't want to make her think that I want something else in return or worse, I don't want to creep her. Online fan groups have their share of creepy guys so I don't want her to think that I'm making that gift just to have her address or because I'm interested in her.

Is there a safe way to make the gift and avoid any risk of tainting our friendship?

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    Depending on where she lives, there might be something like a "delivery box" where you can send the gift to. This means she doesn't have to give you her home adress, only some place near. I know here in belgium there are bringme boxes at my work, and there are post boxes in a supermarket close to me. Do you think this may be applicable for your friend? – Imus Sep 30 at 13:36
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    @Ælis We're both european :) – Emiliano S. Sep 30 at 20:19
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I once had the same issue with an online friend. Since I have anxiety, I was very afraid that the person might react badly to me giving them a gift (feeling embarrassed and awkward).

To resolve this, I simply decided to "warn" them beforehand and ask them if there was okay with me giving them a gift.

In this case, the other person was absolutely fine and okay with me giving them a gift and everything went well.

So, in your case, I would suggest saying something like that:

Hey there!

I'm going at this Pokémon thing this month and I'm planning on bringing gifts back to my friends. I would really like to also buy something for you but I don't want it to be awkward. So, would that be okay with you? Or would you just rather have me sending you some cute Pokémon pictures?

Notice that this isn't just a "yes or no" question. It's not just a choice between "you accept my gift or you refuse it". In this scenario, your friend can refuse the gift but still accept the free pictures. It's allowing them a way out if they don't want the gift but also don't want to be rude by refusing it altogether.

Also, in order to not make your friend feel forced to accept the gift, it's important to use a "light tone". Make it sounds like it's not a big deal if they refuse. For me, the more I think something is important for someone, the harder it would be to tell them "no". Even if I really want to tell them "no".


Please note that I'm from France, that my friend was also from France and that my advice might not fit (as well) another culture.

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    "like to also buy something for you but" might be better expressed as "like to include you in this and". It avoids the question of "you don't think of me as a friend?" I thin this would now be appropriate to send to all the OPs friends, if they wanted to. – computercarguy Oct 2 at 17:03
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    If you ask them they might turn it down out of politeness. They might even interpret it to mean "I'm buying presents for my friends, you aren't one but I don't want you to feel left out" which is awkward. A solution could be "I'm getting some small pokemon gifts for all of my friends, so keep an eye on your mail over the next week!" which indicates that they are included in the friendship group AND that this isn't unique to them. – Thomas Clayson Oct 3 at 10:11
  • @ThomasClayson Since this friend as a special status (being an "internet friend"), I don't think them feeling left out would be an issue. But yes, that something to keep in mind – Ælis Oct 3 at 10:18
  • @computercarguy is right! the sentence structure "i'd like to [x], but [y]" almost always puts people on the defensive even though there is nothing but friendliness in the content. – Woodrow Barlow Oct 3 at 18:43
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I'd suggest something similar to @Ælis' answer. However, I'd phrase it like:

You: I'm going to be in London for the big Poké event!

Her: Omgggg. Really?

... (Poké discussion here)

You: While I'm there, I'm planning to get trinkets for a bunch of my friends. Would you want me to get you one too?

Similar to Ælis, this focuses on asking permission. But this response has a couple layers.

By mentioning you're already buying a bunch for your friends, you avoid singling her out. By using the word "trinket" in conjunction with the fact that you're buying many, you imply that the gift will be relatively small and cheap. And lastly and most importantly, you're making it easy for her to assert her boundaries and say no.

You're correct to worry about asking for her address as that is a big boundary. However, by asking, you make it easy for her to say no without making things awkward. Here she could simply say "Oh that's a nice thought, but [simple excuse]. Maybe next time!" and there'd be barely a hiccup in the friendship.

On the other hand, if she does say yes, I wouldn't follow up with "Okay, give me your address." Instead, I'd again let her set the boundaries. Maybe saying something like:

Awesome! How did you want me to get that to you?

Maybe she'll just give you her address. Maybe she has some third party vendor where you can drop off the gift with a tracking number and then she'll never have to give you her address at all. Who knows! But the point here is--again--to leave the ball in her court and make it easy to assert her boundaries and say no without making things awkward. You're making no assumptions.

As a side note, this is something I wish I'd done with one of my online friends. After we'd been talking for awhile, I happened to be taking a trip to his neck of the woods (for unrelated reasons) and sprung it on him. I hoped that we could hangout and meet in person and already found a dinner place and everything. I was so excited to surprise him, but when I did, he got extremely awkward about it. He was uncomfortable with the idea of meeting in person alone and felt it was all so last minute. Suffice to say, if I'd approached him without making assumptions and focused on making it easy for him to say no at any point in the planning, I think we both would've felt more comfortable.

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    I think one advantage that @Ælis's answer has is that they've included an easy out. In the heat of the moment, especially if the friend hasn't read this thread, they may not realize that saying "Oh that's a nice thought, but [simple excuse]. Maybe next time!" is an option. I'd strongly suggest including the "out" yourself. Sure maybe the friend can come up with a better reason if they want to say no, but including one yourself goes a big way towards not being a creep here. – aslum Oct 1 at 13:07
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    Hmm that's a good point @aslum. I guess that'd depend on the friend's personality. I know for some of my more blunt friends, they'd have no problem shutting me down with a "no" immediately. While some of my more soft-spoken friends would appreciate the built in escape root like you mention. However, as that's the core of Ælis' answer, I feel there wouldn't be much difference between our answers if I added it. I'd advise voting up Ælis' answer instead ;) – scohe001 Oct 1 at 14:44
  • Another reason to be open to an alternate address is that some (mine) can be unreliable for deliveries. – donjuedo Oct 1 at 15:33
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One thing that I've seen other internet friends do is make a general post on social media. For instance, something like

I'm going to visit the Pokèmon center in London later this month, and I want to share the excitement! If any mutuals1 want a small souvenir, message me your address :)

1. "Mutuals" is a word I've seen used on sites like Twitter and Tumblr that refers to "people I follow, who also follow me". I'm not sure how common it is elsewhere, you might have another word for it.

The benefit of this approach is that she must actively make a choice to request a gift, so there's zero pressure. If she does not want you to send a gift, she doesn't have to do anything - not even decline or give an excuse.

The drawbacks are that there's a few conditions for this to work:

  1. You both are active on a site that would allow an announcement like this
  2. You aren't concerned about getting responses from people that you do not actually want to send gifts to
  3. She wouldn't be too shy to respond if she would like a gift

I'm not sure if all of these are true for you; the first two in particular depend a lot on how you use social media. For the last, you can mitigate by pinging her directly (tagging, privately messaging, etc.) after making the public post. You could do this right away, or wait some time and if she still hasn't replied, send a short note just saying "Hey, I know you like Pokèmon a lot, just wanted to make sure you saw in case you're interested!". I've been the shy friend who saw a post like this and thought "oh, surely they don't mean me, I dunno if they really like me that much..." -- so the encouragement helped! And since the offer was public, I didn't have to worry that they were specifically targeting me in any way. But once you've messaged her about it, don't bring it up again. (That's what could make it seem creepy.)

I've also done something kind of similar with an online friend (though we're both in the US): they posted about needing some new clothes, and I happened to be cleaning out my closet. So I sent a message saying "hey, I saw your post, I've been trying to sell this stuff [link to photos] and would be happy to send it your way, let me know if you're interested!". No pressure on them to decide, since I was already planning to get rid of those clothes (like how you're already planning to go to the event). They said "Thanks, I'll let you know :)" but didn't respond again about it, so I didn't bring it up, and it was overall a non-issue.

  • Generally on social media I have a lot of "mutuals" and I would be worried too many people respond and I wouldn't be able to afford getting them all a gift. – Captain Man Oct 3 at 18:39
  • @CaptainMan yep that's definitely something to take into account, which is why I have #2 in the list of drawbacks. This approach won't work for everyone, depending on your use of social media, but I thought it still might be useful for some readers :) – Em C Oct 3 at 20:30
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Emphasize that you are getting a gift for many of your friends. It will feel creepy if she thinks that you're only buying a gift for her, or a select few, or very close friends. If she shares your interest in Pokemon and you buy gifts for others in your community, she might even feel left out if you buy lots of little poke gifts for people but not one for her!

Make sure it is clear that the gift is small and simple.

You also might want to offer the gift after the trip.

"Hey, I brought back a bunch of pokemon stickers to share with people, do you want some?".

This approach implies the gifts are small, casual, and general. It also lets you not commit to anything before your trip, which is good because traveling can be unpredictable. For example, a situation where the line to get into the store is around the block, it's raining because it's London in October, and your friends expect presents.

I had gone somewhere I was excited about, and offered to get friends with common interests little things. When I got there everything was like... crazy gift shop prices, and there were no "small" presents to be found. I felt a lot of internal pressure to spent too much money buying gifts and then lying and saying they cost less than they did. I ended up coming back with nothing and no one was mad or even seemed to notice but it added a lot of stress to the trip.

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    Great answer- did you do this before? Can you explain your experience and what the result was? – ElizB Oct 1 at 1:31
  • I've gone somewhere I was excited about, and offered to get friends with common interests little things. When I got there everything was like... crazy gift shop prices, and there were no "small" presents to be found. I felt a lot of internal pressure to spent too much money buying gifts and then lying and saying they cost less than they did. I ended up coming back with nothing and no one was mad or even seemed to notice but it added a lot of stress to the trip. – str3r Oct 1 at 17:44
  • @str3r: You should edit that experience into the answer itself to support it. :) – V2Blast Oct 2 at 4:18

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