This past winter, a pair of neighbors dug me out of a snowstorm*. I was incredibly grateful, as it was very deep and it would have taken me days to do what they did together in about two hours.

I found out from another neighbor what their favorite restaurant was, and bought a giftcard that would more than amply cover a meal for two. Then I put the gift card and envelope (D'oh!) In a box of dark chocolate cocoa.

I presented them with a thank you card and a box of hot cocoa with a ribbon. I didn't say, "check inside". I wanted it to be a pleasant surprise.

Weeks went by and I didn't hear anything. I don't expect a thank you for a thank you, but I began to wonder, maybe they don't like hot chocolate, and that gift card is going to waste in a box? I asked the first neighbor if they had gone to the restaurant, to which she replied, not that she knew of. I didn't want to tell the neighbor I had asked because it would, to me, have appeared that I was trying to make myself look generous.

If you have surreptitiously given something of value to someone and have received no acknowledgement of it's receipt, is there a way to inquire about it without appearing to want gratitude or recognition?

This would cover gifts sent by mail, a surprise gift sent through Amazon, etc.

*(There is some good to living here! This is but one example.)

  • 5
    Curious if you've talked to these neighbors at all since you gave them the gift?
    – Catija
    Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 16:22
  • 3
    Related (from the other perspective)
    – JAD
    Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 16:32
  • 1
    @ Cajita - I have spoken to them several times. :) Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 16:50
  • 2
    Would you prefer only to ask the intended recipient, or would you also consider talking to the shipping company? This could either limit or expand the range of answers.
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 17:11
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    @RyanfaeScotland - I took Andrew Leach's approach; I apologized for appearing totally ungrateful. The recipient stated that they had found the gift and apologized for not mentioning it. This gave me another opportunity to thank them for their great thoughtfulness. Win-win. :) Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 1:58

4 Answers 4


This actually appears in a recent Spectator article by Mary Killen, available online, where a querent didn't receive thanks for a gift. Admittedly, not receiving a thank you for a thank you isn't quite the same, but the method works for gifts sent via a third party. It satisfies that part of the OP's question here, but doesn't really suit a "Did you find the gift certificate I included?" situation.

Text or email them with this enquiry: ‘Horrified to see, when looking through my credit card statements for the past six months, no mention of the gift I bought you through the normally reliable (here name the relevant supplier). I’m so sorry to have disappointed you. Can you confirm you never received (here name the relevant present) and I will re-order it?’

When they reply that they did receive the presents and are very sorry they have been too busy to thank you, you can email back, ‘Phew! And silly me. The payment went through my debit account.’

"I'm so sorry to have disappointed you" could easily be "I'm so sorry it's gone wrong: you must think me so ungrateful for not thanking you for digging me out."

  • "I’m so sorry to have disappointed you." That's a really nice approach (when not used for the wrong reasons.) I think it could work here, too, as your tweak presents. "You found it? Oh, I'm so glad!" Thanks! +1. Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 14:43
  • 5
    So lying is the correct answer? I'm not a fan.
    – mascoj
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 22:14
  • 3
    Who's lying? I find no mention of the gift in credit card statements. That's not a lie. Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 22:32

In this case a simple...

How was the restaurant?

... should work.

Without saying which restaurant, if they haven't opened the box they'll be a little confused and ask "which restaurant?" At which point you can laugh and mention the gift card in the cocoa.

If they seem embarrassed or anything, just laugh it off thank them again and tell them that you just wanted to make sure they had the chance to use the card before it expired.

If they had found the card they'll probably be fine with the inquiry. Most people don't get too worked up about these things, so there probably isn't anything to worry about.

In cases where you've mailed/shipped something it can also be acceptable to ask:

Hey, did you get that thing I sent? Just wanted to make sure I didn't mess up the address.

Again any awkwardness can be diffused by joking about how crazy/busy the mail/shipping system gets around the holidays. Most people who've tried to go to a post office around the holidays will understand the chaos and frustration of the season and probably won't think you're nudging them for a thank you.


One potential issue I see is that you put it inside sweets. People frequently re-gift these asap, whether they are on a diet, due to food intolerances or just because a family member or a friend dropped by unexpectedly. If that's the scenario you would be better off not brining it up.

Christmas is nearly here, send them a nice card expressing how great neighbours they are. That covers the possibility that they never saw the cocoa, either.


I gather used postage stamps and related philatelic items to distribute to military veterans who collect them. Hundreds of people worldwide contribute packets of stamps to their local churches which mail the gathered items to churches in my city. From there, a member of the local church will drop off boxes and bags of accumulated donations on my front porch. Sometimes there isn’t a clear indication of which church congregation left the package for me and I have to piece it together from partial addresses on partial envelopes. Sometimes I get distracted by the death of a friend or something and I’m not as prompt as I should be in sending a letter of gratitude to the donor.

The way they deal with me, and my suggestion: Leave a brief voice-mail or text, or mail a postcard saying, “I left a donation of____at your door two weeks ago. With the ( stormy weather/problem of theft of packages on porches/chance that you didn’t see it...) I am concerned about whether you received the package and if it was undamaged. Please let me know if it was received safely.Thanks!” This works! I make sure I tell them immediately that the item is great and very appreciated and I apologize for being slow to show my appreciation and my slowness is my mistake, not a lack of gratitude. I ask if there is anyone else, specifically, that they would like me to contact to thank for their contributions. I’m working at being more prompt and organized. When I drop off a gift at someone’s door I’ve learned to tape an obvious but classy note to the top of the item that says:who it is for, why, and who it is from. This is working well, the recipients always tell me they received the gift and appreciate it.

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