I've been given a smart-watch as New Year present by a friend. I didn't expect it and didn't think our presents are going to be in that higher price range. Now I'm conflicted about what to do. I hate being indebted, so I feel like I must get him a present at least in similar price range.

I wonder though what can be done to prevent such situations in the future - when you are given an expensive gift which forces you to retaliate with something of similar value, even if you didn't budget plan it? Or is it really necessary to do - from etiquette point of view?

  • 2
    You are asking entirely different questions in your title and your body here. Can you please clarify which you mean? Thanks.
    – Mithical
    Dec 30 '17 at 19:34
  • Retaliate? Why not just return the gift?
    – paparazzo
    Dec 30 '17 at 20:41
  • @Stephan Branczyk It's too late for that, unfortunatelly. No, it's not Gear S3.
    – woodStone
    Dec 30 '17 at 23:46
  • 1
    How close are you to this friend?
    – MD XF
    Dec 31 '17 at 1:53
  • The question is how does this relate the person income? I have given my best/close friends expensive gifts sometimes, knowing they can't afford a similar gift and not expecting them to get me an equal gift. For no other reason than I want to treat my friend(s), and can afford. If they question me, "I am just doing something nice, and don't expect anything in return."
    – cybernard
    Jan 1 '18 at 4:23

The way to prevent this happening again is to not reciprocate. Who knows why your friend gave you such an expensive gift (maybe it was given to him and he didn't want it, maybe he has some connection in the industry and he got a whole box of them at a really good value and gave them to a ton of people, etc.). One thing is true: If you now give him a gift of similar value, it will validate his choice of gift to you and set a standard for your gift exchanges going forward.

Instead, leave things as they are. Give him the candle or $5 itunes giftcard or whatever you were planning to give him. That communicates to him that he misjudged --- it's as much of a faux pas to give an over-gift as to under-gift --- and he can recalibrate for next time.

Extra tip: If you haven't opened and used it already, leave it in its packaging for a while. That way, if he gets offended and says something about you shorting him on your gift, you can counter right away with an offer that he take the watch back.

  • Good idea. You could also discuss that maybe next year you'll both get presents for each other on Black Friday and set yourselves a budget. It could be fun to see what deals you could find for each other for maximum €50 or so.
    – Andre
    Dec 30 '17 at 20:10

The appropriate thing to “give him back” as you put it, would probably be whatever you were thinking of in the first place.

  • if they were expecting reciprocation, hopefully they'll say something (and you can if you wish decide to de-prioritise the friendship)
  • they may like the thing you give them regardless of its monetary value

If you are truly worried about the feeling that you “need” to reciprocate, ask why they chose this present for you. @Rose's answer already points out that it may not have cost the donor as much as you're afraid of.

If you were asking me this in person, I'd have to ask if you thought there was any chance the donor intended this as a romantic gesture (which completely changes the likely-effective responses).


Everything in your question:

"I didn't expect it ...

Now I'm conflicted about what to do ...

I hate being indebted ...

I wonder though what can be done to prevent such situations in the future"

seems to stem from the wide gap between your expectations and their action. The question of why they gave you such an expensive gift seems to be at the heart of this.

I would do as the other answers suggest and give a modest present in return - something appropriate to your friendship - then, since you describe them as a friend, I would ask. Try not to make them feel embarrassed, but give them a chance to explain all the same:

Hey, this is a really nice gift and I appreciate it, but it's more expensive than I usually buy for friends and I'm feeling a little bit awkward about it ...

  • +1 for summarising my intent better than I did :o) Dec 31 '17 at 4:40

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