Can I Say No to a Delicious (But Unhealthy) Gift?

September 8, 2011 | By | Comments (10)

A reader named EmilyMae writes: “Recently I have cut sugar out of my diet at my doctor’s request. How should I respond when my neighbors thank me for dog-sitting with a plate of cookies?”

When you watched the dog, EmilyMae, you were doing a favor out of friendship, not a job for which you expected compensation. Your neighbors thanked you, and went to the extra effort to bake cookies — a gesture says GRATEFUL in capital letters — so everybody has behaved admirably so far.

You are not going to eat the cookies, however, so it’s not a gift that has any value to you. It’s as if your neighbors had gone to the trouble to knit you a (very ugly) sweater that doesn’t fit. How would you respond in that situation? You would say thank you for the sweater and then put it on a shelf, where it would sit, never worn, until eventually you sent it off to Goodwill.

In this case, you may say thank you for the cookies and put them in a cookie jar for visitors to enjoy. (Here is the quality that separate baked goods from an ugly sweater — cookies have intrinsic value and will get eaten, probably sooner rather than later.)

When you return your neighbors’ plate, say, “Thanks again. My doctor told me to cut out sugar, so while I didn’t enjoy one myself, my nieces gobbled up the cookies and said they were delicious.” Your neighbors will get the message. And next time you watch their dog? Brace yourself for a sweater.

What would you say to your neighbors in this situation? What did you do the last time you got an awkward gift you couldn’t use?

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