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20-40-60 Etiquette: Thanks for the experience!

Panel suggests there's not a great way to suggest an experience-based gift. 

Panel suggests there's not a great way to suggest an experience-based gift. 

QUESTION: Here's my question: Is it rude to ask someone for an experience gift? I (like many of us, probably) really don't need any more stuff and don't have any place to put it. Is it OK, for example, to ask that someone take you out for dinner or something like that instead of buying a gift? I thought it might be nice to suggest you'd like to spend time with the person instead of just asking for a gift card to go out myself, but I could see some people interpreting it as pushy or entitled. Thoughts?

CALLIE'S ANSWER: To ask for an experience is different from asking someone to lunch or dinner. I would suggest if you would not like a gift to simply say “No gifts please. Let's grab drinks or dinner soon and catch up. I would love to see you!”

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: If someone asks you what they can give you for a certain occasion, then I think you can suggest, carefully, that you'd rather do something fun together than receive something. However, an experience usually comes with a set price tag, and by asking for something specific, you've set the cost instead of the person giving it. For several reasons, including cost, I would steer clear of asking another person for an experience as a gift. Instead, suggest a get-together to celebrate your occasion and make it a gift-free one. Gifts are personal and intended to be thoughtful — picked out by the giver with the receiver in mind. If the giver takes your suggestion and runs with it with an evening out, then great. Making memories together through shared experiences is a wonderful way to celebrate an occasion! But I don't think it's OK to suggest up front that people give you money or tickets for an experience unless they ask first. And even then, tread lightly with your reply. Just enjoy that a friend cared enough to celebrate you, whether they do so with a gift or time together.

HELEN'S ANSWER: It is still not appropriate to ask for a gift, a gift card or a gift experience. The definition of a gift is “a thing given willingly to someone without payment.” The word “willingly” means “of one's own free will, without reluctance.” If someone would like to take you to dinner, he/she will ask you to dinner.

Giving a gift is very personal. There may be monetary restrictions involved so you should not ask for something other than what is being offered. And hopefully, it will be something you enjoy!

GUEST'S ANSWER: Chuck Ainsworth, local civic leader: After polling some of my lunch buddies and a few retired socialites — the answers were the same.

There is absolutely NO acceptable way of asking for a gift and to do so would be considered very rude and pushy. Depending on your age and financial stage in life — most of your friends and family probably have a pretty good idea of what type of gift — or not — might be appropriate.

A gift is given willingly; it is not an obligation — don't embarrass yourself by asking. The only acceptable time to ask for a gift is if you are writing Santa Claus. Ho! Ho! Ho!

Callie Athey is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email