Welcome to The 12 Days of Thatz Not Okay, a special holiday edition of a regular column in which I school inquiring readers on what is and is not okay. Check back tomorrow for our next seasonal installment. As always, please send your questions (max: 200 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "Thatz Not Okay."
A friend from my wife's high school sent her a note asking for an eBay gift certificate as a Christmas present. Two things weird us out about this. First, when my wife sent one to the same friend last Christmas—without prompting —her credit card was compromised. (The big cuddly card-issuing mega-bank took its time to sort things out.)
But we're even more disturbed at being asked to send a present in the first place. The friend is nice, and has seen some rough times, and we're cool with helping. But being approached as Santa Claus by an adult is, well, weird.
We'd like to respond with a polite "no", on account of our past credit card woes. Is that okay?
But no other aspect of this is okay.
The first thing that isn't okay is giving someone an eBay gift certificate as a present. An eBay gift certificate is a gift that somehow manages to say both, "I know exactly what very specific brand of oddball you are" and "I have no idea what you are like." Another thing it says is "I am aware that eBay sells gift certificates," which is an unusual and unusable bit of knowledge to possess. Also: "I know you love 'HOME TRAVEL AC WALL CHARGER FOR SAMSUNG CAPTIVATE SGH-i897 GLIDE SGH-i927,' but I don't feel comfortable purchasing that for you directly."
Ebay is a fine way to get stuff, but a weird, inefficient way to buy anything particular. The site also has never quite shed its sleazy reputation, acquired during the '90s Beanie Baby Boom when a friend with a 98.3% customer approval rating would slit your throat if he thought you might be hiding a PRINCESS DIANA BEAR WITH FACTORY ERRORS in there. Giving a gift certificate to eBay is like giving someone a gift certificate to a pawnshop, or a plastic bag full of Chuck E. Cheese tickets.
The second thing that's not okay is that your wife's credit card was compromised when she attempted to purchase an eBay gift card. Here is a is a wikiHow article I found entitled "How to Buy from eBay With eBay Gift Cards: 13 Steps." Only 13 steps! It's no wonder eBay gift cards are one of the world's most valuable and trusted currencies.
The third thing that's not okay is, of course, that your wife's friend sent her an email essentially saying, "I liked last year when you gave me eBay money for free. More of that please!"
If someone is having a rough time around the holidays, it's wonderful if they feel comfortable reaching out to ask for help picking up toys for their kids. But "Times have been tough lately and I would really love to buy either this new set of steak knives at a dynamite Buy It Now price, or maybe just anything else in the world," is not really how kindness and charity work.
As a general rule, when giving someone a polite "No," remember that any explanation you offer can be turned into a negotiation. ("Credit card trouble? No, they fixed that! That eBay gift card you bought me was the first one the company had ever sold, so they hadn't worked out all the bugs yet!") You certainly don't owe your wife's high school friend an explanation of why you didn't get her the Christmas gift she wanted—you wouldn't even have owed her one if she were still in high school. By the time you are an adult, you have long since learned the truth about Santa (which is that he gives presents to kids only). Telling another adult (unprompted) what you would like them to buy you with their money is not normal behavior for anyone outside the sugarbaby industry. If someone asks what sort of present you would like, you may tell them. If they do not ask, rest assured they don't need or want your input.
If you would like to help out this friend with a Christmas gift of a different sort, I would respond politely and say something like, "We've actually already found your gift! It's in the mail." If you are too creeped out by the fact she requested a present in the first place, you are free to just ignore the message. It was rude of her to put you in this situation. Truth be told, the kindest thing you could do at this point (short of using your eBay gift cards to buy her more eBay gift cards), is avoid putting you both through the embarrassment of openly refusing her.
Submit your "Thatz Not Okay" questions here. Art by Jim Cooke. Previously in 12 Days of Thatz Not Okay: 12 Bucks for Jim Fucking Beam; 11th Hour Bonus; 10 Dollars, Split Three Ways; 9 Christians Fretting; 86ing Grown-Up Christmas Cards; 7-ty Degrees Farenheit; 6 Times a Troll; 5 Gold Rings; 4-Door Mid-Priced Sedan-Level Friend; and 3-Piece Pajama Suit.