Dec. 20, 2021

Gifting Pajamas, Expecting Cards With Money, Tipping at the Holidays, and More

Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this episode, Nick and Leah answer listener questions about giving people pajamas, expecting cards to contain money, tipping cleaning people at the holidays, and much more. Please follow us! (We'd send you a hand-written thank you note if we could.)

Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this episode, Nick and Leah answer listener questions about giving people pajamas, expecting cards to contain money, tipping people at the holidays, and much more. Please follow us! (We'd send you a hand-written thank you note if we could.)

Have a question for us? Call or text (267) CALL-RBW or visit



  • Are pajamas an "intimate" gift that should only be given between spouses or between parents and children?
  • What can I do about my mother who bought me patio furniture that I don't want?
  • We were expecting a holiday card to contain money...should we tell the sender that it wasn't included in the envelope?
  • Should we tell our best friends that we're planning on getting them a gift this year?
  • What do I do about holiday tipping for a new cleaning person I only met for the first time today?
  • I'm a teacher and have received more than a hundred I have to send a thank you note to everyone?







Hosts: Nick Leighton & Leah Bonnema

Producer & Editor: Nick Leighton

Theme Music: Rob Paravonian



Episode 119


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Nick: Hey, everybody, it's Nick Leighton.

Leah: And I'm Leah Bonnema.

Nick: And we had so many great holiday-themed questions that we have a bonus episode.

Leah: [howls]

Nick: So our first question is quote, "My mother wants to buy my father-in-law pajamas and a robe for Christmas. I suggested to her that pajamas are too intimate a gift, and that it might make my husband's father uncomfortable to receive them from my mother, and that pajamas should be reserved for spouse-to-spouse or parent-to-child. My husband, whose father this is, is on the fence about this. If the roles were reversed, and my father-in-law bought my mother a nightgown for Christmas, my mother admitted that she would be uncomfortable with this. Am I wrong to think that pajamas can be too intimate a gift sometimes?"

Leah: I think it really depends on the pajamas.

Nick: Yeah. I mean, I think we can all agree that we want to avoid intimate apparel gifts maybe in this situation.

Leah: We don't want, like, a nightie.

Nick: Yeah. I mean, pajamas are not a negligee.

Leah: Yeah. Like, a two-piece set pajama, like a flannel pajama and, like, a thick, like, a fun bathrobe, I feel is very ...

Nick: Right. I mean, I think if you're calling something "jam jams," I don't think we are worried about something called jam jams being sexy, right?

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: I just don't think anything sexy is called jam jams.

Leah: I mean, I feel like that sums it up.

Nick: [laughs] That's it! Yeah. Yeah, if you're buying jam jams, you're good. If it's not jam jams, then okay, further discussion is required.

Leah: I mean, you could even throw in, like, a pair of, like, house slippers to really just tone it the whole thing down.

Nick: And a Barcalounger.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: And I would say women wear pajamas too. Like, I don't know if "nightgown" is the equivalent gift in this scenario.

Leah: No, it's definitely a two piece.

Nick: Yeah, I'm definitely picturing flannel. There's a pocket. There's the buttons. It's baggy. It's pajamas.

Leah: Yeah, I'm picturing, like, night before Christmas, all through the house. And then you have your sleeping wear on. You know what I mean?

Nick: Yeah, it's that.

Leah: It's like a flannel ensemble.

Nick: It's all the grandparents in bed in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Leah: Yes, yes.

Nick: Yeah, it's that.

Leah: Maybe you get a little hat to go with it. That'll really close it out.

Nick: Oh yeah, a little stocking cap? A little floppy thing? Sure. A little pom pom. Yeah. Now I don't think it actually matters what we think. The real question is: would the person receiving this gift be uncomfortable? Like, how likely is it that this person—the father-in-law in this story—is actually gonna be uncomfortable receiving pajamas? And I guess if there is danger that he would be, well, then okay, let's just not.

Leah: But I think the son doesn't think there's gonna be danger.

Nick: Well, he's "On the fence."

Leah: I think you could always just go bathrobe, because a bathrobe is ...

Nick: Feels fine.

Leah: Feels very middle of the road. You could go bathrobe and slippers.

Nick: Yeah, I guess you could go that way and then just not go the pajama direction. Okay.

Leah: And the question, "Am I wrong to think pajamas can be too intimate of a gift?" That it's just, I think, we are suggesting that it's really a spectrum based on the pajama type.

Nick: Yes, I think the fabric, the cut, the material, the translucency. Yeah. So I think if it's "jam jams," I think it's not. And if it's lacy and it's silky, maybe. Okay.

Leah: And a lot of pajamas are loungewear. You know what I mean? You wear them around the house. You go check the mail in them. Very benign.

Nick: Yeah. I guess, would the father-in-law wear these pajamas to pick up the newspaper on the porch?

Leah: And I think if the answer is yes, you're safe.

Nick: You're probably safe. Right. Okay, I think that's—yeah, would you be okay being seen by a UPS delivery person wearing this thing?

Leah: Yes, I think that's the perfect litmus test.

Nick: So our next question is quote, "I'm married and in my mid-30s, but my mother still asks me what I want for Christmas every year. I don't like giving a list and I don't really want anything, but every Christmas my husband and I receive a gift as a couple. For example, a new grill or something for the garage. This year she asked what I wanted, and I let her know up top that she doesn't have to get us anything, but if she wanted to contribute to our outdoor furniture, we would be so grateful as we would like to landscape our backyard and pick out our own new outdoor furniture. When I saw her this week, she gave us our Christmas gift early: new outdoor chairs for the backyard. I was caught off guard as the chairs are not exactly our style, and I think it showed in my reaction. I'm sure they were expensive, and they were very excited to give them to us. Is there anything we can do to prevent this large gift-giving from happening in the future?"

Leah: I don't think so.

Nick: No, it's your mom.

Leah: I think it's your mom. She really just wants to get you something.

Nick: She really does, yeah. She's not wanting to give you the cash for something. She wants to give you a something.

Leah: I think it makes her feel really good. It's how she—and she wants to do it, and I get the feeling that she's going to keep doing it.

Nick: Yes, I don't believe we can have her not do it.

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: So I think you have to kind of get on board with that concept.

Leah: That's what I was just thinking. We're just gonna get on board, and I think we're just gonna be like, "Thanks so much, mom. I really appreciate that you love to give me a gift." And then I think unfortunately, unless you want to get things that are not useful to you, you're gonna have to be like, "I really like this thing."

Nick: Yeah. I mean, I guess you could have maybe been more specific. I think the idea was you wanted just money for the outdoor furniture and you would go and buy it, rather than the actual furniture. But I guess you could have given her, like, the actual link to the actual chair you wanted to buy.

Leah: Well, I think they probably don't even know what they wanted yet. They were just like ...

Nick: They may not have decided that. Yeah, that's true.

Leah: But I do think that points to the fact that your mom wants to physically pick a thing out for you.

Nick: Yes.

Leah: She doesn't want to, you know, donate to something. She wants to go get it for you and be a part of that.

Nick: And for a lot of gift givers, the gift giving is part of the fun.

Leah: Yes.

Nick: Watching you open the gift, watching the expression on your face, the joy it brings you. Like, that's part of the fun for a lot of gift givers, so I can see why just giving you money for something is less exciting as a gift giver.

Leah: So I guess we answered that. [laughs]

Nick: Well, I guess the question is, do we prevent this from happening in the future? I guess we don't.

Leah: I think that's how we answered it.

Nick: [laughs]

Leah: I think it's not what our letter-writer wanted us to say, but I don't think you can prevent it from happening.

Nick: Yeah. I mean, because what would you say? "Mom, I'm gonna put my foot down. I prohibit you from ever purchasing us anything."

Leah: But I think that she still will, even if you prohibit.

Nick: And even then, that's true. Yeah, she'll ignore that. Yeah. So, sorry!

Leah: I think path of least resistance, and maybe she'll get you a great gift and it'll be wonderful and everybody will be happy.

Nick: And what do we do with this backyard full of furniture I don't want at this point?

Leah: I don't know. That thankfully wasn't a part of the question, so we don't have to figure it out.

Nick: Oh, that's true. Oh, we're not gonna weigh in on that. Great.

Leah: We weren't asked to weigh in on it. So ...

Nick: Yeah, so we won't. Okay, great. Our next question is quote, "I need your help. My husband's aunt sent him a card in the mail saying she was thinking of us and here's something to get through the holidays. But the card was empty. What is the proper thing to do in this situation? I feel like I'd want to know if I were in her shoes, but this aunt is a little quirky and is not doing amazing financially, so we don't want to be greedy. Help!"

Leah: I think we've discussed before that we—it's always I think we should just take off how we feel about how the person who's giving us something is doing financially. I think that's not for us to think about.

Nick: Yes. Not for us to decide. And you just have to trust that they gave you what they were comfortable with, and you cannot second guess that.

Leah: Yes. So to that, I—you know, these questions are so good because these are the situations that really make me sweat in real life. You know what I mean?

Nick: Well, right. Yeah.

Leah: So I think—I think you could say something like, "Got your card. Loved it. Thank you so much. In the card you say, 'Here's something to get us through the holidays.' I wasn't sure if you meant the card itself—which is fantastic—or if there was something else to be included because there wasn't a note inside."

Nick: Yes. I think it's okay to clarify, but I also had that on my list: is the card itself the thing that's supposed to help us through the holidays? Like, does the card have, like, a puppy with a Santa hat on it that is supposed to bring us joy? And is that enough to carry us through? Maybe.

Leah: Yeah, I was like, is it a funny card? Is it a picture of a cute animal? That may have been what they meant. So then I thought it would be—that way we could say there wasn't a note inside, as if maybe they were, like, writing you a poem, or there was, like, something—who knows what gets you through? You know what I mean?

Nick: Who knows what it could be? Sure.

Leah: Very open.

Nick: Right. So yeah, if you could ask the question in a way that doesn't make it sound like the card wasn't enough, then you're good.

Leah: Yeah. And I think it's totally fine to ask that, because I do think they would want to know if they ...

Nick: Yes. And I think that's a great point. If I were in their shoes. Like, that question is always a great question to ask when you're not sure what the right etiquette answer is is like, "Oh, if this was reversed, how would I want this handled on the other side?" And most times, yeah, that is the correct thing to do. So yeah, I would absolutely want to know if I forgot to include a check in a card, and I really intended to give you money. Like, of course I wanted to get money. And I would rather you say something rather than not say something because you're trying to protect my feelings or you think I'm, you know, having financial problems.

Leah: Yeah, I think just say it in a fun way, and then also be super gracious for the card. And in that maybe the card they thought was like the pep—the pep talk.

Nick: Right. Who knows? But you'll know if you ask. So our next question is quote ...

Leah: I feel like I actually have an answer right off the top for this one.

Nick: Oh, okay. Oh, interesting.

Leah: Right?

Nick: Right out of the gate. Okay.

Leah: Right out of the gate, because I just did something like this. [laughs]

Nick: Oh! Oh, it's ripped from the headlines. All right. Quote, "My fiance and I have gotten Christmas gifts for our best friend couple. It's not unusual for us to exchange gifts with them, but it's not necessarily a holiday tradition between us. I think it would be polite to let them know we plan to give them presents so that they don't feel empty handed if they would have otherwise reciprocated. And I would fully intend to let them know that reciprocation is not necessary. Is there a standard for letting people know you plan to give them a gift, or should we just give them gifts without any warning? I hesitate to say something like, 'Would you be interested in exchanging gifts this year?' Because that seems more like we're looking for reciprocation than just letting them know or doing nothing."

Leah: So what I did recently ...

Nick: Yeah?

Leah: I got something for somebody.

Nick: Uh-huh.

Leah: I just wanted to give it to them.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: I didn't want anything in return, but I did want to give them the heads up. I said, "Hey, I have something for you I'd love to drop off. Can I swing by and give it to you? And I'd love to catch up for a second. When's a good time?" Boom.

Nick: Yeah, that seems casual, and that feels like you're not fishing for gifts.

Leah: Yeah. And I'm giving them the heads up that I'd like to stop by. I have something with me. I'd also like to, like, visit a little bit. Is that amiable to you? May I come over?

Nick: Yeah, because I think if you just give a gift and you spring it on them, they're gonna feel awkward about it if they have no gift for you. Like, that is a little awkward, especially if you guys are close friends. This is our "best friend couple." And so I think they will feel super awkward if you got them something and then they just had no time to reciprocate.

Leah: Well, I think you give them all the information in a very casual way.

Nick: Or I think you could just be straight up with these people because I think they're close friends. "Hey, do you want to do gifts this year or no?"

Leah: But they're already doing gifts. They already got them something.

Nick: That's true.

Leah: That's why I think you could just say, "I'd love to come by, and I have something for you." And then it's on them. If they want to give you something, if they don't want to give you something.

Nick: It's cool.

Leah: You just want to see them and give them the gift.

Nick: Although ideally, the gift they are giving is just like a little something, and isn't like something extravagant or notable where it's sort of like, "Oh, I really do need to get you a gift."

Leah: "I have to drive over because I got you a new car with a bow on it." I think they can ...

Nick: [laughs] Right. That feels like that might be a little awkward.

Leah: I think it's fine.

Nick: Yeah. Okay, so what did we tell them to do? You should just, like, be casual. "Hey, we want to pop by with a little something. Hang out for a little bit. When are you free?"

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: I think that way they have the information that you're bringing something that in no way sounds like, as you said, fishing. And you get to spend a little time with them, and you're giving them a heads up in advance.

Nick: Okay, great. And then does that other couple have to reciprocate? What do you think?

Leah: My guess is that they want to. My guess is that they are best friends and they probably already have a gift for them.

Nick: Yeah. And I think I would appreciate the heads up. Like, "Oh, you're coming over with a little something? Like, let me scramble a little something for you, too."

Leah: Yeah, especially if I had an idea for something for them but I hadn't gotten it yet.

Nick: Yeah, it'd be like, "Oh."

Leah: That way I'd be like, "Oh, you're coming over? Let me go get that."

Nick: This is when we're gonna do that thing. Okay. Great. So our next question is quote, "My house cleaners are here, and I have my holiday cards with crisp bills and a nice message inside. However, instead of the group of three that usually comes, today there's another girl who is cleaning as well. I'm feverishly putting together another card and holiday bonus of the same amount for the new girl, but I wonder if the regulars who've been cleaning all year are going to be annoyed by this, for the new girl to get the same tip as each of them? I don't want to hand cards to three out of the four, though. That feels rude. Any thoughts?"

Leah: Such a great question.

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: I can also imagine myself in this situation flying into a full "What should I dos?" The "What should I dos" I'm gonna call them.

Nick: [laughs] Okay.

Leah: And I think that we don't tip the same as that we've tipped ...

Nick: No, definitely not. No. I mean, you can. But no!

Leah: I don't even think we would, though, because I do think the other people will find out, and then they'll be like ...

Nick: Yeah, I think their annoyance would be sort of noted. Yeah.

Leah: So I think it's very nice. I don't even think you have to, but I think it's very nice of you if there's a new person. You grab a card. "Lovely to meet you today. Wishing you—you know, thanks for being here. Wishing you a happy holiday season." And a percentage of the tip? A little something?

Nick: Yes. I mean, I think actually it's good to tip that extra person in general, because one idea with the holiday tips is that, like, instead of tipping our cleaning people all year long, we were just sort of waiting until the end of the year to do it. And so, you know, hypothetically, we should have been tipping along the way. But, like, we just don't. That's kind of what we do. Similar with doormen. Like, I don't tip my doorman every time they open my door. I just wait until Christmas, and we kind of do, like, an annual tip that covers sort of everything you've done for me all year. So for the extra person that showed up today, you should tip her for her service today. So whatever dollar amount kind of makes sense for sort of today's service, that would be a perfectly fine dollar amount to use.

Leah: I mean, did we get it?

Nick: Yeah, I think that's the answer. One thing that I do, because sometimes this does happen, is that Starbucks actually sells gift cards that aren't loaded yet, and you can actually, like, load them electronically and you can like, pick the dollar amount. And it comes in, like, a gift card-y thing already. So I just have a stack of those ready to roll. And if I ever needed to, like, get a gift card for somebody, I can just, like, load it at some amount and like, "Oh, here's a gift card. I have it for you." So I always have some of those available, like, for emergency use.

Leah: Oh, Nick. Phenomenal!

Nick: Yeah. So I recommend that. But yeah, this is awkward, but I definitely wouldn't tip the same amount, but I would tip something.

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: And I think, like, as you said, I think a little gift card in there, if somebody has a stack of gift cards such as yourself.

Nick: Yeah. I mean, I would say, like, "Thanks so much for coming. It was nice meeting you today. Here's a Starbucks gift card. Have a great new year."

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: Yeah. Something like that. Okay. So our next question is quote, "I'm an art teacher in a big elementary school. Last week, I got 125 holiday gifts. I am very appreciative of all the families thinking of me. Most are along the lines of cookies and a card, or a card with the Starbucks gift card for $15, some soap, a few mugs. You get the idea. If I was a classroom teacher of course, I would write a thank-you note for 20 or so students, but 125? How do I handle this?"

Leah: Oh, I was so glad that Nick was to the rescue for this one because you always come up with such great ideas. And also, I feel like teachers are so busy.

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: They are so busy, and I feel like working on their own time. And the idea that it just doesn't seem to me that I think people are really just wanting to thank you for all of your work, and I think that the idea that you would write 125 cards seems unmanageable to me.

Nick: Okay. Okay. So that's your take on this?

Leah: No, my take is I'm really glad that you're here for this question, but that I do feel like we, we the collective we, would agree that teachers have a lot on their plates.

Nick: Yes, absolutely.

Leah: And this is the time of year where they're getting thanked, and that if your immediate response to the gratitude is how much work you have to do, we should find another way to be able to handle it, because teachers already have so much work.

Nick: Okay. I think that's a very fair way to approach this. So in general, the way we thank people for gifts is often the same way we receive the gifts. So if we receive a gift in person, we can thank people in person and that's good. If we receive something in the mail, well, then we can thank them through the mail. If we receive an email gift like it's an electronic gift card, well then yeah, you could reply to that email with a thanks. And so the same method can be used. And that's typically okay when it comes to etiquette. The exceptions are if the gift is very large or extravagant. Weddings kind of doesn't apply when it comes to weddings. But in general, for gifts like this, yeah, the method upon receipt, it can be the same method. So if our teacher, our letter-writer, has thanked all of these students in person when she received these gifts, well then that's good. That's an expression of gratitude. That's an acknowledgment of receiving this gift, and that's good. Now if she received things on her desk that, like, just showed up on her desk and she didn't have a chance to thank that student, she could write a thank-you note over the break, and I would be happy with that. Or the next time she sees that student, that would be an occasion to say, "Oh, thank you so much for the gift card. I really appreciate it." So I think at some point soon there just needs to be that acknowledgment, either in person or in some method. But if she doesn't have time or the bandwidth to write thank-you notes—and I understand that—then the in-person thanks, I think, would be fine.

Leah: I knew you would come in with that.

Nick: But you can never go wrong with the handwritten thank-you note, but I understand why that's not feasible.

Leah: It's just 125. I think all the students and parents really want this teacher to be able to take their break.

Nick: Yeah. And I think another etiquette principle that is sort of in play here is that you don't actually say thank you for a thank you. So a lot of these are thank yous already. So you don't necessarily have to write a thank-you note for a thank-you note. You do need to acknowledge it in some way, but you don't necessarily actually have to write a thank-you note for a thank-you note. And I imagine a lot of these gifts are really a thank you for the semester. "Thank you for being our teacher. Thank you for being there. Thank you for your wisdom, your skill, whatever it is." So I think that's another etiquette principle that I think is maybe in play here as well.

Leah: I think that's so astute. I think that's really in play. It's not like it's a birthday gift outside of ...

Nick: Right.

Leah: This is sort of the time of year where you thank your teachers and you, as you say, show appreciation. So it is already a thank-you gift.

Nick: Right. So you do need to acknowledge if somebody got you a gift card for something. You're like, "Oh, I did get the gift card. That was awesome. Thank you." But that acknowledgment can be in person. Like, it can be in any method that you choose, as long as you do acknowledge it and you do appreciate it.

Leah: Perfect!

Nick: Oh my gosh. We solved all the holiday problems!

Leah: And you know I love the holidays, Nick.

Nick: I am aware of this, yes.

Leah: And I want to wish all of our listeners an incredible holiday season. Whatever you celebrate, how you celebrate, if you celebrate, happy holidays.

Nick: And if you have questions for us about anything, let us know. You can let us know through our website,, or you can leave us a voicemail or send us a text message: (267) CALL-RBW. And we'll see you next time.

Leah: Bye!

Nick: Bye!