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To not want to be told how much I have to pay for a colleague's birthday gift?

(45 Posts)
kaztigers Tue 26-Jul-11 09:41:48

At work, we have a collection every time there is somebody's birthday/a member of staff leaves etc; I usually just throw what I can afford at that time into the collection envelope. For a colleague's birthday next week, the person who is organising the collection has already bought the gift and told us how much we all owe each. It's not a devastating sum of money, but it's certainly more than I would normally put in, and I'm resenting being told how much to contribute. Finances are particularly tight at the moment with my DH out of work. The colleague in question also rarely has any time for me!
We're not a huge team at work, so refusing to contribute that amount could cause friction.
I know I can count on fellow Mumsnetters to give me an honest opinion!

Zimm Tue 26-Jul-11 09:44:17

YANBU at all. I hate this sort of thing. Just send a polite note saying you have only budgeted for your usual contribution.

supadupapupascupa Tue 26-Jul-11 09:44:56

so give what you have, just say 'sorry it is all I have'

they can't make you put in more, and it is their own fault for spending before they know the budget.

if they say anything, just say you are not prepared to spend more than you have for other people in the past at work because it would be unfair.

NorfolkBroad Tue 26-Jul-11 09:49:32

Am in complete agreement with you. Some of the mums did this when sorting out a present for our childrens' teacher. They said "ok £10 each". I was horrified! I declined to contribute and said that I would do my own thing. In fairness though it was easier for me to do that because lots of the mums weren't joining in. It's harder for you with your small team at work.

pozzled Tue 26-Jul-11 09:51:14

YANBU. Put in what you normally would- why should you give more to someone you're not particularly close to? The person who organised the collection has no right whatsoever to expect a certain amount, and will have to put up with it if they don't get the full amount back.

Poledra Tue 26-Jul-11 09:54:10

YANBU. How dare people assume they know what everyone can afford/wants to contribute? Put in what you feel appropriate and let the person who bulldozed ahead pick up the slack.

squeakytoy Tue 26-Jul-11 09:54:44

More fool the person who went and bought something before knowing how much she was going to collect. Put in what YOU feel appropriate, and its the buyers problem to make up the difference, or take the gift back and change it for something cheaper.

faaaaghinatub Tue 26-Jul-11 09:55:56


You're there to work, not be dictated to about birthday present buying.

Why on earth would the person purchase something and then try and claim the money back from people in the office?

Where does it stop?

A £100 gift between 10 people? A £100 gift between 5?

Does she get to dictate how much everyone can, and is willing to, contribute then? shock

She's basically written a blank cheque for herself and she's expecting you to sign it.

I'd refuse to contribute based on the sheer cheek of the arrangement, alongside the fact that you're not even on great terms with the birthday person anyway.

Also based on my own experiences, you're probably not the only one thinking this in your office, but a lot of people won't like to cause friction either. If you suggest the method of buying something and then demands for cash was insensitive to people's preferred donation / whether to give a gift or not, you'll probably not be the only one worried about voicing it.

faaaaghinatub Tue 26-Jul-11 09:57:30

supadupapupascupa, sorry to be picky (smile) but I don't think the OP should apologise.

DO NOT look apologetic or send a "sorry but here's what I can do" email/etc. - this woman needs to have it made clear that the arrangement was ill thought out, otherwise I'd be worried this will happen the next time too.

LadyClariceCannockMonty Tue 26-Jul-11 10:07:22

YANBU and I wouldn't 'apologise' for not putting in the amount they're asking for either. Explain that that amount is not practicable for you and you will give what you can, as usual. It's the colleague's fault for imposing a spend on everyone. In my office we agree in advance how much we want to spend for people's birthdays and split the cost accordingly. Admittedly we're a very small group so it's easy to get agreement from everyone, but the principle still stands.

AKMD Tue 26-Jul-11 10:10:40

YANBU at all. How silly of the organiser! I would just contribute what you would have put in anyway.

I am so grateful that we don't buy birthday gifts where I work. We do it hobbit-style - when it's your birthday you bring in cakes for everyone. Works a treat and is far less expensive all round.

CarrieOakey Tue 26-Jul-11 10:11:48

I don't like this either. We were told this year how much to contribute to a teachers end of term present! A mother approached me and a friend in the car park and said (in a jokey way) "Come on you 2, cough up"!

wakeupandsmellthecoffee Tue 26-Jul-11 10:32:53

When we did this at my DS junior the letter to parents was worded in such a way that any money was gratefully recieved . You cant put an amount . Some put in 5 some 10 some 2 and a few did their own thing . My thing was that all the kids got to sign the card wether their parents had put money in or not . All equal .

Sleepyspaniel Tue 26-Jul-11 10:33:10

Unfortunately even though you are in the right the collectees normally have VERY long memories...

Obviously it's unreasonable, but if it was (say) that the gift means everyone has to contribute £1 or £1.50 nstead of throwing in shrapnel then it will be hard to get away with saying you can't afford it without looking mean if it's a difference of 25p or 40p or whatever from your usual, as it will rightly or wrongly shine a resentful spotlight on every chocolate bar, magazine or small frippery you have for the next few days. (Obviously if you are talking in terms of £2+ difference then that's different). I think the main issue here is being taken for granted.

My advice is to just do it if it amounts to a little bit more than usual BUT make a point of saying something about having collected before selecting gift in future. It's not worth the bad blood for IMHO.
However, if it's more than say, £1.50 than you would usually put in then I would just put in your usual and say you haven't budgeted any more for office gifts.

bubblesincoffee Tue 26-Jul-11 10:40:06

YANBU, but I think it depends how much money we are talking about here.

Anything over about £7 - £8, yanbu, but if it's less than that, I think you should just pay and keep quiet.

It is unfair, but then being the person having to do the organising, collecting and buying doesn't really have a fun job in the whole thing either.

I could also understand it if the gift is something particularly special that you all know the recipient will really like, rather than it just being something easy and convienient for the buyer.

Sleepyspaniel Tue 26-Jul-11 11:25:23

Wow, £7 or £8 on a colleague's birthday present bubbles! <<rubs eyes>> Unless it's a very special birthday that's a LOT! What rich colleagues you must have!!! Where do you work? Hedgefunding? Legal eagle? Car Bodyshop? lol.

Ambergambler Tue 26-Jul-11 11:31:32

At a previous place I worked, we had a kitty that people chose to opt into. Those who opted in paid £2 per month, and it was divided equally so that those who joined in had the same amount spent on them for their birthday.
That way, nobody was forced to pay, and certainly wasn't excessive spending. May be worth suggesting a similar concept?

YouDoTheMath Tue 26-Jul-11 11:31:47

Don't be forced to put any more money into it than you usually would! If that means the person who bought the present has to cover for your "share", then so be it. They didn't clear this up before they bought the present = their problem.

I do think the whole birthday-presents-at-work thing goes a bit far. What's wrong with just a card? I'd rather get nothing than think people spent money on me grudgingly/that they couldn't really afford.

bubblesincoffee Tue 26-Jul-11 12:09:07

grin @ sleepyspaniel! No, I work in a pre school!

We put in £10 each year, so every person gets a present that costs a tenner. But there are only 6 of us.

LRDTheFeministDragon Tue 26-Jul-11 12:35:20

I think be straight. Take the collector to one side and explain that she has misjudged, you and possible others cannot spare that kind of money and feel embarrassed, and would rather she went back to the old system where you give what you can. Otherwise she will keep doing it. Some people are very bad at realizing that 'just a tenner' isn't something everyone can automatically afford.

Insomnia11 Tue 26-Jul-11 12:41:59

We normally put in £2 each for birthday presents. I don't contribute for directors. They can buy their bloody own! £10 is ridiculous, YANBU.

For a leaving present I might put in £3, £4 or £5.

faaaaghinatub Tue 26-Jul-11 12:45:52

I think a tenner is shock too.

Bubbles wrote:

"Anything over about £7 - £8, yanbu, but if it's less than that, I think you should just pay and keep quiet."

Bubbles, it doesn't matter what you deem reasonable.

It's about each person deciding what's reasonable for them. Which is exactly the thing that a lot of posters have a problem with.

I could have a million quid in the bank, or 10p. But what people want to contribute to a birthday present should be what they put in. Whether some external party deems X a "reasonable" amount, or X+£150 a reasonable amount matter not a jot. Because they aren't the person being asked to donate, nor do they know their finances are tight, or not.

FWIW the worst part about going through a financial rough patch a few years ago when I had £22 a week to spend on food (yes, 2 adults, 3 children) was the week the usual woman at work sent around an envelope for a present, I just about burst into tears at the sneerey look she gave me when I handed it back to her and said that money was tight and I'd prefer not to - i'd been trying to avoid her all week and wasn't sure if to send her a message about it in private (she ended up collaring me in the canteen). I haven't forgot that little bit of self esteeem bashing 2 years later. So i have a bit of a sore spot about these things.

faaaaghinatub Tue 26-Jul-11 12:47:50

"Some people are very bad at realizing that 'just a tenner' isn't something everyone can automatically afford."

Exactly, LRDTheFeministDragon.

"Just" a tenner is indeed just a tenner to me now, but then I have spare cash these last few months and childcare costs aren't crippling us so much. But I'm not so short memoried that I can dismiss this stuff as "oh it's just a tenner" and ignore the fact that to a lot of people "JUST" means fuck all (e.g. to bubblesincoffee).

LRDTheFeministDragon Tue 26-Jul-11 12:50:54

faaag - what a bitch that woman was! shock

faaaaghinatub Tue 26-Jul-11 12:54:51

LRD - worst part is she's still here. And she sits to the left of me 3 days a week too. I'd prefer to move but it makes the most business sense for us to be in the same office as the rest of the team, gaaah I wish I didn't have to work with her so closely! I'm sure she thinks we're loaded too because I'm on more than her (I know I am due to our grades/responsibilities).

But her kids are grown up and her husband works too, so I genuinely think she has no idea how much childcare/housing costs eat into a double earner family these days. I honestly think she thought I was being mean shock

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