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Thu, March 21

Dear Annie: Please, no gifts

Dear Annie: For the past few years, my sister, her family, my husband and I have been donating at Christmastime to an animal shelter in our area. We are old enough to really want nothing for Christmas, so we donate to those who aren’t so fortunate as we are. It makes our giving complete.

For the past few years, we have had Christmas at my stepdaughter and her family’s home a few hours away. We tell them in advance that we will be donating to an animal shelter and ask that they do, too, instead of giving us gifts.

But on Christmas Day, there under the tree will be gifts from all of them to both of us, and we bring nothing for them. It really makes us feel out of sorts. They don’t seem to understand when we say that the only thing we want as a gift is for them to donate to an animal shelter. Is there a way we could make ourselves feel more gracious for receiving the gifts they get for us? Should we bring gifts for them? I know that after going through this for a few years, we should get the hint, but our hearts aren’t in it. – Feel Like a Grinch

Dear Grinch: I commend your charitable intentions, but we don’t get to decide what gifts we receive. The most we can do is share our wishes, which you’ve already done several times. It seems that this family simply enjoys watching loved ones unwrap presents. Let them have that experience.

You do not have to reciprocate with material gifts. But if you feel so uncomfortable showing up empty-handed that it spoils your time, it might be worth it for your own peace of mind to bring a little something for them to unwrap. It doesn’t have to be extravagant – perhaps a small gift from a company that donates some of its proceeds to a charity you like.

Dear Annie: I live in the Midwest. A few months ago, I took a part-time job as a valet at a nearby casino hotel to help supplement my regular income. I have consistently been courteous with the patrons. I have smiled, thanked them for coming and replied with a heartwarming “you’re welcome” at every opportunity. However, most drivers will not offer a tip.

I have gone to their parked cars (considerable distances from the valet drive lane) to retrieve forgotten cellphones, cigarettes, wallets and various other personal items, yet I seldom receive more than a simple “thank you.”

I am very grateful for the drivers who do tip. Unfortunately, there are not enough of these kind and generous people to make it worthwhile for me to keep working here, given the meager salary. I have given my two-week notice because I have found another part-time job.

I write this letter in the hope that you will bring this to public light. Maybe a few readers will realize that valets are very dependent on tips to provide a reasonable income. I do not advocate tipping for insufficient service, but when excellent service is provided, I cannot fathom why anyone would not offer a tip. – Valet No More

Dear Valet: Perhaps it’s the venue. When someone is leaving a casino having just gambled away three months’ worth of mortgage payments, the last thing he wants to do is hand over more money. But that doesn’t make it OK to stiff someone who is just trying to make an honest living. Thanks for the reminder that if you’re looking to save money, cutting back on tips isn’t a fair or even efficient method. Instead, start by going out to bars and restaurants (and definitely casinos) less often.

Send your questions for Annie Lane to To find out more about Annie Lane and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at


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