Magazine

Miss Conduct

Is giving gifts through Venmo rude?

This popular payment app feels invasive.

Need advice? Submit questions for Miss Conduct here.

My sister gave my first child a college textbook as a high school graduation gift. She wants him to send her a copy of the book receipt, and she will Venmo him the money. This feels strange and invasive. I told my son to thank her politely but don’t send her any proof of purchase come the start of school. But now another relative has asked him to do the same thing. Is this what people do now? I do not want to offend them by telling them how weird and rude their requests feel to me. I would love to get your opinion before I speak with them.

I.W. / Boston

This is indeed what people do now! It’s a logical elimination of the intermediate gift certificate, which often languishes unused. They’re not making a demand of your son, any more than giving him a check (how quaint!) would constitute a demand that he go to the bank to cash it. The transaction won’t compromise your son’s Internet privacy or give his relatives the ability to withdraw funds from his account, or anything like that. It would be a rather crass way to gift jewelry to a lover, I imagine — “Pick yerself out somethin’ nice and send me the bill, toots!” — but it’s not as if a college textbook were some deeply sentimental item. Relax. Your relatives have done nothing wrong.

Even if they had, we don’t “speak with” gift givers unless the gift is downright morally wrong or offensive in some way — sexually inappropriate, racist, personally insulting, illegal.

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Also, your son is a young man beginning his independent life. It’s up to him to decide on and maintain his social boundaries, and not your place to tell him what gifts he can or can’t accept. He should be allowed to handle this as he sees fit.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.