What’s the correct protocol when you lose a nice gift? Insider asked relationship expert Susan Winter for advice that’s logical and ethical.

Q: A loved one gets you a nice gift, like jewelry, but you end up losing it. Should you tell them, or just buy another to replace it?

How you handle a lost gift situation depends on the virtues that matter to you, what you know about the person and the possible outcomes you are willing to accept.

First to consider, what does the loss mean to you and your loved one? If you are heartbroken and can’t afford to replace it, will your loved one accept your regret? This could draw you closer. Or will they believe you don’t value them because you didn’t take better care of what they gave you? This could push you apart.

Second, if you or your loved one value honesty, then buying another one to replace it without telling would create a secret. The secret — rather than the loss — might decrease trust between you. If the virtue is financial responsibility, then to buy another one might create hardship and not be an option.

Most of us would try to avoid the issue altogether by not mentioning the loss and diverting any questions about it. It’s up to you to decide effects of telling or replacing since you have to live with the decision.

— Charlaine Avery, relationship repair counselor

Susan Winter says“If the jewelry was a high-ticket item or an irreplaceable heirloom, consider these options based upon your relative’s disposition and your closeness to them.”

1. Tell the truth and seek their assistance. They love you enough to give you precious jewelry. Coming clean may help you both recover some of its value.

2. Some credit card companies have policies in place to assist their customers with lost or stolen purchases.

3. Your relative’s homeowners insurance policy covers lost or stolen items as well. If you’re lucky, the heirloom or high-ticket item may be under a specific rider to ensure its protection.

“If telling the truth would be an uncomfortable discussion with your relative, consider contacting your insurance company. Ask what they recommend.”

Susan Winter, relationship expert

Social Graces is a weekly series asking two experts for advice on awkward situations.


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