DEAR AMY: My husband's nephew graduated from high school last June. His parents hosted a graduation party in his honor at their home. We gave him a substantial cash gift. We have now learned that he didn't graduate. Not only did he not graduate, but he and his family knew before the party that he was not graduating (he has left school and doesn't seem likely to ever graduate). My husband wants the money we gave him back. I say it's too late, and there's nothing he can do. He wants to talk to the nephew and his brother to get the money back. What do you think?Miffed Relatives
DEAR MIFFED: I agree that this family has behaved in a way that requires a response, but your husband's choice to demand his money back is unkind -- and will not necessarily convey to his nephew the larger lesson.
Mainly, if he demands his money back, his brother and nephew will brand him a jerk and let themselves off the hook.
So, while I disagree with your husband's choice, I also disagree with your assessment that there is nothing he can do.
He should contact both his brother and his nephew and express his confusion and disappointment over this family's deception. He can say, "I don't get it. I'm really surprised that you would let people believe there was a graduation to celebrate when that simply wasn't the case. I'm also shocked that you would accept graduation gifts under these circumstances." The brother and nephew should then offer to return the money (they probably won't, but it would be good to give them the opportunity to). It's possible (perhaps likely) that this family planned the party and then learned after the invitations had gone out that the boy wouldn't graduate. Perhaps they maintained their plans to avoid embarrassment.
It seems that didn't work out so well.