Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Etiquette of Regifting

What percentage of people do you believe re-gift? You might be surprised to know that a recent study revealed that 67% of all people have re-gifted at some point in their life. Another interesting fact is that the most popular way to re-gift is to pass along the items to co-workers at Christmas time. About 40% do just that!

At one point, re-gifting was considered to be a huge faux pas and done in poor taste. Today, however, it has become widely acceptable in our modern society. Blame it on the economy or the green movement, but people are determined to save their hard-earned money and keep items out of the landfills too. It's a nice way to make use of unwanted gifts that are perfect for someone else you may know that would appreciate or enjoy it more. Sometimes a return is impolite or just not possible and this is a suitable alternative. I do realize this option isn't for everyone and many are uncomfortable with the idea f re-gifting for various reasons.

If you do plan on re-gifting this year, here are some guidelines:

1. Keep a Log Book- To avoid uncomfortable situations, if you tend to put items aside to give to others, be sure to keep a small log book to note who gave you what so you don't give the same gift back to the person who gifted it to you to begin with. That would be incredibly embarrassing. This also allows you to think of your circle of family and friends so you can ensure that nobody close to the gift recipient may recognize it. If you are not 100% sure of who gave you the gift, do not regift that particular item.

2. New Items Only-Under no circumstances should you ever give a gift that was used or opened. All items need to be new, in immaculate condition and in their original packaging also. You wouldn't want to receive a used present or a gift in banged up packaging, and neither will your recipient. Be sure to keep all 'regift' items in a special closet or bin and ensure everything is kept clean and free from dust also. If you are giving a book of any kind or jewelry, make absolutely sure it was never inscribed. That would be awkward for both you and the recipient.

3. Shop Mindfully-You should use the same selection process when shopping through your own gift closet as you would if you were in a store. Be sure that the gifts you choose for your recipient show thoughtfulness and are geared especially to their hobbies, interests or preferences. For example if your friend dislikes the color green and you give her a green scarf, that won't be well received. Don't give a gift for the sake of de-cluttering your guest bedroom closet. The gift must be useful for the person who will receive it.

4. Be Honest- If the recipient asks you point blank if it was a re-gift, don't lie. Let them know that it was hand selected for them because you knew they'd like it for "x" reasons. Know that 99.9% of the time nobody will ask you this question, as asking the very question is a bit rude and distasteful.

5. Make it Special- Wrap it up in some pretty paper or a gift bag also in pristine condition (it is never okay to give any gift-purchased or re-gifted in a crushed or used looking gift bag). Be sure to check the tags on the gift bag too to make sure it doesn't contain old names on the "to" and "from" areas. You'll want to write a card to go along with your gift where you can perhaps write a brief line or two about why you chose such a gift for your friend or family member.

6. Inappropriate Gifts- You might have a closet full of re-gift items just waiting to be unloaded but you are far better off to show up empty handed and send an appropriate gift later then to just bring any old thing along for the sake of showing up with a gift. Put yourself in the recipient's shoes. How would you want to be treated? 

7. Have Fun- Enjoy preparing such a gift as much as you would heading to the mall and shopping for hours. Be confident in your decision to re-gift and don't let other people's opinions on the subject make you feel bad. If you truly believe the gift comes from your heart and you are perhaps a little low on cash, do what makes you happy. Remember, the new modern manners and etiquette of today do not turn up their nose on this subject just so long as it is done tastefully and discreetly.

8. What NOT To Re-gift- You're probably wondering if there are any exceptions to the re-gifting rules. There are several types of items that you shouldn't re-gift. Many items have a shelf life such as lotions, perfumes, and other bath products. If they have turned color or the consistency has changed they are not only unsuitable for giving but they need to go into the trash.This is where using a log book comes in handy because you can add the received date for the gift. Likewise family heirlooms, expensive jewelry, travel souvenirs, items with corporate logos or any type of outdated or unusual DVD's, CD's or books. Never regift an item that someone has handmade and taken great care to give to you.

While re-gifting is popular during the holiday season, you can also do the same for other occasions like birthdays or baby showers where you may have been given a duplicate item that never got opened or used. As long as you follow the guidelines above, your gift recipient should be just as thrilled to open your gift as they would one from someone else and you keep money in your pocket and find a home for a useful item that simply didn't work out for you.

So you must be wondering by now if I re-gift, given that I've just dedicated a whole blog post to the subject. The truth is that I sometimes do. I don't go out of my way to make everyone's Christmas gifts re-gifts, obviously that would be ridiculous. I do however from time-to-time receive gifts from well meaning family, friends or acquaintances that just aren't my personal preference. They are items I'll never use that would otherwise sit on a shelf and eventually wind up in the trash (if it was perishible) or donated to a charitable organization. I do donate items when I don't feel they might be appropriate for anyone I know. The majority of the time I use my lower value re-gifts for white elephant exchanges where it is generally very acceptable and the whole point of the event is for fun, often the very enjoyment comes from gag type gifts or themed gifts. Now there are actual re-gifting parties where people bring their unwanted items to swap for something they will in fact like and use.

Beyond the monetary aspect, in general I just believe people have too much stuff. There is a whole lot of excessive manufacturing taking place to produce new items which pollute our planet, which is completely unnecessary.

What are your thoughts on re-gifting? Are there particular items you feel should never be passed along?


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  1. I am very grateful for the gifts that I received over the past few weeks after the birth of my baby. But it would be nice if one of the gifts wasn't obvious that it was regifted. Make sure that there are no scratches or pieces broken off before passing it on. I was still very grateful and always send out thank you cards. They need not know that I noticed.

  2. There is no reason not to regift something brand new, in mint condition to someone you know it will like it, if you have no use for it.

    If you want to be perfectly honest, you may even go for full disclosure and tell the receiver the truth: that you received this yellow hat/scarf/blouse, whatever, which is not your color, but you know that they love yellow and hope they will enjoy it.

    Or would it be less hurtfull to give it back to the original giver and tell them that you never wear yellow close to your face because it is not flattering for your complexion?


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