Regifting: a simple how-to guide.
We’ve all been there. You open a present with giddy anticipation, ripping the gift wrap away like a 10 year old on a sugar high. And then, as you open the box and peek inside, your brain searches for a way to act really happy…because the gift you have received is just, well, awful. And when the dust settles and the event is over, it’s time to start thinking about regifting. But be careful…there are rules to follow.
Some people see a big stigma attached to regifting. Personally, I think it’s fine if you follow a few simple guidelines. You don’t want to hurt the feelings of the person who gave you the gift, or the person who gets the regifted item. But look at the alternatives; you can just let the offending item it rot in your basement or garage; you can give it to charity; or you can put it out with the trash. So if you know someone who would really like the gift that just didn’t do it for you, where’s the harm?
I’ve combined my own rules with some research I did online and at my local library (yes, there are books and news stories on this…I kid you not). Generally, there seem to be some major guidelines that regifters follow to ensure everyone is happy. Here’s what I have uncovered.
1: The obvious rule first: don’t let anyone know this is a regift.
It’s amazing how often people have made it quite clear that I was receiving a gift that was from their reject pile. Sure, they dressed it up nice enough, with language like “I just would never have used this cool gadget but I know how much you need one.” It still makes you feel like you’re getting crappy old hand-me-downs. Of course, if someone’s giving me a brand new, state-of-the-art laptop or cool pair of sunglasses, my hurt feelings fly out of the window. But if it’s a nasty crystal picture frame or a hideous painting, I’d rather not know you hated it as well. Ignorance is bliss.
2: If you get an unwanted gift that is meant for display, do the right thing first.
As much as you don’t want to put that chintzy glass clown or fiber-optic lamp on display in your lovely abode, you may have to bite the bullet for a few weeks. The person who gave it to you will like to see it on display the next time they come over, otherwise they’ll instantly know that you were lying when you said “it was just fabulous.” So put it out on a hutch, coffee table or kitchen counter for a while. But keep the box, if it has one, and all the accompanying packaging and tags. Once your gift-giver has seen the item on display, they feel appreciated. Then when it disappears from view, you can make up an appropriate excuse (a little white lie) like “oh, the kids kept messing with it so it’s up in my bedroom.”
"Hmmm, didn't auntie Margie give this to you last year?"
3: Beware, the previously regifted gift.
Sometimes you’ll receive a gift that doesn’t quite feel right. Your Spidey Sense will tingle and you’ll realize, perhaps after some investigation, that this gift has already been through the regifting process. Now you’ve got problems. The last thing you want is for the gift to end up back in the hands of the person who originally gave it; not only will you look embarrassed, so will the person who gave it to you. And we don’t want friendships strained. My best advice…if in doubt, regifting is out.
4: Keep tabs on the gifts and the people who gave them.
When you receive a gift that is destined to be a gift once again, label it as soon as you can with the name of the person who gave it to you, and when they gave it to you. This is a simple habit to get into, but an essential one for regifting. Post-it notes are OK, although if they fall off you’re relying on your memory. I would suggest something a little stronger, maybe a Post-It in combination with an elastic band. Don’t use strong tape on something that will rip or tear the gift or packaging, that just looks cheap and could ruin a perfectly fine regiftable item. If you want, you could use a small notebook instead. Log items in the same way you would to make thank you cards for wedding presents and baby shower gifts.
5: Keep everything in the original packaging.
As I touched upon in part 2, you have to keep hold of all the original packaging, instructions, twisty-ties and anything else that accompanied the gift to keep it in that NEW condition. Even if you’ve never used it, a coffee machine or spanky new DVD player is less impressive when the instructions are missing and it’s rattling around inside the box. You can get away with packaging loss on some items, such as ornaments, photo-frames and so forth. But generally, if the packaging has gone bye-bye, so has your chance of regifting the item.
"Wow, thanks. Two things that I never thought would go together....because they don't."
6: Some items are bad regifting choices.
Some people say candles fall into this category, but I’d have to disagree. For a start, they can make up part of a larger gift, especially a gift basket. And some people genuinely like candles; if you know one of those people find a nice gift bag for the waxy present and pass it forward. However, you’ll need to be creative, very creative, with any of the following, so beware: books that have no tie to the person you’re giving it to; CDs or DVDs that are equally random, obscure or awful; clothing without the tags; shoes or sneakers (unless they’re spot on for both size AND style); useless appliances (come on, who really wants a “Clapper?”) If you feel a little uncomfortable or guilty about regifting any item, probably best not to do it. Of course, if you really don’t like the person you’re giving it to, but have to give a gift (like those Secret Santa deals) I’ll look the other way as you pass on a crappy DVD movie with a random autobiography taped to it.
7: If it’s used, it usually doesn’t count as a regift.
Sorry, but a sweater you’ve only worn a few times is not a regifter, even if you do have all the tags and the original gift box. Same goes for all other clothing, most appliances, anything in fact that you can get actual ‘mileage’ out of. Gift cards are also included here. It doesn’t matter if you only used $5 of a $30 card, that’s just tacky. However, I say “usually” because there are some exceptions to this rule that are covered in section 2. If it’s meant purely for display, like a photo frame, candlestick, painting or something in that same vein, you can “usually” get away with it. Make sure you give it a quick dusting first though, that’s a dead giveaway. Of course, if that person saw the item on display in your home, you’re in a whole heap of awkwardness.
8: Don’t wait too long to regift.
Time may be a great healer, but it doesn’t really do the regifter any favors. The older the brand new item becomes, the more obvious it becomes that this is a regift. If you can no longer find the product in the stores, if the packaging has been updated or if the company that made it went out of business ages ago, you’re stuck with that item. By all means try to sell it or give it to charity, but as a regift it stinks of “here’s an old thing I found in my basement, but hey, it’s never been used!”
9: If you can’t regift, there’s always Craigslist or eBay.
The web has opened up a world of choices to regifters. Now, if an item does go beyond its ‘”regift date” or has been gently used, there’s the option of the free classified ads on Craigslist, or the wider reach of eBay. In some instances the item you have for sale could now be a collectors item and you could get back more money for it than it was originally worth. This is also a great way to attack the idea regifting if you’re just against it in principle. Simply sell an unwanted gift to raise money for a brand new gift for that special someone in your life. You’re happy, they’re happy, and the person who originally gave you that gift…well, what they don’t know won’t hurt them, right?
9 ½: Replace old, ripped or scuffed gift wrap.
And if there’s a gift card with your name on it, well, do I need to say any more?
To sum up, regifting is a great way to pass on a gift if you’re watching your budget or want to see an unwanted gift go to someone who could genuinely use it. And as my mum and dad always told me, it’s the thought that counts anyway. As long as it’s done with someone else in mind, I don’t see the harm. Better to do that than throw it away or mindlessly chuck it in the spring-cleaning bag for Goodwill.