To Re-Gifting or Not? That’s the Question
It’s the holidays, and the other day a friend of mine asked me what I thought about regifting. My first reaction is “don’t do that!” However, a little research somewhat convinced me that gifts that you will never use can be regifted to someone who might like them, or they can be donated to charity.
"Don't regift homemade or one-of-a-kind items, signed books, monogrammed or free promotional items," the site advises. "Only new gifts in good condition should be regifted.”
So, I brought the question up with other etiquette coaches. Jeanne Nelson told me that it depended upon the gift, the circumstances and the people involved. For example, if you receive a gift through the office grab bag, such as another nutcracker or scarf, from an officemate with whom you are not especially close — she sees nothing wrong with rewrapping it and giving the nutcracker to a neighbor who invites you over for eggnog, or placing the scarf under the tree as a gift for Aunt Mable or a stocking stuffer for your daughter if you know either would love it.
Nelson emphasized she was talking about items that are not personal gifts from people who took the time selecting or making something for you; in fact, many grab bag gifts might even have been “regifted” for that purpose! Often, such items wind up on a person’s “regift” shelf for a last-minute hostess or welcome gift, or donated to a local charity. Items such as bath salts, driving gloves or lotions are welcome at local women’s shelters or community centers for gift baskets for the needy.
Nelson’s suggestion is a great use for casual gifts you have received but do not want to keep. On the other hand, if the office grab bag involves knowing the recipient well enough to hand-knit a scarf for her, that's a different story entirely. As a rule, those types of gifts, as well as gifts that are received from close friends, colleagues, neighbors or family for the holidays, birthdays or other special occasions should not be regifted.
If it wasn’t love at first sight regarding the gift, keep it anyway and give it a chance — especially if it was made specifically for you; otherwise, exchange it if it’s OK with the gift giver.
Holiday gift-giving can get out of hand, and in these times of tight budgets it makes perfect sense to me that if you clearly don’t want or need a gift that has been casually given, then pass it on to someone else who might enjoy it. There are many possible scenarios that could involve acceptable regifting. I have always thought that half the fun of receiving a gift is the ceremony and mystery surrounding it; in that regard regifting is a fine holiday tradition if handled with consideration of the feelings of others along with good judgment and thoughtfulness.
Another etiquette associate, Sylvia Montgomery, however, gave me a parting suggestion. Before the gift is placed on your regift shelf, note when you received it and from whom you received it. You don’t want to regift it back to the person who gave it to you!
Ho! Ho! Ho! Happy Holidays!
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— John Daly is the founder and president of The Key Class, the go-to guide for job search success. Click here to learn more about The Key Class or get information on Thursday night classes in Santa Barbara. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.