Regifting is ok: 6 simple rules to avoid hurt feelings
Published Thursday, December 24, 2015 6:25AM EST
It’s Christmas Eve and you’ve suddenly realized you don’t have enough gifts – should you take one of the items you’ve received and regift it?
The mere idea of re-wrapping an item and passing it on to someone else would have once seemed cheap. But all that has changed in recent years, says Julie Blais Comeau, chief etiquette officer at EtiquetteJulie.com. Now, regifting just makes sense.
“We’re so much more aware of the environment and more concerned that we’ve ever been about how much we are acquiring things, so it’s much more acceptable than even five years ago,” she tells CTVNews.ca.
Blais Comeau says there’s “definitely been a shift” in gift-giving habits in recent years. We do more post-holiday swapping parties, we’ve cut back on gifts with Secret Santa exchanges, and we hand out more gift cards so we don’t buy the wrong thing for the wrong person.
But even though regifting is not the etiquette faux pas it once was, there’s still a right way and a wrong way to do it. Here are her tips for giving a bad gift a new home without any hurt feelings.
1. Be honest when you have to be
Passing on unwanted gifts may be socially acceptable, but should you tell the recipient you didn’t actually pay for the item?
For something generic, such as coffee or chocolates, it’s perfectly acceptable not to say anything, Blais Comeau says. In fact, she’s done that herself many times.
But for items you think the gift-giver put a little more thought into but got wrong, she suggests being upfront about the gift’s origins by saying something like, “I received this assortment of teas recently but I don’t think I will be able to use them. I know how much you enjoy tea so I thought you might like them.”
Just be sure that whatever you’re offering is something they would like and is really going to please them, she says.
2. Keep your worlds separate
If you don’t want to take a chance that someone will recognize your gift as a regift, take George’s advice from Seinfeld and keep your circles separate so “worlds don’t collide,” Blais Comeau says.
So that means you can probably give a gift from your work world to your friend world or your book club world without anyone being the wiser. “Those worlds don’t usually collide so it’s okay to regift from one to the next,” she says.
But just be sure to keep everything straight. If you are holding onto a stash of things you’re planning to regift, make sure each one is labelled with a sticky note detailing which world it came from.
“And if there’s any doubt, just don’t; don’t regift it,” she says.
3. Re-package it
When passing on unwanted gifts, it’s imperative you freshen up the packaging, says Blais Comeau. That means changing the wrapping paper or using a new gift bag, and of course, looking for any tags that were addressed to you.
If you are worried you haven’t spent enough when regifting, you could always pop the unwanted gift into a basket with a few other items. That way, it’s a little more personalized.
4. Keep the kids away
When passing along gifts, beware of kids who might yell out: “Hey, that looks just like the (something or other) that Aunt Mildred gave you!” The best plan is to exchange gifts far from children, says Blais Comeau.
“One of the things I like to caution regifters on is not to do it in front of children, because they see it, they recognize it and you could get caught,” she says.
5. Keep the personalized stuff
If someone has made something especially for you, even if it’s a badly knitted scarf or a batch of cookies your waistline doesn’t need, it’s best not to try to pass those on to someone else.
The same goes for anything you suspect the gift-giver will want to see in use. Those hand towels in a ghastly shade of green that your mother-in-law bought? Be nice, hold onto them and arrange them on the towel bar when she comes over.
“Keep those things, even if you bring them out only once a year. Make sure the person sees you using it,” advises Blais Comeau. “...Keep it in a closet somewhere but never, never pass that on.”
6. Forgive fellow regifters
And how about being on the receiving end of regifting? Should you say anything when opening a gift addressed to “Martha” when your name is most definitely not Martha?
Absolutely not, says Blais Comeau. “Accept it graciously. It’s a gift,” she says. “You can get insulted, but what’s the point?”
Instead, consider that the gift-giver may already be feeling bad about regifting. Perhaps they ran out of time and didn’t get a chance to get you something more personalized. Give them the benefit of the doubt and let it go, she advises.
“And you know what? Now it’s ‘permission granted’ for you to, in turn, to pass it on to someone else.”