Christmas FeaturesFrugal Christmas

The Delicate Art of Regifting

By Andrew Wilkins

Christmas might be a season of goodwill and peace on earth but it is not without its controversies. Real versus artificial trees, opening presents on Christmas Eve versus Christmas morning or Santa versus No Santa are nothing to debate compared to the practice of regifting. Simply put, there are no greater minefields at Christmas than those presented by regifting.

What is regifting?

Regifting is the giving of an item that was originally given to you…as a gift.

On the surface, it would seem the camp that calls this practice tacky and ill-advised has a point. After all, a gift is supposed to be from the heart and how can one turn that away?

But, then again, if you’ve got an item in abundance or see someone who has a greater need for the gift than you wouldn’t it be okay to give it to them?

See how this gets sticky?

Before jumping to conclusions either way about regifting take the time to listen to experience. Take, for example, the story of my friend, Lynette, who once received a size 4T dress for a baby shower gift. The gift was obviously a joke because Lynette stands just under 5 feet tall and maybe topped 120 pounds during the last months of her pregnancy. That dress, if she ever chose to put it on, would have swamped her.

She gave the dress to a sister-in-law, who worked for a women’s charity, thinking she would never see the dress again and that it would find a good home. But a few years later after a nasty divorce the dress surfaced again – regifted – as a Christmas present for Lynette’s mother, who just happens to be a plus-size woman working at the same company as the former sister-in-law’s brother.

Such nightmares in regifting are not unusual. In Lynette’s case, it was probably done on purpose, a twist of regifting that can have humorous results if done right. But most of the time regifting-done-wrong happens by accident. It is, in a word, a delicate practice that requires taste, judgment and a discreet nature.

Gifting at any time should be all about the receiver. A gift should fit the receiver in some way. It could be an obvious need or a particular interest. These are paramount in any gift giving, not just re-gift giving.

But what if you give a set of 70s-era non-stick pots and pans that’s been sitting in your closet, unopened, since Jerry Ford was president? It doesn’t matter if an item is unopened or not – old is old and it would be inappropriate to give such an item as a gift. (Now, if those unopened items were baseball cards from the 1950s and 1960s maybe we would feel differently – but who in their right mind would do that?)

A tip off to a gift receiver that the item they just opened was regifted is when the gift just makes no sense. After all, who needs a CD of the cast of Star Trek singing the best of Tony Orlando? If you really want to offend someone, just re-gift them such a nonsensical item.

In fact, there are all kinds of pitfalls to avoid in regifting. Here are just a few we have uncovered:

– Don’t give something used.
– If the company that made the item is out of business, don’t regift it.
– If an item has been famously discontinued, don’t regift it.
– Don’t regift gray market or fake items.
– Remove evidence of previous gifting

The needs for such caution are obvious. Something worn, slightly used or even shop-worn sends a message that you didn’t care to send the very best.

The reputation of the item you give as a gift will become your reputation as well. If the company has gone dark in the middle of the day or the product has made the news for being something less than desirable for whatever reason it is best to just not give it.

That’s going to happen a lot this Christmas with the gift of the HP Tablet, the computer made famous for going on sale over the summer of 2011 for only $99 because the manufacturer saw that it had no chance just seven weeks after the product debuted. Consumers snatched them up as a good deal but as a gift it isn’t advisable because the product has no warrantee, no support and no future. That says a lot in a gift.

Fake and phony items or just items that bear evidence of prior gifting send the wrong message altogether. Is any relationship worth that?

Regifting is an idea, if handled with care, that has merit. But the many traps and possible consequences requires a lot of thought and planning.

Father of 7, Grandfather of 7, husband of 1. Freelance writer, Major League baseball geek, aspiring Family Historian.

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