Re-Gifting: Yay or Nay?

We asked a modern manners and etiquette expert whether re-gifting is a yay or nay; here's her answer!

Image Credit: Ken Loechner

The countdown is here! Christmas arrives in just under three weeks and while you're roasting marshmallows and hanging garland, friends near and dear are shopping for just the right gift that might make you smile this year.

Except, of course, it might not make you smile. Each season, thousands of recipients play the smile-and-thanks game, only to attempt to regift an item a few months later.

What do you think, Clementines? Is re-gifting a terrible faux pas, or is it a wise practice in eliminating clutter you won't use? According to modern manners and etiquette expert Diane Gottsman,“It is perfectly appropriate to give another person an item that doesn’t fit you, or suit your particular needs or lifestyle. The only caveat is to proceed with respectful caution.”

Below are a few of Diane's tried-and-true guidelines to proper re-gifting. We're taking notes!:

  • Keep it in the original box. Don’t switch out a sweater from a less expensive name brand store into a bag that appears more chic and exclusive. Keep in mind the receiver may love it but might want to return it for another size or color without telling you.

  • Re-gift away from the same circle of friends. In a perfect world, the person that would most love it and put it to good use would live in another city or state. That would take care of a lot of the stress of the original giver finding out.

  • Avoid a test run. A new gift is better than giving something that you have already worn or used. If you try the gift out and decide it’s not for you, the better thing to do would be honest and offer it to another person by saying, “I love this cologne but it doesn’t agree with me. I know it’s your favorite and I’d like for you to have it.”

  • Don’t delay. If the gift is a food item, you will want to give it to someone during its optimum window of freshness. Food re-gifts are a safe option because they are consumed fairly quickly – unless the giver waits too long, or the receiver decides to re-gift it again.

  • Give with good intention. If you are confident that your friend or family member will appreciate the gift, by all means give it. Wrap it beautifully and be sure to include a pretty card.

  • Never re-gift ugly. The adage “one man's trash is another man's treasure” may hold true, but if you find the gift to be used, old, or ugly, don’t pass it on to someone you care about. If it’s something that perhaps is still good – just not gift worthy – donate it to a non-profit organization that can re-purpose it.

  • Consider full disclosure. No one says you must give the gift as a “new” gift, purchased by you. If the gift is pleasant, just not your particular taste, you can say, “Would you like this purse? It’s a bit large for me to carry around but I know you love larger bags.”

  • Think twice before giving away a family heirloom or something hand made by someone special. There is a time and place to justify giving away a gift you have been given. When the present is from someone whose feelings would be extremely hurt if they knew the gift had been given away, take one for the team and put the gift away in a safe place. Bring it out when they visit, and use it if it’s important to them. You are showing courtesy and respect for your friend or family member.

p.s. Did you know there's a national holiday dedicated to re-gifting? It's the third Thursday in December!