Archive for Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The art of regifting

If done right, offering an old gift can be beneficial

December 19, 2006


What a minefield giving can be. And it can be particularly complicated when you're a regifter, which involves giving someone something that you had received as a gift (or an item that you have stashed in the back of your closet).

I remember one regift I received that I didn't appreciate - at the time.

When I was dating my husband, we surprised his mother by stopping by just before Christmas. We were dropping off gifts from the two of us early because we were going to spend the holiday with my family. After we gave her the presents, she disappeared for a bit and returned with a nicely wrapped present for my husband and something else for me.

However, my gift looked as if it had been hurriedly wrapped. When I opened it, there were two wooden dolls dressed in traditional Mexican costumes. The dolls were in plastic bags and looked like a child's souvenir.

I thanked her. But I was a little hurt. Clearly I had been regifted.

After that Christmas and about six months before my wedding, my husband's mother was murdered during an attempted robbery by a man who had previously done handy work around her home.

Making an old gift new

It's been 15 years since her death, and I've kept those dolls.

A gift that once looked cheap turned out to be a treasure. It was the last present she gave me.

This year, I want to regift those dolls to a granddaughter she never had a chance to know. My daughter, Olivia, collects dolls, and I know she will appreciate that they came from her Grandma Lucy.

I realize now that my husband's mother probably was embarrassed that she didn't have something for me.

The debate about regifting heats up every holiday. Some people, like me, see nothing wrong with it if you do it right. Others think it's crass. The thought, the latter group argues, needs to be followed by the spending of one's own money for a gift to really be a gift.

The fact is more and more people find regifting an acceptable practice, according to a survey by Money Management International (MMI), a consumer credit counseling agency. More than half of surveyed consumers do not find regifting rude. And only a third do it to save money.

The majority of people regift because they think the recipient will like the item given, according to the MMI survey.

Regifting tips

To explore the dos and don'ts of regifting, MMI this year created a Web site ( where people can write in about their experiences with regifting. If you plan to regift this holiday season, here are a few rules you should follow, according to MMI:

¢ Don't regift used items. The exception: A family heirloom or item you want to pass on for sentimental reasons.

¢ Rewrap your regift. Take the time and use nice, new paper. This also keeps you from forgetting to remove the original gift card. A general rule of thumb: If you have to dust it off, chances are you shouldn't be regifting it.

¢ Keep track of the original giver. If you have a regift closet (I do) then label the gifts so that you don't give a present back to the person who gave it to you.

Over the years, I've developed my own rules to add to those generally accepted by skilled regifters:

¢ Don't ask, don't tell. If you suspect you are on the receiving end of a regift, don't ask and don't frown, no matter how hideous or inappropriate. Just say, "thank you." And if you think that your regift is appropriate even if it's not well-received, don't volunteer its origin out of some misplaced guilt.

¢ Don't be a regift pretender. You are asking for trouble if you purposely try to make your gift appear as if it were purchased at a high-end store. Woe unto you if the person tries to return it to that store.

The art of regifting, or giving for that matter, is striving to give something you think the recipient will enjoy. Or in the case of my husband's mother, it should be seen as expression of affection even if the gift isn't right.

Remember, no one has to give you anything. So anything you get should be greeted with graciousness.


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