In today’s reuse/recycle/bring-your-own-bags-to-the-grocery-store society, there’s one use-it-again practice that still has a questionable, somewhat-tacky reputation.
I’m not talking about those “whatever were you thinking?” gifts, the ones for which we recipients paste on big smiles and gush about how lovely/useful/wonderful it is while simultaneously trying to figure out exactly what it is, wherever in the world we’re going to put it and why the giver would ever think we (or anybody else) would want such a thing.
Those are the ugly Christmas sweaters of gifts, destined to wind up in dusty attic storage until they’re retrieved right before the giver’s next visit. Or, if that’s not necessary, we can deposit the monstrosity into a donation box. Maybe somebody, somewhere really will want it.
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Now, some presents probably won’t ever be regifted or returned. A new Lexus. A Rolex watch. A $500 Wolf-brand toaster. Or that 11-pound boneless rib-eye roast of Japanese wagyu beef (just shy of $1,200 in a Costco catalog, of all places!).
But what about perfectly normal, nice gifts that you just don’t need and can’t use?
Taking an unwanted gift you’ve been given and presenting it later to someone else is formally frowned upon, but, according to various national sources, regifting is gaining a skosh more respectability these days.
In fact, according to www.regiftable.com, more than half of adults recently surveyed by Money Management International said they consider regifting to be acceptable.
And why not? If you already have an upscale blender, a 49ers scarf or a partridge in a pear tree, and then you’re given another one as a gift, why not pass it on to someone who would love it, use it and cherish it? Especially if the recipient is someone for whom you’d have to find another gift anyway?
Some regiftables come from people who don’t know the recipient well enough for them to know everything about that person. Maybe they gave a basket of bath salts to someone whose home has only a stall shower, a peanut-butter stirrer to someone who’s allergic to nuts, gardening tools to an apartment dweller, a cute computer mouse pad to a cyber-illiterate, or an assortment of rich holiday cookies to someone who’s lost 20 pounds but has another 20 to go.
Let’s face it: If someone gives you multicolored, knee-high toe socks and you only wear Manolo Blahnik spikes, regifting may be your best and only option.
Still, actually asking someone whether he or she regifts is only slightly less offensive than asking the giver for the receipt so you can return the gift you really don’t want and can’t use.
But if we’re honest enough to admit it, we do regift, so much so that a Google search will produce page after page of advice about what, how, when and to whom one should and — more importantly — shouldn’t regift.
Those sites often disagree with each other. One recommends regifting such items as nice wine, books and perfumes, scented soaps and candles, while another says wine and book selections make risky gifts for someone you don’t know well enough to know what they can really use. Likewise, anything scented could trigger allergic or asthmatic reactions.
Several unifying threads weave through nearly all those pages, however:
▪ If you don’t remember who gave you the gift, back away from the wrapping paper and put down the ribbon. Regifting then is too risky.
▪ Only regift brand-new items that have never been unpacked, let alone used, and make sure any price tags and gift tags have been removed.
▪ Don’t regift outdated, out-of-style, handmade, personalized, custom-made or easily identified items. Duh.
▪ Ask yourself, “Would I have bought this for this person?”
▪ If a family member gives you a regiftable, for heaven’s sake, don’t give it to another family member! In fact, don’t give it to anybody the original giver knows or interacts with.
▪ Do rewrap with spiffy new wrappings or gift bags.
▪ Remember, when in doubt, don’t regift. After all, that present could already have been regifted … to you!
▪ Relegate any unregiftables to the office Secret Santa tree (unless that’s where you got it!), take them to a white-elephant exchange party or donate them to a charity thrift store.
And whatever you do, don’t regift a fruitcake. Trust me, nobody wants it.
Kathe Tanner’s column runs every other week in The Cambrian. Email her at email@example.com.