Gift not your cup of tea? Maybe someone else will enjoy a 'regift'

Wednesday , December 24, 2014 - 7:50 AM

Face it, not all the gifts under that tree are going to find good homes this Christmas.

Some will be exactly what the recipient wanted, of course, but others — the odd, the strangely colored, the not-just-quite-right — are destined for another post-holiday fate.

Regifting is the name and plenty of Americans play the game. Surveys show anywhere from 68 to 92 percent of us either approve of or admit to indulging in the practice of giving a gift we received as a present to someone else.

“I’m all for it ... as long as the box isn’t opened or it’s unused,” says Jennie Thacker of Lewiston.

Thacker, who owns the Simple Treasures Craft Boutique, says she routinely regifts things her family isn’t going to use, like duplicates of kitchen items or toys that her children already have “a million” of, such as LEGOs.

Mark Ryan of Ogden, too, says he regifts “just about every year for every occasion.”

“I’m the king of regifting,” Ryan says, adding, “Most people give me knickknacks — and I’m not really the knickknack type.”

Although she has no statistics on exactly how frequently regifting occurs, etiquette expert Diane Gottsman of San Antonio’s Protocol School of Texas says in a phone interview, “Regifting is common; it’s done because people are good stewards of their money and they don’t want to be wasteful.”

Many folks also like the idea of passing on something they can’t or won’t use to someone who will enjoy and appreciate it, Gottsman says.

In today’s environmentally conscious world, some would even praise regifting as being “green,” another way to repurpose or recycle goods.

However, regifting also has it perils — “My, this tie looks familiar” — which is why Gottsman and others say a few do’s and don’ts are in order.

• Regift outside the circle of family or friends. To solve the aforementioned problem, never regift an item to someone who might be acquainted with the person who gave you the gift in the first place. Ideally, try to choose a recipient in another city or state, Gottsman says, otherwise, “It’s going to be pretty chancy. They will find out easily.”

One Ogden resident, who responded to a Facebook query about regifting but didn’t want to use her name, says she once held a yard sale and a friend came and purchased an item.

“She must have forgotten because she gave it to me for my Christmas present the same year,” the Ogdenite said in her post. “She has done things like this several times and each time it just bums me out.”

• Keep the original packaging. Trying to pass an item from the discount store off in a box from a high-end department store is “tacky,” says Ellen Reddick, owner of The Impact Factory, a Salt Lake City firm specializing in business etiquette and protocol.

Reddick says she has received gifts in boxes from Tiffany & Co., for example, that she knew didn’t come from that store.

Gottsman adds that switching packaging can cause problems and embarrassment if the receiver wants to return the item to the store she thinks it came from to get another size or color.

• Remove any personal cards or notes. Nothing screams “regift” like a card left inside the box with someone else’s name on it.

The recipient is then faced with a challenge of what to do with that note, Reddick says, since it really should go back to the person who was meant to have it in the first place.

“It puts you in an awkward position and them, too,” she says.

Gottsman says she once received a platter with someone else’s monogram on it, so the regifter “obviously didn’t open the box” before giving it to her.

• Regift with good intent. The premise behind regifting should be that you want to give the item to another person because you think it’s something they will truly appreciate and enjoy, the experts say, not just because you‘re trying to get rid of unwanted stuff.

When that is your intent, then all the stigma about regifting is removed, Reddick says.

Maybe you are allergic to a gift of perfume or lotion, but know it’s your friend’s favorite scent. Or maybe you already have the latest hot video game but know your brother-in-law has his eye on it.

Even a personalized item, like a beloved book with an inscription inside, could be passed along to a friend if you add a new inscription explaining how much you loved the book and want to share it.

“That makes it more of a treasure than, ‘This was sitting here and I got tired of dusting it,’” Reddick says.

• Be up front. Instead of giving the gift as a “new” present, you can just want to level with the person and explain why you would like to give the item to him or her, Gottsman says.

You could say, for instance, “I’m allergic to the nuts in this chocolate and I want you to have it because I know you’re a chocolate lover.”

Reddick says she once received the regift of a manicure and pedicure from a friend who was diabetic and couldn’t use the services. “She gave it to me and I was thrilled, so it worked for everybody,” she says.

• Never regift “ugly.” If you wouldn’t wear an item or don’t find it appealing, “why would you want to give it to your best friend?” Gottsman says. Or if something is damaged, already worn or has a horrible odor, she says, “I would think twice about passing that along.”

• Think charities. That crazy Christmas sweater may leave you cold, but it could warm up someone else. Lots of nonprofit groups welcome items in good condition that are sitting around in your closet, Gottsman says.

• Know what’s off limits. Items handmade especially for you or family heirlooms should be exempt from regifting because feelings will be hurt, Gottsman says. Even if something isn’t your taste, “take one for the team” and hold on to it, maybe putting it away in a safe place.

“You’d never regift something that your grandmother gave you, even though it was something you’d never wear,” Reddick adds.

Remember, too, that your tastes or thinking change over time, Gottsman says, so even if it doesn’t seem necessary to own hand-sewn linen napkins right now, they could become a cherished keepsake.

“Something that’s given to us today may become valuable to us down the road,” Gottsman says. “There’s reasons why we grow to love things.”

Contact reporter Becky Cairns at 801-625-4276 or Follow her on Twitter at @bccairns or like her on Facebook at

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