Thirty-nine days until Christmas. While you let that sink in, allow me to whisper one word in your ear: Re-gifting. The act of re-gifting—passing on as new a gift someone else gave you—is controversial but only because of those who do a noticeably bad job of it. After all, if every act of regifting were carried out flawlessly, no one would find it distasteful, or even consider it a thing.
Speaking of what not to do, consider what happened in front of all my friends at a bridal shower—for me, the next bride-to-be in our circle.
I opened the gift of lovely Pyrex mixing bowls, pulled them out of the box to admire the cool colors, only to have a gift card fall into my lap, lovingly addressed to someone who was not me.
With the original giftee sitting not five feet away, I did some really bad version of sleight-of-hand, hoping no one would notice.
All these years later, it doesn’t matter—honestly, it never did. I loved the bowls. Still, that awkward moment re-plays in my mind every time I see her. Which brings me to my Official Rules of Re-gifting:
1. Never admit to re-gifting
If your friends know you’re a re-gifter, you’ll find yourself in the unpleasant situation of explaining why re-gifting is different from not caring. Worse, they will be suspicious of the gifts you give them. It’s best to keep re-gifting completely to yourself.
2. Designate a location
Keep re-gifts in a convenient, albeit secret, place in a special box or cupboard with extra wrapping paper and ribbon. Some people shop for gifts in department stores. Never underestimate the utility of a gift stash that allows you to shop at home.
3. Have a heart
Any gift made especially for you or given to you by a parent, child, or close relative cannot be re-gifted. Even if it’s not ideal, consider its sentimental value. Do not even think of re-gifting. It just wouldn’t be right.
- RELATED: The Gentle Art of Gift-Giving
4. Privately, label all re-gifts
Do this as soon as you determine you’ve received a re-gift to avoid the heartbreak of back-gifting—giving someone a gift they gave you. Simply make a detailed note of where this item originated.
5. Check again
You cannot be too careful. Let’s say the gift is a book. Take a peek to make sure it has not been inscribed to you. If it’s a boxed gift make sure the gift tag has not dropped inside the box. These are the careless acts that give re-gifting a bad name.
6. No telltale signs
A regift must look brand-new. If the box is damaged or shows any signs that it has been opened, it does not qualify as a regift. Reapplying your own tape, attempting to obscure that the item or box has been opened once already—anything like that sadly disqualifies this as a re-gift.
7. Not remotely acquainted
Your re-giftee must not in any way be acquainted with anyone in the circle of friends or relatives of the person who gave this to you. Refer to Rules 3 and 4 above.
8. All new wrapping
If there’s a time you want to recycle gift wrap, a re-gift is not it. Use new paper and new ribbon on a re-gift. Anything else is a dead giveaway.
In conclusion …
No matter how you feel about it, the practice of re-gifting is here to stay. If you choose to participate, do it impeccably well.
And if you don’t want your gift to land in someone’s re-gift box, put a little thought and effort into the gift to make sure it is something the receiver will truly enjoy—not just something that lets you mark another name off your list.
On last thing, brought to us by EC Reader Lin:
“Last Christmas we were re-gifted (unbeknownst to us at the time) a lovely (on the outside) tower of weird colored dried fruit and a variety of nuts. Unfortunately, the nuts were rancid and the fruit was gross too. We ended up throwing it all away. I suspect they received it the previous Christmas. Moral of this story—do not regift food!”
Thank you, Lin!