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 re-gifting was carried out flawlessly no one would have the occasion to find it distasteful. And that brings me to the first Rule of Re-gifting:
1. Never admit to re-gifting. If your friends know you’re a regifter, 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. Don’t even think of re-gifting. It just wouldn’t be right.
4. Label all re-gifts. Do this as soon as you determine you’ve received a regift 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.
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.
If there’s a time you want to use new paper and ribbon, it’s on a regift. Anything else is a dead giveaway.
No matter how you feel about it, the practice of re-gifting is here to stay. So if you participate, do it 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.