My Fail-Safe Method For Getting Away with “Re-Gifting” This Holiday Season

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Ask most people what their holiday nightmare is, and you’ll probably hear something this: “I don’t want anyone to catch me re-gifting.”

Nothing is more embarrassing than being caught trying to pass off an old gift you got as a new gift you’re giving. Yet studies show more than half of all Americans re-gift – at least the ones who admit it to researchers.

A 2009 study by Patron Spirits (best known for its tequila) was shocking enough to drive a gifting purist to drink: It found that “68 percent of people claim they’ve re-gifted, or considered re-gifting, a holiday present.” Not surprisingly, their re-gifting target was most often a fellow employee.

Not content with letting a liquor company corner the research, academics at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand would love you to take this confidential online survey that covers re-gifting. It gets at the psychology of re-gifting, but we won’t say anymore, lest we ruin it for you.

As for the deep-seated fear of getting caught, there’s a website called Regiftable.com, where you can share your re-gifting horror stories – whether you were on the receiving or delivering end. In fact, Regiftable has declared this Thursday, Dec. 16, as National Regifting Day.

But if you’re intent on re-gifting – whether to get rid of a present you don’t want or to feel like you’re being frugal by not throwing it out – you need to do it right. Sadly, much of the advice you’ll find by searching “re-gifting” is so basic it’s nothing more than common sense.

For example, Regiftable suggests…

  • “Never give partially used gift cards.”
  • “Signed books and monogrammed items are off-limits.”
  • “Be sure you know who gave you the item, so you don’t return something to the original giver.”

Well, duh. If you want to get away with re-gifting, you need to go to someone who does it so well that no one knows about his seedy past. Like me. Yes, I’m admitting for the first time ever, I’m a serial re-gifter. And no one’s ever found out.

Warning: My hardcore counsel on this topic runs counter to much of what you’ll read online. Here’s what one website says not to do when it comes to re-gifting…

“Certain items are a total, dead, instant giveaway that you not only are re-gifting, but you’re also too lame to put any effort into it: candles, soap, random books, mysterious CDs (unless your brother wants the hip-hop version of “Man of La Mancha”), obscure software, cheesy jewelry, scarves (do we not all own a scarf?), fruitcake, pens, cologne…”

This would be sound advice, except I get away with it – because I give all this stuff in one box.

I once famously packaged together a bunch of gifts I never opened: scented candles (why do women give guys scented candles?), a cookbook (I don’t cook), a CD of romantic standards covered by a singer I never heard of, and a bottle of cologne I never opened (I don’t wear cologne). I gave it to a female coworker who was returning to the dating world after her divorce. She loved it.

To make this work, you have to be savvy on the front end…

  1. Unlike most guys, I never rip open a gift. I’m praised as being patient and thoughtful, but really, I don’t want to damage an item I could re-gift later.
  2. Once I spy something I know I won’t use, I resist the cries of “Open it!” by replying, “This is so cool! I want to take my time with this one! When we’re all done opening everything else, I’m going to spend some time with it!” Invariably, no one remembers that.
  3. In the closet in the spare room, I keep assorted minor gifts I know I can package together later. These include CDs, poetry books, T-shirts, and jewelry – because I also collect unwanted gifts from female friends who are too afraid of re-gifting themselves and just want the stuff out of the house, lest the giver ever come over and find it unused. That seems an irrational fear, but hey, it gets me free gifts.

Before I assemble my re-gifting care package, I study my target. What’s going on in their life? Are they bragging about their upcoming trip to Cancun? Those wrap-around sunglasses that aren’t my style would go well with that extra bottle of sunscreen I bought when I didn’t realize I already had two in the bathroom cabinet. Add in the “Life’s a Beach” T-shirt I got as a stocking stuffer and that sombrero I got as a gag gift, throw in a funny card, and I can cross that casual acquaintance off my list.

So collect your unwanted gifts, then mix and match them for specific people. You’ll actually be praised for your thoughtfulness. If I had a soul, I might even feel guilty about this.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3TME7AUE4IQNQRI42ZQZMUE7ZU chuck

    Another suggestion: When regifting something in a box, always open it and check for the gifters business card. I once was the recipient of a regifted bottle of wine in a box. The dead give away that it was a regift, was that when I opened it and the previous gifters business card was in the box. I promptly removed the business card and re-regifted the wine myself. It was years ago but who knows, this bottle could still be making the rounds

  • Anonymous

    Some of the best gifts I have received were regifts. Some of the regifts that I have received include: expensive wine, beautiful table linens, 19th century sterling silver pitcher, several original oil paintings, unusual specialty foods (cheeses, sauces, etc.), hand-made sweaters, real gold bracelet, silver bangle bracelets, wooden candle holders, salt water opal ring, pearl heart pin, decorator pillows, candles, glasses, soaps, large bottle of Joy perfume, etc.

    The regifts I have received were usually a better fit to my tastes than the gifts someone went to the mall at the last minute and purchased whatever was available. Also, my elderly parents are regifting old items they received many years ago.

    The last couple of regifts from me were: an onyx bracelet (gift from an old boyfriend decades ago) to my Goth loving niece, and two sets of bed linens (very gently used – only on the bed when house was staged for selling) to my mother (she had hinted several times how much she liked them). Niece loved the bracelet and wears it all the time. My mother is using one set of the sheets right now, her worn out sheets are in her rag bag.

    I look at regifting as finding a better home for an item that is not what you want or need at this point in your life journey.