How to recycle unwanted presents - the art of regifting

2 December 2008

If you've ever held a house party - whether it's a house-warming, a birthday, New Year's Eve or just a good old fashioned orgy - everyone will pop round with a bottle of la vino. The quality will vary and invariably you'll be left with a few bottles of liquid that taste like vinegar vomited into a bowl of bile. What do you do? Well you don't open them, obviously; you take them to the next house party you're invited to and ensure you don't drink it. In fact, it's estimated that on account of this practise, there are several hundred bottles of wine that have been in suburban circulation since the early 1970s and are each worth several thousand pounds.

And it doesn't just happen with wine; Christmas time is primetime for palming off unwanted gifts on unloved relatives and unsuspecting friends. It's known in the cheapskate's profession as regifting, although in these frugal times it makes perfect sense. You got to get it right, though; nothing will destroy your social and family standing more than somebody spotting a regifted gift. And what is the ettiquette when you spot that a present to you is one that you regifted the previous Christmas?

Got any stories about regifting gone wrong? Let us know, we'd love to hear them. Meanwhile, if you want to get regifting right and save yourself some coin this Christmas, WiseBread has 10 top tips to avoid looking like a Scrooge. Here's their top three:

1: The obvious rule first: don’t let anyone know this is a regift.
It’s amazing how often people have made it quite clear that I was receiving a gift that was from their reject pile. Sure, they dressed it up nice enough, with language like “I just would never have used this cool gadget but I know how much you need one.” It still makes you feel like you’re getting crappy old hand-me-downs. Of course, if someone’s giving me a brand new, state-of-the-art laptop or cool pair of sunglasses, my hurt feelings fly out of the window. But if it’s a nasty crystal picture frame or a hideous painting, I’d rather not know you hated it as well. Ignorance is bliss.

2: If you get an unwanted gift that is meant for display, do the right thing first.
As much as you don’t want to put that chintzy glass clown or fiber-optic lamp on display in your lovely abode, you may have to bite the bullet for a few weeks. The person who gave it to you will like to see it on display the next time they come over, otherwise they’ll instantly know that you were lying when you said “it was just fabulous.” So put it out on a hutch, coffee table or kitchen counter for a while. But keep the box, if it has one, and all the accompanying packaging and tags. Once your gift-giver has seen the item on display, they feel appreciated. Then when it disappears from view, you can make up an appropriate excuse (a little white lie) like “oh, the kids kept messing with it so it’s up in my bedroom.”

3: Beware, the previously regifted gift.
Sometimes you’ll receive a gift that doesn’t quite feel right. Your Spidey Sense will tingle and you’ll realize, perhaps after some investigation, that this gift has already been through the regifting process. Now you’ve got problems. The last thing you want is for the gift to end up back in the hands of the person who originally gave it; not only will you look embarrassed, so will the person who gave it to you. And we don’t want friendships strained. My best advice…if in doubt, regifting is out.

For the rest, head to WiseBread and remember to regale us with your tales of regifting, good or bad.


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