The Art of Re-Gifting

Posted: January 11, 2011 in Uncategorized
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My wonderful colleague splashed out this year and bought me a bottle of expensive fragrance for Christmas. As a lover and collector of perfume, I was excited at first but when I took in the aroma of the first spritz, my heart sank. It was a spicy, heavy oriental, the fragrance of a sexy, seductive, confident woman. On me, it was overpowering. Actually, to be quite frank, it ponged and it gave me a headache.

What could I do with it? I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I didn’t like it, and I didn’t have the receipt so I couldn’t exchange it. And then there was the fact that I’d already sprayed it. I couldn’t throw it out either – what a waste! I turned my thoughts to people I knew that could pull this fragrance off – maybe I could re-gift it?

A series of re-gifting faux pas by my grandmother had always left an impression on me that re-gifting is wrong. After all, she was the one who held on to a hand cream given to her by her daughter-in-law for 20+ years (note: this hand cream was so old that the writing had faded off the tube!), only to re-gift it to her now-divorced son’s new wife! In my mind, re-gifting was something you did when you couldn’t be bothered spending any of your hard-earned cash on a present for someone else.

But what about things like the perfume? Perfume is tricky because people usually have a very distinct preference as to what they do and don’t like. Plus it’s expensive, so if you mess up, it’s a costly mistake. I know that my trash could well be someone else’s treasure, but is it disrespectful to both the original gift-giver and the new recipient to gift something that was picked out especially for you? eBay doesn’t seem to think so – they sent me an email first thing on Boxing Day to let me know that I could list my unwanted gifts for free and use the proceeds to buy something I really want.  In fact, I even remember Nova hosting a very successful Christmas gift swap meet a few years ago.

Personally, I think re-gifting is ok – let’s face it, we’ve all received gifts that are the wrong size, shape, colour, or just plain wrong altogether – but you have to be very careful toorder to avoid hurting a loved one’s feelings. My policy for recycling gifts is as follows:

  1. Re-gifters need a good memory. You don’t want to be caught out giving a gift back to the person who gave it to you in the first place (see Nanna’s mistake above). It’s best to move unwanted items on quickly, and never in the same social circle.
  2. Never regift anything handmade or with a personal message in it. Who wants to be around when your friend opens up the new Jamie Oliver cookbook you gave her and sees a lovingly scribed note on the title page from Aunty Betty? 
  3. Never regift anything in bad condition. It sends the message that you couldn’t give a damn about the recipient. I still can’t forget moving into my apartment and receiving a mop with a dirty, old dried-out sponge on it from my almost mother-in-law.
  4. Never regift anything obviously used and pretend that it’s something you bought yourself. You’re better off just being honest and giving it to someone. There’s nothing wrong with saying that the vase you received on Christmas Day and put flowers in is not to your taste. Just don’t go on and on about how ugly you think it is because the recipient will think that they’re being used as a dumping ground for your unwanted junk.

(You wouldn’t believe it, as I am typing this, a colleague just regifted some chocolates to another colleague! In his defence, he was honest about their origin and the fact that he didn’t like chocolate.)

What are your thoughts on re-gifting? Tell me in the comments section below!

(EDIT: I guess you’re wondering what I’m going to do with the perfume. I’ve decided to be honest, admit it was a gift and give it away to one of my readers. Stay tuned for the next post which will contain further details.)

  1. Dee says:

    I wouldn’t regift for someone’s birthday or Christmas or the like, unless it was something I knew they really, really wanted – and even then I’d probably tell them it was given to me and I didn’t want it, and add in another gift I’d actually bought specifically for them.

    However, I would have no qualms giving away something I didn’t like to someone I thought would enjoy it.

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