Military Etiquette

Re-gifting 101 

The gift-giving season is upon us, and while I’m inspired to make more lists, write more cards, shop a little more, and bake until the whole house smells like sugar, I also worry. What to buy, how much to spend, whether or not those on my list will like my gifts, use them, return them, or re-gift them?

I’ve done it, and chances are you have too, but despite the fact that re-gifting is pretty common these days, it can still be a potential minefield if not done correctly. Some consider it tacky, while others think it’s perfectly acceptable. If it’s done for the right reasons, it’s a good way to pass along a gift that may not be perfect for us, but perfect for someone else. This strategy saves money, too! 

I think re-gifting gets a bad rap because of people associate re-gifts with being ugly, damaged, second-hand, or useless cast-offs. Furthermore, re-gifters are seen as scrooges. This type of judgment isn’t kind, fair, or accurate. So, let’s discuss how to re-gift without offending or hurting anyone.

    The term re-gifting gained popularity after an episode of Seinfeld aired during which Elaine called Dr. Whatley a “re-gifter.” Dr. Whatley, it seems, gave Jerry a label maker that was originally given to him by Elaine. 

Re-Gifting Rules

Rule Number One: Don’t get caught!  You’re sure to feel embarrassed and uncomfortable. The recipient now knows you didn’t get anything new and may also feel uneasy. Furthermore, the original gift giver, should she find out that you’ve recycled her gift, now thinks you hated it. 

If you’re the person that has a closet full of gifts, consider keeping a log of who gave you what and when, and re-gift outside the social circle in which the item was first given. In doing so, you’ll mitigate your risk of it being recognized by the original giver.

Rule Number Two: Do refresh the wrapping and remember to remove any card or gift tag. Nothing smacks of a re-gift more than torn or crinkled wrapping or finding a card intended for someone else. There shouldn’t even be any bits of tape. If you look at the gift and think it looks acceptable or if you have to try to convince yourself that it looks almost new, find something else.  

Rule Number 3: Don’t give used items. A re-gift should be something that you’ve never used. Period. That includes gift cards and items that you’ve had in your home for a while. Nobody wants to receive a $25 card only to find $13.88 left on it, and rest assured that someone is bound to recognize that decorative item that has forever been on your mantle. A bride once told me that she received a rice cooker as a wedding gift and excitedly torn open the box only to find a few rice kernels stuck to the pot. Her excitement quickly turned to resentment against the gift giver.

Rule Number Four: Do give the gift with good intentions. If you genuinely feel that the recipient will enjoy the gift, you’ve made a good choice. Although it’s easy to pull something just off a shelf or grab something in a hurry, putting some thought into a gift will ensure it’s a memorable one.

People re-gift for a multitude of reasons. Perhaps they disliked the gift, had one just like it, or are simply trying to stretch their budget. Clearly, if re-gifting isn’t done right, it can lead to embarrassment, awkwardness, and even grudges. If you choose to re-gift, be savvy about it. And if you’re fortunate enough to receive a gift, remember to accept it with grace and gratitude.

  Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season.  

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Cecilia Pita

Cecilia Pita is a military spouse and etiquette consultant who likes to connect the dots about the importance of etiquette in today’s world. She provides workshops and presentations to private business, corporate, government and not-for-profit clients.

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