When, If Ever, Is Re-Gifting Acceptable?
So let’s say you have a million wine glasses in your apartment. Like, way too many. You have stemless, and stemmed, and gold rimmed, and even disposable. Yet for some reason, everyone you know seems to be giving you wine glasses this year! What gives? Is it better to hoard these glasses and keep your collection growing? Or is it better to re-gift a set to a friend that is still drinking from red Solo cups? The answer is a bit complicated.
Re-gifting is something we've all thought about, but the etiquette is rarely discussed. Let's be honest, it's kind of awkward, and even embarrassing. It is always kept hush-hush. Growing up, a dear friend of mine kept a gift "closet”. Inside were goodies that someone or another had given to her, but that she had no use for. For example, a sweater two sizes too small, or a set of candlesticks that weren’t quite her taste. After these gifts were deemed unfit, they would go into the closet, sometimes stashed for years on end, until the right recipient was selected. On the one hand, this seemed ludicrous to me. I firmly believe that gifts should be personalized. On the other hand, it made perfect sense. These were random odds and ends that served no use to her. Why not give them to someone who would appreciate them more?
When trying to figure out my stance on the issue, I thought of Marie Kondo. In her book, Mrs.Kondo says that if something is not bringing you joy, get rid of it. She's referring to old skirts or books, but what if we applied this mentality to gifts? If it’s useless to you- what should you do with it? Throw it out? Donate it? Keep it just for the sake of keeping it? Here is my stance on a few circumstances:
- If you were gifted something extremely personal, thoughtful, or specific, do not regift it. If you can tell that someone put a lot of their heart into the gift, I would recommend keeping it, as you wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings. If someone gives you anything personalized, or monogrammed, or part of an inside joke, I would not re-gift it. I think about this often times in relation to family members. My grandmother once gave me a golden bracelet with angels on it. We are Jewish, so it was a bit of a strange gift, but you know how grandmothers can be. Have I worn it? No. But is it taking up significant space in my life or mind to just keep it in my jewelry box? Also no. Keep Grandma’s crazy gift.
- If someone gives you something that you know you have no purpose for, aka the 10th set of wine glasses, consider two options: if they gave you a gift receipt, you can exchange it for something you need. If they did not give you a gift receipt, please do not ask for one. As much as you may want to switch the gift, it is more polite not to involve the giver in your disposal of the gift. Even if they are very "low-key" people, who say they don't care, no one likes hearing their choice wasn’t good enough. If you don’t have a gift receipt but know that you can’t use the gift, set it aside for an occasion that makes sense. Don’t just re-gift it to the next person you owe a gift, because that is careless. Another thing that I would recommend doing is using this gift as an add-on. We are all on a budget (especially if you are young and living in an expensive city like NY, LA, etc) so use this gift as an opportunity to save a little bit of money, but your entire budget. Let’s say your original budget for a bridal shower gift was $75, and you have a beautiful vase that serves you no purpose, but you know your friend would love. Perhaps you can spend an extra $25 or $50 on something personal for her: a bouquet of fresh flowers, two mini vases to complement the larger one, etc. This way, there is a personal element to the entire experience.
- Another time I find re-gifting to be useful is when you are going to the home of a stranger. For example, once upon a time you were presented with a citrus candle, but you get headaches from the scent of lemon in the house, so the candle is of no use to you. You are going to dinner at a new friend or client's house, and you don’t know their preferences well enough. In this scenario, a candle is a perfectly acceptable and nice gift. And because you don’t yet know the intimate likes and dislikes of your host, I think it would be okay to re-gift. Always be sure that you are only re-gifting things in their new state, and original packaging.
What are your honest thoughts on re-gifting? Have you ever done it before? Are you opposed to it? Or do you think there can be a time and place?
photo for this post was taken by Katherine Marchand of Wilde Scout Photo Co. and cannot be shared, downloaded or repurposed for any reason without written consent Wilde Scout or Be Like Family