According to Fox, regifting was once considered rude and unacceptable under just about any circumstance. Is it an acceptable practice today? Not entirely, she says. "As with most other areas of etiquette, it can depend on the situation. Regifting gets a bad rap," she continues, "because at times the regifter is thoughtlessly unloading something he or she doesn't want, to someone who doesn't want or need the item, either. Done thoughtlessly, often the feelings of the original gifter and the regiftee are irreparably hurt."
When is regifting OK?
How do you avoid unintentionally hurting a friend or family member with thoughtlessness? Fox says there are guidelines to follow and that regifting should only be done on rare occasions when certain criteria are met. Here, the etiquette expert dishes tips for doing it right:
1. The item must be brand-new. Not last year's brand-new, this year's brand-new. It should be unopened, never played with, never worn, washed or tried out. It should be in its original undamaged packaging. All the bits and pieces must be intact, including the guarantee, if there is one. If the recipient or the regiftee returns it to the store, he should not be told, "We haven't carried that model in years."
2. Be sure the person who gave you the gift doesn't know (or know of ) the person receiving the gift. If it is an unusual item that could easily be identified, you shouldn't regift it unless the receiver is on another planet. The more unusual the item, the greater distance there should be between the giver and the regiftee.
3. Never regift something you've had in your closet for a few years or lying in the basement unused. If you've had an item for some time and you know it happens to be something your friend really wants or needs, give it to them. But don't wrap it up and pass it off as a gift you just purchased for them.
4. The regift should not be something horrible you're regifting just to get rid of it, or to avoid spending money on the receiver. Unless the item is something you would actually buy the recipient, you shouldn't give it to them. Remember, what you give is a reflection of you and your taste. Keep in mind that homely gifts you received for wedding presents can come into style years later or be future candidates for Antiques Roadshow.
5. Never regift items someone has hand-made for you. Those items are heartfelt and should be always be kept. In such instances the hurt feelings of the maker far surpass the value of the gift if you were to regift the item and it was discovered.
6. Take the time to rewrap the gift and attach new bows or ribbons. Always be sure you have removed any original gift tags or cards.
7. Can you regift, and announce it as a regift? Yes, when regifting adds value. For example, regifting a family quilt to your daughter-in-law, a family heirloom to another family member, your wedding dress to your granddaughter, your mother's engagement ring to your fiancée, and similar situations.
8. Only you can decide whether to regift something you have received. The basis of good manners is respect, care and consideration for others. Think through the circumstances and if in doubt, don't do it.
Louise Fox, the director of Louise Fox Protocol Solutions and The Etiquette Ladies, was trained and certified in business etiquette and international protocol at the Protocol School of Washington. She presents business etiquette, international protocol and dining seminars to business professionals. Her programs for children, youth and teens develop social and leadership skills.
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