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Re-gifting Isn't As Rude As You Think

December 30, 2015

The big day is behind us and the holiday dust is finally settling. But through the process, you were on the receiving end of a few not-so-desirable gifts. Whether they are not to your taste or don’t fit with your ethics, the question now becomes: what to do with them? 

Of course you can always donate, discard (filling landfills with perfectly good items), or simply stuff it in a closet in hopes of putting it to use someday (but most likely never touching it again until purging it years later). 

Re-gifting isn't as rude as you think and it makes sense when you think about it.

Regift * Reuse * Recycle

If you spend money on something, and you thought it was cool enough to buy, isn't it better for the gift to be loved by someone than cast aside by the person that you originally bought it for?

In a study, when gift recipients were asked to predict how a gift-giver would react if they were to re-gift something, they said that re-gifting is pretty offensive. The study found that people think it's just as bad to re-gift as it would be to throw the gift away. However, if you ask the gift-givers themselves, they are significantly less offended by the idea of re-gifting than their recipients predicted they would be. They're also much less offended at the prospect of re-gifting something than they are of throwing it away.

Re-Gifting Rules - The Four R's

Before you pass along someone else's "treasure," let's review a few re-gift giving rules. 

  1. Record: Make a note of who gave you the gift. The ultimate embarrassment is giving something back to the person who gave it to you.
  2. Reconnaissance: Make sure it's suitable for re-gifting. In particular, make sure it hasn't been signed, customized, or otherwise made individual to you.
  3. Remote: Re-gift to someone as unconnected to the person who gave you the gift as possible. An unwanted present from a colleague can easily be given to a cousin, but re-gifting gifts within the family is likely to backfire on you.
  4. Rapid: Re-gift sooner rather than later. You're more likely to remember who gave it to you and get the process over with as soon as possible.

Other Do's and Don'ts

  • Don't re-gift food
  • Don't re-gift hand-me-downs or used gifts
  • Don't re-gift personal items like underwear
  • Use a new gift bag/wrap

So don't sweat re-gifting too much—your gift-giver won't (at least as not as much as you think!). And you can help shift cultural norms to promote this sort of gift recycling and reduce the trashing of perfectly good items.

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