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Mind Your Manners: Is regifting practical or just tacky?

By Pam Harvit

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Several years ago during the holidays, I received an etiquette 911 call from a friend who was furious over the fact that she had just received a recycled gift. "How tacky! They didn't even take the time to remove the gift card signed by someone else! I've been regifted! What should I do?"

My advice was to write a thank-you note and move on.

Regifting means that someone received a gift they either did not like, want or need, and they rewrapped it and gave it to someone else. In fact, the practice is so widespread that several years ago, Macy's Department Store ran a holiday ad proclaiming "Regifting is for wimps; give a gift card instead ... it always fits."

During that same time, an American Express survey found that more than one-third of those polled admitted to regifting. In addition, Money Management International found that people with the highest income (those earning $150,000 a year or more) had the biggest propensity to be gift recyclers. In this economy, it makes sense: Why waste something if it can be used by someone else?

While the act is not new, the term may be unfamiliar to many people. Some say that its roots can be traced back to the classic television show "Seinfeld." In that episode, Jerry received a present that Elaine recognized as the exact gift she had given to one of Jerry's friends. Elaine exclaimed that Jerry had been "regifted," and the word became a national hit almost overnight.

If you choose to regift

While regifting is not bad, discovering that it has happened to you can be unsettling. Most leading etiquette experts agree that it is acceptable as long as:

  • The item is nice and in new, unused condition. I once read about someone receiving a salad spinner as a gift who found old lettuce leaves clinging to the side.
  • The wrapping is changed.
  • All names and gift cards have been removed. In other words, get rid of any and all evidence.
  • Avoid recycling a gift in social circles in which the original giver may be involved. It could be quite awkward if the giver recognizes a gift they had given to you.
  • Not regifting?

    In lieu of regifting, many sell their unwanted gifts on the Internet. However, remember to use a code instead of your name when posting the item. It could be embarrassing if the giver was surfing the Web and recognized not only the gift, but your name as the seller.

    As Roseanne Thomas, of Protocol Advisor Inc., says, "Etiquette doesn't require you to keep an unwanted gift. It does, however, require that you are grateful when you receive it."

    In other words, write a thank-you note and move on.

    Pam Harvit MS is a certified corporate etiquette and protocol consultant. Email her at pharvit@suddenlink.net.


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