Regifting. It’s all the rage these days, but what is it?
At Boxcitement we often describe our boxes as containing gifts that can be kept, used or re-gifted: we like to say everything we provide is useful as well as lovely. We try hard to make sure none of our items end up in the bottom of a drawer – but what exactly is re-gifting? You may be surprised to learn it’s quite an established practice!
Regifting is simply the act of taking a gift that has been received and giving it to somebody else. It seems a slightly controversial subject to own up to doing; by some it is seen as a sensible, practical and let’s face it, economical way to avoid binning unwanted gifts or consigning them to the back of a cupboard forever. By others the act of re-wrapping a gift is frowned upon and seen as bad manners. In fact a study by the London Business School has found that regifting is far less likely to offend the original giver than is commonly believed.
Did you know, there is a National Regifting day in the US!
Since it was started by the Governor of the State of Colorado in 2008, the Thursday before Christmas is fast becoming National Regifting day in the US. It was started to allow people to begin to openly talk about a subject that was deemed sensitive, but necessary in light of the economic situation of the time. Once you learn that approximately 40% of office Christmas presents are regifted in the US, you can begin to get an idea of the scale of the activity involved!
Where did it start?
The term came to prominence when discussed in an episode of Seinfeld more than a decade ago; since then it has grown in popularity in countries like the US and UK.
What is the etiquette?
It depends on the context and on the social circle. To help you understand the do’s and don’ts…
We’ve put together a checklist to help you with your approach to regifting.
1. Clearly playing it safe is the first rule of re-gifting: Don’t re-gift to someone who might know the person who originally gave you the gift. For example, if a colleague gave you a bad present last year, don’t give it to someone at this year’s office secret Santa. The same goes with gifts among friends and extended family. To make sure you don’t break this rule, some even suggest going to the lengths of keeping all potential re-gifts in a cupboard with a note attached to each item detailing when, where and who gave the gift in the first place.
2. Make sure you know who has given you what. Write a list of who gave you what gift. Helpful for writing thank you notes, but it’s also a vital tool for regifting. It’s essential that you don’t give anything back to the person who gave it to you in the first place.
3. Be absolutely sure you know what the gift is, and whether there is any context behind it that might make it personal to you. Also ensure that it isn’t personalised, and that it’s appropriate to the new recipient – could it be a heat-activated mug where Santa’s helpers receive x-rated makeover when the cup heats up?!
4. New and unused items only please. Unless it’s an heirloom or antique, a re-gift should be new. Don’t unwrap cellophane or use the item. If you do, this isn’t regifting, it’s a hand-me-down.
5. Check the Best Before date. If you have been given anything with a best-before date, make sure it still has plenty of time in date before handing it over to someone else.
6. Rewrap it… having checked that you have disposed of the original wrapping properly (used gift tags etc), lavish the same care and attention on the re-wrapping that you would on a present you’ve bought.
7. Allow some time to pass before re-gifting, just in case the subject of the necklace, t-shirt or novelty tea pot is brought up by the giver. It’s best to wait a few months for them to ask why you never wear the bracelet, or why you haven’t put the picture frame up. If you still have the item you can make sure you wear it the next time you see the friend. If you have given it away, you could be in trouble.
8. Think carefully about who you give the gift to. Consider the receiver’s tastes. A re-gift should fit the receiver’s interests, needs and style: it should be something you may have purchased yourself as a gift. Maybe that scarf is not quite right for you, but you know your friend will love it. That’s acceptable. The aim is to give it to someone who will like it: not just offload the embarrassment.
9. Try to re-gift outside a circle of friends or family. You really want to avoid a friend wearing the necklace you regifted to them, and another friend then remarking how it looks exactly like the one they gave you.
10. Draw the line. There are some people whose gifts you should think very carefully before passing along – and some gifts you need to keep. Relatives who visit occasionally will come over will look out for the vase you gave them last year – so you need to have it on display when they visit. Likewise there are some gifts so terrible or niche that nobody should ever receive them; regifting will just pass on the agony to someone else.
10. Recycle unwanted gifts rather than regift them if in doubt. If you know you’ll never use that old bottle of perfume, tinned ham, Bolivian fruitcake, or itchy sweater, give the item to charity or recycle it in the appropriate place.
11. Finally, you will need to admit it if you get caught. If you get caught recycling a gift, own up to it. Yes, it will be embarrassing but don’t dwell on it. Just address it, explain why you thought the person would like it and change the subject. It is becoming more and more acceptable as a practise and will continue to do so if we all own up to it – which can only be good for the environment, your pocket and your storage cupboards!
At Boxcitement we take the view that re-gifting is a great idea – you can spread a little joy into the lives of one of your friends or loved ones; lives at very little personal cost but the emotional credit could be huge.