Regifting occurs when someone gives a gift that was previously given to them by someone else. At its heart, regifting lacks integrity because the original gift recipient is repurposing a gift that was especially chosen just for them – to a different person. In U.S. culture, regifting has evolved as more acceptable in certain social circles. Furthermore, during a pandemic health and safety are top of mind so regift with extra caution.
If you are going to regift, consider the following guidelines:
- The key is the recipient. Regift to the right person. Is this an item they would choose for themselves? Is it a quality gift that they will genuinely enjoy?
- Include instructions and original packaging. During a pandemic, avoid gifting a previously used item or a “hand-me-down.” Use the original packaging and double check that the item is fully sealed.
- Personalized or unique? When receiving a monogrammed item as a unique gift, it is inappropriate to regift this item. It is also a faux pas to regift engraved, unique, or personalized gifts that are undeniably meant for a specific person.
- Different regifting circles. Avoid regifting within the same circles. To avert awkward encounters and wounded feelings, regift within different business, family, friend, and colleague circles. Think your mother-in-law will not notice that your sister received the identical premium air fryer that she gave you for your birthday? Think again!
- Avoid regifting to the original giver. Keep a running list of potential regifts and the original giver. It is awkward to regift to the original gift giver.
- Place them in a new gift box or wrap them nicely in the recipient’s favorite color.
- Be honest and authentic: I prefer to come clean about regifting to protect my integrity. For example, before you must confess you regifted the package; be forthright. Let the recipient know that this is a perfect regift and the reason. If your BFF gave you a silk scarf, for example, and she found out that you gave it to your mother who wears them 5 of 7 days a week, respond with, “Thanks for your kind gift. However, I am claustrophobic about anything around my neck. So, I decided my dear mom Lynn who collects beautiful scarves, will wear this floral pattern frequently. If I offended you, I apologize. I do appreciate your kind gift.”
- Gratitude: More than anything, remember that gift giving is an expression of gratitude and appreciation for the recipient. In the end, you want to acknowledge the person’s importance and value to you. Regardless of what you decide this holiday season, keep in mind the goal of expressing your gratitude and making the recipient feel appreciated.
Acceptable Items for Regifting:
- Alcohol or Spirits: Not really a gin or vodka fan? Did you stop drinking? When you know that a recipient will happily receive a spirit or fortified wine, gently toss that bottle in a colorful gift bag and regift it with joy. When the bottle still has the original seal intact, craft beer, spirits, and wine make perfect regifts.
- Appliances and gadgets (small): Small appliances including air fryers, cordless mixers, mini waffle-makers, panini-makers, and rice cookers, are great for regifting when in their original packaging and unused.
- Certain Clothing: If its unworn, original tags are attached, it is unisize, (or you are positive about the intended recipient’s size); it is ok to regift. Gloves, hats, scarves, socks, slippers, wraps, and fashionable items are excellent items.
- Fragrances: Be cautious here. Only regift if certain the recipient likes or wears this fragrance, the fragrance is still in its original packaging, including the plastic wrapping around the fragrance box, which means you have not opened the box or the bottle, it is considered unused. Be cautious: once the plastic is unwrapped, it is considered used.
- Gift cards: Regift immediately and be certain the expiration date is not soon or expired. Double-check the balance before presenting it in a new gift card holder.
- Prepackaged Gift baskets: Only if done immediately, and nothing perishable has been improperly managed, stored, or has expired.
- Technology, games, and puzzles: Aficionados will be thrilled with these items.
Inappropriate Items for regifting:
- Certain foods: Never regift expired perishable food. For example, packaged food in a gift basket can cause food poisoning or severe illness. Homemade breads and cakes baked for you are not meant to be regifted.
- Personal clothing: Avoid regifting certain clothing that may be viewed as inappropriate such as lingerie or personal undergarments. These items may send the wrong message and unintentionally offend the recipient and/or their partner.
- Broken seal: Avoid regifting opened gifts because once the seal is broken by someone, the gift is “used” and no longer a new gift. This means the giver owes an explanation or else the recipient feels unappreciated.
- Worn clothing: Avoid regifting worn clothing, not only for hygiene reasons, but also because the recipient may have attended a game where the giver wore the sweatshirt or seen a photograph of the giver sporting those jeans. It becomes obvious that this is not a new gift selected with care for the recipient.
- Used gift: Avoid regifting a used gift; for example, a used blender because you just cannot microscopically sanitize it enough to remove all the particles. We all know that we sample our own smoothies and concoctions, so this is not a sanitary item to regift.
- Broken gifts: This is just downright wrong. How frustrating for the recipient! They are so excited to receive that air fryer convection oven they have been hoping for only to discover it does not work. If the gift receipt is not enclosed, the recipient has the awkward choice of calling the giver to ask for a gift receipt or writing a gracious thank you note that does not mention that the gift is broken.
- Footwear and shoes: Fit and sizing are unique when it comes to shoes. Everyone defines comfort a little differently when you spend 10-12 hours a day on your feet, so footwear is not on the regift list.
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a diversity and inclusion consultant, cross-cultural trainer, etiquette expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre, she is an attorney and mediator. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia, won a coveted Kirkus Star, and was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books. She’s a winner of numerous awards, including the British Airways International Trade Award at the Greater Austin Business Awards.
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