8 rules for regifting

Updated: November 25, 2019

By AVOCADO FAM/Shutterstock

Do you regift during the holidays? (Sure you do. Don’t lie.) “Regifting gets a bad rap because, at times, the regifter is thoughtlessly unloading something that he or she doesn’t want, to someone who doesn’t want or need the item either,” says Louise Fox, an etiquette coach and the principal of the Etiquette Ladies. But wait, it doesn’t have to be that way! Follow this advice for successful regifting.

1) Regift only new items. Brand new, says Fox: “Never played with, never worn or washed, in original, undamaged packaging.” 

2) Brand new means brand new this year. Not brand new in, say, 2015. Regifting something that’s been hanging around, even if unused, can backfire: “If the regiftee tries to return the item to the store, they shouldn’t be told, ‘We haven’t carried that model in years,’” says Fox.

3) Don’t read a book before regifting it. It may look pristine, but, “is it really?” says Fox. “How can it be after you’ve already read it?” Better to just give the person the book without passing it off as a holiday gift.

4) Sure, there are people in the world who might enjoy Vanilla Ice’s autobiography, or bacon-flavoured toothpaste, or a cake pan shaped like a cockroach. But those people are probably not any of your friends or family. “Unless the item is something you would actually buy the recipient, you shouldn’t give it to them,” says Fox.

5) Never regift a handmade, heartfelt item. What if the person who made it for you asks how you’re enjoying it? What if the regiftee has questions about its origins? (“Cool! When did you learn to cross-stitch?”) Either way, busted.

6) You’re always better off regifting “outside your circle,” says Fox. “And the more unusual the item, the greater the distance there should be between the original giver and the regiftee.”

7) Regifting packaged holiday treats that you don’t like—fruitcake, rum cordials, that other fruitcake—can work out well as long as you’re sure the new recipient would want them (see No. 4). Don’t regift homemade cookies (see No. 5). Absolutely don’t regift homemade gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free cookies. That’s just mean.

8) If you forgetfully regift something to the person who gave it to you in the first place, “there’s really nothing you can say to make it better, unless you tell a white lie,” says Fox. “Something like, ‘I have one of these and love it…you gave it to me, didn’t you?’” Then, play it super-safe: don’t attempt to regift—anything at all—to this person next year.

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