Regifting: smart or just plain tacky?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Poll time: Hands up if you've ever regifted. You received a present that was totally not up your alley--a sweater in an unflattering shade of olive green, a glittery boa picture frame, a "16 Candles" DVD when you're more of a "300" guy--and thought, this gift blows, but I can pawn it off on my sister/coworker/friend next Christmas/Hanukkah/birthday and they'll never know the difference. Mwahahahaha!"

If you think about regifting on a very surface level, it makes sense: receive something you don't particularly like or need, and give it to someone who you think will genuinely enjoy it, in lieu of buying them a gift yourself. They're none the wiser, you're saving money, and you're also ridding your house of a piece of unwanted crap. Sounds good, right?

NO! It's not good. It's barely ever a good idea to regift. So much can go so horrendously wrong. Spare yourself the possible disaster, stop being a cheap bastard and go and buy or make a gift for your relative/buddy/acquaintance.

Horrible (and not unlikely) Regifting Scenarios:

1. You forget to remove all the wrapping or tags from the original gift.
This actually happened to me once. Actually, it happened to H2B but we're living in sin, so what's his is mine and what's mine is mine. Some "friends" produced a pretty elaborate candle holder and a set of tea lights for H2B's birthday. Kind of an unusual present to get a 27-year-old guy for his birthday, huh? I can think of a few thousand more appropriate gifts. But I digress. There was scotch tape stuck to the bottom of the thing WITH REMNANTS OF CHRISTMAS WRAPPING PAPER STILL ATTACHED. Yeah. H2B's birthday is in January. These two awesome people obviously received one too many candleholders from Santa and decided to pass one off to H2B as a birthday present. FAIL.

I know someone who actually reuses the Valentine cards her kids receive. If the greeting is written in pencil, she erases it, saves the card, and gives it to another kid the following year. That's just greasy. She's not even poor!

2. The original gift giver demands to see the gift in action after you've pawned it off.
I've received countless tacky and fugly things and I never throw them away until it's been a REALLY long time and the gift-giver has witnesses them being used and "enjoyed" a few times. As a result I probably have too much stuff in my apartment (along with too much concern for other people's feelings, one could add). Well, someone obviously thought it was a terrific idea to give me a coin bank in the shape of a snowman or a t-shirt with rabbits on it. I know that when I visit friends and family I am pretty much instantly trolling their house looking for evidence that they like the present I gave them. Let 'em see you wearing the gross slippers or using the mustard yellow tea towels before you give them the heave-ho.

3. Never spending a cent or effort kind of makes you an asshole.
I would rather get a $5 gift that someone picked out for ME than a generic $50 present that was never intended for me in the first place. Extra insulting: the fact that I buy or make all my gifts with a degree of thought put into them. It has nothing to do with the amount of money you spend. If I collect rocks, and you find a cool rock on the beach for free, I'm going to appreciate that way more than a ceramic hair straightener coming out of your Christmas stocking. My hair's already straight, but thanks for coming out.

4. There are other ways to save money.
Maybe instead of giving gifts you have a potluck. Maybe you put a spending limit on gift exchanges or simply say "no" when you're invited to the 15th birthday party of the month. Or you pool money with others to buy something special. The point is, you can save cash on presents without being a regifting douchebag. There are alternatives. You don't have to give super elaborate gifts. But no gift at all is better than regifted crap.

The Only Instance Where Regifting Is OK:
You're not regifting for a holiday/birthday/special day. Say I get a horrible pair of pyjamas for my birthday and they're my sister's size and I think she'll like them. I don't save them for her birthday and then present them to her like I'm offering a burnt sacrifice. I'll call her and say "Crackhead Uncle Bruce gave me pyjamas and I don't really care for them--if you like them you're welcome to them!" That way she has the opportunity to say no, I'm being honest, and hopefully still getting rid of the fug PJs. This happened to me earlier this year when I won an mp3 player at an event. Christmas was two months away and I could have used the mp3 player as a gift for my 15-year-old, hard-to-shop-for cousin, but instead I gave it to my brother who really appreciated it and uses it all the time. Then I bought my cousin a gift, as I had budgeted for anyway.

Aside from cases of the above variety, regifting is never OK. It's cheap and lazy and there are too many ways you can get caught and spend the rest of your life with the stigma of being a stingy miser, or worse, someone who simply doesn't care about them enough to make any effort. The value or price of the gift you give is irrelevant, but saddling someone else with your unwanted shit is unacceptable.

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  1. I... have regifted.

    On occasion!

    I feel like you can only do it if:

    1. the person who gave you the gift and the person receiving are not close and will never meet one another.

    2. one of them, either the gifter or the new receiver, is a pretty distant friend.

    3. you read this blog post and make sure not to make any of those mistakes (like keeping the tag on! yikes!)

    But you make a good point. mostly, the only time I've done it is if someone has given me something really great that I know I won't use. I hate keeping something nice when I know I won't put it to good use!

  2. I think regifting is great - so long as it is appropriate for the person, and they don't know the original source of where it came from (you definately have to be smart about regifting)! nothing to identifyable just to save your ass in case you are ever found out! Wine and alcohol you can never go wrong with, books (so long as they like the subject), DVD's all good ;)

  3. You guys make some good points!
    RC, I like the booze/wine thing; for a hostess gift that's not a bad idea. Especially if it's a nice wine and you've got like 20 bottles in your wine rack. I guess that would be an exception to the no-regift rule!

  4. Regifting is like movie editing - if you're really good at it, no one notices it happening, but it just makes things better.

  5. Dude for my 30th birthday my friend gave me a cupcake stand/holder thingymajig. She didn't bring it with her to the place we ate at, but we ended up at her house afterwards for a glass of wine and she brings it out, unwrapped. Said she forgot to wrap it etc. Funny thing is...a few months prior she had mentioned someone gave her a cupcake stand and she said she was throwing it in her garage because she didn't know what to do with it. Guess she figured out what to do with it!

    BTW it's now in the trunk of my car...and has been there since October 2008. WTF do I do with it?!

  6. I honestly cant remember if I've ever regifted something, but I'm currently deathly avoid of doing so for the mere fact that someone might start quoting your Horrible Regifting Situations to me...leaving me absolutely mortified!