The Rules of Regifting
Regifting can be a slam dunk or a complete air ball. Fortunately, Modern Manners Guy has 3 tips to make sure you score every time.
Last year, in a joint episode with Grammar Girl, I tackled the issue of regifting. I was happy – as well as surprised – at all the amazing feedback I got for the article Is Regifting Rude? Turns out, the issue of regifting seems to be far too important to only focus on once, so I’m taking another stab at answering all your wonderful questions.
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Let me just say that regifting is not a bad thing, when done properly. It’s not outright wrong and you shouldn’t simply dismiss a regift. However, like planning a party, regifting has its own set of procedures. When you’re going to a party, there is a certain etiquette you follow for the proper time to arrive, the proper thing to wear, the proper gift to bring, etc. No one wants to go to a party they think will be a fancy affair, only to find out it’s nothing more than frozen bagel bites and lukewarm cocktails. Regifting is the same thing. It can be a great way to show someone you’re thinking of them, or a colossal sign that you really don’t give a crap!
So before you rewrap that gift your creepy coworker gave you, check out my top 3 Quick and Dirty Tips for regifting:
Tip #1 – The Wedding Day
Next to anniversary presents, I’d say wedding presents cause the most stress for gift givers. You don’t want to go overboard but you also don’t want the couple to feel like it’s something you bought at a 7-11 on the way to the event. And the rules for wedding gifts get tricky too because everyone has their own beliefs. My one friend always gives a gift that makes up for the price of his meal. Really? You’re telling me that if Justin Bieber invites me to his wedding, which will probably be a $2,500 per plate affair, I have to match that in my gift? (As a side note, I don’t know Justin Bieber, but am pretty sure he’d have a super over-the-top wedding).
I’ve been to fancy weddings where the hosts spent hundreds of dollars on each guest. And there is no way I’m writing a check to my third cousin twice removed who lives in Spain, and who I’ve only seen once in five years, a check for hundreds of dollars. Ahhhh the pressure!
See also: What is the Proper Engagement Gift?
So during all the stress to find the perfect wedding gift, you realize that maybe the gift your Aunt Bea gave you could actually be a good present for the happy couple. And it could be…to some degree. First of all, really look at the gift and think about what it says. Does that neon beer sign your brother gave you for your basement, really say “Congratulations on your marriage”? Does that picture frame made out of macaroni shells that your folk-art-loving sister bought at an art fair, scream “I’m so happy for you”?
If you’re going to regift for a wedding, pick something appropriate and appealing to the couple. There is nothing wrong with giving them something you received earlier, but it has to be on par with their taste. For example, if you got a pair of gold-crusted champagne glasses as a gift, but you prefer to drink your bubbly out of goblets, those champagne glasses might actually make your flute-loving friend extremely happy, so why not regift?
One last thing: If you’re regifting, that free gift is not enough. Settle down, I’m not saying you have to go crazy and pile on the presents. But if you regift a glass vase that you know you’ll never use, never display and will only collect dust in a box, that might be a fine present for someone. But since you didn’t have to spend as much (or anything) on this gift, it’s a good idea to add a little something extra, like a gift card to a restaurant or some other token of your friendship. Go the extra mile.
Tip #2 – The Family Heirloom
The topic of family heirlooms is a dicey one. Ironically, I do think it’s the one area of regifting that has the least “regret” associated with it. I say regret because when a family heirloom is given as a gift, the likelihood of anyone feeling bad about giving or receiving it is pretty low. For example, my friend was given a gold coin by his uncle on his wedding day. The coin had been handed down through four generations of his family and it was worth well over $1,000. So even though it wasn’t the fine china set he and his bride registered for, it was still an incredibly thoughtful gift.
In the case of family heirlooms the main thing to consider is how you view regifting in general. Passing down a family heirloom as a “gift” comes with stipulations. For example, the gold coin my friend received from his uncle is pretty cut and dry: He was next in line to receive it, it can easily be kept at his house or in a bank, it won’t need much care. No strings attached. He could not look at it for 50 years and still do “his duty” by passing it on to his kids. As well, the coin has sentimental meaning, aside from its actual growing value. But when a family heirloom is given with strings attached or it’s unwanted by the receiver, therein lies the difficulty.
Let’s meet John. He’s a software developer living in San Diego. John receives a large working farm in Idaho from his father as a gift. John has no desire to run a farm, never liked farms, and has never even been to Idaho to visit said farm. John is probably not the best candidate for this “gift.” As well, even if the value of the farm is great, he still needs to alter his life completely to take care of it, unlike the gold coin in the previous scenario. Now, if it was left to him by a death in the family, that’s totally different because it was left to him by law, not given by choice. Ultimately, the gift-giver should have been more considerate and realized that their “gift” was nothing more than a burden for John.
Tip #3 – Food for Thought
How many times has someone brought a food item to your house or to work that was clearly a regift? This has happened to me – and continues to happen – a lot. At work, people are always bringing partially eaten cake, opened boxes of cookies, and other leftovers so their coworkers can enjoy. And as a huge sweets lover, I think this is great! However, like improperly regifting that surfboard to your cousin who lives in Arizona, regifting food can also be a sign of laziness rather than thoughtfulness.
Regifting food is only proper when there is actually food to eat! What? Too easy? What I mean is that if you have a half-eaten cake from your birthday a party, you can surely bring it in to work the next day, but not as is. You need to clean it up, cut off the already-eaten parts, and make it look presentable. I’m not saying you need to re-ice the whole thing, but there should be no clear evidence of someone else’s fingerprints on it. As well, bringing in an item of food for the office that is 85% eaten isn’t thoughtful, it’s gross. Say you made the world’s best salsa and wanted to bring half of it for your coworkers to try and marvel at your salsa skills. Great, go ahead! But bring in something else to complement it like chips, another dip, or even extra toppings.
When it comes to regifting, people can tell when you are being cheap or lazy, so unless you want to be known as the scrooge, takes these 3 tips to heart.
Do you have a great story about regifting?
Post all the details in the comment section below. As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at email@example.com. Check out my Modern Manners Guy Facebook page, follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT. And of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a polite life.