The Etiquette of Regifting

Does the gift you received have the original box, wrapping, or labels? If not, you may be the victim of thoughtless laziness. Modern Manners Guy explains how to regift properly.

Richie Frieman,
June 26, 2012

The Etiquette of Regifting

First, let me say that I'm not against regifting—when done properly, that is. The old saying “One person’s trash is another’s treasure” couldn’t be more true. I’ve received several great gifts this way. And in many cases, the gift-giver said up front, “I got this as a gift, but really can't use it. I know you’ll like it.” And I did! It's not like the gift was totally inappropriate, like a Samurai sword. I'm a 33-year-old father of two who writes etiquette articles—what am I going to do with a Samurai sword?

Here’s an example of proper regifting: A colleague gave my mom a bracelet. It looked way too masculine and bulky on her, but it fit me perfectly. It was even by my favorite designer. In this case, I was happy to take it off her hands. However, she did admit that it was a regift and didn’t try to pass it off as an original. Plus, it wasn't a gift for a major milestone like a wedding or a graduation, which really requires purchasing something special and from the heart.

But there are times when a regift goes wrong. For example: I received a wedding gift that came in a nondescript box, with no tag, no gift receipt, and no label. Did I mention this was a wedding gift!?!? How unbelievably tacky! My wife and I were floored. If someone doesn't give you a receipt with the gift, then they’re probably thinking one of two things:

A) “This gift is so awesome, they won't even think of returning it!”
B) “I hope they don't ask for a receipt for this piece of crap I won at the office Christmas party.”

So, how do you spot a regift?  You have to do your homework. Does it have the original box, wrapping, or labels? If not, guess what—you've been regifted. Even an original painting or sculpture from an artist comes with some form of authenticity.

Secondly, is it outdated? Say you get a tech toy from somebody. A simple Google search can show you the version it is. If there is a newer one on the market, chances are you’ve been regifted. So instead of buying something new and current, they gave you something that was sitting in their basement unused and unwanted...until it was time to give it you. Bad form!

So how to handle a bad regift? Very simply. Just ask a few questions that will be sure to cause the offending person fall to your feet guilt-ridden and in tears: 

  1. “I really liked your gift, and am thinking about getting one for a friend. Where did you get it?”– If they can't think of the place right away, you've been regifted.

  2. “Thanks for the gift, but we actually just bought one the other day. I didn't see a gift receipt, do you happen to have one?” – Busted!

  3. “There’s a bit of damage on this. Do you know if the store takes returns?” – Gotcha!

Regifting can be a great way to spread the love. Be honest with a regift or be prepared for some resentment down the line. Regift with class, not because you’re lazy.

Related Content:

Gift Giving Etiquette

How to Handle Receiving a Gift You Don't Like

Is "Gifting" a Word?

How to Protect a Gift

Teaching Your Kids Not to Be Greedy

Make Your Own Registry for Gift Giving

Gifts photo from Shutterstock