The Gift That Keeps Being Given

Once again, 'tis the season for gift giving or in some cases the season for giving a gift again. Apparently, regifting is becoming more and more mainstream. This year, there's even a new web site devoted to the practice. Is regifting tacky or just a pleasant form of recycling? The debate is on at The consensus seems to be that as long as you're careful, it's an acceptable practice.

The site also features a contest where people can send in their best regifting stories. My favorite was the one about the aunt and uncle who were complaining to their niece about the ugly reindeer hand towels they had received the previous Christmas. Unfortunately, the aunt and uncle forgot that they had passed on these same reindeer hand towels to their niece just a few weeks before. Ooops.

Since the term "regifting" was first used on an episode of "Seinfeld," the grand prize in the contest is a "Seinfeld" DVD, presumably an unopened one, but you never know. All winners also receive an autographed copy of "The Art of Regifting" by Barbara Bitela. See, regifting is an art form. You're neither lazy nor cheap. You're an artist.

Of course, there are many rules to follow when recycling a gift. The most important rule is not to give the gift back to the same person. If you are a chronic regifter, this is how you will eventually be caught. MP Dunleavey of MSN Money suggests avoiding this by keeping a notebook of exactly who gave you what, but frankly that seems like a lot of work. At that point, you might as well just go out and buy a new gift for the person.

Experts agree that there are certain items that should never be regifted. Because they are such an obvious gift to recycle, candles are considered a no-no, especially if they are used. You wouldn't think "especially if they are used" would need to be said, but it does. Some people have even been known to give partially used gift cards. There's nothing that shows quite how much you care about someone than an $8.53 gift card.

Having said that, many items are perfectly acceptable to regift. These include:

  • "Seinfeld" DVDs
  • Autographed copies of "The Art of Regifting" by Barbara Bitela
  • Money
  • Online music (It's not piracy, it's regifting.)

I'm told that wine is a good option too, though it didn't work so well for me the one time I tried to regift it. In retrospect, I don't think I did a good job of selling the present, "Well, I was in the liquor store and noticed this, um, white wine, and just thought of you." Although I know nothing about wine, this was a completely true statement. I was in the liquor store (buying beer) when I noticed a bottle of wine and did instantly think of my friend: ("Hey, I could pawn off that bottle of wine I have at home on my friend for her birthday, and she wouldn't know the difference.") You know, sometimes it really is the thought that counts.

To avoid awkward moments, it's probably best only to regift when you don't have to do it in person. Otherwise, you end up sounding entirely too excited about whatever stupid thing you've decided to pass along. You might also face some difficult questions.

"Oh, how interesting! Where did you get it?"

"How did you think to choose such a dynamic color?"

"Hey, look there's another card in here. That's funny, isn't it?"

Well, at any rate, regifting is certainly a growing trend. According to pollsters, a full 37% of the population has admitted --

"Hey, why's the card addressed to you?"

"What do you mean you sometimes mix up the to and from fields on a Christmas card? My name's not even on here."

Yes, indeed, there's nothing at all wrong with a little regifting as long as it's done in a tactful way. You're not being lazy. You're liberating an unwanted present so that it may live in a happy home. Or perhaps you're just liberating the space in your back hall, so that you can put something more interesting there. You're certainly liberating your bank account.

One thing's for sure. Ebenezer Scrooge never had to worry about stuff like this.


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