Ask an Etiquette Expert: How to Regift Graciously

12/23/2016 09:49 am ET
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We are frequently asked about the modern manners and etiquette of regifting. The holidays have arrived and we are exchanging gifts with our families, friends, and coworkers. In today’s world, it is a symptom of having so much stuff, and not knowing what to do with it all. We  receive gifts we may not need, want, or like. It’s tempting to wonder whether we can regift the item without breaking social protocol, and if so, how to regift graciously and discreetly. According to an American Express 2015 Spending and Saving Tracker survey, 76 percent of Americans believe regifting is socially acceptable and would give ‘an average of five regifted presents’ throughout the year.

Etiquette is about consideration, respect, and honesty. Keep in mind that gift giving is about thoughtfulness and what the recipient will like and enjoy as a gift. So at its heart, regifting something chosen for you is not an honest practice.

If you decide to re-gift this holiday season for environmental purposes, here is a go-to guide for avoiding hurt feelings, repurposing gifts, and keeping your spending in check.

  • The recipient is key. Is the item something that the recipient would select for themselves? Can they use it immediately to fill a need? Is it a quality present that they would adore?
  • Original wrapping & instructions.  Be sure the gift is not a “hand-me-down.” Is the item is in its original packaging, fully sealed and taped exactly as it when purchased?
  • Personal names, notes, labels, and tags removed. Check the item for all signs of personalization before rewrapping for someone else.
  • Regift in different circles. Regift within different family, friend, business, and work circles to avoid hurt feelings. Think your aunt Marie won’t notice that your sister is receiving the exact same slippers that she gave you for your birthday at your family’s Christmas gathering? Think again. Every year stories regift sagas hit the internet!
  1. Consider donating the gift. Ask yourself why you want to give the item away. Is it simply too small? Are you allergic to an ingredient? If you don’t want the item because it’s impractical or tacky, would the recipient would really like it? Donate the gift to charity, provided that it is in good condition, and ask for a charitable donation tax receipt.

Regifting may be a practical option when done graciously, and with consideration for the recipient. Especially when watching our December spending! When considering regifting this holiday season, follow these guidelines to make sure that you do so with discretion and thoughtfulness.

Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, is the resident etiquette expert for CBS Austin’s We Are Austin, regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, The New York Times, and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, named to Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2015 and recipient of the British Airways International Trade, Investment & Expansion Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.

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