It’s that time of the year when a plethora of well-intentioned gifts end up with recipients who don’t appreciate them. Almost everyone has received a gift they deemed useless, weird, ugly or duplicated. Statistics say that about a third of American adults have regifted something and disposing of unwanted presents in a socially approved manner is an extremely common problem.
No matter how hard we try to find the “perfect” gift for a friend, relative or business associate at Christmas or any time of the year, few people will be 100% successful. Perhaps the time has come for Americans to admit that regifting is acceptable and serves a purpose.
Just last week the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) addressed this issue in “The Case for Regifting” by Gabrielle Adams and Michael Norton. Words such as “lazy,” “thoughtless” and “disrespectful” are often attached to regifting, and one “Seinfeld” episode was devoted to this topic.
According to the WSJ report, most gift givers indicated that they would much rather have their unwanted presents given away than thrown in the trash or hidden for a generation. More people would agree to regift if they didn’t think others would view them negatively.
Sometimes, regifting makes good sense. More than a half-century ago, Maury and I received six brand new ice-buckets for wedding gifts; one could be returned to a store. We kept two; one is still with us. My memory is a bit hazy, but it’s likely the other three were regifted.
Regifting requires some thought and common sense. Match recipients’ interests and style to items you choose to give away. Do not give a gift you received to someone related to or in close contact with the original gift-giver. And while it’s obvious, “regifters” still must remember to check for their original tell-tale gift card and actually use a new gift card. Hand-made items and food should not be regifted.
Many gifts come with gift return receipts, and most stores are often willing to exchange or give credit for them. Yet, we still worry that the gift-giver expects to see us wear, use or somehow enjoy their gift and we hold the items deep in a closet or drawer thinking that we’ll pull them out when the gift-giver visits. Occasionally this happens, but eventually unloved gifts disappear.
If the gift can’t be returned to a store or if it turns out to be a “regifted gift,” then alternative choices include donations to Goodwill, Habitat’s ReStore, a city mission, the Salvation Army or other organizations that will find someone appreciative of potential closet dust collectors.
Some people feel that giving store gift cards is the perfect way to solve the problem of the difficult-to-buy-for person. If you know the store or restaurant that the recipient prefers, this may work. Yet, Consumer Reports noted that about $1 billion in gift cards went unused in 2015.
Hopefully, most people, and especially children, received Christmas and Hanukkah gifts that made them happy. For those who received presents they will never use and cannot return, then regifting or donating them are better than relegating them to a hidden space. Traditions change slowly, but perhaps it is now time for Americans to admit to and accept regifting.