Want to Regift Something? Etiquette Experts Say to Follow These Rules

Andra Chantim, Arricca Elin SanSone

Even if you don’t want to admit it, you’ve probably regifted a present at some point. But is it okay to regift — or is regifting just plain rude?

As with many things in life, the truth is a little complicated. “The answer is yes and no,” says Lizzie Post, co-author of Emily Post’s Etiquette, The Centennial Edition. “Done badly, regifting can ruin relationships and cause problems within families. But when done well, it’s a great way to reuse, recycle and repurpose gifts, while giving something to people who will use and appreciate it.”

Other etiquette experts agree that regifting is just fine. “Regifting is perfectly acceptable, especially with the rising popularity of secondhand and sustainable goods,” says Lisa Gache, founder of Beverly Hills Manners. “Why toss something that may wind up in a landfill when that same item may be truly cherished by someone?”

Jodi RR Smith, founder of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, is on the same page. “Yes, you can regift, but as with all the other areas of etiquette, there are guidelines that must be followed if you want to do it properly,” she says.

Now that you’ve been given the green light, let’s look at the rules you should follow to make sure your regift is appreciated, loved and used — and that you don’t inadvertently hurt feelings or insult your recipient (or the original giver!).

Before we get started, here’s one more bit of advice about regifting: It’s totally fine not to regift items if it makes you uncomfortable, says Post. It’s really about personal preference.

With that, read on for our experts’ regifting rules.

Regift only if the item is in its original packaging with all of its parts.

      If the box is rumpled, or it’s missing a remote or manual, don’t do it, says Post. Ditto for missing tags on garments. It doesn’t send a very nice message to gift something that doesn’t look like it’s new and chosen by you.

      Don’t regift a handmade gift.

          That purple and green sweater your friend knitted for you? Or the quilted tea cozy you’ll never use? It’s a risky proposition to give a handcrafted item to someone else, even if it’s not to your taste. “Anything someone made for you should not be given away,” says Post. “Because it was something special a person created for you, the situation is fraught with the possibility that you will hurt the giver, especially if they somehow learn you gave it to someone else.”

          Avoid regifting within the same circle.

            Do not regift to someone who knows or interacts with the original gift giver. Keep in mind that some of your social circles can overlap. “The more unusual the item, the more distance should be put between the giver and re-giftee,” says Smith. Being extra careful will reduce the risk of hurt feelings.

            Only regift if the item is new.

              “The item should be brand-new,” says Smith. Post agrees and emphasizes that an item should not be given away even if it was only worn once. Just don’t do it!

              Make sure there are no monograms or hidden notes.

                Gache recommends looking out for monograms or hidden messages. Personalized presents are popular, and the personalization can be done in subtle ways. Double-check that the original gift giver didn’t have your initials engraved in an inconspicuous area, or that there isn’t a heartfelt note tucked in some nook or cranny.

                Regift only if you know the recipient would like it.

                  All of our experts agree: The practice of regifting shouldn’t be considered an easy way to rid yourself of a “bad” gift. “When regifting an item, it must be something that you would have purchased for the individual had you gone to the store. To merely pass along an item you cannot stand is inappropriate,” Smith says.

                  Elevate the presentation.

                    Put effort into rewrapping the gift, especially because you didn’t have to put in as much time or effort to purchase it. Use pretty wrapping paper and a new bow to make it just as special as if you had chosen it specifically for your recipient, says Post.

                    Psst — here’s gift-wrapping inspiration and helpful tools:

                    Be upfront with the people close to you.

                      “There’s a way to regift that’s open and honest,” says Post. For example, if you give a piece of vintage jewelry to a family member, say something like, “I’m giving you this from my own collection, because I think it’s something you’d really like, and it feels good to share something with a family history with you.”

                      Tread carefully if questioned about a regift’s origins.

                        Of course, you don’t have to share where something came from, even if your recipient asks. However, if the gift recipient does ask where you bought it, Smith says: “It’s your choice how honest you are with this person. If your sister inquires, you may opt to fess up.” In the end, do what makes you feel most comfortable.

                        Jot down who gave you something if you know you plan to regift it later.

                          If you plan to hang onto something that you know you’re not going to use, it’s not a bad idea to note who gave it to you originally, says Post. It’s easy to forget who gave you something, and it would be hurtful to gift it to the original giver months down the road.

                          lambada//Getty Images

                          Avoid regifting something you got for free.

                            If it’s something inexpensive that you got for free (cheap earbuds, an item with a logo on it, a ball cap), it’s better not to wrap it up and pass it off as something you purchased. That just comes off as thoughtless and cheap.

                            Don’t regift food past its prime.

                              Consumables — such as candy — should be fresh, says Post. Certain food can go stale quickly, so it’s better not to hang onto these items for regifting purposes.

                              Donate an item you don’t want if you really can’t think of anyone who would love it.

                                Ask yourself: Who would be excited to own this? For example, give a jasmine diffuser to your sister-in-law who loves the scent, or a charcuterie board set to your friend who entertains on the regular. But if you really can’t think of anyone you know, then it’s time to donate the item, says Post. Chances are, someone out there — just not someone you know — will love it.

                                If you get caught, confess!

                                  If your recipient confronts you because they know you regifted something, it’s time to come clean, says Post. Say something like, “I’m so sorry. I wanted to get you something special, and I got busy and didn’t want to not have anything for you.” The best thing you can do in this circumstance is listen, validate what they’re saying (“I can see why you’d feel hurt.”) and apologize.

                                  If you’re on the receiving end of a regift, graciously accept.

                                    If you unwrap a gift from a friend and recognize it as something she got from someone else the year before, be gracious. “Even if it’s not your cup of tea, smile and say ‘thank you,'” says Gache. Maybe she was sure that you would love it, or she felt you’d get more use out of the gift than she would have. It’s also possible that she went out and bought the same item, and it’s not a regift situation. Always assume that the gift giver has the best intentions—after all, it really is the thought that counts.

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