Rules for 
regifting: Give good gifts, and don’t get caught!

White gift box wrapped with vibrant red bow and ribbon isolated on white


Reporter’s note: I HATE the word “gift” as a verb and use it only under EXTREME DURESS. When did this happen? When did we start saying “I gifted him the turkey fryer” instead of “I gave it to him”? Is it really so important to have the distinction between a present being given versus, say, a ride to the mall?

The act of giving is more about the receiver than the giver, or should be, and I think “gifting” makes the reverse true. “Look at me!” gifting says. “I gave whomever a present and I WANT RECOGNITION FOR DOING IT.”

In summary, “gifting” gifts me a headache and makes me want to gift whoever started it a fat lip.

Regifting*, it would seem, is a bit like Fight Club: The first rule of regifting is you don’t talk about regifting.

Even though it makes sense. Even though almost everyone does it.

The stakes are high and the threat of getting caught is very real, but ... recycling! And ... and ... passing along something that you personally don’t love but the receiver of the regift might! Hopefully!

Plus, not gonna lie, this is a pricey time of year. If you can pass along something without having to spend money, that’s a lucky thing, right?

It’s just, OK, the actual practice of regifting could be perceived as a little tacky. Especially if you get caught: “Hey, didn’t I give you that very same snake-in-a-can last year?”

This is not a scene that will enhance the family gift exchange. However, American Express’ Dec. 2014 Spending and Saving Tracker found that of the 1,507 adults polled online, 76 percent found regifting socially acceptable, up from 73 percent in 2013. Of those surveyed, the regifting average was four presents per holiday season, with kitchenware, sweaters and electronics being the most commonly regifted items.

The trick, then, is not to get caught, which can be avoided with a few simple steps:

First of all, be gracious receiving the gift initially.

The etiquette experts at the Emily Post Institute ( advise, “Even if the present is the last thing you wanted, thank the giver for his thoughtfulness, drawing on the actor in you to mask any disappointment. Be pleasant but noncommittal: ‘It’s so nice of you to think of me!’ or ‘What a creative choice!’”

Don’t make a habit of regifting.

It should be done very sparingly, advise the Emily Post experts, and only if the gift is something you’re certain the receiver would want to have. And no convoluted justifying. If you don’t want the handlebar mustache corkscrew, think long and hard about whether your intended gift-ee wants it, either.


The gift should be new, or as good as.

Only regift items that are in pristine condition with their original packaging, instructions and seals, advises Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach ( in Florida. Be critical: If there’s any wear and tear, even slight, on the item or its packaging, don’t regift it.


Don’t regift within the same social circle.

This is the quickest way to lose a friend and gain an enemy, says etiquette expert Elaine Swann (, because the chances of getting caught are high. It’s also wise to let some time elapse between receiving the gift and regifting it.


Wrap that gift like you mean it.

After having removed all gift tags or anything else that could identify the gift as having been previously given to you, do a good job rewrapping the gift, Swann advises. That can go a long way toward identifying the gift as something worth having rather than an afterthought.


Don’t regift handmade or personalized items.

Not only does it take the regift dangerously close to thoughtlessness and even cruelty — because the item clearly was motivated by careful consideration — but you’d have to lie like Pinocchio: “Did you make this?” “Um, yes?” For shame if that happens.


Avoid regifting within your immediate family.

This will only lead to disaster and possibly the silent treatment.


Don’t regift sentimental items.

Even if it wasn’t handmade, sometimes a gift is obviously something the giver feels strongly that you will love, that speaks to a shared history or memory. Regifting such items is just mean.


Own up to it if you get caught.

Hopefully you won’t, but you’ll look like a jerk if you lie or spin some convoluted story.


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