Aftermath: Unwanted Gifts

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit 12-28-15)

On December 26th, the world awakens to an obvious fact, but one that sometimes gets lost in chaos leading up to Christmas Day – Holiday shopping doesn’t end with Christmas Day.  Families all across America awake the day after Christmas to the reality that several received items are unneeded, unwanted or just plain bizarre.

It’s difficult to place blame over this circumstance.  Gift giving is a very difficult enterprise, and honestly, some folks don’t make it any easier.  Everyone has that person in his or her family that says, “Oh, I have everything I need.  Whatever you get me will be fine.”  So we give it our best shot.  And while we all act with the most sincere of intentions, unfortunately many of us end up asking the question, “Do I really need a Star Wars themed bread maker with a custom BB-8 butter softener?”

Several options exist to resolve the fate of unwanted gifts.  The first and best solution is to simply exchange the gift.  Even if it’s not the present given, every giver wants to make sure the receiver gets something they want.  Of course, this option isn’t always available.  Sometimes, the gift receipt isn’t available, or the gift is a specialty item that can’t be returned.  Other options must be explored.

While somewhat controversial, IMHO the next best option is the re-gift.  Many folks don’t find this option to be appropriate.  A re-gift shows disrespect to the giver, and indeed, not all gifts qualify and a certain re-gifting etiquette must be followed.  (More on this below.)  After all the presents are exchanged, however, the re-gift is no different than “return for cash, then re-buy.”  But again, for etiquette sake, the re-gift has some hard and fast rules in order to executed properly.

First of all, not all gifts qualify as a re-gift.  Personal items such as underwear are not an appropriate re-gift.  Items given for a sentimental reason such a keepsake shouldn’t be re-gifted; this would show disrespect to the giver.  Also, expensive items are off-limits to re-gifting.  Remember the old saying, “Time is money?”  How would you feel if you worked weeks to buy someone a gift, only to see it passed along down the line.  No, a person’s time should be well respected.

By contrast, gift cards have been rated on a number of technology websites as the perfect re-gift.  As a matter of fact, websites that specialize in gift cards swapping have become increasingly popular, for example, Raise.com or Cardpool.com.  In addition to the re-gift, gift cards may be consolidated in the various digital wallet services or donated to charity.  When it comes to flexibility, gift cards are as good as cash.

Another gift that is hugely popular (and acceptable) for re-gifting is White Elephant gifts.  As White Elephant gifts are typically chosen for entertainment value, these gifts have a low probably for practical use.  That said, a good White Elephant gift is an item of value and will be treasured.  Not necessarily as an heirloom, but as the best contribution to next year’s party.

Once all the unwanted gifts are identified, how does one execute the re-gift?  Is it as simple as re-wrapping and delivering?  Sometimes, yes…but a few rules must be observed.  First of all, appearances are very important.  The re-gift must not be opened or damaged.  In addition, any notes or personalization from the original must be completely removed.  The re-gift must not possess any signs that betray its unoriginality.  Finally, and this may be the most important rule, never re-gift to the same circle of family or friends.  People sometimes talk more about what they give than what they receive.  A re-gift to the same circle will almost certainly be identified.

As we sort through our gifts this season, we should also keep in mind that we should all be so blessed to have received unwanted gifts.  Just as holiday shopping doesn’t stop with Christmas, neither should the spirit of holiday giving.  As we start the New Year, let us all resolve together to help others grow and prosper.  A helping hand is always a suitable re-gift.

@gregory_a_baker

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