You know her because she is everywhere. She is your friend, colleague, relative, neighbor, boss, hairdresser, and doctor. Even you, dear reader, and that’s not a bad thing. We all do it. There are varying degrees of re-gifting, and while most of the time good intentions are the root of the decision to re-gift, obvious re-gifts can end up in hurt feelings. Which re-gifter are you? Come on, be honest. I know you’re sorting through the gifts, putting things away, rolling your eyes at the hideous scarf from Aunt Tillie.
It all starts with the guilt level of the original recipient. People who feel too guilty won’t re-gift things; they’ll just wear the weird gift in the giver’s presence just to be polite. That necklace your best friend’s mom brought back from Tibet, that clunky, chunky circle of brown rocks that hurts your neck? You know of which I write. Only you can decide your level of guilt. The experienced re-gifter, the one who makes the right calls all of the time, feels some guilt but recognizes when a re-gift is acceptable. There is a standard of decorum when re-gifting, an unwritten code, but some people are so clueless or cheap that somebody needs to write these rules and make it official.
FAIR GAME: Some gifts don’t fall under the sneaky re-gift category because they are your basic gifts for any occasion so long as you haven’t opened or used them. Don’t be the tacky gal to reseal that package of chocolate covered peanuts in hopes that your recipient won’t notice. Give away the following guilt-free:
· Coaster/cocktail napkin set
· Set of cheese knives, dip dish and mini spreader, and the like
· Hand soap and/or matching lotion
THE PROFESSIONAL: If you aren’t her, you want to be her, the one who gives the perfect gift for every occasion. Does she really buy all of those hostess gifts? No way. She just knows her recipients, and she can match things from her closet to the right person. It’s a knack we should all strive to possess. All it takes is consideration, tact, and the ability to give it up and head to the store if you don’t have the perfect item in your closet. Know when to say when, ladies. Don’t force a re-gift just because you’re in a pinch. If time is of the essence, grab a bottle of wine from your own cabinet. Wine is a classic unless the recipient has a drinking problem. And that’s not meant to be funny. You just need to be sure that the person will enjoy it. If you’re not sure, be a little late to the party, and buy a plant from the grocery store on your way. This is what the Professional does.
THE ROOKIE: This gal just doesn’t know any better. Some items beg to be re-gifted, such as the tabletop item I won’t specify from a friend’s wedding from the early nineties. It turns out that Ellen* re-gifted a set of glassware but neglected to notice the hand painted monogram on each piece. It was a subtle monogram, but Ellen should have had the common sense to keep a personalized item. And so birthed a new tradition among our group of friends unbeknownst to Ellen: each friend to get married received the exact glassware set with Ellen and Pete’s monogram, and the idea was that the last friend in the group to marry would be tasked with re-gifting the set back to Ellen on her wedding anniversary. After a few exchanges of the glassware, the bride of one of our friends thought this was a cruel and horrible thing to do, so the set supposedly got lost or broken during their move to a new house. So much for tradition.
THE HOARDER: One re-gifter I know is at the point of no return; she stashes items away in her basement and closets, saving ev-er-y-thing she receives for the perfect occasion for someone else. Although her innocent intent is to always have something for somebody, the result for the recipient is hardly ever personal or thoughtful because she crosses the line from acceptable items covered above into the realm of WOW-never-in-a-million-years-was-this-fill-in-the-blank-intended-for-me. This woman’s stash includes whatever she found on sale two years ago at Target, including peppermint bark. I am positive that I have been the recipient of items from that basement. Other women have had the same expression when they’ve opened things from her in my presence: feigned smile, lifted eyebrows, and an “Oh, really, I…what is it exactly? A set of men’s pleather dresser top accessories?”
THE OFFENDER: Intent comes into play here, too, but it's combined with unthinking. One woman I know blunders more often than not because she is a combination of the Hoarder and the Offender, and she is no Rookie. One time she dug up from her basement a resin figurine of golfing dogs prancing in a circle and then gave it to her son. He was puzzled… why would this group of dogs holding golf clubs be dancing in a circle? When was the last time you saw dogs a) holding golf clubs and b) dancing joyfully in a circle? His wife looked at this thing with furrowed brow, flipped it over, and saw in the gift giver’s handwriting, “7th wedding anniversary”. A big no-no. If you’ve written on something, you cannot re-gift it. If you’ve opened something, hung it on your wall, eaten part of it, used it and then re-packaged it, or received it in the presence of the person to whom you will re-gift, you simply cannot in good conscience redistribute that thing.
No matter which re-gifter you are, have some class when doing so. Be mindful of your recipient, and be careful never to re-gift something in the presence of the person who gave it to you. At the end of the day, it is the thought that counts, so be sure to consider if your recipient will actually enjoy whatever it is you plan to re-gift. Check all gifts for personalization, dog hair, or, God forbid, your own handwriting, before putting an item on the re-gift shelf. So slap a new card on that new candle, and carry on without shame to the next party!