"Let's say your friend is a huge friend of The Munstes, but she's never owned it and I give you the complete DVD--and you don't like it," he continued. "You could, out of a fear of hurting my feelings, just hang onto it. But the point of giving a gift is to please the recipient. So what the heck does it matter to her if you buy it or got it another way? What matters to her is that she got a complete Munsters set. By the same token, you don't have to tell me you've given it away."
And, he added, if someone gives you an unwelcome gift but expects to see you using it, the "ethical obligations to avoid causing harm and to respect others requires you to bite the bullet and go along with it," he said.
Indeed, regifting is an art that must be practiced delicately. Jewelry designer Jodi Newbern, the author of Regifting Revival!: A Guide to Reusing Gifts Graciously, recommends "tasteful regifting." That unopened box of toothpicks? Don't just give it to your brother-in-law because it's still wrapped and you know he likes to clean his teeth after a meal; instead, try to give something a little more nuanced (gold plated toothpicks, perhaps?).
Jodi R. R. Smith, who runs Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, in Marblehead, Mass., has a series of tips for successful regifiting. Among them:
Present it well: "Just as a gourmet meal would lose its appeal served in a Styrofoam box, care and consideration should be given to the wrapping, ribbon and bows on the re-gifted gift," she said. "Also, take the time to be sure any original cards have been completely removed."
Separate circles: Make sure the person who gave you the gift does not know and/or interact with the person to whom you are giving the gift. "The more unusual the item, the more the distance should be between the giver and the re-giftee," she said.
Be honest--sometimes: In certain instances, it's perfectly fine to tell people the item is a re-gift, especially if it's a family heirloom, jewel or expensive piece of china. "Your uncle's old car as a 16th birthday present is really quite thoughtful," she said.
Above all, make sure the item has never been worn, used, washed, played with, or drunk, as Twerksy learned when she gave her superintendent a bottle of brandy that was --oops!--half empty.
"It was this blue-glass bottle and had a fancy label and looked to me like it was sealed tight," she recalled with a laugh. "He said, 'In the future you might want to think about getting me a bottle that hasn't been opened.' I thought he was joking. He wasn't."
Not surprisingly, she was mortified--and ended up blaming the liquor store for selling her a used bottle. She has never regifted alcohol again.