When it comes to gift giving this holiday season, a practice that was once a faux-pas now appears to be quite fashionable.
That would be re-gifting, the, some would say, thrifty and practical art of giving a gift to someone that was originally given to you.
Whether it’s because of a shrunken household budget, increased demands on time or simply a desire to get rid of clutter, a majority of Americans now say they’ll be OK with unwrapping a re-gift this holiday season.
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A survey this month by credit card company American Express found that 79 percent of consumers deem re-gifting socially acceptable during the holidays, compared to only 21 percent who say the practice is “never” acceptable.
After being hidden in the shadows by its guilty culprits for fear of mockery, re-gifting was thrust into the public spotlight in the mid-1990s by an episode of the hit sitcom “Seinfeld,” in which Jerry re-gifts a label maker.
Now that the practice is out there and no longer taboo, Americans can’t get enough, even the people who can most afford to buy brand new gifts.
Those who make the most money are the most likely to re-gift, a new survey released by CouponCabin.com has found.
Nearly half (49 percent) of U.S. adults with a total household income of more than $75,000 said they’re guilty of re-gifting, while just 33 percent of those with a household income of less than $35,000 said the same.
If money is no object, why re-gift?
More than one-third of re-gifters confessed to giving a rejected gift because they just didn’t like it, while 35 percent said they gave the gift away because they already owned one themselves.
The same survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, also asked consumers about the most awkward and obvious re-gift they’ve ever received.
Among the not-so-personal items? A gift card with the name of the gift giver in the “to” section, a bracelet with someone else’s name on it, a woman’s sweater, gifted to a man, nose hair clippers, a set of jumper cables and an answering machine for a landline phone, gifted to a person without a landline phone.
Therein lies the dangers of re-gifting, say experts, the chance you’ll either slip and reveal your true re-gifter self, or end up on the other side, receiving yet another gift you don’t want.
So, as the practice grows, how can you avoid the re-gifting traps?
The experts at Regiftable.com, a website created in 2006 to celebrate its namesake practice, recommends asking yourself these questions before you wrap that re-gift:
Is the gift re-giftable? Never re-gift handmade or one-of-a-kind items. Signed books and monogrammed items are off-limits. Do you have to be told not to re-gift free promotional items? Some gifts that are good candidates for re-gifting include good (unopened!) bottles of wine, new household items and inexpensive jewelry.
How is the condition? Only new, unopened gifts in good condition should be considered for re-gifting. Never give partially used gift cards. Don’t give items that you have owned for a long time. A general rule of thumb: if you have to dust it off, it is not re-giftable.
Is this going to work? Successful re-gifters use common sense. If you are going to re-gift, be sure you know who gave you the item, so you don’t return something to the original giver. Only re-gift items to people who are not likely to see the original giver.
Do you have good intentions? Don’t just give a gift to give a gift. Be sure that the recipient will appreciate the item. Remember, if you feel that an item is undesirable, the recipient probably will too. If you are re-gifting simply because you ran out of time, gift cards are simple to obtain and always well received.
How does it look? When it comes to gift-giving, go for show! While gift bags in good condition can be reused, wrapping paper is a one-time thing. Always spring for a new card or gift tag.
Can you handle it? If you don’t plan to announce the gift as a re-gift, ask yourself if you can keep the secret. Never feel guilty about re-gifting once you’ve done it.
Have you considered your options? An unwanted gift could be a welcome donation to a charitable organization. It is also an option to suck it up and keep an unwanted gift. After all, it was a gift.