How To Deal With Unwanted Gifts, According To Etiquette Experts


‘Tis the season to give and receive. But what if what you receive isn’t your cup of tea? It always happens that one or two gifts you get from a loved just isn’t quite, well, you, or it might just not make sense for your lifestyle. Maybe you got a cardigan from an aunt that’s a bit too preppy for your taste or maybe you got bath salts from a coworker and don’t actually have a bathtub to enjoy them in. Either way, everyone naturally grapples with how to deal with these unwanted gifts this time of year — or if to deal with them at all.

For many, regifting is an obvious solution to the whole unwanted gift dilemma, but there’s a bit of debate out there over whether or not it’s a respectful thing to do. If you’re considering rewrapping and gifting those candlesticks from Grandma, you can rest easy: According to several etiquette experts, regifting totally passes in the manners department. “When given a gift that you know you have no use for, it is OK to think about giving it to someone who might want it,” says Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life, and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. “But you have to be careful about how to handle the regift, so you don’t insult your gift recipients while trying to spread holiday cheer.”

In fact, international etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore says regifting is an economical way to show your appreciation for someone. “I also think it’s a great way to recycle gifts,” says Whitmore. “It’s practical and nothing is wrong with it as long as you don’t run the risk of offending someone.”

Racking your brain over what to do with all those unwanted gifts you’ve been getting? Take a page from these top etiquette experts who tell you how to go about regifting so that it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Julia Sudnitskaya/Shutterstock

Catalogue Your Unwanted Gift

“The first thing to do is catalogue it and put it away to be regifted later on,” says Elaine Swann, nationally recognized etiquette expert and founder of The Swann School of Protocol. “Get a nice small notepad and write down the gift itself, who gave it to you, and the date you received it.”

Keeping tabs on your unwanted gifts will help you create a regifting library that works twofold. It’s first a log you can scan to match your gifts with a new recipient who will love and appreciate it. Second, it will help you avoid regifting to the person who gave it to you or is within the same social circle. “Go for it, but make certain you aren’t giving a gift to someone who may be socializing in the same circle of friends,” says Gottsman.

Don’t Regift Blindly

“The other thing to avoid is regifting blindly and not putting thought into it,” says Swann. “Look at the gift and think hard about who will appreciate it. Approach it as an original shopper.”

Remove All The Evidence

Another thing to do almost immediately is wipe your gift clean of anything that indicates it was meant for you in the first place. “I would recommend remove the evidence,” says Whitmore. “Inspect it and take out any cards tucked away inside. Make sure all the seals are still in tact and that it looks in good condition and just as you received.”

This may seem like an obvious tip, but you’d be surprised how many people regift haphazardly. “I received a gift one time — it was hostess gift,” says Whitmore. “I reached inside the bag and saw a beautiful candle with a card attached … addressed to my friend! That’s proof right there that people don’t inspect gifts.”

Ammily CP/Shutterstock

Be Aware Of Expiration Dates

“If it’s something that you can put away, like a pretty frame that is a duplicate, wait for the right moment to give the gift, such as a birthday or anniversary, rather than during the same holiday season,” advises Gottsman. “But if it is a food item, time is of the essence. Do give the gift in the original package. Attempting a bait and switch by changing department store labels or bags, leading the receiver to think it came from a different source, is a shifty move. They may try and return the item, only to find it was not purchased at that particular store.”

Don’t Regift An Heirloom

Unfortunately there are some limits to the regifting territory and family treasures or heirlooms are simply not included. “While you may not appreciate the set of tea cups your grandmother cherishes, accept the gift graciously and pull them out the next time she comes to visit,” says Gottsman. “It’s the gift of courtesy you are giving back in return by remembering the thought behind her gesture.”

Consider Donating To Charity

If you’re seeking complete regifting anonymity, donating might be the way to go. “Instead of risking getting caught giving away something you received from a friend or family member, donate unwanted gifts to a charity where someone will be able to use it,” says Gottsman. “This is where your gifts with purchase and multiple samples of travel-size toiletries can be put to good use.”