Paying it Forward: The Etiquette on Regifting

April 14, 2014    |    By +
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For a show about “nothing,” Seinfeld certainly has had a lasting effect on our culture. The sit-com popularized innumerable terms, perhaps none more famous than the word “regifting,” as heard in “The Label Maker” episode (which first aired in 1995 but can often be seen in repeats). The concept is simple: you receive a gift that is—well, not your favorite, or not your taste, so you choose to give it to another recipient in lieu of purchasing a gift for them. In the 1990s, it might have been seen as frugal, or even lazy, but with an increased interest today in upcycling, the idea is gaining acceptance. Here are a few practical pointers to keep in mind before you pass along that unwanted item.

1. Choose the right person. The first rule of thumb is, naturally, not to give the gift to the person who first gave it to you. But beyond that, it should be something you might have purchased for them anyway and suits their taste. If you’re passing along something just to save money but it really isn’t a good fit for them, consider giving your friend a simple card instead, complete with a heartfelt note inside.

2. Check the packaging. It’s safe to assume you don’t want the recipient to know you’re regifting something to her, so make sure all price tags are removed and the packaging is intact. If it’s a book, check the inside front pages to make sure there’s no inscription, and flip through the pages to ensure there’s no personal note tucked inside.

3. Make it pretty (also known as “rewrap the gift.”). My sweet grandmother used to take for-EVER to unwrap a gift, bless her. She would turn it in her hands slowly, admiring the paper, and open it ever-so-gently so she could re-use the paper at a later time, all the while saying, “It’s almost too pretty to open!” A gift wrapped that carefully is a work of art, and honestly is a gift in itself. Even a regifted gift is a token of love or friendship, so take time to present your gift well.

4. When in doubt, wait for the right day. An office party, where a reported 40 percent of items exchanged are regifted, is a good place to recycle a gift. If you want more tips, pick up a copy of The Art of Regifting: Your ABC’s Guide to Regifting, the Do’s And Don’ts, Urban Legends And Folk Lore by Barbara Bitela. The author promises to “turn your act of regifting into more fun than receiving.”

Jennifer Glatt is a content strategist, copywriter and travel writer based in Wilmington, North Carolina, but will happily. She’s also a wife and mom, book club aficionado (her club reads wine labels), serial cross-country mover and lover of good pens. She has never opted to open a gift “on time” if she could open it early without being fussed at.

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Kathryn D.W.
Kathryn Drury Wagner is the senior manager of content at She was formerly the executive editor at Honolulu Magazine, and is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Shopping on Oahu. Her career has included staff positions at Country Living Gardener and Power & Motoryacht. Her latest book is "Hawaii's Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!"

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