Rethinking the Regift

The air is growing colder and the days are growing shorter. Once again, the gift giving season is upon us. It is a time for us to give gifts to, and receive gifts from, our friends and family. A time for us to show we care.

As I sat down to write this month's article, I looked around my office for a bit of inspiration. My eyes fell on one of my favorite items. Looking at it always makes me smile. My desk-top business card holder is an elegant fork that has been remodeled to hold business cards. Its handle points straight up; two tines are bent forward and twirled up to hold the cards. The other two tines are bent back to create the base. Knowing that Gracious Dining is one of my most requested programs, my mentor gave this business card holder to me as a very meaningful and very thoughtful gift.

And actually, I happen to know it is a re-gifted gift. That's right, it was a re-gift.

Sshhh, stop yelling, I can't hear you through the computer. Yes, it is perfectly acceptable to re-gift. But as with all the other areas of etiquette, there are guidelines (and a very specific exception) that must be followed to properly re-gift.

Brand New & Never Used ~ The item you are giving should be brand new and never used; never worn, never washed, never played with -- even for five minutes. It should have the original packaging and tags. It should be a recent acquisition so that should the recipient return it to the store, the recipient will not be told the particular style of the item has not been carried for at least three years.

Perfect Presentation ~ 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. Also, take the time to be sure any original cards have been completely removed!

Separate Circles ~ As you are making your gift lists, be sure to check them twice. When re-gifting you want to insure that 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.

Really Truly ~ Re-gifting is not purely to rid yourself of some ill-gotten gift. When re-gifting an item, it must be something that you would have purchased for the individual had you gone to the store. To merely pass along an item you can not stand is inappropriate. However, if you are allergic to perfume, but know your neighbor loves this fragrance, or if you are on a diet, but your co-worker adores gourmet chocolate, then these types of re-gifting are perfectly acceptable.

Honesty Policy ~ For certain items, it is proper to announce the gift is a re-gift. His grandmother's diamond in your engagement ring adds meaning to the gift. Your mother's china makes the gift a family heirloom. Your uncle's old car as a 16th birthday present is really quite thoughtful. Or, as was the case with my mentor, I had commented upon the business card holder once when in her office. Years later, when she was clearing out her office to make space for a new initiative, instead of throwing the fork away, she saved it for me. She put the fork in a box and wrapped it in beautiful paper. In the card for the gift, she wrote about our friendship and that she knew I adored the fork and that it would mean so much to her to know it had found a happy home in my office.

As you and your wallet brace for this year's gift giving season, it is my hope that illuminating this area of etiquette will help ease your budget and expand your options.

Wishing you all a happy and stress-free holiday season.