Column: Why gift when you can regift?

If someone gives you a handbag you don’t particularly like, what should you do with it? If youGift
have a gift receipt or know which store it came from, you might be able to return it. But if you don’t, you have three options: (1) Donate it to a thrift store or charity; (2) Regift it to a friend or relative; or (3) Keep it in a closet and take it out whenever you need to swat a fly.

Thankfully, no one gives me handbags, but I have received a few gifts I didn’t like. And though I hate to admit it, I’ve regifted a couple of them fairly successfully. I say "fairly," because my California friend wasn’t too crazy about the long underwear. But at least his wife seemed to appreciate the mustache trimmer.

You may think that regifting is tacky and improper, that it should be done only under extreme circumstances, such as when your pantry is overflowing with fruitcake and there just aren’t enough dogs around. But regifting has become more common these days, partly because it solves two problems at once. It allows you to get rid of the unneeded gift while also saving you the trouble of going to the store and searching for a gift for a friend who doesn’t really need anything and ought to be satisfied with the Anna Kournikova calendar, so what if he’s gay. (Hey, I’m straight and I have a picture of Clay Aiken on my wall. No, wait, it’s Meg Ryan.)

Regifting is far more common than you think. In fact, if you happen to receive one of those Chia Pets as a gift, keep in mind that it’s probably been in circulation since 1979, probably been tossed out of more homes than an Amway rep.

Some gifts have traveled across the world and back. You give a white hat to Aunt Rani, who doesn’t care for it and gives it to her cousin Shilpa, who gives it to her friend Anita, who takes it to India and gives it to her grandma, Archana, who gives it to her maid, Priya, who gives it to her mother, Raji, who glues a few shells on it and sells it for 2,000 rupees to an American tourist, who returns to New York and gives it to her mother, who is rather thrilled to have a replica of the Taj Mahal.

As you can see, regifting may result in some happiness down the
line, even if it does cause a lot of grief along the way. But before you
regift, you need to follow a number of rules. Here are just a few:

1. Do not give a gift to the same person who gave it to you. If
you’re not sure who gave you a certain gift, then don’t give it anyone
you know, except perhaps that middle-aged friend who’s as forgetful as

2. Do not regift something that’s been monogrammed. If your initials
are "M.C.D." and they’re printed on a cap, don’t regift the cap to a
friend, unless you can convince him that "M.C.D." stands for "Merry
Christmas, Dude."

3. If an item is scratched or dented, do not regift it. The gift
should look brand new, with no more than a few dozen fingerprints. Whatever you
do, don’t try to take advantage of any friends who are visually
impaired. Just remember: They’ve got feelings. And they’ll catch you.

4. Don’t regift anything with a company logo printed on it, unless
it has four wheels and an exhaust. Don’t even think of regifting mugs, key
chains and pens that say "2004 Republican National Convention." Friendships have been lost on far less.

5. Do not reuse the card you received with a gift. This is a bad
idea, even if you have a convenient name and can change the words
"Love, dad" to "Love, Soledad."

Photo by Shopping Diva

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. Greetings from New Zealand! Merry Christmas to you and the family out there in wintry North America.
    May I suggest another alternative to the options you listed for gifts that are of no use (from day 1). Modern technology has a wonderful tool – the internet. There are any number of on-line selling sites available today. I shall refrain from naming them as I do not want to be seen endorsing/advertising their sites.
    Please keep up your efforts to positively contribute to mankind – your columns take the sharp corners off dangerous lives that many people live.
    (submitted by email)

  2. I loved the column on re-gifting. It had me in stitches.
    Happy Holidays, dear Mr. D. Finding you was the bright note of 2007.
    Each column you send is like a gift, isn’t it? I’ve re-gifted your columns. Imagine that. I wonder if the people I’ve sent it to have done the same thing.
    (submitted by email)

  3. I do read you regularly, and today I read that funny column about regifting and in it you mentioned Clay Aiken. My question is – why him of all people? He has got around in the past year or so, but it’s not like he’s famous. Why didn’t you mention, for instance, Brad Pitt, who stares at me from the tabloids every time I’m in a 12 hour lineup at the grocery store. Why not George Clooney who’s supposed to be one of the world’s best looking people ( after my husband, of course, if you overlook the paunch and that funny bald patch over his left ear ). I mean, if I were in the darkest jungles of Africa and mentioned Brad, for sure some woman would proudly display a life size poster of him tacked to a nearby tree in her compound. But if I walked across the street right here in cosmopolitan Vancouver, BC, a ‘ happening ‘ city, and said Clay Aiken, I’d get a blank look as if I were speaking Swahili.
    Yes. I’m one of them – a claymate. But not one of the vocal in – your – face variety. I’ve quietly followed his rise from the ranks since the beginning. At first there were only ‘ us ‘ to keep his name up there, but I’ve noticed in the past year or so, the columnists have started helping. But I don’t understand why, or how this happened. You are now in that category of columnists who’s using his name to make a statement, and I chose you to ask the question. ( sorry, you just happened to be standing there ) So, why him? He’s not famous in the way others are. I’m just trying to figure out what’s happened, what’s in the air, why all of a sudden?
    Maybe his team is paying off all you columnists ( or threatening to give you tickets to his shows if you don’t mention Clay? ) Whatever. I just don’t get it, and I wondered if you had an answer for me. Such as what possessed you to use his name. Listen – I’m getting on in years. I may soon be gone, and it would drive me nuts to not understand this one before it’s too late.
    (submitted by email)

  4. I’m sure you really do have a Clay Aiken poster on your wall. Good for you. He’s gorgeous. Why are you afraid to admit he’s a great artist—and a great-looking man?
    (submitted by email)

  5. Sukerna, Merry Christmas to you in beautiful New Zealand! I wish I was there right now, instead of wintry Winnipeg. Yes, selling the gift is an option I should have mentioned.
    Bob, thank you for your kind words. But I can’t help wondering: if your friends regift my column, does that mean they liked it or didn’t like it?
    Hope, you really think Clay isn’t famous? There are degrees of fame of course, but he’s right up there with Oprah’s poodle. I used Clay in my column because his name popped into my head and I thought it would work in that line. I had thought of using Fabio first (because of his long hair) but he’s not as well-known as he used to be. I happen to like Clay, by the way.
    Pamela, Clay Aiken is a great artist and a great-looking man. There, I said it.

  6. Melvin: this truly is a season of miracles. I’m glad you said it– and I know you meant it. You’re a wise, funny man!

  7. Kfc-Canada says:

    But if I walked across the street right here in cosmopolitan Vancouver, BC, a ‘ happening ‘ city, and said Clay Aiken, I’d get a blank look as if I were speaking Swahili.
    So, Hope, how can you claim that Vancouver is a ‘happening’ city, if no one recognizes Clay’s name? I just moved to Campbell River, Vancouver Island from Red Deer and immediately discovered that my neighbor in the apartment upstairs knows all about him. Hmmmm maybe Campbell River is more ‘happening’ than Vancouver….or Calgary with its significant group of Clayfans who travel all over the US to his concerts. Oh, but you do know David Foster, I bet..and his sister Jaymes…who just happens to be Clay’s recording manager. They’re both wild about Clay…
    …so why not Brad and George Clooney? Hmmmmmm
    Hey, I’m straight and I have a picture of Clay Aiken on my wall.-Melvin…inferring what????? That most men don’t feel comfortable supporting a male celebrity? That men can only intellectually support sport figures? Balderdash. Real men can feel free to support whomever they admire..and real women admire that. Real women admire Clay because he puts himself out there, as he is, without fine airs and pretensions…including facts about family regifting etc.
    Good for you, Melvin. Kudos re: Clay’s picture. He’s a terrific singer, the best out there, and a fantastic person. Hope, maybe you should toss Clay’s name out there once in a while…you may be surprised at how many people in Vancouver know clayhili…

  8. i honestly re gift stuff that i dont have any use of, its genius that way.

  9. Don’t take credit for another person’s gift.
    One year I exchanged gifts with friends. One friend gave me and another friend the same gift. We thanked this person saying how nice it was. I found out two years later that person received that same gift at a different occasion and then split that gift between me and my friend. I told this person how I felt about it and now I usually get this person gift cards. I guess now I don’t feel like putting as much effort.
    If you get something you don’t like and can’t return it either ask a friend if they want it or give it to goodwill.
    (Submitted by email)

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