Regifting not a social faux pas

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Regifting has become such a common occurrence around the holidays that Merriam-Webster has given the word a spot in its English dictionary after Jerry Seinfeld coined the term in the late 1990s.

In fact, Dec. 17 has been deemed National Regifting Day in light of 2009 survey findings by Money Management International, which found over half of Americans consider regifting socially acceptable if done with a conscience.

While many of us have not had to wear one of those terribly itchy and darn-right disastrous sweaters to please Grammy, thanks to the age of gift cards and media to promote age-appropriate gifts, there is always at least one “present” you enthusiastically accept while thinking of the best way to get rid of it.

Often, all it takes to turn a bad gift into a great one is a trip to the customer service desk at Target or Wal-Mart. According to Target’s return policy at their Guest Services desk, “purchases must be returned within 90 days and must be new, unused and contain all original packaging and accessories. A form of personal identification may be required. Some items cannot be returned if opened, including music, movies, video games, software and collectibles.”

Wal-Mart’s policy allows for returns with a receipt or exchanges for a similar item or store credit with or without a receipt, but there are many exceptions for certain items, and the time limits for returns varies by department, so it is best to check with the store. Smaller stores allow for exchange or store credit without a receipt, but you must spend the amount of the gift within the store so, again, check ahead of time.

It takes a little more creativity, however, if Aunt Sue special-ordered that flower pot and you can’t simply return it. Fortunately, all hope isn’t lost when it comes to chucking it for something more useful. One man’s trash can be another man’s treasure. One option to find that greenthumb in Arizona, who would love a nice terra-cotta planter, is using auction sites like eBay.com or Amazon.com. That way you can either take the cash directly or put whatever you make into buying a more usable gift.

Many gift-givers also assume that a gift card is the way to go, and in most cases it is. There are those shops where almost anybody can find something they like, but if your 13-year-old sister doesn’t frequent Home Depot, there are a few Web sites that can help her sell or trade her gift card for one to Forever 21 or AMC Theaters.

TheGiftCardTrader.com is one of many sites that allow users to sell or trade their undesired gift cards for one to a specific store or for money to another user, or they can sell their card (for less than its true value) to the site to get rid of it. PlasticJungle.com offers a similar service, but it only buys gift cards and for no more than 90 percent of the actual value. But, if you really will never use it, at least get something for it, right?   

If you find figuring out what to do with a gift you won’t use to be too time-consuming, take a step towards earning some karma points by donating your gift to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. It was free to begin with, so even though you aren’t getting something tangible in return, the good deed will be morally rewarding.

Perhaps the most fun and interesting way to lose the guilt of regifting is to have a regifting party. Regiftable.com, a site dedicated to the perils and triumphs of the holiday ritual, recommends this as a social way to not only relieve those moments of disappointment, but to possibly barter with your friends for their gifts. Get together with a large group of friends and take turns presenting your unwanted gifts and taking bids, or set-up a marketplace-like event where people “buy” one gift with another. You might be surprised to find how many people end up leaving as happy customers (or regifters in this case).

No matter your method of pawning those impractical presents, make sure you have a game plan for how you’re going to dodge those pointed questions from that family member when they want to know what you’ve made with the food processor they gave you. Regifting can be a win-win situation if done right.

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