It's been done for ages, but for most of us, "regift" entered our vocabulary after the 98th episode of Seinfeld—"The Label Maker." In this episode, Elaine calls Dr. Whatley (played by Bryan Cranston) a "regifter" after he gives Jerry a label maker—the same label maker that Elaine gave Whatley.
It's the perfect example of what regifting means.
Let's all remember this episode when we open up our Christmas presents this year—when you open that box from your grandmother and find a Santa sweater, when you unwrap that Eggstractor from your Aunt, when you can smell the fruit cake from within the cavity of that thing with your name on it from some cousin you don't even remember—let's remember Dr. Whatley's mistake and learn from it, because there are rules to follow when you need to get rid of that useless junk, and getting caught is not an option.
Before you open up your gifts on Christmas Day, be prepared, know that if you don't get something you want, that it's okay, that you'll survive, and that that gift will find a new home soon. But you need to start figuring out your plan now, so let's cover the etiquette of regifting, the 10 rules of recycling crappy Christmas presents.
When you unwrap that pretty little box with the bow on top to find an iPhone for Dummies book, instead of the iPhone that was on your Christmas list—don't panic, don't frown, don't grind your teeth in anger, don't whine like a little baby—simply smile, say thank you and give them a big hug.
Although you do have an old iPhone, you already know everything there is to know about it, and more importantly, you know there's a bigger and better one out there. But that's okay. Because you're best friend, he has an iPhone, too. And he loves it. He has no desire to update either, which is perfect.
If you can't get that iPhone out of your head though, there's always eBay. Sell the damn book and start a new iPhone fund.
It may sound stupid, but there's got to be one numbskull out there that's done it before.
If you get a crappy gift, don't rewrap it and give it back to them the next day. Even if you say it's a total coincidence that you saw it in the store and immediately thought of them, they won't believe you. Even if you wait a whole year and give it to them next Christmas, they'll remember, and they'll remember for the rest of their gift-giving days, so don't ever plan on getting anything good from them in the future.
There's only one situation where these seems appropriate. Let's say your boyfriend gave you a DVD for Christmas—Die Hard—when you were thinking more along the lines of Prancer—then this would be the case where the boyfriend really wanted to watch Die Hard, knowing full well you didn't, but he got it anyway out of pure selfishness for entertainment night in front of the big screen. In this case, you might want to keep that copy of Prancer you got him, re-wrap Die Hard and give it back to him. You'll both be happy.
This is where most people fault, and this is why it's important not to go through your Christmas presents like there's a winning Super Lotto ticket somewhere with your name on it. For one, there's probably no winning lottery ticket to begin with, and two, you have to be super careful not to rip or tear any of the original packaging. If you plan on regifting a gift, it has to look like you bought it an Walmart, not Goodwill.
- Keep the cellophane wrapping over it, because this is the best way to say "I bought this."
- Don't break any manufacturers seals. If you do, you just screwed up big time, especially if you wanted to exchange this gift for cold hard web currency on eBay.
- Don't lob it behind you and move onto the next gift, gently place it down somewhere it won't get damaged.
- Make sure you don't not lose any packaging materials, parts and accessories, and even make sure that warranty card is still intact.
- If there's a gift receipt, hold on to it. If it has your name on it, you've got problems, and in that case why wouldn't you just go to the store and exchange it for something you want?
If it's one of those deals where you're being forced to open the gift right then and there, with your mom warming up the flash for that perfect picture she's going to store in her annual Christmas photo album, then be super careful. If you have to break open the original packaging, then your options of regifting have just been flushed down the toilet, and getting full price on eBay will be an even bigger challenge.
But then you have an even bigger problem: how do you get rid of that freaking picture?
It doesn't have to be a closet, but find somewhere in your home, anywhere, where you can properly store those unwanted gifts you plan on regifting. Wherever this place is, it needs to be somewhere safe, dry and not accessible to curious pets.
I'd say the best place is under the bed, in a plastic airtight bin. If you need to, get multiple plastic containers. But don't just throw those junk presents in there—those gifts need to last until you're good and ready to give them to their proper owners. Protect it and its packaging from breaking and deteriorating. If necessary, put it in a plastic bag for double-protection to make sure those dust bunnies stay clear.
Let's go back to Step #2, Regifting the Gifter. You want to avoid any chance of giving the same gift back to the person who gave it to you. On the top of those plastic storage boxes, tape a piece of paper and keep track of:
- What the gift is,
- Who gave the gift,
- When you received the gift, and
- Ideas for who you're regifting to and when.
Regifting does not need to be an immediate task. If you received a Snoopy jigsaw puzzle, I'm sure it will last a couple months under your bed until it's time for your nephew's birthday party. If you have no idea why you got that Barbie doll in a nun outfit, that's okay, because your niece will love you for it when you give it to her after her confirmation.
Unless it's perishable, it could be under your bed for decades before it finds the right home. But by then, you might have yourself a collector's item that you might appreciate after all.
This is actually a hard one to figure out, because how can you possibly know what's in style and what's not?
Well, if you're hip to today's technological age, knowing what phone or stereo is in style is a cinch. If you know how to type words out on your computer, you probably have some sort of intuition about new gadgetry and what's old. I mean, does anybody even use Walkmans anymore? I don't even think they make them. So, don't regift a Walkman—to anyone. Even if you think your baby's cousin will love it, because you're sadly mistaken.
Figuring out the non-gadget items is the hard part. Who knew Garbage Pal Kids were out and Bratz were in?
Do your research. If you're reading this article, that probably means you have an internet connection and at least a general idea of how to search the web. See what's going on with that S-1000 series cheese grater in your hands. There might just be a S-2000 series out now. (Boy, that would be embarrassing, wouldn't it?)
If you've managed to break the gift somehow, then just forget it. It's useless. If you've lost a part, you've screwed up and you have to deal with it. You can't win them all. Just throw it away. Better yet, recycle it if you can. That's all the garbage dump needs is another regifted gift.
Why would your iPhone-less mother want that iPhone for Dummies book when your best friend actually owns an iPhone? Why would you give your girlfriend that Santa sweater when that blind guy at work needs a way to stay warm in his cold office? Why would you give your Hutterite uncle that Die Hard DVD when your brother-in-law actually owns a DVD player?
Basically, make sure the gift fits the giftee you're regifting it to. You don't want it to be a complete failure, do you?
If you're not sure what to do with that Windows laptop because you have a perfectly good MacBook, then donate it to charity. Sure, you could give it to someone who needs it, someone you don't know, but that's not really regifting. It's donating.
But it is putting some money back in your wallet come tax time, when you claim that computer as a charitable donation. If you're too lazy to regift those unwanted presents properly, this is the way to go. But then again, if you're too lazy to regift your gifts in the first place, then you're probably too lazy to do your taxes, and then it just feels like a loss.
Who cares if it's Christmas or Easter? You simply don't think you should be wasting money on gifts for someone that doesn't have the same name as on your driver's license. And you don't think people should be giving you gifts because you then feel obligated to give back. Unwanted obligations are worse than crappy gifts.
Show your frustration. Purposely give gifts back to the people who gave them to you and warn them never to give you anything ever again. Give them outdated toys and tell them they have to work hard for new toys. Throw it against the wall before you rewrap it and hand it to them and say "Oops, it must have dropped." Give your Hutterite uncle that Die Hard DVD and laugh when you see him using it for a door wedge.
Show everyone that it's not about the giving, it's about the regiving because you don't care.
Okay, now you're ready to open up all of your Christmas gifts. Now you know all of the rules to regifting. Use them wisely.
And one final thing I should mention, and this is for all of you Scrabble players out there—REGIFT is now in the 5th Edition of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary and will be accepted in tournaments nationwide in early-2015.