The Art of the Regift: How to Do It Without Getting Caught

Yes, it can be done.


Sneaky Santa-ing. | Shutterstock.

One Christmas, my parents received a lovely set of salad bowls from semi-distant relatives. There were six in the box, which wouldn’t really have been a problem, except for the minor fact that the set was actually supposed to contain eight. My parents never brought up the gaffe with the giftees, a generous omission that spared them the embarrassment of being caught in a red-handed re-gift situation. But here’s the thing: My family didn’t judge them for re-gifting. We judged them for doing it so damn poorly.

Regifting is a necessary evil, something akin to gorging on junk food: We all do it (or have at some point considered doing it), but we don’t ever want to talk about it or, God forbid, get caught doing it. There are rules to be followed, sticky boundaries to keep in mind, diagrams to consider, details to triple-check. Here’s how to master the delicate art of the regift. 

First things first: Make sure you know who gave you the gift in the first place. You don’t want to ever unintentionally give a gift to the very person who gave it to you. But it goes beyond knowing who gave it to you; you’ve got to ensure you are re-gifting to someone who belongs to an entirely different social circle than the person who originally gave you the gift. Mentally organize your friends and family into one giant Venn diagram. See where they overlap? Thou shalt never re-gift to anyone who falls in this overlap. It’s simply too dangerous.

Make sure to physically review the gift before handing it over. Is there a tag on it that might reveal when or where it was purchased? Make sure you can back these details up. Is anything missing (like, say, two salad bowls?). Is the packaging still in good shape? Rule two of re-gifting: Don’t ever give something with original item packaging that looks worn out or beat up. 

While we’re on the subject of packaging, don’t reuse the same gift bag, tissue paper or wrapping paper. This is the easiest way to tell that something has been re-gifted. Tissue paper gets soft and worn, and reusing wrapping paper, well, that’s just lazy. If you must use the same gift bag, triple-check for an attached gift tag. Many people leave these blank, but you can never be too certain. I still recommend that you re-wrap the gift in a style that fits you. Presentation is everything, and when you give a gift in wrapping that mimics your style (bright and colorful? simple brown paper and twine?), it’s more believable that you actually went out and bought it yourself.

Ready to re-gift? Good luck. And remember, passing on a gift to someone else doesn’t have to be shameful; in fact, it can even be almost thoughtful. I once passed on a necklace I received to my sister in an open re-gift; it wasn’t quite my style, but she wears it every day. Think of it as gift match-making! There, doesn’t seem so embarrassing, right? Now, go forth and give that gift. Again.