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The Subtle Art of Re-Gifting

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Admit it. We have all done it one time or another. Re-wrapped something that ran counter to our oh-so-fabulous taste and passed it along to some unsuspecting schmuck &/or loved one. It's not very nice. It reeks of cheapness and laziness. Still, in a recent survey more than half of the Americans polled said they re-gift regularly and unashamedly. Hey, we all got our reasons: couldn't make it to the store in time for the office Kris Kringle; spent our last few bucks on baby's new pair of shoes; already have one; this figurine with the clock in it's belly would look so damned good on my best bud's mantle.

Personally, I think we all get off on thinking we've pulled the wool over someone else's eyes. Ah, the thrill of being both cheap and a cheat during "the Season of Giving!" Naughty, naughty. Of course, most re-gifting is so pitifully obvious that the only person you're fooling is yourself. Remember the time you forgot to cut off the little to/from tag on the stinky bag of Bath & Body goo and gave it to the cousin who's allergic to perfume?

Now that packages with your name on it are starting to appear, no doubt the temptation to "recycle" gifts will be high. Hey, I'm not putting yah down. I too am not without sin.* Go out and boldly re-gift (and pay for it later in purgatory). But before you start passing other people's stuff off as something you picked out special, contemplate the risks and act with a little panache. Here are a few tips to ensure you'll still have friends left after the holidays.

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Rule # 1: Know who gave you what and when. This requires you take 10 seconds to write the pertinent info. on the box or envelope. Or if you are a hardcore re-gifter, keep an itemized list in the box where you store your re-giftables. If you don't remember where you got the item, there's always the risk that you'll give it back to the person who gave it to you.

2. Re-gift from afar. It's okay to pass off the scarf your cousin knitted for you, if she sent it from Idaho and plans never to visit. Hell, odds are she's re-gifting it herself.

3. Conversely, don't re-gift in the same circles unless you want to get caught. One of your friends will notice and will gleefully rat you out or hold it over your head (as they should).

4. Wait a bit before you re-gift. A present received the day after Christmas is always suspect. Re-gift last year's swag or an oddball birthday present on or before Hanukkah week or the 25th of December. That will throw them off the scent.

5. Only re-gift a new or new looking item that is still in it's original packaging. Unless of course it can be explained as a collectible you got on Ebay or a one of a kind handmade thingee from the craft fair.

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6. Make it pretty. Re-wrap it. Buy a card. Make sure there's no price tag on it or that it hasn't been personalized at Thing's Remembered. Sheesh slacker, an iota of effort wouldn't kill yah.

7. Do not re-gift generic crap or holiday themed items to close friends and family, unless it's an unmarked gift certificate. The postman probably won't care if you give him the Russell Stover assortment you got from your boss. However, unless there's a diamond ring hidden in the box, your girlfriend most definitely will.

8. Try your best to match the item with the person. Nothing gives away re-gifting worse than a totally inappropriate pass along. Know what your peep's like or might be willing to like. There's gotta be some musical nerd on your list that's into Tuvan throat singers.

8. Don't re-gift something no one would want. Some junk is just too ugly or tacky to give unless you really don't like the person you're gifting. In that case, it's all good.

9. Camouflage your not-so-nice re-gift with a real gift. Here's the latest Sue Grafton novel that I waited in line to get autographed for you and a cd of Tuvan throat singing! Folks who re-gift for cheapness sake won't like this suggestion, but largess works wonders for the rest of us.

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10. If you're pretty sure you've been re-gifted, think twice before re-gifting again. The odds go up that you'll give it to the original giver. Confused yet? If there's a bonus to be had, this gets the person who gave it to you in trouble as well.

11. Have a story and a straight face prepared if you do get questioned or be fully prepared to come clean if caught. Some folks just shouldn't dance with the devil.

12. For that matter, why not come clean in the first place. If something is totally not you, be up front and ask someone if they'd like to have it instead. They may have a bad gift of their own that they need to unload. Plan a re-gifting swap with several friends. True, you'll all have to swear that you'll never come within 500 feet of the original givers, but at least everyone will go home with something they actually wanted.

If all of the above seems a little too much like planning a bank heist, then I suggest sticking a crowbar in your wallet and buying new. Then, you can donate the flotsam of Christmas' past to the Goodwill store, where no doubt others will purchase with the intent to re-gift.

* Everyone on my list (reading this) is getting new for Christmas. I swear on a boy scout, but I'm planning a re-gifting swap as well!

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photo by massdistraction via flickr