Fruitcake, ‘Seinfeld’ and old electronics: Is regifting OK?

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted Dec. 21, 2014, at 9:11 a.m.

You may have been looking for months for that perfect present for your Uncle Dudley, but now you’re thinking seriously about regifting.

The practice involves turning something you received as a gift into a present for someone else. Regifting reached mythical proportions when the subject was fruitcake. In recent years, the practice has become mainstream.

Social and business etiquette advice

There’s even a National Regifting Day — it’s the third Thursday in December. Money Management International designated the day in 2006, announcing the practice as a way to keep people from being plunged too deeply into debt through their holiday spending.

Regifting can help consumers keep their costs somewhat in check while getting a duplicate or unneeded gift into the hands of someone who can use and appreciate it.

That’s the trick, according to sources we consulted on the topic: Don’t give away a gift you received unless you can be reasonably sure it’s going to an appreciative recipient.

If you err on the side of caution on such things, you might heed the words of etiquette guru Emily Post, who says regifting is really a bit of a stretch. People who regift tell themselves they’re being practical by recycling excess stuff into the hands of people who can use it. If it’s not done correctly, they may be committing a major faux pas.

According to Emily Post, it’s critical you determine a regifted item will be welcomed. It should be something the intended recipient actually will be happy to receive. The gift should be brand new, not a castoff, and it should come complete with instructions if needed. Original packaging is nice. It’s always wise to re-wrap the item so the recipient doesn’t find the gift card wishing you the best from a relative of yours.

Consider the effort the original giver expended. If it required a lot of thought or effort on that giver’s part — or if it was handmade — there could be hurt feelings if the original giver learns of the regifting.

Dave Ramsey, whose syndicated talk show deals with money matters, lists 10 rules for regifting. He says practicality is key — people with animal allergies won’t have much use for a new pet bed.

Timeliness is another factor, because products change. Your unopened VHS copy of the final season of “Seinfeld” wouldn’t be the most welcome gift.

Speaking of the TV series, Ramsey and others urge awareness of what’s called the “Seinfeld effect.” This involves regifting among a small circle of friends. Someone is bound to find out, and embarrassment is likely to follow.

Don’t go overboard and regift everyone on your list. You’re bound to hurt someone’s feelings, and you’re being cheap rather than practical. If you do make a mistake and regift unwisely, own up to it; explain why you did what you did and move on.

Be especially careful when regifting gifts from special people in your life. And you don’t want to regift meaningful gifts, such as family heirlooms.

With electronics, be careful to remove personally identifiable information. Computers, tablets and smartphones can reveal enough information to allow someone — who’s not so scrupulous as your friend — to steal your identity. Even factory resets can leave some data on an old smartphone. Check drawers, pockets or other hidden places for credit cards or other information you may have left behind.

The bottom line on regifting is that a lot more is involved than the bottom line. Think twice and make sure a regift is appropriate.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

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