Suzette Martinez Standring: Keys to smart regifting

Suzette Martinez Standring

This holiday season, gift giving feels tighter than a waistband after Thanksgiving dinner. But we’ll stretch our budgets for those we love most.

But what about those other recipients? You know, the people we like well enough to fear they will give us a gift. Be honest: We fear them and they fear us. It’s an exchange fueled by obligation. They exist on the perimeter of one’s heart and there is a nagging need “to buy them something.” It’s not love; the desire to give is sparked by emotion -- guilt. Which of us hasn’t said, “Oh! And I didn’t get anything for you!”

This type of goodwill giving is a boon to makers of candles, coasters, bath salts and all manner of statue-and-little-plaque knick-knacks. The message is, “I had no idea what to get you, but I hope this works!”

Unneeded stuff spawns its very own subset: Regifting.

I’m not made of stone. Of course it’s the thought that counts. So savor the thought while you find that little darling a new home. Somebody else longs to adopt that Labrador-shaped mug.

What? You don’t regift? I bet you have drawers brimming with unused sentimentality. Wouldn’t you rather use that space to store power tools? Surely someone else is better suited for that daisy-painted tee shirt. Don’t throw it out. Think green and recycle. Save our landfills!

There is nothing wrong with regifting, providing you don’t mistakenly return it to its point of origin. (Note: Stick a reminder to the box with the original giver’s name.) If such embarrassment does ensue, be ready with a handy comeback:

Her: “Oh! Didn’t I give this to you last year?”

You: “Yes, and I loved it so much I wanted you to have one, too.”

I’ve regifted and I’ve been the regiftee. I don’t mind being the end point of holiday recycling providing the regifter was slick enough to spare me the knowledge. So here are a few tips to second-time-around success:

1. Regift only first-class, good-quality items. Put some thought into a good match between the gift and the receiver. This is not your chance to fob off a defectively painted garden gnome to your apartment-dwelling acquaintance. 

2. Do not, repeat, do not give anyone used merchandise, no matter how “slightly used” it is. That’s just tacky. In my youth, I received an obviously used evening bag from the wife of my corporate employer. It bummed me out to think she saw me as (a) ignorant, (b) desperate, or (c) unworthy. Actually, I think it was probably (d) all of the above. I’m still steamed!

3. Check the expiration date on foodstuffs. Nobody appreciates receiving jam that expired in November 2008. Personally, I never regift food since freshness might be suspect. I am, after all, a regifter with high standards!

4. Examine any giveaway with the scrutiny of Homeland Security on orange alert. Look for any left-behind cards that might scream, “REGIFT!” I once received a small ceramic item that was made in New Mexico. I do love all things Southwestern. How very thoughtful. But in the box, tucked under the vase, was a note that said, “Thank you for attending our conference!”

5. Festive wrappings are good sin eaters. If there is guilt over the lack of time, effort and money in a regift, pour it into the presentation.

Think of it as passing treasures around in the circle of life. And remember, when it comes to regifting, there are only two types of people in the world: those who dig into their supply of regifts and those who resupply.

E-mail Suzette Standring atsuzmar@comcast.net or visitwww.readsuzette.com She is the award-winning author of “The Art of Column Writing.”