Last Christmas, a good friend gave me a bottle of expensive perfume. Very nice -- except the bottle didn't come in a sealed box and instead was in a generic gift bag.
This was clearly a shameless act of regifting -- and perpetrated by a childhood friend!
Truth is, regifting is an old practice that's becoming increasingly customary (though not necessarily desirable if you're on the receiving end). We all get stuff that's not the right fit or we don't like, but that other people might enjoy.
Unless, however, you want to sow resentment among friends, coworkers and aunties, learn a few rules before guising an old gift as a new one.
Rule No. 1
Please, whatever you do, make sure you don't give the present back to the person you got it from.
That would be bad. Very bad.
Simma Lieberman, a leadership coach from Albany, Calif., still remembers the time her son got the same LEGO toy she had once purchased for the friend who regifted it. It even had the original card attached to it!
So, avoid embarrassing yourself and always keep track of who gave you what.
Rule No. 2
The previous anecdote illustrates how important it is to remove any cards or distinctive marks before you send the gift off to another home. Many gift receivers have tales of presents that came with cute notes addressed to someone else.
Rule No. 3
Don't regift something that is very distinctive, especially if you live in a tight-knit community, and don't give it to someone within your usual social circle.
Surely your friends and neighbors will remember the polka-dot punch bowl you got last year from a distant relative.
Rule No. 4
Wrap the present in new paper, or place it in a new bag. This will cost only a couple of dollars, or even less, and will make the item look like new.
A small detail can make a big difference -- don't be lazy.
Rule No. 5
The advice above brings us to the next rule. Even if you get the glossiest, most eye-catching wrapping paper, it won't make a wee bit of a difference unless what's inside is in good condition. If something has been worn or looks shabby, don't even think of regifting it, says professional organizer Elaine Bloom.
Rule No. 6
Unless you care to do some sheepish explaining, don't give something that clearly comes from abroad (when you haven't taken a trip in 18 months), or that's from a discontinued brand or defunct store.
You're just going to have to keep that gift, or take it to a goodwill store.
Rule No. 7
Avoid items that scream REGIFT! The list includes, but is not limited to, a box of small scented soaps, the proverbial scarf (unless it's pure silk and made by Hermés), random CDs (like "karaoke versions of hits from the 80s"), socks (nobody likes to get socks!) or small home appliances the gift receiver clearly doesn't need (remember the bread maker Will Ferrell kept trying to get rid of in the movie
Rule No. 8
It's perfectly acceptable to regift a good bottle of wine, champagne or liquor, like an aged Scotch. Make sure to buy an appropriate bag for the wine, and to keep the original box for the liquor.
If the person is a wine or whiskey connoisseur, you might want to be a little more careful about the choice.
Paola Singer is a freelance writer based in New York City. She has written for The Wall Street Journal, Newsday and Hemispheres magazine.