the great debate: is it ok to regift?
GO AHEAD AND REGIFT
By James Colley
There are only two kinds of presents that get regifted: the extremely good ones, and the ones that make you go ‘meh’. In some instances, having a gift you’ve given handed on to someone else is a beautiful thing. “This book was given to me and it changed my life,” your friend might say to another acquaintance. “You have to read it. Please, take my copy.” In that situation, regifting is a great compliment. Not only did your present bring joy to the recipient, it brought so much joy that they felt a moral obligation to pay it forward. No one complains about that kind of regifting.
The regifting that draws ire is the second kind, which suggests that your sweet and carefully chosen gift meant absolutely nothing to them. In fact, they just want it out of their life. In such a situation, I am very sorry to say, your gift probably sucked. I know, I know – you thought really hard about it. Yes, you actually went to a physical store and hand-selected it off a shelf. That was so kind of you. But you missed the mark. And that’s fine. Everyone misses sometimes. You’re going to need to own that. I can already hear the protest that it’s the thought that counts – but that’s just something people say when they know a gift isn’t very good. Yes, sure, it is the thought that counts, and the fact you thought deeply about your friend and went to the effort of trying to express that in a material way is very lovely. That is your gift! The love isn’t in the Furby, it’s in your heart. Also, a Furby in the year of our Lord 2020? Seriously – what were you thinking?
Anyway, those are some important facts to keep in mind. From this point on, let’s just flex about how good regifting can be. It’s anti-capitalist, it’s frugal, it’s recycling, it brings joy. It’s very Marie Kondo – aren’t you trendy?
Obviously, there have to be ground rules. There’s a certain cooling-off period when the gift is your gift alone. You cannot get out of forgetting a Christmas present for a cousin by handing over the Guinness World Records book you literally just unwrapped. As a rule of thumb, the original gifter should have at least left the room before you consider giving regifting a go.
Also, the thought that goes into a regift should be exactly the same as when giving someone a brand-new present. If you’re just handing over something you don’t want to someone you know will also not like it, then that’s still a crappy gift. You’re just forwarding on the disappointment; you’re no better than the original defective present-buyer. You’re creating a perpetual cycle of mid-tier junk being passed around and around, and that sullies the good name of regifting. You’re better than that.
The most important thing to remember when regifting is to use your head, ya dingus. You know people are precious about receiving a secondhand present, as well as having their own present given away, so if you were given, say, an ostentatious marble statue of David Duchovny, you absolutely cannot gift it to a friend of the original friend who presumably chiselled it just for you for some reason. (To be honest, though, you shouldn’t give away a marble statue of David Duchovny under any circumstance. What a treasure.)
Regifting requires a degree of extra care, because you have to carefully consider and balance the feelings of two people, not just one. When carried off well, it proves you are thoughtful, sympathetic, eco-conscious and thrifty. So there you go – we’ve walked from ‘regifting is fine’ to showing it’s actually better, if anything. And just in time for your birthday.
REGIFTING IS A NO-GO
By Eleanor Robertson
I come from a long line of regifters. My mother was a regifter. My grandmother was such a turbo-charged regifter that she applied the same rules to greeting cards and wrapping paper, which meant we’d occasionally get a Christmas card that we’d given her a few years before. I think she had a procedure: she’d hang up all the cards on a string in her kitchen for the requisite four-week holiday period, then take them all down, carefully white-out the loving messages, and tuck them into her regifting drawer, making absolutely no effort to ensure people didn’t get their own cards back. The only way she could’ve given fewer fucks would’ve been to sign the cards, “DEAL WITH IT — LOVE, BARBARA”.
This is an extreme example, yes, but I bring it up to illustrate a few things about the regifting mindset that I don’t like. These are things that may seem fine on the surface, but when you conduct a more thorough investigation, are quite troubling. Sort of like when you mindlessly buy a pre-made sandwich from a convenience store, then look at it properly later and find out it’s egg and lettuce. Oh dear.
The first of these is thriftiness. Thrift is one of those virtues, like hard work and modesty, that is so normalised you don’t realise how bad it can really be. Gift-giving occasions are supposed to be times where you demonstrate generosity and thoughtfulness, not thrift! If you want to be thrifty, go and darn your own socks or grow some mung beans in an egg carton. You shouldn’t be getting an inner glow of satisfaction from regifting your poor cousin a pair of novelty emoji-print socks you’ve been keeping in the back of your cupboard since 2012. Your friends and family are people, not dumping grounds for your unwanted knick-knacks. If you absolutely must be a complete scrooge, make everyone a big batch of cookies or something, for god’s sake.
Regifting also encourages a subtle but poisonous form of dishonesty. All defences of regifting will suggest ways to keep your shit a few degrees removed, so nobody knows what you’re really up to. But gift-giving should be about honesty and love! Gifts shouldn’t need to be concealed like a cocaine habit, or a degree in circus arts; you shouldn’t be ashamed of them. Snuffling around like a blind mole rat in your regifting burrow, avoiding natural light, screeching in panic if someone sees what you’re doing – do these sound like festive vibes to you? Don’t turn the joyous occasion of gift-giving into a swamp of lies and deception.
The third bad thing about regifting is that it perpetuates the very system it’s reacting against. Yes, we all give each other too many wasteful, useless gifts. Keeping those shitty gifts circulating just reinforces the idea that we should keep giving each other shitty gifts! Two wrongs don’t make a right, and you’re not scoring any kind of moral victory by giving someone else the very same bargain-basement piece of crap that someone gave you last year. “Aha, I have beaten the odds, I have offloaded this set of Tweety Bird gel pens onto an unsuspecting workmate through my dastardly scheming of the Kris Kringle system” – does that sound productive to you, or does it sound like the mewlings of a cowardly weasel without the courage of their convictions?
Ultimately, regifting has the shady reputation it deserves, and any efforts to rehabilitate it are the manoeuvrings of a few wriggly little scoundrels. It’s in the same category of social faux pas as putting your rubbish in someone else’s bin, but somehow getting them to thank you for it! Diabolical! Rise above the temptation, learn to make brown-butter nut brittle, and never have this argument with yourself again.