The art of regifting: tips and etiquette for Hongkongers with presents they don’t want

Regifting saves money, clears space in your home and is better for the environment. But there are many things that can go wrong, so avoid embarrassment and post-holiday faux pas with our how-to guide

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 January, 2018, 7:18am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 January, 2018, 7:17am

Raise your hand if you’ve regifted an item to a friend or family member this Christmas.

The good news is you’re not alone. Regifting is no longer a social faux pas thanks to changing attitudes towards waste and sustainability (who says you can only recycle plastic?) It’s also a great option when you’re on a budget and can help free up space in your home or wardrobe.

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When done right, it can even bring joy to its new recipient – as the saying goes, one person’s trash is another’s treasure.

Despite its multitude of benefits, there are also many things that can go wrong when regifting. To avoid any embarrassing moments or mishaps, there are a few dos and don’ts you should follow to ensure a smooth transition from one owner to the next.

First, always keep a detailed record of when you received a gift and from whom it was given.

“Before I put the item away, I label it with a Post-it note and secure it with tape so it doesn’t fall off,” says stylist Samantha Chan. “I always jot down who gave it to me and when, so I avoid giving it back to the same person. Be sure to remove the note before you wrap the gift.”

This information is also crucial when deciding who to give the gift to later. As a rule, you should avoid giving the item to members of the same social circle or their immediate family – chances are they may have shopped for it together or approached them for advice before buying it.

A date will help when it comes to perishable items such as chocolates or champagne – there is nothing worse than passing on a bottle of corked wine or chocolates that have passed their expiry date. As a rule, don’t keep them for more than a year.

There are certain items that you should never regift, including anything technology-related (which gets outdated quickly), shoes and clothing (sizing will pose a problem later). The same goes for anything meaningful or handmade. Also be wary of personalised gifts such as books with inscriptions and jewellery.

When it comes to regifting, looks really matter. The item should be brand new and have retained its original packaging. It’s obvious that a perfume bottle has been recycled or previously opened if it’s missing the plastic covering. Make sure that there are no gift tags nestled in the box and replace things such as tissue paper and stuffing.

It’s also worth splashing out on wrapping paper and a nice card. When it comes to more expensive items bought from designer boutiques or department stores, don’t be afraid to take it back to the store for a refresh.

“Most high-end stores will give you a set of new packaging from the box to the ribbon,” says PR executive Diana Chan. “That way it looks like it’s been bought recently rather than sitting in your cupboard for six months.”

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A final word on regifting in the digital age. Avoid showing off your gift on social media at all costs, as you may pay the price for it later. In this case, sharing isn’t always caring.

Sometimes, however, you can’t control what gets posted online. “Once a friend posted his [regifted] present on social media, thanking me for it,” says personal shopper and one-time regifter David Li. “Little did I know that both of us were connected to the original giver of the gift, who obviously found out and didn’t hesitate to get in touch.”

When you get caught out, remember: honesty is the best policy, especially when it comes to close friends or family members. In these cases, it can be all about your response. For example, “As soon as I saw it I knew you would love it,” sounds much more appealing than, “X gave it to me and I didn’t like it, so thought I would give it to you.” There is an art to regifting, after all.

Have an item that you can’t bring yourself to regift? Check out these alternatives

1. Donate to a charity. Most charities will take items such as clothes, toys and books.

2. Sell them. Sites such as Vestiaire Collective, Hula and Guiltless will take anything from handbags to accessories – plus you can make some extra money on the side.

3. Create a gift exchange with friends in different social circles.