Dear Mrs. Riches:
My sister and I are having an argument about regifting. She says it's perfectly OK to pass along a gift you don't like or won't use, just as long as the original giver doesn't find out. In fact, she calls it her "contribution to conservation," as well as a way she can stick to her holiday budget. I say that it's excruciatingly bad manners and that you're not only doing a disservice to the original giver, you're passing along castoffs (rather than a thoughtful gift, personally selected for the recipient) to a new and unsuspecting victim. As the recipient of those castoffs (I just know the purse she gave me for my birthday was "recycled"), I can't say I feel touched. Please settle the debate, preferably on my side.
Can the Castoffs

Dear Can the Castoffs:
Regifting is one of those practices that sparks heated debate, as you and your sister can attest. Most folks have very strong opinions one way or the other, and never the gift boxes shall meet. Regifting fans claim they are making good use of something that would otherwise become pickings for their spring yard sale; folks who despise the notion are equally vocal about poor etiquette, hurt feelings, and ungrateful recipients.

Always one in favor of conservation and budgeting, Mrs. Riches will confess to regifting a time or two. But lest you think that she sanctions passing along Chia pets, fruitcakes, and flowered muumuus (assuming those aren't things you would covet), she'll add a set of guidelines she calls The Regifting Code of Ethics:

  • Take great pains to make sure the gift-giver does not know you've passed her gift along. This means inspecting the gift thoroughly, opening the package, and making sure that there are no old gift tags lurking in there. Finished? Now check again. One slip-up can sour the most jovial of holiday get-togethers.
  • If you've chosen the regifting route in life, please, please, please keep track of who gave each gift so you make sure not to give it back to them. There's simply no graceful way to recover from this faux pas.
  • Don't give the item just to check off on the to-do list that you gave a present. Think carefully about whether this person would want this particular thing. If the answer is no, you're basically lobbing a problem gift into their court and that's just wrong.
  • Only pass along items in good condition. If you've worn it, stomped on it, or left it in your car since last Christmas, it is probably not in decent regifting condition.
  • Never regift something personalized, highly sentimental, or that the gift-giver created (think pinch pots and cross-stitch) with you in mind. Even regifters have to have their limits.

Purely from an etiquette standpoint, regifters are on shaky ground. But Mrs. Riches would argue that the gift-givers bear a bit of the responsibility for selecting something that failed to give the recipient pleasure. Or perhaps she is just rationalizing having passed along that book on crocheting Santas (sorry, Mom).

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Fool contributor Elizabeth Brokamp is a licensed professional counselor (a.k.a. "Mrs. Riches"). She apologizes to friends and family if she has ever failed to follow the regifters code of ethics. Her better half is The Motley Fool's own Robert Brokamp, editor of the Rule Your Retirement newsletter.