≡ Menu

When The Gift Isn’t What You Wanted…Regifting

At my son’s birthday party, one of his friends gave him a gift with no gift receipt. The previous year, this same friend had given him a present, also with no gift receipt. My son didn’t like/want the gift so we gave it to Toys for Tots as a donation as it was clearly not something sold at major stores. This year, after receiving the gift (also not something clearly identifiably sold at major stores) I asked the mother if she had a gift receipt since my son had something that was very similar to the gift he received. She told me she had bought other things at the same time and didn’t feel comfortable giving me the receipt with the other items on it. She then offered to get him a gift card. I told her that was fine but that I didn’t feel comfortable keeping the original gift as well as the gift card and I asked her if she wanted to pick up the original gift.

She proceeded to get increasingly frustrated with me and suggested that I was being rude and that in the past when she has gotten duplicate gifts, she just says thank you and re-gifts to another child. I am not a fan of re-gifting, especially to kids, since I feel like you’re only passing on an unwanted gift to someone else, but she got so increasingly aggravated and nasty, that I told her to forget the whole thing and that I would donate the book.

She then proceeded to tell me how insulting it was to her child that I was donating the book that he spent time on picking out for my son and that she was hurt and offended. I was already irritated about the gift receipt but then to make it about insulting her child put me over the edge.

What is the difference between re-gifting or donating to those less fortunate? It’s not like I told the child what I was doing. It was between me and the mother. But what would the problem be with letting the child know that his gift was appreciated but just not liked? My son knows that there have been times that his gift has been exchanged. The gift is appreciated but just not liked. It is exactly why we include gift receipts.

All I wanted was the receipt so that my child could pick out a gift that he truly wanted. We always include a gift receipt with our gifts to his friends.    1125-12


You are doing your child a disservice raising him to believe that he can expect to receive exactly and only the gifts he actually wants.   We see a lot of that entitlement mentality on this blog where even otherwise rational readers express their belief that they have the inherent right to receive only what they really want and can therefore manipulate the gift giving process to achieve that end.   Gift givers are under no obligation whatsoever to give the gift recipient precisely what he/she wants nor are they obligated to provide receipts with the gift.

There is an air of ingratitude in your post that manifests itself in the complete lack of any commentary on how you expressed your appreciation for the generosity of your son’s friend who could not have exercised that generosity without the financial assistance of his mother.    So you insult her with the news that her and her son’s gift choice sucked and you want to exchange it.  If gifts really are meant to be a material expression of thought, time and money the giver spent attempting to choose the best gift, then you dissed her and her child big time.   You have either willfully or ignorantly chosen to focus not on the good will and generosity of friends but rather how this gift failed to meet expectations.   Talk about sucking the joy right out of the gift giving process.   Mom Friend now knows that gift exchanges in your family are nothing more than asset transfers.

I’m not going to tippy toe around this….your friend was dead on accurate when she said that the proper etiquette is to graciously thank the gift giver even if you hate the gift or cannot use it and then quietly regift or donate it.   There is absolutely nothing wrong with regifting perfectly usable gifts, particularly new books and toys still in the box.  A donation of a new toy to Toys For Tots or Angel Tree or any other credible charity, especially at this time of the year, would be a good way to teach children the value of giving to meet a need in others as opposed to only looking out for their own self interests.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • The Elf November 30, 2012, 4:14 pm

    White Lotus, I don’t think people are making a big deal about actually returning or exchanging gifts at the store. The problem is TELLING the gift giver that, and worse, asking for a receipt to do it!

    But all this heartache is why I started turning to gift cards and cash more and more. I just don’t want to deal with it.

  • NostalgicGal December 1, 2012, 1:33 am

    1) Always thank them nicely, sincerely, and if you can’t stomach it, regift. Just make sure you don’t have something very unique and it ends up with someone close to the original gifter. Donating to charity is a good thing to do with unwanted new items.

    2) Asking for a gift receipt when one is NOT offered is tack-eee tacky. Don’t do it.

    3) Handmade, consider VERY hard before you regift that… in this day of giftcards and rubbergifts (return it after it’s been anointed with wrapping paper, who knows how many times that thing has seen some rounds, and it still has the tags, aka it bounces around, rubbergift) handmade is to be treasured [I still have a five year old cousin’s felt potholder HE made for ME for my wedding present over 30 years ago]

    I think OP was in the wrong here.

  • Kit December 1, 2012, 2:54 am

    I guess I am living in a wrong part of world, but bringing gifts back to shop is a seriously weird idea to me… reading about queues to do so after Christmas? Really, really weird. Also, I think that sizing is more universal here and so it is far more practical (and therefore, I think, also more polite – you save the recipient the hassle of exchange) to ask for size beforehand if you absolutely need to buy some clothing. Only warranties with electronics, I can’t see any other reason for wanting a receipt or returning a gift, well except for being a thankless pig of course. 😉 The idea that you must get exactly what you want is really running rampant, I see… why won’t you just ask people not to gift you anything? Aw, because you don’t want to spend money on yourself?

  • Cat Whisperer December 1, 2012, 3:03 am

    A couple comments:

    As others have observed, the only appropriate response to a gift is to thank the giver with as much appreciation as you can muster.

    I noted a lot of people commenting that they give gift receipts when the gift they are giving is an item of clothing, because if the item of clothing doesn’t fit, they want the recipient to be able to exchange it for something that fits. Which is a fine, thoughtful idea, but I’m a little bit baffled why anyone would buy clothing as a gift for someone when they don’t know what size the person wears. Personally, I shy away from giving articles of clothing as gifts because I just don’t have a lot of confidence in my ability to select clothing for other people. Not just because of the size issue, but also because selection of clothing is, for many people, an intensely personal matter: they have their own sense of style and appropriateness.

    I got some grins from OP’s apparent assumption that a gift has to be something sold at a “major store” to have value. One of the more prized gifts I ever got was a very old and tattered catalogue for a horse sale in New York in 1902. While it’s in pretty good shape considering its age, it’s certainly not something you’d find in a “major store.” It’s very obscure: but when I turned to the catalogue’s page for the second to the last horse that was sold at the sale, my jaw literally dropped and my eyes bugged out of my head. That horse was *Merry Token, Man O’ War’s granddam; the sale catalogue was for the sale August Belmont, Man O’ War’s breeder, bought her out of.

    The person who gave me this catalogue picked it up on eBay in with a lot of miscellaneous old horse publications for $5. She gave it to me knowing I would treasure it beyond gold or diamonds. One of the best gifts I’ve ever been given. And certainly not something you’ll ever find at a “major store.”

  • Kathryn December 1, 2012, 5:34 am

    I am stunned at the Mother and son’s attitude. My goddaughter had her 5th birthday party today and as a joke I gave her a punnet of strawberries before her other gift as she loves them. She opened the berries smiled said thank you and offered one to her mum and dad and said “thank you for my present”. Her mum then asked her what would she do if her friends bought her a present she didn’t like and she said”they got it just for me, I can still play with it with Doug” (her younger brother)

  • Ergala December 2, 2012, 12:13 pm

    @ Ca Whisperer….when it comes to clothing I am a very very odd fit. For my height versus my size. Apparently if you are my size you must be very short. The waist will fit but be way too short. If I get a longer size the waist is way too big. With shirts I am extremely busty but I have a smaller waist. So I have to buy shirts that are 2 or 3 sizes larger just to accommodate that. One store their size 22 may fit me just fine, but in the store down the street their size 22 is way too small and instead I have to get a size 24 or 26 from there. But also sometimes clothes can be poorly made and you don’t realize it. I’ve been given a sweater and within a month it had a gap in the stitches and was getting bigger. I had to return it and get a new one.

    One year as a teenager I was given a very heavy wool sweater that was beautiful. Just one problem, it was extremely heavy and made me itch horribly. I even wore a turtle neck shirt under it and I was itching through the shirt. I went to every single store in the area to see if they carried it so I could exchange for a different sweater. Turns out it was bought in a small shop only local to the gift giver…on the other side of the country.

  • Mer December 2, 2012, 2:38 pm

    @Cat Whisperer: I think clothing might be sometimes very easy. I’m sure (some) teens would like their favorite band’s t-shirt and pajamas and suchlike are also something where you don’t need to know so closely what kind of style the receiver likes best. But as without trying one can never know the proper size. I have fitting clothes in my closet, sizes varying from S to XL. 😀 So even I don’t know my size beforehand if the brand is something I’ve never used. So asking before buying might not be that helpful.

    Even if I don’t like the tone of the OP and think she was wrong, I kind of thought that she mentioned major stores thinking that if something was sold in major stores, it might be possible to return it without receipt. I do not know if this is possible in reality.

  • Cat Whisperer December 3, 2012, 3:15 am

    @Mer, when I read your comment about some teens would like their favorite band’s t-shirt, I had to smile. If my daughter (age 19) and most of her friends received a band t-shirt as a gift from anyone within 10 years of my age (57), they would probably take that as a sign that they need to seriously re-think their taste in music! And I’m pretty sure that when I was a teen, I would have reacted the same way.

    It’s just been my experience that giving clothing as a gift is an absolute minefield of potential problems. Whether an article of clothing will fit is just the beginning of the issues that can trip the giver up. If I know that someone I’m shopping for has a liking for clothes from a particular shop, I might get them a gift certificate for that shop. But when I buy gifts for people, I really like to try to hit the bull’s-eye in giving them something that will make their eyes light up because it’s exactly the thing that will delight them; and there are so many things that can go wrong about a gift of clothing that I just don’t even want to attempt to get that right.

  • FerrisW December 3, 2012, 8:06 pm

    I just find this story incredibly sad for the gift giver. Obviously I don’t know her financial situation, but growing up we had very little money to spare for things like birthday parties and gifts, although my parents set aside a small amount of money each week for me to get a book of my choosing at the local store. It was the highlight of my week, but if I was invited to a birthday party, and I wanted to go, the agreement was that I would have to forgo my weekly book to pay for the present. I would pick out a gift (sometimes my mother would buy a few toys in the sales that I could pick from instead of from the store) and give it to my friend for their birthday. Twice, I was told that the gift wasn’t what they wanted (once, the mother admonished the child in front of me and apologised to me and my mother, and once we were asked to supply a more appropriate gift, which my mother declined to do and made sure I was unable to attend any future parties for that child).

    My mother was very adept at throwing parties that appeared to cost more than they did (she would make up games, prepare all the food, keep us entertained for hours, and children loved coming to my birthday) which apparently made a friend’s family worry about getting me a suitably expensive gift. This was in the middle of an economic depression and so they weren’t able to gift me with much. I remember the mother apologising profusely while my friend sat with her head down as I opened the gift- which turned out to be a colouring book and a slightly used box of crayons. And I loved it. I think it was my favourite gift that year, and my friend’s mother thought I’d been coached to pretend to like it. I remember giving my friend and her mother a big hug in the kitchen later on during the party, as my mum had wanted them to see my pleasure was genuine. It had never occurred to me that any child- or parent- would be rude enough to dismiss a gift given with thought and love.

    Over the years I’ve received many a gift that was not to my tastes, or that I could not use. But I can guarantee that the giver never knew. If I received duplicates of toys or books, we would donate them, and if I received clothing that did not fit, there were other children in the neighbourhood who needed clothing and so it went to them. There were also times where people did not bring presents to my parties, and I never noticed, and my mother never cared, because that wasn’t the point of the party.

    I really hope the OP is reading the comments to this entry and it is causing her to reflect on her behaviour. To the commenters who say that it was rude of the friend to point out the OPs rudeness- how is one to learn of their ettiquette blunders and improve, if they are not told what is offensive about their behaviour? I would much rather someone explain why my attitude or behaviour was rude, than to carry on behaving in such a way, unknowingly.

  • The Elf December 4, 2012, 12:36 pm

    Re: Giving Clothing

    It’s not my first choice, but sometimes it works. T-shirts are good to give, and the sizing generally isn’t that hard to manage. I bought my father a bunch of button-down and polo shirts because he lost a lot of weight recently (the good kind, not the bad kind of weight loss). His shirts looked awful, but he so hates going to the store that he said he’d “make do”. Nope. Called my Mom for advice on the size and got a whole bunch, with a gift receipt just in case. I told him his real gift was being spared having to go shopping when Mom finally put her foot down about the ill-fitting clothes!

    My husband gave me clothing for Christmas last year – noting how much I enjoyed my summer-weight kevlar mesh motorcycle jacket, he bought matching pants so I wouldn’t have to wear heavy leathers in hot and humid weather. But he bought the wrong size. I can’t blame him though. After MULTIPLE returns trying to get the right size, we realized this company must believe motorcycle mommas are some really skinny ladies! I had to order the largest size they make, which is not typically a position I find myself in. Naturally, those were back-ordered. I got them just in time for the hot weather – a full five months after Christmas! Despite the sizing problems, they are delightful for summer rides, and are exactly the style I like. However, the downside is that my husband has sworn off ever buying clothes for anyone else ever again.

  • Geeky RN December 4, 2012, 12:52 pm

    I’m only going to comment about the whole “No gift receipt” thing. Most stores now a days have the ability to give you a gift receipt for an individual item even when bought with a group of other items. There isn’t really a reason to not have one.

  • Cheryl27 December 10, 2012, 2:26 pm

    This mother, many years from now will probably wonder why her 30 something child is still living at home being a pain as to how and when to wash his laundry, how to specifically cook his food and being a burden to society. Manners have left the younger generation, yes at any birthday you do not always get everything you wanted but that does not meana that you go to the parent of the child who was nice enough to give your child a present to ask for the reciept of the gift in question, nor do you accept a new gift from the same person, nor do you inform them that the gift given is appreicated but not liked. These are kids, they need to learn how to deal with situations in which the gift/outcome does not meet their expectations. This mother is rude, giving young kids the oppertunity to be able to show how one deals with these types of situations not ruining or hurting a young child’s feeelings because her’s is a spoiled brat.

  • Heidi December 22, 2012, 3:30 pm

    What on earth is wrong with this poster! How dare she. Nobody in entitled to a gift. Maybe the mom is on a restricted budget and does get her gifts from unconventable places. Now this tacky mother of birthday boy has taught him that only getting matters and clearly no manners are bothered with. I wouldn’t worry about birthday boys gift next year – with a mother like that, friends will drop like flies.

  • Grey January 3, 2013, 7:20 pm

    I saw this image today and I was reminded of this post. The parents of the child in this photo are teaching him a valuable lesson.


  • Sherie January 31, 2013, 3:15 pm

    OP – You owe your son’s friend and his mom a BIG apology. No one is OBLIGATED to get you or your son presents. Just receiving a gift should make you thankful regardless of the item.

    Instead of wondering where it came from, and how you can exchange it, you should have just thanked her sincerely. End of story.