When The Gift Isn’t What You Wanted…Regifting

by admin on November 28, 2012

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.

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