What If You Don't Like A Gift You Got For The Holiday?

Life & Love | Gerren Keith Gaynor | 12/26/2014 | 12:45 PM EST

Centric dishes on the proper etiquette for accepting and re-gifting items you don't want

By now you’ve probably Instagram’d or Facebook’d all your holiday gifts for the world to see, hashtags and all.

But let’s face it: not all gifts are social media worthy.

Whether an ugly sweater or a pair of gloves you’ll never wear, we can all attest to getting that one gift we’re just not feeling. So what exactly do you do if someone presents you with a gift you know you’ll never use--do you politely decline or do you accept with covert indignation?


Emily Post, the definitive source on etiquette, says that no matter how bad a gift you should always thank the giver enthusiastically. It’s important to acknowledge the giver’s thoughtfulness and time spent picking out a gift especially for you.

“Be pleasant but noncommittal,” the institute of manners suggests. However, you don’t necessarily have to lie by saying things like “I love it” or “Thanks, I needed this.” Instead be polite but not dishonest. Say something to the effect of "It was nice of you to think of me" or "What a creative choice!"--shade free of course.

So are you stuck with a gift even if you don’t like it? According to experts, pretty much.

Though conventional wisdom says you can always re-gift something you don’t want or need, Emily Post says no matter how crappy it may be, giving away gifts should be done rarely and under limited conditions such as (1) if you’re certain the gift is something the recipient would really like to receive, (2) if the gift isn’t something the original giver took great care to select or make or (3) if you’re completely sure the original giver will not mind if you passed it along.

The main rule of thumb is to ensure you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. It would be a total bad look if the original giver discovered you gave away a gift they gave you to someone else. Not to mention, it’s incredibly awkward when someone asks you where said gift is and you’re obliged to lie ("Oh, it’s somewhere around here" or "I misplaced it”).

If you must re-gift something be sure the recipient and original giver do not know each other. If the gift is a duplicate and you’re on a budget, re-gifting is fair game.

While obliging a “bad” gift isn’t the most ideal, it’s polite and the right thing to do. So the next time you feel the urge to discard something someone gave you for the holiday, put it on ice and just deal with it.

(Photo: Moncherie/Corbis)

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