LOS ANGELES - Oh, the aching dilemma of the lame holiday gift. Shoppers crushing into malls this weekend are no doubt ringing them up by the dozens. The too-big sweater. The UCLA hat for the USC fan. The nebulous electronic novelty product. They'...
LOS ANGELES - Oh, the aching dilemma of the lame holiday gift.
Shoppers crushing into malls this weekend are no doubt ringing them up by the dozens. The too-big sweater. The UCLA hat for the USC fan. The nebulous electronic novelty product.
They're all bound for a Christmas tree, Hanukkah dinner or office gift exchange near you. And what to do with the well-intentioned present that missed the mark so badly?
Blanca Diaz has the answer - regift it.
"I do that every year. Everyone I know does it," the San Fernando coffee shop owner said, laughing. "If you're not going to use it, why not?"
She's far from alone, according to Money Management International, a nonprofit credit counseling organization that surveys shoppers' spending habits.
In the group's most recent study of more than 1,000 consumers, nearly 40 percent fessed up to regifting. Fifty-four percent didn't find it rude.
Meanwhile, a third of respondents said they hadn't done it yet but would consider it.
The practice itself is nothing new, but it rose to prominence in the 1990s when a "Seinfeld" episode gave it a name.
The term caught on, acceptance grew, and soon everyone had a regifting story.
By 2004, even the venerable Emily Post Institute, the high temple of polite society, had to address the phenomenon.
"It's inspired a lot of debate here: Is it OK? When is it all right? How do you do it? It's quite controversial," said Anna Post, Emily's great-great-granddaughter and an expert in all things right and proper.
"It's inherently a little bit dishonest. Whether you're for it or against it, you are not telling the whole story."
Post said she is personally opposed to the concept, but she says it's acceptable if the recipient and the original giver are all in the loop.
Because if either side finds out - and one often will - it could cost the regifter the friendship of both.
And, Post cautions, that's certainly not worth whatever you save by not buying something new.
MMI takes a much softer line, looking at the practice as a matter of economic necessity. One-third of regifters do so to save cash, said spokeswoman Kim McGrigg, herself an ace pass-alonger.
She says wine, inexpensive jewelry and household items are all fair game, so long as they're unopened and rewrapped.
Personalized items are out, as are handmade presents, and if you're headed down that road, it's best to devise a cover story from the start.
"We advise that you know what your plan is going in," McGrigg said. "If you plan to keep the fact that it's a regift secret, can you handle the questions?
"If not, be prepared to not be embarrassed."
And rightfully so, said Joseph Marchelewski, a New York-based writer and comedian who specializes in morality and humor.
He's received some horrible plaid shirts over the years, but he takes them with a smile, sticks them in the closet and lets the circle of bad gifts die.
If it's a present given without much
thought in the first place, he doesn't mind finding a new owner.
But anything with some "soul" will stay in his collection, no matter how dreadful.
"I see certain forms of regifting as little white lies," he said. "Corporate regifting is fine. What you got in the secret-Santa thing, that's fair game, but if Aunt Stacy gives you the worst sweater known to man, you're morally obliged to keep it for six months, even if you never wear it."
There might be a little wiggle room, said Darren Price, a writer who lives in Van Nuys. He'd prefer to give or receive a gift card rather than a nonthoughtful present, but he said he wouldn't mind finding a more suitable recipient for a gift he didn't need.
"Just don't get caught," he said. "When someone says, 'Isn't that the tie I got you?' when they see it on someone else, I don't know what you'd have to say. I think you've got to do 10 degrees of separation."
More daring regifters have tried to pull off greater switcheroos, handing over recognizable items to closer recipients.
Diaz recalls an odd-looking vase she'd seen around her mother's house that mysteriously disappeared, only to reappear in wrapping paper as a gift.
Mom was totally