Regifting: Lessons from The Nuge

I invoke the famously blunt language of my Michigan compatriot, Ted Nugent, aka "The Motor City Madman" to capture I think of regifting. As The Nuge would say, regifting "sucks giant amounts of dead penguin d---s".

First, The Nuge would want me to define terms. Regifting is neither giving someone something used, such as a vintage bag, nor giving one of your possessions, like your antique marble bookends, to your friend who loves them. It's passing on a gift you got from someone else, as a gift.

Reasons why a person might regift include:

1. The item is wrong for her, but she figures it might be 'right' for someone else.
It is only right for someone else if it is the identical item she would buy for the recipient, and is in mint condition. Example: She was given a bottle of Lagavulin by a grateful client, but doesn't like scotch– and it's her friend Jay's favourite treat.

2. She is watching her spending.
Fine. She can bake a batch of cookies. (The N
uge would suggest you shoot a mallard, but I'm not behind all his gift ideas. Picking buckshot out of your dinner is no fun.) Or she could give her time or skills.

3. She has no idea what to give you, and short of time or energy, wraps up something on hand.
Come on, that's why they invented express shipping.

4. She does not really want to give a gift, a ritual which embodies celebration, affection, respect, and gratitude, especially gratitude.
Insincerity is the mother of regifting.
In these moments, she might reflect on why she has accepted the invitation or maintained this relationship.

OK, there are frickin' exceptions

You could regift if the item is exactly what you would buy for the person anyway.
But let's face it, most regifts are those dumb (OK, Ted, dumbass) candles-and-paper napkin sets that people bring as hostess gifts, bland, bitsy department store earrings or a remaindered science fiction novel received at an office gift exchange.

Someone (I'm not saying it's Ted, but I'm not saying it's not) would regift something so awful it's clearly a joke. So, he says, wrap up that rockin' tee shirt you got from your brother and hope your mother in law laughs till she spews.

Why regifting riles me

Ted says, "If you don't crush evil, then evil will get you."

I may have been fooled a time or two, but 90% of the time I can spot a regift. I once observed a museum gift store appointment book given three times before it passed from my circle of acquaintances.

The regift represents obligation rather than celebration. LPC, on her blog Privilege, writes that her father once received four pairs of sheepskin slippers from his children. But at least they knew what he liked.

The regift reveals that the giver paid cursory to zero attention to the receiver. The driving thought of the giver is, "On whom can I offload
this gradoo?" Regifting negates the attentional aspect of gift-giving.

And therefore, the gift has as much chance of delighting the receiver as The Nuge has of turning vegan.

As Ted says, "There is no bag li
mit on happiness." How much happiness is in a regift of "The Last Lecture", complete with the business card of the giver's insurance agent, which he forgot to remove?

Finally, before I get comments apprising me of The Nuge's politics and attitudes, I
know his scene. (He was once the boy who hung out at Mom's best friend Sue's house.) Ted's views are not, in any respect other than the regifting issue, endorsed by this blogger.

Tomorrow's post, the last till Jan. 4, supplies a useful last-minute gift idea.


M said…
C'mon Duchesse,
Read this interview with Ted and tell me what's not to love??? The guy is an original!

On the subject of regifting...I can't think of anything much more tacky, although I was on the receiving end of one exchange a while back. Does that mean the "gift" giver didn't wish me good tidings? Guess not.
mette said…
What a topical post! I confess that I too have passed on gifts I have received and not liked, but not to my loved ones. My MIL buys books for us as presents. That is ok, but what I don´t like is, that she has read them herself in beforehand. I get this feeling that it´s like wrapping one´s undies after having used them once yourself, ugh! Thanks for your interesting post!
Duchesse said…
Lisa: Yes, he is, and I've read this interview. I do hope, though, that the self-described "excellent husband and father" is now paying child support to his son fathered by another woman, because he wasn't for awhile.

metscan: Ewwwww. Maybe you could buy her a Kindle?
I have a friend who was a compulsive gift-giver and she'd give me dog-eared old books, art prints that had already had sticky tape on the other side, dollar store crap etc. We had a major tiff when I told her to stop it. I didn't want anything more valuable - just don't like my life cluttered up with crap that I'll only discard.

I do buy and make gifts for friends (the made ones are paintings, and I often give people food I've prepared; last week red cabbage with red onion, apple, white wine etc. But I DO NOT take part in Christmas giftgiving. A lot of us have put a stop to it - except for small children - and feel much better relieved of that stress to consume.

All Christmas spending, if it is to be called that, is on food and wine to be shared.

In a city, this week can also be a nice time to go to the cinema, take in a museum and all the other things we never get round to doing.

I'm listening to the "Soeurs jumelles" from "Les Demoiselles de Rochefort". Sad thinking of Catherine Deneuve's equally beautiful and talented sister who died far too young.
Duchesse said…
lagatta: Wonder why she does that? But I too would tell her to please stop. I no longer exchange gifts with adults. Even family giving, now that we are all adults, is modest. Here, the art gallery and museum are swamped with people bringing out of town guests, but in early January it is sublimely quiet.
ilona said…
jan. 4!? that seems such a long time to wait for another post.

i hope you have a wonderful christmas - family, friends, comfort and joy.....
NancyDaQ said…
I think full disclosure is required with used items.

For example, I don't mind receiving a book someone has already read, but it shouldn't be passed off as new. Rather, tell me something like, "I really enjoyed this book, I thought you might like it too so I'm passing it on." That makes me feel special instead of an obligation. Similar sentiments could be expressed with other items.

But don't pretend that you went to the trouble of a gift when you really didn't. Please understand--it's not that I feel that I have to have a gift. I'd just rather not receive one if you're passing along junk.
Duchesse said…
Nancy: There is informal giving, like passing on an item, and there are formal gifts; the distinction is important. In some cultures, it can be exceedingly insulting to confuse the two.

Passing on a book one has read is not a formal gift. I would just bring the book to a friend unwrapped and say, "thought you might enjoy this"- and not on an occasion when formal gifts are presented.
Belle de Ville said…
Normally I against all regifting.
But one year a girlfriend gave me a brand new Hermes scarf in the box, she wasn't a scarf wearer and she knew that I was. I wasn't at all put off by the re-gift.
If only all re gifts be so nice!
Duchesse said…
Belle; That's a great example of the exception. I was once given a pair of gold earrings by a GF who was given them as a 'breakup gift' (imagine!) She was open about it and I loved them.
That's the same as the bottle of single-malt scotch. Idem a true antique of some value (and NOT too cumbersome for the person's house and life).

My friend has pretty much stopped this annoying habit since her marriage. I think she is simply much happier. Middle-aged weddings don't always work out any more than younger ones do, but these people seem happy.

Oh, even the week from New Year's to "Les Rois" (the 6th, Epiphany) is pretty quiet here in terms of economic activity, so it can still be an opportunity to nip out to a gallery or museum in the afternoon (though I stay close to the office in the morning).

I don't have the neurons to waste on the likes of Ted Nugent, but guess I'm a terminal snob. Our own local "vedettes" are bad enough.
Susan B said…
I'll confess to having regifted, but it was in a situation where the item I regifted was something I would have given anyway (e.g. an unopened box of nice chocolates for the mail carrier for Christmas).

When I receive gifts that aren't my thing, I sometimes will offer to someone else with full disclosure ("a coworker gave me this and I can't abide coconut, would you like to have it?")
NancyDaQ said…
Duchesse, that was what I was trying to get at in my roundabout way.
I only regift when I know it's something my friend wants anyway.
s. said…
I find it hurtful when a loved one gives me a regift. I never say anything about it, though, since I tell myself that I have my shortcomings that my friends and family most certainly put up with in silence.

Oh... I know Ted is imperfect but I find him far less offensive than 99% of celebrities.
crunchycon said…
We have this custom in our workplace of the "Chinese Auction" or "Yankee Swap" where people pass along gifts that can be "good" or "goofy." I freely confess to regifting in this kind of situation things that are nice, but not something I would keep.

I also give good-condition classic children's books to my younger friends who have just had children, but, in the interests of full disclosure, I say up front that I am an habitue of used book stores.

I might pass along something (like scented lotion that she might like and I do not) to my mother, but I'd let her know up front that I received it and thought she might enjoy it.

Would I regift for a formal Christmas gift or birthday gift? Not so much - as others have posted, it's pretty tacky.
Duchesse said…
s.: I don't say anything either... thought the charm is definitely off the gift and it nearly always goes to Goodwill.

Crunchycon: The "Chinese Auction" is a game, not formal gift giving. Very different than presenting a person with a formal gift- and lots of fun, except in the case of Jeanie, who burst into tears when she lost the jeweled velvet frog.

Presenting something used, such as chldren's books you found in a bookstore is not regifting, but condition, as you noted is important.

Pseu: I would accept your box of chocolates with joy!

All: You know what else is a tacky gift? Cheap golf shirts with your conmpany's logo on them- leftovers from some client appreciation event- given to someone who doesn't wear that size. True story.
sisty said…
I can't believe I'm agreeing with Ted Nugent, much less etiquette advice, but count me in! Re-gifting is tacky. I can't really think of any exceptions, either. Re-gifting something you know someone else would like would still require a full disclosure from me, but I can't think of when I've ever done it. Gifts I like, I keep. Gifts that are awful, I figure no one else would want them, either.
Anonymous said…
What I don't like is when I go to a lot of thought and trouble, getting really super excited to please my recipient with the BEST present, and then it is not met with the same spirit in which I gave it. That is so disappointing. Maybe that is why people regift; it sort of lets you off the hook.
Duchesse said…
Karen: I know what you mean about being disappointed at the response!

Recently gave someone what I thought was an incredible gift, and received a one line generic thank you note, not even mentioning the item.

I would still rather as you say go to a lot of thought and miss the mark sometimes than regift, exceptions aside.
Duchesse said…
sisty: Me too! But I admire colourful characters who know what they stand for, even if I am not in agreement with their views.
Nimble said…
Oh it's a hoot to see re-gifting driving you to the extremes of Nugent speak. Thanks for the grin
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