The cycle of gifts

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When the weather grows cold and the days become short, there are two things on every student’s mind: the holiday season, and the (hopefully long) winter vacation. It is meant to be a relaxing time away from the hassles of school, a time to spend with family, and an opportunity to celebrate the various wintertime festivals and holidays. However, the overwhelming amount of discounts, advertisements, and blowout sales found throughout the month of December attest to one of the most intensive and often stressful parts of the season: holiday gifts.

We’ve all been there: you’re wandering around the store, searching for the perfect presents for friends and relatives, making sure you don’t go over your budget, and trying to decide what they’ll be getting you, so you know how big you want your present to be. So much effort is put into it, but once the relatives clear out of the house and you take a good look at your presents, there it is: a sweater you’d rather die than wear, a paperweight you could never see yourself using, or a bottle of perfume with a scent so strong it makes you sick. You don’t want to offend the giver, and you don’t have a receipt. What do you do? For many, the answer is regifting.

The term regifting, originally dubbed by the hit show Seinfeld, has been used so frequently, particularly in recent years, that it’s earned a spot in dictionaries such as Oxford and Random House. The practice of regifting is controversial, with some believing it to be perfectly acceptable, and others finding it inconsiderate and insulting to the original gift-giver. Due to this, many who choose to regift try to ensure that the recipient is unaware that it originally came from someone else. In fact, numerous magazine features, blog posts, and even news reports from networks such as ABC, are devoted to outlining the best ways to regift items with no one the wiser, as well as the best items to regift.  Suggestions include recording who gave which gifts to ensure that you don’t return a present to the original giver, rewrapping and personalizing the item, and giving something in addition– if only to placate a guilty conscience.

While just about every kind of item is likely to have been regifted at some point, ABC News explains that home decor items, antiques, and books are among the most common. For Townsend Harris students, regifted items include gift cards, candy, and clothing, with cosmetics such as perfume and lotion being among the most popular.

The practice of regifting certainly has a stigma attached to it. As freshman Kortney Coburn related, “My dad always said if you get a present you absolutely hate, you should give it as a present to the person you like the least.” This is just one example of regifting being insincere. Junior Rebecca Duras experienced this last Christmas, when her brother received a Walkman from the eighties. “This year the person in question took us out to dinner for Christmas and said ‘this is a better present than last year, when I just wrapped random stuff I found around my house,’” she recalled.  “I got a hideous, puke-green bag with little blue elephants on it, by the way.”

Despite the bad reputation held by the practice of regifting, though, many would not feel guilty about passing along a present without the giver’s knowledge. According to Bookoo, an organization devoted to helping customers re-sell unwanted items online, over 60 percent of people plan to regift items during their holiday season, and over 90 percent feel that it is an acceptable thing to do. Among Harrisites, numbers varied: while just over 62 percent have regifted at some point in the past (nearly the same as found in the Bookoo survey), 65 percent of students polled feel that there is nothing wrong with regifting.

For some, it depends on the situation.

“I don’t think regifting presents is a bad idea. If you got a present you didn’t like and gave it to someone you knew who liked it, it’s okay because at least they would use it,” said sophomore Marcy Meetoo.

“I might regift perfume or lotion because I’m not really the type to use those things,” explained junior Shavana Singh. “I think it’s a little bit inconsiderate to regift [more expensive] things, like a watch or clothing.”

Regardless of the decency of regifting, it can lead to some pretty awkward situations.

Social studies teacher Jamie Baranoff recalls one such incident. “When I became engaged, one of my friends gave me a bottle of champagne. The bag it came in had a tag that said it was for the person who gave it to me.”

Junior Labiba Choudhury can relate. “I gave my cousin a sweater with a guinea pig on it, because that’s her favorite animal. Two weeks later my other cousin gave me the same sweater for the holidays,” she recalled. “The one she gave it to didn’t know she was regifting it or that I was the one who gave it to her originally. When we all went out to eat I wore the sweater and the one I gave it to was really embarrassed.”

When done tactfully, however, Harrisites and polled Americans tend to agree: when in doubt, regifting isn’t such a bad solution, after all.