Friday, December 5, 2014

Etiquette: What to do With Unwanted Gifts

It's that time of year again, the season of giving. Unfortunately, not all gifts given during this period will be useful items that are wanted by the recipients. In some instances this will be no big deal, and the gifts will be received with grace and a smile, but in some instances it will lead to major disappointment, and possibly even a negative response.

For still others, the folk in between the "Nice, just not my taste" and the "What am I supposed to do with this" crowds, unwanted gift items bring yet another knick-knack to add to the already overflowing clutter. After all, who really needs yet another coffee mug?

I published several gift theme articles to Helium over the years, and as I am still migrating, expect a recurring theme through the next few posts :-) This one is from November 2009, and looks at what you should do about unwanted gifts.

What to do with Unwanted Holiday Gifts

Everyone loves getting gifts.  It’s a great feeling to receive something special that was chosen just for you.  It’s not so great though when you receive a gift that turns out to be something you can’t actually use or worse, something you really don’t want.
During the holidays in particular we give and receive a multitude of gifts that range from small tokens to big ticket items.  With all this exchange among friends, associates, coworkers and family members it is inevitable you will receive something that makes you feel that even the thought didn’t count.  When this happens it is still important to accept the gift graciously and not embarrass or hurt the feelings of the person who has given you the gift.
After all, not everyone is good at choosing just the right gift for the right person.  Likewise, not everyone has an unlimited holiday gift giving budget.  Even though you may receive something you don’t want or feel you don’t have a need for the person giving the gift may have put effort into choosing it and may even have been excited about giving it to you. 
When you receive a clothing item as a holiday gift that is not your taste and you know that the person who gave you the item will expect to see you wearing it, you can either say the article is not the right size or doesn’t really match anything you own or in the case of “special occasion” garments you can say you would probably never get a chance to wear it and ask the person if you can exchange the item for something in a different color or size.  This way the person knows you appreciated the gift and are sorry you can’t use it.
The same holds true for jewelry.  Perhaps you have a coworker who loves big, chunky jewelry but you are more on the conservative side.  Thank her for the item, perhaps wear it to work once and then set it aside. After the holidays have passed, if you have another friend or a sister who likes something in that style pass it on to them and if the coworker asks about the item you can say you loaned it out or gave to someone who really needed it.
In the case of little knick knacks and figurines and things that are not functional that you may see as more clutter for collecting dust in your life, it is still in good taste to thank someone for thinking of you at the holidays, even though you have no use for what they have given you.  Perhaps you know someone else who collects items like the one you were given whom you can pass it along to after the season is over.
If you have received a piece of original art that “doesn’t fit your d├ęcor” or is something you just can not live with, find out who the artist is and see if you can possibly exchange the piece.  If the artist is the person who has given you the gift, unless the piece is completely unseemly try to find a place for it even if only temporarily.  You can always move it later or try to swap it out for something else that you like better.
When it comes to items such as music CDs, DVDs, and books you may not be interested in them when you receive them but after some time after the holidays if you give them a chance you may find these items to be not so bad after all.  If several months have passed and you still don’t have interest in the item you can always donate it or simply give it to someone else.
In those rare instances where you have received a gift that was not thoughtful such as an XXL sweater when you are a size 5 or a tin of fudge when everyone knows you are diabetic or on a diet, accept with grace, try to find a positive comment about the item itself and then give the item away to someone else who can use it.  The holidays are about giving so in that spirit, when you receive something that you absolutely can not use, it is perfectly acceptable to pass it along to someone who can. 
It is never appropriate to react negatively or show anger towards the gift giver.  Before deciding what to do with the unwanted holiday gift take a moment and ask yourself how you would feel if a gift you had given were haphazardly discarded.  A little compassion for the other person’s perspective can go a long way keeping your heart open in the spirit of the season.
Receiving and opening holiday gifts can be just as exciting of an experience in the adult years as it was during childhood and it can be just as disappointing to open a gift and see something you don’t really like or want as it was in your youth.  But even when you are disappointed it is important to keep your composure and thank the person for the gift.

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