Tom was a skillful gift-giver. He knew all of his family and friends’ tastes and preferences to a T. This ability made him a master re-gifter. Tom was my room mate for a couple of years. At the time, both of us were seriously strapped for cash. We both were constantly on the lookout for ways pay off loans and save money.
Tom was the first person I was aware of who gave people gifts that others had given to him. I was astonished that he had such audacity to so brazenly re-gift. Tom explained that re-gifting was a family tradition. He grew up “on the wrong side of the tracks” in Cincinnati, Ohio. As a matter of necessity and amusement, re-gifting was acceptable and expected among the kids. Many times the previous “To/From” package tags were placed inside the wrapping. Tom broke nearly every social rule regarding re-gifting stuff.
During the two Decembers Tom and I roomed together, he asked for my gift-wrapping help. He was all thumbs when it came to wrapping presents. I had some skill due to my job as the produce manager at a supermarket. I became good at wrapping odd-shaped vegetables and fruits in shrink-wrap. Anyway, I did all of Tom’s gift wrapping for those two Christmases. That meant that I re-wrapped the re-gifts from Tom to me. It was all in good fun. I was simply happy to be included on his gift list.
That said, Tom was aware that re-gifting is a mild taboo so he did take measures to avoid regifting within his friends circles. For instance, if he received a present from one of his bowling buddies, that gift was re-gifted to either a sibling or one of his fellow football fans. Tom was careful to make sure the the recipient didn’t belong to both groups. He understood that feelings are easily bruised and he wanted to avoid the humiliation that occurs when re-gifting happens among social peers.
He had the habit of keeping the gift tags from the original gift with the gift. This helped Tom avoid re-gifting the gift back to the original giver or circle of friends. This practice also ensured that he could continue the fun of conscious re-gifting among his siblings.
My friend was mindful not to re-gift to everyone. Certain close friends were given new things or items he crafted himself. This both added to the “gift pool” and also helped keep him from coming across as a cheapskate. Tom also tried to re-gift a present if it was an item that he would have purchased from a store specifically for the recipient if he would have had the money to do so. This meant that there was a good chance the receiver would enjoy the re-gifted item.
Tom had an over-arching rule: always re-wrap re-gifts. Discard the orginal paper and examine the inside of the gift box. There might be a small bonus gift he might have missed earlier, or there might be a note or memo from the original gifter. By having me or someone else wrap the re-wrap the re-gift seemed brand-new with personal intent.
I attempted re-gifting one year, but I had neglected to follow Tom’s example. I accidentally re-gifted a couple of presents to the people who originally gave them to me. My boo boos were very embarrassing. Confessing to my mistakes was tough, but they understood my dire financial circumstances and moved on.
Nowadays, if there is a present suitable for re-gifting, I don’t circulate it among family or friends. It becomes a donation for a thrift store. Yes, I’m careful to remove the gift tag before contributing the item.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes writer/social activist, Marge Piercy. “The best gift you can give is a hug: one size fits all and no one ever minds if you return it.”