Returning Christmas Gifts You Don’t Like

As the season of giving is upon us, the season of ‘un-giving, re-gifting and returning,’ is about to take hold. For many people, Christmas will prove to be fruitful with the showering of awesome gifts and what could be considered the perfect bounty. But for others, for MANY others, the holidays shower you with worthless gifts that you will never use. Then the question of the day becomes – do you tell the person you don’t like the gift? Or do you just go about returning Christmas gifts you don’t like secretly?

According to a poll by Western Union for Forbes Magazine, the most returned gift of the season is apparel. That ugly sweater your aunt gave you, the dumb overalls your brother bought you, and the two sizes too small nightgown that your friend gave you? Yep, all going back to the store. In fact, around 75% of the gifts returned to major departments stores after the holidays are shoes and apparel, and most people return without receipts.

According to Consumer Reports, only 1 in 5 gift recipients who don’t like their gift will actually confess to the giver that they wish to take the item back to the store. In fact, most simply look at the tag, don’t ask for the receipt, take a chance that they will get a store credit for the now ‘sale price’ and shop on their own. Not only do they not want to hurt someone’s feelings by admitting that they don’t like the gift, but they don’t simply want to keep it with the assumption that it is ‘the thought that counts!’

So what should you do if you get a gift that you absolutely have no use for? Should you return it to the store, should you tell the giver that you abhor the gift, or should you hold your feelings close to the vest and keep the gift – hoping to re-gift at a later date?

Essentially, whether to return or not, is a personal decision.

If you just cannot be honest that you hate the gift without hurting someone’s feelings – then your best bet is to either keep it and say ‘thank you’ as honestly as possible, or try to figure out a way to return the item to the original store secretly. Since most stores will take back items without a receipt as long as it is still tagged, you shouldn’t have a problem. If not, then you can consider donating the gift to a worthy cause, or stuffing it in a random drawer to be taken out when you need a good laugh. Obviously, if the gift was given to you by someone who will see and visit you often, then they will eventually realize that it is missing – and you should probably fess up and tell them you don’t like it. Or you could pull out the reindeer sweater to wear every time they come in effort to show your appreciation for the gift. (Unfortunately, then they will think you REALLY loved it, and will probably get you a similar gift the following year)

Additionally, consider yourself in the givers shoes. If you gave someone a gift that you hand picked, spent your hard-earned money – and then realized it would never be used, wouldn’t you WANT your money to be more wisely spent? Most people, while mildly offended at first, want you to have a gift that you love (or at least like!) And buying for other people is not always as easy as it looks. (This is precisely why gift cards are so awesome!) And according to Miss Manners, telling someone you don’t really like a gift, or admitting that it doesn’t fit (your body or your lifestyle) is not considered rude behavior. In fact, it’s considered honest.

Obviously, there is absolutely NO use in hurting someone’s feelings over a $10 bottle of perfume. Or a $10 nightgown. But on items where it is obvious that a decent amount of money was spent, it is important to be honest if possible. Returning the gift does not make you a rude, obnoxious evil doer who never deserves a gift again.

The best way to ensure that you can return gifts is to be a GOOD GIVER yourself, in the first place.

For instance, one rule of thumb is to never buy someone a gift that cannot be taken back. (Yes this means no hand knit sweaters or monogrammed underwear)

And, with all the gifts that YOU give, be sure to include a gift receipt so that the person can take it back themselves if they don’t like it. Also, when exchanging gifts, be sure to tell those around you that you want them to be happy – and if they don’t like it, you won’t be offended. When you act like a responsible gift giver, you open up the dialogue for others to do the same. And then, you have an opportunity to be honest. Sometimes this will work and sometimes it will not. Also, if you absolutely do not know what to get someone, then consider gift cards or cash gifts. This way, you know that they recipient will get a gift they truly like and it will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

And look, if old Aunt Matilda gives you yet another hand crocheted sweater that you absolutely hate as she has done for the past 30 years, swallow your pride, wink at those around you, give her a kiss and tell her you love it. After all, she may not be with you for very much longer. In other words, use your judgment.



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