How to choose gifts that won't be returned, regifted or resold

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Posted On March 06, 2014 / Posted In Gift Guides / Tagged gift guides, gifting etiquette

Did you know that 4 out of 5 people in the United States receive unwanted gifts and almost half of them (a whopping 46 percent) resell or regift what they get? And nearly 40 per cent return their Christmas gifts. What a waste of time and effort.

Why do people return gifts to stores or regift them? It could be because the gift isn’t exciting and didn’t tap into any emotion  – it’s not something they want, it’s not something they’re saving up and pining for.  It’s a probably a duplicate of something they have or it’s just not in line with their hobbies, preferences or lifestyle.  Whatever the reason, you certainly don’t want to be the culprit who gave that sorry gift!

So, is gifting a lost cause? Not really; I wouldn’t let the statistics worry me. My experience says there are a few things you can do to choose gifts that are welcomed and liked, gifts your friends and family are happy to get. When the gift is right,  you know it’s not going to be returned, regifted or worse…resold.

Here are 5 tips to choose gifts that are return-proof

1. Make a list: The first step to choosing a gift that won’t be returned or regifted is simple — make a list. I find that having a gift list always helps. I have a mental list of events and occasions that require gifting. If you can’t always remember, write them down and pin-up your list in a spot that’s visible on a daily basis.

Make a list of birthdays and anniversaries; special occasions like weddings, housewarmings and baby showers; milestone events like the big zero birthdays of your friends and family. That way, you won’t be caught by surprise and will have enough time to drum up a great gift.

2. Tune in: I’m often asked how I can be so certain about choosing a gift the recipient will like. The answer to that is: I’m not. Not all the time and not a hundred per cent.  But, I tune in; I listen carefully to what the people who matter to me are saying. I get clues from regular, day-to-day conversations about the things they like, things they are saving up for or things they need. A person’s hobbies or profession can also be a source of  gifting inspiration. For instance,  if you have a photographer friend who gets nostalgic about the days of film roll, gift them something that’s related to photography. Based on what you learn, write down your gift ideas against the name of the person in your gift list.

Another question I’m asked is if I spend a lot of money on gifts. Not really. I do save up for special occasions. But even so, a good gift doesn’t have to involve an insane amount of money. People need or want different things at different times. I’m all for emotion, so I tend to rate a gift not by how much it costs, but by how it makes the recipient feel.

3. Scout around: Now that you have a few gift ideas in mind, scout around in stores and shops that could stock the gift you want. Also, figure out when they have their annual blowout sales or off-season sales. You end up buying the gift in advance, but you can save money by taking advantage of the sales. This is especially helpful when the gift is more expensive than you bargained for and is over budget.

Alternatively, if you are a DIYer and plan to make the gift yourself, scour the web for ideas and tips. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for the creatively inclined. Make sure you plan well as creating something from scratch takes time and effort.

4. Build a stash:  Sometimes, even when I’m not looking for gifts, I stumble on things that are good gifts. At that time, I don’t who I’m going to give it to, so it goes into my gift stash. My gift stash typically contains unisex items like gorgeous stationery and small home decor items.  That way, they can be gifted to both men and women.  I always manage to find the right recipient for the gifts in my stash.

Build a small gift stash of your own , one you can dip into anytime. A word of caution — don’t include expensive gifts in your stash as it is money that can be used elsewhere.

5. Wrap it up: If the gift is great, why bother with gift wrapping, right? Wrong. Gift wrapping isn’t just about covering the gift in decorative paper. It’s about going one step further; it’s like the icing on the cake or a beautifully decorated dish at a restaurant. I liken it to a splendidly done window display. It adds another dimension and is the final flourish that completes a good gift. And for the recipient, it’s about the anticipation, the excitement of discovering what’s inside.

There you go. 5 tips to choose gifts that are return-proof.

There have been few rare occasions when, despite my best intentions and efforts, I’ve got it wrong. I choose something that didn’t quite turn out the way I expected or didn’t get the recipient very excited. In one instance, I even made a gifting faux pas. But, don’t let these missteps derail you because, it also helps to know what not to gift. It’s a bit like the reality TV show ‘What not to wear’ that transforms women with questionable dressing sense into women who look like they know exactly what clothes look good on them.  Sometimes, you have to get it wrong before you get it right. 


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Sarita Rajiv is a writer, gifting specialist and founder of The Orange Gift Bag. She’s on a mission to uncover the ‘best gifts after love’. When she isn’t dreaming up unique gift ideas, she writes for The Copenhagen Post and The National Geographic Traveller India among others.

You can follow Sarita Rajiv on Twitter, Google, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.