According to research done by ASIC’s Money Smart website, Australians plan to spend around $955 each on Christmas gift giving this year. Of that, 75 per cent of people use their own personal pool of cash savings, while 36 per cent will put the expenses on their credit card.
With that in mind, it can be extremely difficult, and awkward, to tell a friend or loved one that the gift they spent their hard-earned cash on isn’t exactly something you want or need, or worse, you already have it. In fact, According to data by Green Villages Sydney, more than 1.7 million Australians received unwanted gifts each year at Christmas.
Additionally, data collected by Finder.com.au reveas that around 7 per cent of Australians will re-gift their unwanted presents from the last Christmas in order to cut costs this year. The website estimates that this works out to be around 1.3 million Aussies passing on unwanted items this year, 200,000 of which are probably being passed around a second time.
So, what do you do with an unwanted gift? What’s the polite way to refuse or return an unwanted Christmas gift? We asked etiquette expert Zarife Hardy, director of The Australian School of Etiquette, for her advice.
What is the best way to politely refuse a gift?
“It’s always best to talk to the gift giver face to face somewhere private, if talking to the giver face to face is impossible then you should write a hand written note,” suggests Zarife. “Firstly always thank the giver for their gift and for being so thoughtful, be very careful not to embarrass the giver. Then, express your reasons clearly and carefully and show genuine regret when declining the gift. Make your words kind and simple, keep it short and be firm in your decision. In cases where the gift has come from a business associate that won’t take the gift back, it’s important to notify a superior so your company will have a record of your actions.”
What’s the correct protocol for gift-giving when it comes to Kris Kringles, extended family and in-laws?
“It’s always best to set price limits before you commence gift giving, and if this isn’t appropriate then you must only spend what you can afford - gift giving is not about buying expensive gifts that blow your budget,” says Zarife.
“Hopefully, you know a little about that person, and it’s always best to try and buy something that interests them. If you really don’t know what to buy, then don’t purchase anything too personal. Use your judgement; gifts like sweets, something for the home, wine, flowers or plants will never be unsuitable.”
“Gifts to avoid are anything that could embarrass the person, such as personal hygiene items, self-help books, or anything that person can’t or won’t use.”
What is the correct way to go about returning or exchanging an unwanted gift?
“It can be very hard to return a gift without proof of purchase, and you would never ask the giver for the receipt unless they offered – but even then you must be careful about how you word why you would like to return the gift.,” says Zarife.
“It’s usually best to say that you already have one. If the gift comes from a store that lets you return without proof of purchase, then you may be able to exchange or get a refund.”
What is your opinion on re-gifting?
“There is nothing wrong with regifting, you just need to be very, very sure that you aren’t regifting to someone who may know the person who gave you the gift originally, or know that the gift has been re-gifted” says Zarife.
“Always open a present up completely before re-gifting as there may be a small card attached inside the box or paper. Do not ever re-gift to someone that may know the original gift-giver through work or friendships. It’s sometimes best to put the gift away for a short period of time before re-gifting so nothing is left to chance.”
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