SURVEY SAYS: The Gift That Keeps On Being Given

December 10, 2009 ( - More than two-thirds of respondents to an ongoing "USA Today" survey admit they have “regifted” – given a present that was given to them - to someone else.

That survey also indicates that the most likely regifter…is a co-worker.  This week, I asked readers if they had ever regifted.  

Now, it is entirely possible that the non-regifters decided not to participate this week – or perhaps the various winter storms in the Northeast and the Midwest simply served to keep them away from the survey. 

Or maybe, just maybe, regifting is a LOT more common than I thought it was – because not only did nearly a third (32.6%) say that they had regifted – but even more – nearly four-in-ten – said they had done so more than once!   

In fact, a mere one-in-five said they hadn’t. 

Now, the math majors out there will notice that that doesn’t account for another 9% of respondents – and that’s the ones who opted for “other”.  And, in the case of this week’s responses, “other” apparently means that they had participated in the effort, but not ‘directly” (as in the case of the reader who shared, “When my daughter was younger, she would get many more gifts than she needed (or wanted). The “present closet” was always available for quick birthday gifts!”), that they had done so, but “only as a White Elephant gift”, or as some kind of special occasion/family tradition. 

My favorite in the latter category was the reader who shared, “We have kind-of a tradition for welcoming new adult members (ie marriage,re-marriage, coming of age…) to our family. There’s this gawd-awful ceramic chicken that gets “gifted” to the new member during a most unanticipated event. It’s very nicely packaged and wrapped and the suprised expression is not only priceless but such a neat rite of passage, so to speak. It may take a couple of years between presentations, but in 30+ years the chicken has never been lost.” 

The "Who"

I also asked readers who had regifted (and, as you can see, that was a clear majority), who had been the beneficiary of that act.  For half it had gone to a family member, for a third it was a co-worker, just 3.3% had pawned it off on a subordinate – and no one admitted to regifting to a boss. 

On the other hand, more than 13% only said “I’ll never tell.”  Omitted from my list of choices – but included in most that chose “other” were “friends.” 

I had asked readers to share their thoughts/experiences on workplace gift exchanges and/or regifting –  there were some who weren’t really interested in either: 

I just wish people would stop feeling obligated to exchange or give gifts at all outside of the immediate family.  I get tired of buying for people I really don't have a relationship with outside of work while at the same time reducing what I spend on the people who really mean something to me.

So, so, tired or seeing lottery tickets as gifts at the gift exchange.

Call me Scrooge, but I fail to understand why we find it necessary to exchange gifts with co-workers. 

Doesn't everyone already have far too many gifts to buy? 

Some who were interested in more of both: 

Since my coworkers are all remote, and they generally don't come to the office unless you pay them, we've not done a gift exchange at my company in years.  I'd like to do it again though.  It's pretty neat, and it's nice to get together.  Telecommuting is nice, but I am a social animal and need to see people. 

And some who were looking forward to more: 

Our dept. conducts an annual 'vicious Santa' gift exchange, where we each bring a wrapped gift, then draw names to determine the order in which we each get to open one.  When its your turn, you can either open a wrapped gift or steal a gift from a co-worker who has already opened theirs (with limits on the # of times any one gift can be stolen).  It's the most fun you can have at an office party without alcohol!

My family has a secret-Santa gift exchange.  About five years ago, I received an assortment of gifts including a rather innocuous tie, except for the picture of the naked woman on the underside.  I have been looking forward to regifting this item, and yes I drew his name this year.

The "roll the dice to get doubles and grab an anonymous present" is always great fun at work functions or family.  Gets people laughing and talking, and works best with white elephant gifts.

Our department has decided to do the Gift Stealing Exchange again this year. It was a big hit last year!

At a former job, we had a gift exchange that was pretty unique.  Every day for one week you would secretly give your gift to a person.  Each gift from Mon-Thurs cost only $1.  Then on Friday we had a luncheon and had one last gift worth $15.  The person couldn't open their gift until they guessed who their secret Santa was based upon the previous 4 gifts.  We would go around the room giving everyone one guess, then start all over until through a process of elimination, you guessed your person.  It was fun, but sometimes took the whole lunch to get done.  Not everyone participated in the gift exchange, but invited all to eat.


Some of my favorites were: 

A few years ago, my mom regifted a relaxing fountain that she got from someone.  She regifted it to my brother, who regifted it to my sister, who regifted it to me.  Last year, I regifted it to my mom.  I'm sure it will make the rounds again!

My sister once got a package of plastic ants, which had been opened and taped shut and a Dukes Of Hazzard activity book which was original from the ‘70’s and some of it had been written in by some unknown child. The sticker price tag from whatever yard sale this came from was still on it-20 cents. It was extremely bizarre. Especially since this was not a secret Santa situation, it was a Yankee swap, so this gift could have landed in the hands of her program director.

I have regifted a few times. All the times however were because I already had the gift, so I didn't need two of the same thing. 

But this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who observed, “I think regifting is a great Christmas practice.  Consider the traditional Christmas colors - red and green.  By regifting, you're "going green" by not sending something to the landfill.  You're also "saving green" by not having to spend additonal money, frequently in a situation where it's an obligatory gift anyway.  You're also not sending your bank balance into the "red" by spending money you really don't have to.” 

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!