by Elizabeth Howell
‘Tis the time of year when people give you a gift, and you don’t have one to give to them. Maybe you receive an intentionally ugly sweater (why did that become a thing?). Will the store even let you return it? Who puts that in our retail environment? Or maybe your best friend bought you a dress or a pair of jeggings (yes, those are now a thing, go ahead and embrace it). And perhaps there’s a coffee maker, box of chocolates or bottle of wine you’re thinking of regifting.
How’s a polite barn girl to handle these situations?
Ummm, thanks can I exchange this?
What was your best friend thinking? Maybe it’s a hint that she wants to see you in something other than Tailored Sportsman espresso trophy hunters, but if a gift is going to sit in the back of your closet until the release of Avatar 2 then go ahead and exchange it. Don’t feel guilty. Unless it really is black jeggings. Give those a chance. They will change your life.
Exchanging a gift requires tact, because you will have to tell the giver what you are doing: “Melissa, that was such a kind gift. I hope you don’t mind that I exchanged it for a pair in a darker shade. What a treat to have pants that I promise will never see the inside of a barn!” And don’t forget to write her a thank-you note.
The time not to exchange a gift is when you’ve received something handmade or so unique that the gift-giver would be hurt if you traded it in for something else. Trainers, this means you: No matter how many coffee mugs or homemade holiday ornaments you receive from 7-year-old students you must keep them.
Many places make exchanges easier and less awkward with gift receipts which you can throw in the gift box. Start including gift receipts in the gifts you give for good gift karma.
This practice of gift recycling is a favorite of members of the old school, the die-hard practical and the tightwad. But is “regifting” an acceptable, i.e., polite, practice? It depends.
Our desire to regift is often a side effect of the economy, our surplus of “stuff,” and a desire to be practical and give away things we know we won’t ever use. Regift with caution and only when the following criteria are met:
- The gift is something the recipient would really like to receive. Don’t re-gift a box of chocolates to your friend who worked hard all year to lose 20 pounds.
- The gift is brand new (no cast-offs allowed) and comes in its original packaging. If you already opened the Mermaid blanket (why are those constantly on my Facebook feed?) and ripped off the tags, you can’t give it to someone else.
- The gift isn’t handmade or one-of-a-kind, such as a handmade sweater or acquired during your parent’s 30thanniversary trip to Greece.
- Would the person who gave you the gift mind that you passed it along?
Do the giver and the recipient of your gift know each other, and would it be awkward if they realized that you’ve recycled a gift from one to the other? Make no mistake, the potential for humiliation does exist, and many consider this practice to be completely unacceptable.
Make sure you don’t hurt feelings—neither the original giver’s nor the recipient’s. Would the person who gave you the gift mind that you passed it along? Do he and the recipient of your gift know each other, and would it be awkward if they realized that you’ve recycled a gift from one to the other? Make no mistake, the potential for humiliation does exist, and many consider this practice to be completely unacceptable.
But here are the kind of situations where I think it works. Last night you went to holiday party A, where there was a gift exchange and you came home with a nice bottle of wine. Tonight you’re going to holiday party B and you would like to bring a gift to the hostess. You forgot to pick something up, and she’s a big fan of red wine. As long as the guest lists don’t overlap, last night’s gift is tonight’s hostess gift.
Only you can decide whether to pass along a gift, and if so, how to do it appropriately. Think through each situation carefully and then, if in doubt, don’t do it.
And finally, what should you do when someone gives you a gift, and you don’t have one for them in return? Smile, open the gift, say thank you. Write a thank-you note. There’s no need to reciprocate.
It’s also the time of year when we want to thank the folks who work hard all year to care for our beasts—the barn workers, the trainer, the farrier, the vet. What’s an appropriate gift?
Do you have a barn manners question? Send it to email@example.com.