Naughty or Nice? Four Gift-Giving Conundrums to Consider
In order to avoid the holiday credit card hangover, you’ll want to be at your coupon savvy best this holiday season. While you’re saving up a storm, you may have some gift giving etiquette questions you never thought possible, but can be a real reality for those who coupon. Is couponing for Christmas gifts bad form? Does regifting make me a bad person? And what happens with those free gifts with purchase? We asked an etiquette expert for help determining what's naughty and what's nice.
“I got Dad’s name. We’re doing $50 gifts this year.”
Gift exchanges with a dollar value attached are very common. They give people an expected guideline that helps ensure Mom doesn’t end up with new diamond earrings while Dad gets some seasonal reindeer slippers. Being the excellent shopper you are, let’s say you find the hot video game your dad wants for $40 instead of $50. Do you pat yourself on the back for saving $10 and move on to the next person on your gift list? Or, do you look for a $10 gift for Dad to meet the $50 budget? While either is an acceptable answer, the item you are giving does hold a $50 value and meet the guidelines for this particular exchange.
What the expert says: According to Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, the $50 budget is a guide. “While you wouldn’t want to spend $10 on a gift and call it even, you can pat yourself on the back for getting exactly what dad wanted and still have $10 extra to spend on gift wrap and a thoughtful card,” says Gottsman.
This time of year all kinds of products are competing for your gift giving dollars by offering an extra incentive like these:
- At Nordstrom buy Dolce&Gabbana "The One Desire" Eau de Parfum and receive a free black sapphire mirror.
- When you buy $30 worth of Yankee Candles you'll earn a free small red berry and cedar scented tumbler worth $10.99 at Ulta.com.
- When you buy a $100 gift card for Outback Steakhouse, you get an extra $20 bonus gift card that can be used between January 1 and February 10, 2014 at Outback or four other restaurants.
Does that mean the bonus package should be gifted along with the original gift? The last thing you want is for your friend to feel slighted if she finds out from someone else or sees an advertisement about the retailer’s gift card promotion.
What the expert says: “You are not obligated to gift the extra gift with purchase. Your conscience can stay clear! Who’s saying that you purchased the gift at the particular store that was giving away the gift with purchase. I, would, however, discourage you to give the free gift away as a separate gift unless the gift was substantial enough to stand on its own,” says Gottsman.
"I have had this gift card in my wallet for a while. Who can I give it to?"
Nothing makes holiday shopping easier than the beloved people on our lists who ask for gift cards. They’re easy to find and easy to wrap – maybe a little too easy if you’re considering giving someone a gift card that has been collecting dust in your wallet for a while. Surely the etiquette police would say regifting a used gift card would be a bad idea, especially if the remaining balance was a random figure like $13.12. But, what’s the etiquette on giving away a fully loaded gift card that isn’t right for you but just happens to be for someone of your list’s favorite restaurant or store?
What the expert says: “I would certainly triple check to make sure the gift card was not outdated, used or empty. Then I would check the expiration date. If it is a perfectly good gift card with a significant balance, and has an infinite expiration date to your friend’s favorite restaurant, you can feel reasonably certain that you are not going to be arrested by the re-gift protocol patrol. It’s very tricky – I would suggest telling the truth, say 'I was given this gift card to XYZ steak house and as you know I’m a vegetarian. I would love for you to have it',” says Gottsman.
Regifting -- once a holiday season no-no -- is being seen in a new light. The act of giving someone a gift that you received previously from someone else is no longer Santa’s dirty secret. In a survey conducted last holiday season, Creditdonkey.com found that “83% of respondents wouldn’t mind receiving a regifted present.” There’s your free pass. But, keep it classy with unopened gifts only and avoid giving the gift back to the person who originally gifted it to you.
What the expert says: “There are specific rules when you plan to re-gift an item that is in perfectly good shape but you don’t like it for a particular reason. It must be completely new, not gently used, in its original box, not separated from other products (think a candy and nut tower), and in perfect working condition. Again, the truth is the best answer, but re-gifting is not the “protocol sin” it used to be viewed as in earlier years,” says Gottsman.
Make your shopping list (check it twice) and don’t forget to think about how you’d like to approach your gift giving this year before you find yourself in one of these etiquette jams.