A friend of faithful reader Brooks Hilliard claims this happened to a friend of hers:

She had a wedding to go to, and needed a wedding gift. Aha, thought she, I have that monogrammed silver tray from my wedding that I never use. I’ll just take it to a silversmith and have him remove my monogram and put hers on it. Voilà, one cheap wedding present.

So she took it to the silversmith and asked him to remove her monogram and put the new one on. The silversmith took a look at the tray, shook his head, and said, “Lady, you can only do this so many times!”

True or not, it’s a great story. Herewith are my Principles of Gift Recycling:

  1. Hey, waste not want not. If someone gave you a sweater you hate, the world is not better off feeding it to the moths. If it’s too much trouble to exchange for one you like, wrap it back up and pass it on.
  1. If the donor is not present when you open it, open it very carefully, and just far enough to see if you’ll want to keep it. You may not even have to break the seal. Rewrapping becomes much easier. Just be sure there’s no possibility of a card or inscription or engraving concealed inside.
  1. Make a note not to regift it to the donor or anyone the donor knows or might meet (cf: that Seinfeld episode).
  1. It is the thought that counts. You are pleased by the thought Don and Dana Donor wanted to give you something — in that sense, the gift was entirely successful! What’s more, you own it. Don and Dana want you to get the most possible enjoyment out of it — which in this case happens to be the enjoyment of saving the $60 you were planning to spend on Ron and Rhoda Recipients, plus the enjoyment of not having to go out and shop or wrap, plus the enjoyment of knowing you are living light on the land, plus the enjoyment of getting that thing out of the house.
  1. Cover tears in the wrapping (caused by clumsy unwrapping) with extra stick-on bows. A box of stick-on bows is a good investment. Better still to stock your own box with recycled stick-on bows from previous gifts.
  1. It’s an old story but completely true: there are only one or two fruitcakes produced each year. They just get recycled.
  1. Do not recycle perishable food gifts — or else recycle them very fast. The great thing about fruitcakes, of course, is that they have a shelf life of a thousand years — and a half-life about equal to uranium.
  1. OK, let me say a kind word about fruitcakes. They can actually be pretty good. Some people do like them, which is why a few new ones do have to be made each year. But here’s another great recyclable: champagne. Most of the people who get it don’t really like it — we recycle it. And those two-foot Galliano bottles. Any really great-looking novelty liquor bottle is meant to be taken from the box, marveled at, replaced in the box, and recycled. (When was the last time you actually were asked to mix a Harvey Wallbanger?)
  1. Gift recycling is one of the few areas in which it is generally OK to lie. If someone gives you a copy of a book you already own, there’s no need to say, “Oh, gee, I already have it.” Say, instead, “Oh, I’m dying to read that!” or, perhaps better, “Oh, I can’t believe it! I love that book — and then someone borrowed it and never returned it. I’m so glad to have it again! I keep meaning to buy it again and I always forget. Thanks so much!” Then wrap it back up, or add it to the pile of books you’re planning to give to the library.
  • (Note. There is a world of difference between a lie and a white lie, and it is this: A lie is told for selfish reasons. A white lie is told primarily to spare the feelings or buoy the spirits of someone else. “You look great!” is a white lie. “I’ve never even heard of Bruno Magli shoes” is a lie lie.)
  1. No, scratch #9. Bad example. Never recycle books. Books are the one exception. They should be bought and kept forever. Never lend a book to a friend. Never let your spouse read your copy — make him/her buy his/her own. Do NOT support the public library. And I want you to know that my saying this has nothing to do with the fact that I write books and get a royalty from each one sold, but nothing from each one read. (Well, great satisfaction, but no cash.) Have I mentioned lately I have a new book coming out?

Tomorrow: Top 10 Reasons to Buy (Multiple Copies of) My New Book



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