Sorry, Santa: Tips for Unloading Unwanted Gifts

Bad Christmas giftsYou love Grandma, but you're not feeling that floral jumpsuit she gave you for Christmas. And that gift card from Omaha Steaks won't quite work: Auntie seems to have forgotten that you're a vegetarian.

'Tis the season for unloading those albeit well meaning -- but unwanted -- holiday presents. Here's a few tips to help you get something back in return.

First Try For a Store Return

If you know where the gift giver bought your unwanted present, check the retailers' return policy online or by asking their customer service department.

"Retailers tend to be a bit more liberal with their return policies around the holidays, knowing people get things as gifts and don't have receipts," Sue Perry, deputy editor of ShopSmart, Consumer Reports' shopping magazine, tells DailyFinance. However, without a receipt you likely won't get the cash back, but a store credit instead, she says.

"And one more thing to keep in mind: If the item went on sale, you probably will get the sale price and not the full price the giver may have paid."

Unload Unwanted Gifts on eBay

The most common unwanted holiday gifts are clothing, accessories -- from footwear and handbags to jewelry -- and consumer electronics, Jim Griffith, dean of education for eBay (EBAY), tells DailyFinance.

Here's a basic rule of thumb to follow during the holiday unwrapping fest: "Even as you're saying, 'no, you shouldn't have,'" to the gift-giver, be mindful to open all gifts carefully, keeping the packaging pristine in case you want to return or sell it later, Griffith says. Hold on to the boxes and don't remove the tags.

While this tip might seem like a no brainer, it's one key way "to help you realize better value" on eBay as the more merchandise appears new, versus used, the better it sells, Griffith says.


Clothing and fashion accessories that reflect specific tastes - - which might not be yours -- "you either love UGG boots or you don't" -- are big post-holiday sellers on eBay, Griffith says.

That's why listing the size of an item on the site isn't enough. Because clothing sizes varies greatly, include measurements in your product listing to maximize its resale value, he says.

For tops, common measurements include underarm to underarm, and from the top of the collar to the bottom of the hem on the back of the shirt.


When it comes to handbags, make sure to show photos of the front, back, sides of the bag, and pictures of any labels, in your listing. Also, "the most common mistake that sellers make is not photographing the interior of the bag," so include that as well, Griffith says.

Sellers also leave money on the table when they post photos of jewelry that fail to capture its sparkle. With jewelry, closeups are important, so use the macro feature -- as opposed to the zoom -- on your digital camera (most cameras have one) which allows you to take a sharp, tight shot of the item from just a few inches away, Griffith says.


The online marketplace recently launched InstantSale, a trade-in program designed to help sellers easily purge unwanted electronics for cash. "In a nutshell, tell us what you have, we'll take you what it's worth," Griffith says.

With eBay's traditional selling option, sellers handle the listing and manage their items themselves.

Sellers send their electronics with a pre-paid postage label to the site, and eBay will reimburse the seller through PayPal based on the item's condition. (Sites like and also offer shoppers cash or store gift cards for their unwanted electronics, but an eBay spokeswoman said eBay can occasionally offer better value than other programs.)

When listing electronics, include a photograph of the serial number of the item, which helps the buyer validate that the item they've purchased is the same one that appeared in the listing, Griffith says.

Sell, Trade in Unwanted Gift Cards

A hefty $2 billion in gift cards will go unredeemed in 2011, according to TowerGroup, a research firm for the financial services industry.

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But leaving a gift card unused is like throwing money away. Instead, tap the gift card resale market. Sites such as,, and will let you sell your card for cash, often for up to 92% of its value, or trade it in for another gift card.

And Dec. 26 is Gift Card Exchange Day -- a one-day event designed to raise consumer awareness about exchanging gift cards for cash. Shoppers can enter the store name and gift card amount on the site to receive instant bids from resellers interested in purchasing their card.

Cash in Those Daily Deals

More consumers gave coupons from daily deal sites like Groupon (GRPN) and LivingSocial as gifts this year. If you received one that you're disinclined to use (maybe that mango and papaya facial just isn't your thing), look to unload it on sites such as,, and, which allows consumers to sell unused daily deals. Sellers can also buy a daily deal they prefer from these sites.

Regifting Gone Wrong
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Sorry, Santa: Tips for Unloading Unwanted Gifts
Have you ever "recycled" an unwanted gift only to discover you've accidently given it back to the person who originally gave it to you? AOL users outed themselves (and others) as they shared their embarrassing stories of regifting gone wrong -- both on the giving and receiving end.

Click through our gallery to see some of our favorite "regifting" stories from these submissions.

First Up: Time For A Lesson
Reader Hartno1 says:
"Many years ago, I bought my brother and new sister-in-law a food processor for their June wedding. The next Christmas, my gift from them was the same food processor complete with dried, crusted food particles on it. The box it was in was partially crushed and battered. Imagine my surprise when I opened my Christmas gift! They were standing close by and asked over and over if it was what I wanted. Apparently they had forgotten about my wedding present to them. I took it home, cleaned it up and donated it to Goodwill."
Next: You Might Be Needing This
Reader Daisycards5 says:
"My mother-in-law once gave me a purse for Christmas. I opened it to look at it and there was a day timer of hers inside with her appointments on it! She is always giving me stuff that she has worn, and even boxes of candy that are not full."

Next: Feeling Like a Fruit Cake
Reader RICKEEDEM says:
"In the 1970s, I had rental properties and one tenant always gave me a Claxton fruit cake each Christmas. So, one year I did not even open it but gave it to my neighbor as my gift to her. As she was opening it, I saw a card inside. I knew I was doomed. She opened it and it read "To a great landlord." My friend said, "You are trying to palm this off on me?" Was I embarrassed? There was no way to get out of it."

Next: Seven Years Too Late
Reader Candigrl2k3 says:
"My brother and I gave my dad a gift card for his birthday. The gift certificate was ... valued at $100. About seven years later, the gift card resurfaced as a regift during Christmas to my then boyfriend. My boyfriend went to buy himself a pair of $130 sneakers. When he presented the $100 gift card and $30 cash, he figured he was all set. No he wasn't -- he had a balance of $70 ... They called the number on the card and said the card was actually purchased in 1993, and each year it depreciated by $10 ... When I told my brother, he thought it was hysterical, but my dad was so embarrassed."
Next: A Pattern Past Its Prime
Reader Gary88877 says:
"When my ex and I got married, one of my cousins gave us a Corningware casserole which was one of the things we had registered for. However, it was not the same pattern, instead it was the original "cornflower" design. When the wife tried to exchange it at the store, she was told that pattern had been discontinued for maybe 20 years!"

Next: The Gift That Never Died
Reader Haveanangel says:
"About 20 years ago, my grandfather gave my husband a gift set of English Leather. He didn't like it, never opened it. The following year, [my husband] gave it to my brother-in-law. I have three sisters and for the next few years, that gift set made it's way around the family Christmas circuit. My husband got it back and he said enough was enough. He gave it to his brother. We haven't seen that stuff since."

Next: Mother-in-Law Faux Pas
Reader ROSESKES says:
"Years ago, we regifted a wedding gift that we thought was HORRIBLE. But the relative we gave it to -- and his new spouse -- just LOVED it! It was the centerpiece of a room in their house, and I have to say, it looked better there than we could have made it look. I was amazed -- I'm not usually that lucky!"

Next: Candle Confessions
Reader jangy03253 says:
"My daughter came to my office and there was a candle sitting on my desk given to me by a co-worker ... She asked if she could have the candle ... A month later mom brings me a birthday gift to the office. I open it and asked her ... when I asked her when did she start shopping at Home Interiors, she said she never shops there. When I pointed out it was a Home Interiors candle and that the same candle was a gift to me the previous month and my daughter took the candle home she did not know what to say ... Well, she was BUSTED on that one."
Next: Mother-in-Law Faux Pas
Reader Bethemanueltire says:
"About 15 years ago, I gave my mother-in-law a set of wall sconces (mounted on a nice wooden back board) that I mail-ordered as a Christmas gift. After we moved in our new house, as a Christmas present, she gave them BACK -- wrapped, of course, but still in the original box. I know it was the same ones because I could see the return address label! She's done this to my husband with jewelry too. He'll give her a nice necklace, then a few years later, it will turn up under the tree addressed to our daughter."
Next: Dried-On Food Included
Reader ANCPoel says:
"I received a silver photo album from someone, but whoops ... they left the copy of their invitation inserted into a sleeve inside. Now the album makes a funny gift (with a real one of course) with the current givers' invitation inside also. I think its [been regifted] 7 or 8 times now!"

Next: There's Something You Should Know ...
Reader DIANECARR1945 says:
"Santa wrapped a regift of red long men's underwear previously given to grandpa. They did not fit and were returned to dad. Mom didn't know I had worn them to pajama day at high school. They had been washed and dried and had a sock inside the leg along with the dryer sheet. This is the best story we tell and everyone cracks up."

Next: Note to Self: Check the Box!
Reader DMa2199913 says:
"For my wedding, I invited the obligatory co-workers. One of my co-workers, a well-off salesman, and his wife attended. After the wedding, we opened up our gifts and I was delighted to see a beautiful hurricane lamp from the salesman ... I pulled the lamp out of the box, only to find that the candle that came with the lamp was burnt half way down and there was a white sock belonging to their baby inside the box! Regifting is fine, but ... before you do it, make sure all of the pieces are there ... and those that shouldn't be, aren't."
Next: The Haunting of the Dish
Reader Daisy05Duck says:
"I was given a designer-decorated Christmas dish for cake, cookies etc. over 10 years ago. It was never used, as I had several of them. It went around the family numerous times managing every Christmas to turn up with someone else's name on it and wound up back to me a few years ago. I finally had enough of seeing this dish, so I donated it to someone as a house-warming gift topped with cookies so that I would NEVER see it again."

Next: Keepin' it in the Office
Reader Lsherm77 says:
"I had given a wine basket with different wines and an opener to a friend who was retiring. Well, what does [this retiring co-workers's girlfriend] give to our boss as a Christmas gift? The gift basket. Bad taste. Never should happen."

Next: Uniquely Personalized
Reader Greens4eva says:
"My sister received a Jean Nate gift set that you would purchase in a drug store about 30 years ago. It was the worst smelling body splash, so she put it in her closet for about five years. She came across it and decided to play a joke on someone in the family. She wrapped it and gave it to me as a joke for Christmas. Since then, this gift set has been from New York to Texas to Minnesota and back to all of our family members as a Christmas Gift joke. The funniest part is that the set is still unopened and in its original plastic wrapper!"

Next: Way Off Target
Reader chel2thesea08 says:
"This year was my high school graduation, and my family members were more than generous with their overflow of gifts and money. That included my dead beat grandfather that sent me a gift card from Target dated from February for 25 dollars, my graduation was in June let me remind you. I went to Target to pick out a nice 25 dollar item, when I get to the cash register and was told there was only $13.73 left on it. Yes, not only an old, but used gift card. My mother was furious with him, but I had to laugh it off. I mean, how tacky can you get?"

Next: Look Before You Wrap
Reader MisticW says:
"I regifted some wine glasses to a good friend for Christmas which I had obtained from opening a checking account from a bank and she loved them so much she wanted to know what store I bought them at so she could get more. I had to tell her the truth but it was so embarrassing."

Next: Antique Chocolate
Reader Italian Vixen says:
"I have an aunt who is a bit of a pack rat. I'm used to getting really tacky gifts from her but don think much of it and just donate them to goodwill. Its the thought that counts. Well one year she gave me a nice two pound box of Sees Candies. I thought wow, finally at least something I can use. Who doesn't like chocolate, right? So I open it up and grab one and take a big bite and immediately spit it out. Something was horribly wrong. It was disgusting! I thought how can you possibly mess up chocolate? I look on the box and found a USE BY date and it was a box from the mid 70's!"

Next: A Co-Worker's Christmas Gift
Reader ZELRON says:
"A good friend of mine was getting married a few months after me and for her shower I regifted a beautiful bowl that I personally didn't care for that was still in the same box. I should have looked before I wrapped it because when she opened it I saw the card inside from the person who had sent it to me. Fortunately, for me, she didn't say anything and we are still friends to this day."

Next: Dried-on Food Included
Reader Xxxpoetry says:
"One Christmas my husband and I decided to exchange gifts. I went shopping for him, he went shopping for me and then we came home and wrapped our gifts. On Christmas morning when I opened his gift, it was a small clock with the name of the company he works for engraved on it. He had never done any Christmas shopping when he left home that day."

Next: Wine Glasses
Reader TRLAZZARO says:
"A few years back, all of our family opened their presents from our great grandmother whom use to collect Avon cologne bottles. Much to our surprise we all started receiving them for every Christmas, birthday, wedding anything that required a gift. Well this one Christmas as we started laughing before we even opened the bottles, I finally opened mine and sure enough, the bottle was so old that the liquid has evaporated. It was empty. We laughed for hours and hours about that."

Next: Regifting Jean Nate for 30 Years
Reader Raisingkids123 says:
"I'm opening presents and I realize that the gift my co-worker had given me was the very same gift that I had given her the previous year. As I'm figuring this out, I'm thinking of comments that she had made in prior months. Such as "oh, I've had your present, Amy. Matter of fact, I've had it since last year!" The more I thought about this - the more mad it made me! She had opened her gift the year before and re-wrapped it in the same paper I wrapped it in!"

Next: Granny Gives Avon
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