Sorry, Santa: Tips for Unloading Unwanted Gifts

Bad Christmas gifts
Bad Christmas gifts

You 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.

Sponsored Links

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.

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