An Etiquette Expert Shared Advice On Returns & Regifting — Here's How To Not Be A D*ck

Step one: be honest.

Staff Writer
A person wearing a Santa hat during a snowstorm in downtown Montreal.

A person wearing a Santa hat during a snowstorm in downtown Montreal.

The holidays are nothing if not social occasions, and social occasions are nothing if not stressful. Thankfully, there are etiquette and manners professionals of all stripes here to help us navigate the sometimes awkward and always tiring mores of society during the gift-giving season.

To help Montrealers stay polite in the toughest of circumstances, we asked self-proclaimed "Chief Etiquette Officer" Julie Blais Comeau for her best tips and tricks for staying civil while exchanging, returning or even regifting a holiday present. Here's what she had to say.

What's the best way to break the news to someone you're regifting their gift?

For this situation, Julie recommends leading with gratitude. Say thank you first, then proceed with your reasons for regifting. "Plus," she added in her email to MTL Blog, "you don't have to tell someone that you regifted." You read it here first: lying by omission is sometimes the politest route to take.

When, if ever, is it not okay to return a gift?

Julie says it depends on your relationship to the gift-giver. "If the gift is from your mother-in-law and you know that she will look for it, plus you host her weekly, it is best to keep it, put it in her view, wear it, etc, instead of having to explain why," she wrote. "If the gift is a book from your brother from an author that you love and you returned it, it is perfectly acceptable and he will most likely be happy to have contributed to your pastime," she explained.

It's possible that your gift-returning situation is not captured by either of these two very specific scenarios. In that case, your best plan is simply to suffer in ignorance.

How should you respond when someone regifts a gift you got for them?

This scenario is equally tantalizing and horrifying, but stoic Julie remains firm in her politeness. "Obviously," she wrote, "the person does not recall that you were the original gifter. Graciously thank and accept."

If you imagined this situation and felt a burning rage in your core, perhaps take some calming breaths. It's not as bad as one real situation that happened to Julie, in which a close connection regifted something to her "and the name of another person was on the gift bag, inside which was the gift." Yikes!

What if you give someone a gift and you observe their obvious disappointment but they still say they like it?

"Offer to give them the receipt and to avoid such a situation, request the gift receipt when purchasing," Julie sagely advised us. If you forgot to get the gift receipt and you witness deep regret and sadness on the face of your gift's recipient, it's probably best to validate their feelings and internalize the knowledge that your relationship will never be the same.

If someone ends up offended that you returned or regifted their present, what's a good way to respond?

Before you construct a massive, multi-claused paragraph in your mind, consider the simplest option. "I am sorry. I never intended to offend you," is what Julie recommends in these circumstances: something easy, concise and honest. If you DID intend to offend them, then congratulations on your holiday success.

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

Willa Holt
Staff Writer
Willa Holt is a Staff Writer for MTL Blog focused on apartments for rent and is based in Montreal, Quebec.
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