It seems such a waste to keep unwanted gifts when you'll never use them, but returning them can upset your loved ones. So, when is it OK to return a gift?
Receiving a gift you don't like from a loved one puts you in a really tricky situation.
As while you appreciate the love, thought, and kindness they've put into buying you a gift, you also feel guilty for accepting it when you know you'll never use it.
So, it's best just to return it and be honest and tell them the truth, right?
Well, not always.
As in some cases this can really hurt their feelings and make you appear rude and ungrateful.
And I'm sure the last thing you want to do is to upset the people you love.
So, when is it OK to return an unwanted gift?
This is a conundrum that many Americans have to face, as shown in a study in the Journal of Consumer, Disatisfaction and Complaining Behaviour that found that as many as 1 in 3 people returned a gift they received in the 2013 holiday season.
So, I've come up with the following 12 scenarios where it's perfectly acceptable for you to return a gift.
And how you can do so with sensitivity and tactfulness, and without upsetting anyone in the process.
Although in some of these cases you may have to be cruel to be kind if the gift giver has overstepped the mark in some way.
1. It Just Doesn't Fit You
This one is probably the easiest and most stress-free reason for needing to return a gift.
Because if someone gives you an item of clothing or a new pair of shoes that doesn't fit then it's obvious you're going to have to change them.
So, asking for the receipt so you can change it for a different size should be hassle-free for both of you.
However, the bigger issue comes when you don't like what they've given you and want to exchange it for something different.
As if you do this on the sly they may catch you out by asking you why you haven't worn their gift yet!
2. It's Not Suited To Your Own Style Or Taste
We all have our own individual likes and dislikes, so no matter how well you know someone it can be hard to know exactly what they're into.
So, it's not uncommon to receive gifts of new clothing, furniture, books, music, and other items that just don't align with your own personal taste and style.
But rather than shoving them in a closet to never be seen again, it's a far better idea to ask the sender if you could return them for something else instead.
And you can do this in a respectful way by saying something like:
"Thanks so much for getting me 'X', it's really great. However, I've had my eye on 'Y' for a while now, so would it be OK if I exchanged it for that instead?"
This way you'll get a gift you actually want, they'll have the satisfaction of knowing you're happy, and they won't have wasted their money on a dud.
3. You've Already Got One
Sometimes your loved ones might buy you an amazingly thoughtful gift that is perfect in every possible way... aside from the fact that you already own the exact same thing already!
So, congratulate them on doing such a good job at picking out a gift you'd love and for knowing you so well.
And have a giggle together when you show them the one you've already got sitting at home.
This way you should have no problems asking them for the receipt so you can return or exchange it.
And they can smugly pat themselves on the back for getting it so right in the first place.
4. It's A Great Gift But There's A Different One You'd Prefer
It's so lovely when someone goes to the trouble of getting you a gift related to a hobby or pastime that you're passionate about.
As it shows they've put a lot of thought into what you would like and gone out of their way to make you happy.
However, the problem is they've got next to no chance of knowing what the best products in this field would be or which ones you'd actually want.
Which means when someone buys you a gift like a new guitar, camping gear, or photography equipment, it's destined to fail.
Because you'll almost certainly end up with a gift that while thoughtful is just a little off the mark.
As there'll be a model or make of that item that you'd much prefer to have received instead.
So, thank them for their kindness and consideration and ask them if you can change it over for the one you really want.
As they shouldn't have any issues with this and will be glad to bow down to your superior knowledge to get you something truly great.
5. You Don't Have Any Use For It
Some people are just horrible at giving gifts.
Whether that is by buying things that are completely unsuitable for the person they're giving them to, or buying gifts thoughtlessly out of ritual and obligation.
There are some things that should just never be given as gifts.
And because of this you can end up with an array of crap every year that you never end up using and which clutters up your house.
But that's still no reason to hurt their feelings by calling them out on their lame gift choices.
Instead, simply thank them for the lovely gesture but ask if they'd mind if you returned it and got something else that you need with the money instead.
As I'm sure they won't mind too much.
Because they obviously didn't put a lot of thought into getting the gift in the first place anyway!
6. They Include The Receipt With It
If someone has put the shop receipt inside your gift package along with your gift then it's a massive sign that they think you might want to return it.
And these people are the bomb.
Because it takes all the pressure and guilt away from the gift receiver as they don't need to ask the sender to return it for them.
And as you have the receipt you can return or exchange the gift privately without the sender ever finding out.
Which means there's no hurt feelings or awkwardness involved, just a massive win-win situation all round.
So, let's all start doing this with our gifts please people!
7. It's Inappropriate And Makes You Feel Uncomfortable
The first six scenarios on this list for when it's OK to return a gift are all quite innocent, so approach these situations diplomatically and sensitively so as not to upset the sender.
However, the final six are far more thoughtless, out of order, and even downright malicious.
So, don't feel guilty about letting the sender know exactly why you're returning their gift.
As these are gifts that overstep boundaries and can mess with your personal well-being and privacy, whether intentionally or not.
And the first scenario is any gift that is inappropriate and makes you feel uncomfortable.
This can include receiving sexy underwear from anyone but your partner, items that go against your political or religious beliefs, or anything that is crude and offensive.
And when you do get a gift like this you have every right to return it.
So, if they're being a creep or have been misguided in what they've bought for you, return it pronto and ask them not to get you anything like that ever again.
8. The Gift Makes You Feel Bad About Yourself
Some gifts have good intentions behind them and the sender may think they are just being helpful.
However, these gifts can end up having the opposite effect and make the recipient feel terrible about themselves instead.
This includes any gift that can cause a person to feel shame, guilt, or self-loathing.
For instance, if you are sensitive about your weight then any diet or exercise related gift has the potential to make you feel ashamed and hopeless.
While self-help books for your faults and weaknesses may just highlight to you how obvious these faults are to your loved ones and make you feel worse.
So, if you receive a gift of this kind that makes you feel crappy, don't hesitate in returning it and explaining your reasons why.
Because I'm 99% sure that making you feel bad wasn't the senders intention and they'll feel mortified at themselves for making such a mistake.
And by telling them outright you'll help them to avoid making the same mistake again.
9. It Has Passive Aggressive Intentions Behind It
There's nothing worse than receiving a spiteful gift full of passive aggression from a supposed loved one.
Because even though the act of gift giving is supposed to be based on caring, love, and thoughtfulness, sometimes a friend or relative will use the opportunity to stick the knife in.
And their intent will be clear for all to see, no matter how pretty the packaging is or how big the bow on top.
So, what constitutes a passive aggressive gift?
It could be a cookware set from a husband who wants his wife to do more in the kitchen, or a business suit from a wife for a husband who's been out of work for a while telling him to pull his finger out.
Or a grooming set for someone you think lacks personal hygiene, or a vacuum cleaner for someone whose house is a mess.
The list is a long one but I don't want to give you too many ideas!
Basically, it's any 'gift' that is designed to highlight a negative aspect of someones behaviour that annoys you and that you want them to change for your own benefit.
So, if you receive one of these gifts yourself, don't be afraid to tell the sender exactly where they can shove it.
Because they know exactly what they're doing.
10. The Gift Is Too Expensive And Extravagant
Sometimes people go way over the top and want to lavish you with expensive gifts.
And while they might just want to spoil you a little, it can make you feel really awkward and guilty that they've spent so much money.
As firstly you'll feel bad that you can't afford to return the favour (even if they're not expecting you to).
And you also don't want to feel obligated to them or in their debt by accepting such a generous gift.
Because some people do try to buy the affections of others in this way.
So, if you get an expensive gift that makes you feel awkward don't be afraid to return it.
As you can thank the sender but say that while it's a lovely gesture it's just too much.
And at the same time maybe suggest something more reasonably priced that they could buy you instead.
11. The Gift Is More For Them Than For You
The whole concept of gift giving is to surprise someone with a gift they wouldn't think or getting for themselves that they'll love and enjoy.
However, it's amazing how many people give gifts to their nearest and dearest that have purely selfish motives behind them.
As these are gifts that end up being what the sender desires, rather than what the recipient actually wants.
This could be a wife getting her husband clothes in a style she wants him to wear, or him returning the favour and buying her a widescreen TV that he'll use to watch sports on.
And I'm sure we've all received a gift like this in the past.
Whether it's tickets to a concert we didn't want to go to, a surprise trip away to a place our partner loves, or a coffee machine when we only drink tea (but the rest of the family love their coffee!).
So, you are well within your rights to call them out on this behaviour, and return their 'gift' for something more suited to you rather than them.
12. When Someone Buys You A Gift Even When You've Asked Them Not To
With some people you can tell them till you're blue in the face that you don't want any gifts for your birthday or Christmas.
Yet, they still go ahead and get you one anyway out of a sense of ritual.
Because for them it wouldn't feel right to get you nothing, and they want you to have a gift to open on the day.
But this is really annoying as you end up with things you neither need nor want, and then have the headache of how to get rid of them.
So, while these gifts are given to you out of love, the only way they're going to learn is if you return their gifts to them.
After all, they can't blame you as you've given them prior warning and they know your feelings on the subject.
And while this may sting at first they'll eventually get the message.
Because sometimes you just have to be cruel to be kind.
Receiving a gift that you don't want from a loved one really sucks.
Because it puts you in an awkward position where you feel terrible for wanting to return it when they've been so kind and thoughtful to get it for you in the first place.
However, returning it is usually for the best.
As at least that way they can get you something you actually desire rather than wasting their money on an unwanted gift that sits around gathering dust.
And I've given you some ideas here of why and when it's perfectly reasonable for you to return a gift to the sender.
Just be sensitive and careful when doing so to avoid hurting anyone's feelings.