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How to tactfully return gifts

Written by Darren Bernhardt


How to tactfully return gifts


Darren Bernhardt

The StarPhoenix

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


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Now that Christmas has passed and Aunt Myrtle is gone, it's time for resolutions, like what to do with those tacky and ill-suited gifts she left behind -- the velvet Elvis picture or that dancing hamster.

A lot of us have an Aunt Myrtle. Mine is Aunt Flo, who believes she can make a fruit tree by tying an assortment of plastic bananas, apples and grapes in a shrub in front of her house. She thinks everyone wants quirky things.

Then there's thrifty folks interested more in the "deal" than if the gift fits you -- literally and figuratively. My sister once gave me Halloween decorations for Christmas. She bought them on clearance after Oct. 31. She routinely gives me shirts that would fit a twin-sized mattress -- the only sizes left on the $5 rack, she never hesitates to tell me.

My dad is the ultimate bargain hunter, shopping at the wholesaler for dollar stores in Winnipeg. It exists under a bridge in an industrial area skirted by everyone but hobos and dollar shoppers.

I don't mean to sound ungrateful but that money, as little as it is, could be better directed to charities or the food bank.

I would prefer that over the Bugs Bunny sweats mom once gave me. I got the waistband nearly to my hips but the legs ended behind my knees and truly left me in a tight spot.

What was she thinking? Honestly, who makes Bugs Bunny sweats for adults in royal blue?

The hard part is trying to act appreciative and tactfully dispose of the gift at a later date. The main thing to remember, suggests etiquette experts Karen Mallett and Cindy Grosso, is that someone thought enough of you to buy a gift, good or bad.

That said, "it doesn't mean you have to like the gift; there's no obligation," added Mallett, who co-owns the Winnipeg-based etiquette and protocol service, In Good Company. She and business partner Lew Bayer are better known as The Etiquette Ladies.

There are options for dealing with bad gifts, from burying them in drawers or closets, to re-gifting, donating to charity and the most common, returning them for something better.

"That's why the day after Christmas is usually the biggest shopping day," said Grosso, head of The Charleston School of Protocol and Etiquette in South Carolina and a leading professional in the field of social graces.

Stories of peculiar gifts abound at Midtown Plaza this week. But people are only willing to present their experiences if promised anonymity so that no feelings are hurt.

There's "Tara" and her sister "Alison" who received a Turban Hair System made of some advanced material that will dry hair faster -- if they can figure out how to wrap it around their heads. There are no instructions but there is a cute button and ribbon.

It's destined to be a drama prop like the jean purse the girls received from the same person a few years ago. It was made from the rear end of an old pair of jeans. The turban can't be returned because it was made by someone local and only has a phone number "if you want to order more," said the girls' mom.

"And I don't think I could give it to anyone," said Tara.


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How to tactfully return gifts


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More Columns By This Writer

:: DS market pitch to mature gamer 


You should exhibit a certain amount of tact from the moment the present is opened, said Grosso. That is why we all become amateur actors, pretending to appreciate any dreadful gifts we unwrap.

"You don't need to put on a show and act amazed at how lovely the gift is and say it is the best whatever that you've ever seen. Just say, 'Thank-you for thinking of me' or 'This is something I never would have thought of getting myself,'" said Mallett.


Author: Darren Bernhardt

Source: Article published in the Star Phoenix

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