How to deal with bad Christmas gifts

Think you’ve gotten some bad Christmas gifts? Well, not all packages that Santa brings can be winners. I speak from experience having once received a gift of spray counter cleaner. (Was it a comment on my cleaning ability?)

Don't get stuck with bad gifts this holiday season. (Credit: We Know Memes)

Don’t get stuck with bad gifts this holiday season. (Credit: We Know Memes)

But if you have been the recipient of some unwanted gifts, you will need to be up on your returns and exchanges life hacks, as well as some other tips for turning those duds into diamonds.

Gifts should make you happy

Gift giving is supposed to nice – fun, even. But all too often mom opts for something practical (thanks for the six-pack of socks!) or grandma forgets you are in college now (imagine the equivalent of the pink bunny pajamas Ralphie gets in The Christmas Story). So if bad Christmas gifts have left you feeling blue, the best life hacks are 1) Ask for gift cards, and 2) Ask for gift cards.

Unfortunately, even this request can sometimes go south, i.e., you hate the outdoors but get a gift card for a sporting goods store. Again, I speak from personal experience. But this too can be fixed. There are many websites now devoted to swapping unwanted gift cards, such as, or

Returns and exchanges

Unfortunately, we all have the relative that refuses to give gift cards because they want to give you a personalized gift, or they want you to have something to unwrap. Retailers have gotten better about returns and exchanges, but the sooner you explore your options, the better.

If you are definitely going to be going down the returns and exchanges route with your bad Christmas gifts, don’t take the unwanted gifts out of their store packaging. No store is going to take something that has been opened or damaged. Next, see if the gift giver was thoughtful enough to provide a gift receipt. If you can tell where the gift was bought, just go to that store. Even without a receipt, most retailers will give you a store credit or an exchange. If you can’t tell where the gift came from, now is when you have to get creative. Try to politely ask where the gift was purchased, something along the lines of, “Wow, Aunt Hazel, this is so unique, wherever did you find it?”

Need a rundown on the policies of some big retailers? The website Consumer World has you covered.

Life hacks for regifting

If your efforts to return or exchange unwanted gifts fail, you still have the option of regifting. I know regifting once had a bad rap, but a 2014 American Express survey found that more than three out of four Americans think regifting is okay. Here are some life hacks to help you do it gracefully. Or you can participate in National Regifting Day—which is today!

  • Don’t regift within the same group of people. If the bad Christmas gifts came from your old high school friends, then don’t pick someone from that group to regift to.
  • The original packaging has to look good. If the original box the item came in is damaged, then regifting is out. And don’t think you can try and put it in a different box to make it appear fancier or more expensive. That kind of bait and switch rarely works.
  • Don’t regift the homemade. If someone took the time to knit you something, you are stuck with it. Sorry. Effort trumps ugly.
  • You can always donate it. Odds are if you think something is ugly, the person you are thinking of regifting the item to will as well. So if unwanted gifts are heinous and unreturnable or non-exchangeable, then donation may be your only option.

Got any secrets for offloading unwanted gifts from the holidays? Let us know in the comments.

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