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A new nationwide survey by CouponCabin.com conducted by Harris Interactive found 17 percent of U.S. adults admit they have been caught returning a gift.
Making re-gifting socially acceptable helps extend the shelf life of consumer items before they hit the landfill. —Amanda Hess

Something like this is probably happening right now.

A father-in-law is looking around the living room, a frown on his face. He turns to his daughter-in-law and asks, "I was wondering where you put the gift we gave you for Christmas?"

This is followed by an awkward silence because the daughter-in-law returned that gift a few days ago.

A new nationwide survey by CouponCabin.com conducted by Harris Interactive found 17 percent of U.S. adults admit they have been caught returning a gift — or, in other words, the giver of the gift noticed the gift wasn't being displayed or worn.

But it really shouldn't surprise any gift giver that someone might return their gift — the same survey found 78 percent of U.S. adults said they have pretended to like a gift even though they didn't. What percentage admitted they would return a gift? Twenty-one percent said it was likely they would return a gift and 32 percent said it was somewhat likely.

It is a balancing of getting rid of something you don't like versus possibly hurting somebody's feelings.

Possibly.

The daughter-in-law could have regifted the gift — rewrapping it and giving it to a friend.

Not that there is anything wrong with that — it is the season for regifting, after all.

"If your birthday is in January or February, get ready for a lot of regifted gifts," comedian Ellen DeGeneres said on her TV show in Jan. 2009. "Regifting is just recycling. Its great for the environment."

The last part of DeGeneres' monologue is considered by many to be true — particularly by those who eschew consumerism.

"Re-gifting has since received a boost from the eco-conscious consumerism movement," Amanda Hess wrote on Good.is. "Making re-gifting socially acceptable helps extend the shelf life of consumer items before they hit the landfill."

And in a recovering economy, it saves money to boot.

There are dangers involved, of course — but luckily MSN Money developed rules for regifting:

Update the wrapping. Nobody wants Christmas wrapping on his or her February birthday present.

Don't give hand-me-downs as regifts. It is only a regift if you have never used it. But if you do (don't) at least clean the food out of the rice cooker.

Keep track of who gave it to you first. Unless you think it is fun to give a gift back to the person who gave it to you.

Don't regift the obvious. Avoid regifting candles, soaps, pens, cologne and bath products. Weird stuff also is obvious — like Gene Autry CDs, books on ants and the like.

Don't give partially used gift cards. A gift card with $15.24 on it is just weird and obvious.

Don't regift really old stuff. At least make sure the company or store is still in business.

One variation on regifting, MSN Money says, is to sell the gift on eBay.com for cash. The auction website may, in fact, be the new equivalent of the Island of Misfit Toys.

Regiftable.com adds a few ideas to consider.

Is this going to work? Signed books and handmade items are not likely going to work.

Do you have good intentions? Skipping over that whole, "The road to heck is paved ..." idea, regifting should be about making the recipient happy — not about getting rid of stuff you hate.

Can you keep it a secret? If you don't tell them, keep it to yourself. The time for guilt is before you give it, not after.

Emily Post seems to imply regifting is only appropriate if the item is a duplicate gift — but the No. 1 thing is to "make sure you don't hurt feelings."

And if you do catch someone regifting or returning a gift you gave them, keep that "don't hurt feelings" in mind also as you consider revenge.

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