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Regifting: The answer to our debt problems?

Years ago, I had a friend who would gather all the unwanted Christmas gifts of her friends and colleagues and either return them or sell them. When someone would tell her about an ugly sweater or hideous vase they received, she would brazenly ask if she could have it. Most were glad to hand the presents over, and she would either bring them back to the store (if she knew where they came from) or sell them at her next yard sale.

I was always mortified by the fact that my friend did this. There was something really tacky about the fact that she benefited financially from gifts that were given to others from the heart.

Several years later, when the practice of regifting was given a name (thank you, Seinfeld), I cringed every time I read advice columnists detail how to regift and get away with it. (Don't forget to remove the gift tag! Don't regift to someone in the same circle of friends!)

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I always figured that if you don't like a gift and don't feel you can mention that to the gift-giver, you can pass it on to someone else whom you think would like it without making it seem like you bought it. Rewrapping it and giving it again seems like a form of deception.

You can also give it to charity, so someone else can benefit from it. No need to stick it in the back of your closet and forget about it.

If you, like me, think regifting is bad, get ready for something even more shameless. Recently, eBay Canada put out a release offering another solution for unwanted gifts: "discreetly" selling them on eBay.

In the spirit of the season – the New Year, when resolutions get made and broken and your dreaded credit-card statements arrive -- eBay's release was titled "Unwanted gifts can be the solution to Canadians' holiday debt."

In other words, selling gifts you don't want won't just rid you of them; it can also help with holiday debt.

It turns out eBay commissioned a poll by Environics Communications that found:

• 30 per cent of Canadians incurred some debt from the holiday season the year before (The poll was conducted in early October so they asked about Christmas, 2009.)

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• About 40 per cent of respondents said they received at least one unwanted item that year

• 75 per cent said they wouldn't be selling those unwanted items.

At that moment, when I read that 75-per-cent figure, I was very proud of being a Canadian. Other Canadians, it seems, also find it hard to get rid of a gift that someone who cares for you gives.

So it appears that eBay has a hard sell ahead. Canadians may need the money but they haven't bought into the concept of selling the ugly sweater from Aunt Martha, even if it means some cash and more closet space. I, for one, applaud them.

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