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Is re-gifting okay?
A reader wants to pass along a bowl that's 'so' not's what MONEY's ethicists say.
November 21, 2005: 5:45 PM EST
By Jeanne Fleming, Ph.D., and Leonard Schwarz, for MONEY Magazine

NEW YORK (MONEY Magazine) - A reader writes...A business associate of my husband's recently gave us a large, decorative ceramic bowl as a gift. Since we don't happen to care for it, would there be anything wrong with giving it to some friends for Christmas? The bowl is perfectly nice, just not to our taste.

MONEY's ethicists say...The real issue: Is the bowl to your friends' taste? And, if so, would they be unfazed to learn that you've given them a gift you received from someone else but didn't want?

Unless you can honestly answer "yes" to both questions, you shouldn't give them the bowl.

Here's why. Gift giving between friends is, at its core, an expression of respect and affection.

But re-gifting, at its core, is usually about saving time and money. Santa Claus doesn't operate this way and neither should you. To give your friends something you have no particular reason to think they'll like, while pretending you bought it just for them, dishonors the friendship.

That's the opposite of what gifts should do.

If you're still tempted, consider too that re-gifting between friends rarely goes undetected. Why? Because everyone understands that people typically buy things they like for their friends, not things they don't.

When your friends gaze at that ceramic bowl and realize it's the sort of piece that makes you cringe, they'll also realize that this Christmas you put expedience ahead of friendship.

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Jeanne Fleming, Ph.D., and Leonard Schwarz are trial consultants who advise attorneys on people's ethical beliefs.

Got a question about money and ethics? Want to weigh in on this month's column? Write to the authors at  Top of page

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