No matter what or how you celebrate, the 2019 holiday season is officially over. The most fortunate among us were showered with gifts — some good, others not so much. Odds are, you received at least one thing that you just don’t want. Now what? Here are the best options for getting rid of your unwanted holiday gifts.
From a “bang for your buck” perspective, the best option is to return unwanted gifts to their original store. This may not be obvious in every case, but there’s a tactful way to coax the source out of the gift-giver without letting on that you intend to return it.
The most important thing, of course, is whether or not you have a receipt. With a receipt in hand, you’re guaranteed to receive the full purchase price of the item in the form of cash or store credit. Thankfully, gift receipts are more common now than ever as people come to grips with the fact that they may not be the perfect gift-giver.
In the absence of a receipt, things get a little more complicated. These days, most brick-and-mortar retailers are staying competitive against their online-only rivals by offering more generous return policies. Around the holidays, in particular, many offer extended return periods of 60 or even 90 days.
Either way, if you know as soon as you unwrap a gift that you’ll be returning it, keep it in the original, unopened packaging. Some stores offer identical return policies, whether an item is open or not, while others are stricter. In some cases, high-ticket items like electronics may have limited return windows of as little as 14 days, enforce a restocking fee (usually 15-20%) on opened items, or both.
Maybe you don’t have a receipt, maybe you already opened a gift that you realize you don’t want, or maybe you have no idea where a gift item was purchased. In any of these cases, consider selling it.
eBay is the most obvious option for offloading unwanted holiday gifts. The site sells millions of items each year, so there’s a built-in audience for just about every type of product. New, high-demand items — especially electronics like smartphones, laptops, and digital cameras — can fetch near-retail prices. Open-box items typically sell for 20-30% less. Either way, keep in mind that eBay’s cut is around 10% of every sale, and PayPal takes another 3%. Still, posting your unwanted items for auction or via a fixed-priced listing is often the quickest and most profitable alternative to returning them.
Facebook Marketplace is another great option for selling unwanted items via free classified listings. The system is not as sophisticated and feature-rich as eBay, which is both good and bad. On the plus side, most Facebook accounts can be vetted with a little research so sellers can know their buyers a bit before moving forward with a transaction. The best part is that Facebook charges zero fees or taxes to sellers on its Marketplace listings.
One obvious concern, however, is that the original gift-giver might see that you’ve listed their item for sale. Finding a niche Facebook Group in your local area, and selling only within that private group is one way to sidestep this potentially sticky situation.
Craiglist was once the only game in town for classified listings. Today, in addition to Facebook, there are plenty of alternatives like LetGo, OfferUp, and more. Most offer easy-to-use mobile apps allowing users to take photos, list items, and contact potential buyers right from their smartphones. The ease of listing items on any of these can’t be beaten. Some don’t even require an account and listing an item takes just a few minutes.
The downside is that, in the absence of any in-depth user verification, they lack the sophistication and reliability of eBay’s feedback system. That translates to a lot of tire-kickers and window shoppers who might seem interested in your item, right up until they ghost you, never to be heard from again. Selling through these sites is often more time-consuming and frustrating. In the end, most shoppers are looking for deep discounts and bargain prices, so your item is likely to sell for far less than you might expect on eBay. On the plus side, most require minimal fees compared to what eBay charges sellers.
Smartphone and Tablet Resellers
If you scored a new smartphone or tablet for the holidays, you must have pretty generous relatives. If you don’t need or want it, however, you’re in luck. Selling and reselling mobile phones online is big business. Sites like Gazelle and Decluttr buy phones directly from consumers. The process only requires sellers to answer a few questions about their phone — make, model, condition, and whether or not the box and any accessories are included — before providing an offer. Prices are typically competitive, especially for phones manufactured within the last two years.
If you choose to sell, the site will dispatch a return shipping box that includes packing and prepaid postage. Once it arrives, ship the phone, and wait to receive payment (usually within a week). The entire process typically takes less than an hour and eliminates the back-and-forth communication that selling through a marketplace like eBay requires. For an even faster turnaround, EcoATM has thousands of kiosks throughout the United States, where sellers can turn in their unwanted mobile phones for immediate payment.
If you’re in the market for a new smartphone other than the one you were just gifted, some retailers offer a trade-in option. Amazon, Best Buy, Staples, and Target, for example, all offer programs to provide customers with store or trade-in credit for unwanted smartphones or tablets.
Gift Card Resellers
Gift cards are near-perfect gifts, which is why most of us prefer them over any other “surprise” gift. But, they’re not foolproof. If that $50 Dressbarn gift card from Aunt Sally isn’t your speed, there are plenty of online marketplaces to offload it. Raise and Cardpool are great outlets to sell your unwanted gift cards. These sites pay cash for valid gift cards, albeit at a lower price than the card’s face value. The premium depends on the card’s demand. Amazon and Target gift cards sell for more than those from, say, P.F. Chang’s and Applebee’s.
Among the many things that Seinfeld taught us: Festivus is the most wonderful time of the year, and regifting is a contentious issue. On the one hand, there’s something sneaky about dumping an unwanted gift off on someone who doesn’t know that it was initially a gift to you. It feels a little like getting credit for something you didn’t really “do” in the first place. However, if you genuinely don’t want that gift and you happen to know someone who would, what’s the harm? From that perspective, it’s a win-win.
To assuage any guilt you might feel, just know that regifting is culturally acceptable. An American Express survey found that three-quarters of Americans were fine with regifting. Pro tip: Always make sure to regift to a different social circle. If you received a gift from someone at work, for example, don’t regift it to another coworker, lest you get found out a la the Seinfeldian label maker scenario.
If you really want to assuage any guilt you’re feeling, consider donating your unwanted gift. This is not to be confused with “donating” it to a friend as a gift, but rather to a charity like Good Will or The Salvation Army. In this case, you’re doing some good for humanity while not receiving any direct thanks in return. Short of keeping it, it’s the second-best thing to do — ethically speaking, at least.
Just Keep Them
Returning, selling, or donating unwanted gifts are only good options for non-sentimental gifts, practical essentials, and gifts from extended family members or someone you’re not likely to see regularly. Just know that, at some point, the giver may ask how you’re enjoying that thing they gave you that time.
Sometimes the best option is just to keep it. It should go without saying, but this is especially true for handmade or deeply personal gifts. If your pops gifted you a pocket watch that his pops gave to him, or nephew Timmy spent two weeks carving a birdhouse for you in shop class, it’s best to keep such items whether you like them or not. In part, because you’ll look like a jerk when you’re forced to lie about ditching them in the future. But mainly because it’s the right thing to do, you heartless ingrate.
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