Your unwanted Christmas gift guide

14 Jan 2019 5 min read

Last year, the UK received £2.2 billion unwanted Christmas gifts, according to eBay. Meanwhile sending back all those redundant presents has become so common that Royal Mail is dubbing the first working day of 2019 “Take back Wednesday.

The age old question still remains: are we willing to admit to the giver that we would like to return our gift? Not according to ecommerce site Schpock. Their research suggests that only 1% would take this potentially embarrassing course of action, whereas 34% of us said they would store it away without using it.

Whilst at Parcelforce Worldwide we take expert care of your parcels, we thought we would also help with some well-timed advice for those of you contemplating a mediocre – or terrible - present.

Our guide to dealing with an unwanted gift

Whilst you might be nonplussed by that novelty jumper, even disappointed that it wasn’t diamonds, the way you deal with an unwanted gift situation will affect not only the giver’s feelings but also what they end up getting you for Christmas 2019 (or even whether you make it onto their present list at all!)

So here follows our five golden rules to help you avoid a festive faux pas:

  1. Do not upset the giver by announcing your unhappiness. Be gracious and thankful: express your delight and try to pick out features of the gift that make it relevant to you or ‘prove’ you are pleased.
  2. If the giver offers a receipt for clothing, you could politely suggest that though you do like it, you might check whether a different size (or colour) is available. For non-clothing gifts such as electronic items, you could accept (or cautiously ask for) a receipt (without causing offence) under the notion of registering for a guarantee or keeping in case of faults.
  3. Steer clear from posting photos of the offending gift (and your true feelings) on social media, which could be shared and end up finding its way to the giver.
  4. Always follow up with a handwritten note of thanks: Though this may be a forgotten art/replaced with text messages or a quick Whatsapp, a timely posted “thank you” note will reinforce your gratitude and show that you care.
  5. Ensure you avoid this situation in the future by dropping subtle hints in advance of Christmas.

What are your options?

So, having beautifully handled that emotional exchange, we move to the physical return of gifts. What exactly are your options and can you do so without informing the giver?

Well, technically, yes. Under the Consumer Rights Act, you don’t need a receipt to return something if it’s faulty. If you’re returning the item just because you don’t like it, however, the retailer has no obligation to issue a refund.

Fortunately most retailers have something called a Goodwill returns policy, meaning that they’re likely to offer a replacement or exchange. This is especially true after Christmas, when plenty of people will be trying to return unwanted gifts.

So if you’re wanting to return that unwanted gift, follow this guide to increase your chances of success:

  • Check the shop policy - Although shops generally abide by standard policies (i.e. 28 or 30 day return) some will have certain exceptions and exemptions. You should be able to find full return policies on their website.
  • Return items as soon as possible - Most shops offer extended Christmas returns to the end of January. The sooner you return it, however, the less likely they are to quibble.
  • Keep the item in its original packaging - If you open your gift and realise you don’t like it, don’t be too quick to tear open the packaging. Lots of retailers require the item to be in a resalable condition. If it’s clothes, for example, make sure the tags stay on. If it’s a DVD, don’t take off the protective plastic.
  • Be extremely polite - Christmas (and January) are extremely busy times of year and queues can be unusually long throughout this period. Being polite to the beleaguered retail staff will help your chances and make life easier for both of you.
  • Be willing to accept store credit or an exchange - Without a receipt and the original payment card, it’s unlikely most shops will be happy to hand over money, but if you’ll accept an alternative to a full refund, you’re more likely to be able to return the gift.
  • Make your return during the Christmas period - While there may be a queue to make returns, it’s also likely that other people will be doing the same thing and staff will be more interested in not letting the queue get too long rather than quibbling.

But what if I still can’t return an item?

Sorry to say that some items (such as earrings, make up, toiletries and perishables) generally can’t be returned if they’re not faulty. Fortunately, we’ve come up some other uses for these things rather than just hiding them away.

  • Give it to charity - According to research by the Charities Aid Foundation, 67% of us give unwanted gifts to charity. Take your unwanted gift to a local charity shop while charities like Oxfam will sometimes do home collections.
  • Sell it online - Sites like Amazon, eBay and Gumtree are great places to put items up for sale.
  • Sell it to specialist businesses - Games can go to CEX or GamesXChange while books can be sold to sites like Fat Brain and We Buy Books. If you have unwanted clothes, give Depop a try.
  • Give it as a gift - Just because you don’t like something, doesn’t mean there’s not someone you’d know who’d love it!
  • Upcycle - So you hate the pattern on that cushion. But with a little dye and some ingenuity, could you craft it into something you’d be proud to have on your sofa?

Time to send

Remember when it comes to unwanted presents, you are definitely not alone. However, to eradicate waste and prevent your drawers from overflowing, it’s probably best to get re-purposing, selling or returning.

Don’t forget to use Parcelforce Worldwide for fast and easy returns here:


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