Regift If you Must But with Caution (Cashing Through the Snow)



By Paula Ganzi Licata

Despite the economy, gifts will always be given and inevitably regifted and resold during the holidays.

In the spirit of cashing through the snow, many people will eagerly sell unopened DVDs on Amazon, well-intentioned exercise equipment on Craigslist and everything from household knickknacks to car gadgets on eBay. Thanks, what a lovely cappuccino set! (Sold.) Great picture frame! (Sold.) I’ve been meaning to buy this book! (Sold.)

With visions of PayPal payments dancing in my head, I succumbed.

Last Christmas was the first year since my sister, Joan, moved to Florida, so she mailed us our gift – a DVD/VHS combo, packed within a second shipping box cushioned in Styrofoam peanuts. It was a wonderful gift, but since my husband and I didn’t need one, we didn’t open it, and a few months later I sold it on Amazon: “brand-new, factory-sealed.” Since it was a large piece of electronics, I had UPS pack it, which sliced $30 off my $85 sale. 

A few days later, I received the following e-mail from the buyer:

“We did not receive the DVD/VHS combo. The box contained two Christmas gifts from Joon (?) to Robert and one to Paula, wrapped in blue paper with trees and candy canes, and decorated with gold bows. We would like to exchange the gifts for the item we ordered, the Samsung DVD-V9700 Tunerless 1080i upconverting DVD VHS Combo Player. We feel that this was an in-house mistake in shipping. I will wait for your instructions to return the item and when to expect the DVD will ship. Thank you.”

I was mortified. Luckily the buyer – a librarian at a Midwestern university buying the item for the school – couldn’t have been nicer. I e-mailed her back instantly with my sincerest apologies, explaining that I hastily sold what I honestly believed was a DVD/VHS player. 

Giving her my cell phone number and promising to refund her money immediately, I also asked if she would open the gifts so I could determine if they were worth shipping back.

She called me five minutes later. “Paula, we had a grand old time unwrapping your presents and celebrating Christmas in spring. Robert got a digital photo frame and you got a Liz Claiborne jogging suit.” 

Later that week I received the package (costing me another $20 in shipping) and noticed Joan had thoughtfully enclosed gift receipts. (She’s so good, down to her flawless packaging.) Robert kept his gift, but I decided to exchange mine. I walked into Macy’s with visions of a new pair of Capri pants dancing in my head. The saleswoman behind the counter scanned the gift receipt. “I’m sorry miss, this item is over six months old and out of our system.”

I never told Joan. When she asked if we’d received her package, I thanked her profusely – “You’re so generous and thoughtful!” – but never went into detail. 

When I see her on her next visit, I’ll be sure to wear my jogging suit.

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