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Unwanted Christmas presents? Here’s what you can do with that gifting misfire

Many happy returns...

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There’s always one.

One Christmas present sitting underneath the tree which you know is going to be a total fail. It’s from the same person each year. It is the one you almost look forward to opening just to see how it compares to the previous year’s disaster.

Sound ungrateful? Yep, it is. But it’s true. And every year, it’s the same story. And if you face this 'problem,' rest assured you're not alone.

If this story sounds familiar, all is not lost. Here's how to make the most of your unwanted gift.

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1) Return it

If you know where the gift comes from you could try taking it back.

But prepare yourself for the harsh truth of the matter: you have NO legal right to return items purchased in a store unless they are faulty, not as described, or don't work as they're supposed to.

Having said that, we know most stores have a returns policy, so check it out. Many stores extend their returns period well beyond Christmas. So you could be in luck.

If you’ve got the receipt, the packaging is unopened, and you’re within their returns period, you’re probably going to be able to get a refund, exchange or credit note. Happy days.

Not got the receipt?

Hmmm, this is when things start to get a little trickier. The receipt proves that the gift was purchased from said store. If you haven’t got the receipt then you can ask the person who bought you the present? Awkward? Potentially. Fortunately some stores will accept a return without a receipt, while others may offer a credit note or money on a voucher card, so it’s worth asking and finding out what's possible.

Bought online?

Ok. Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations, the person who bought the gift has 14 days after receiving it to tell the retailer they’re returning it. They then have a further 14 days to actually return it. The item doesn’t have to be faulty. But this does mean having that uncomfortable chat. If you want to avoid that conversation then check out their returns policy, and drop the retailer an email - you never know, they may be willing to help.

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2) Regift it

Always a winner, as long as you don’t give it back to the person who gave it to you in the first place. That could be embarrassing. To make sure you don’t do this, stick a label on it so you know who gave it to you. That’ll put an end to that problem.

3) Swap it

There are a whole heap of swapping websites out there.

There are general sites and other specialist sites for swapping specific items like clothes and CDs/games/DVDs.

While these can make it quick and easy to trade, swap and sell, there are pitfalls with any online trading, so be careful – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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4) Flog it


You can list up to 20 items a month for free. After that, each item costs 35p each. Either way, when your item sells, you pay 10% of the final transaction value, capped at £250 for a single item. eBay have lots of advice on how you can best list your items.


It’s the UK’s largest classifieds website, used to buy and sell second-hand stuff. It’s free to list an item and is different to eBay in that you often meet the buyer and exchange in person. Just make sure you read Gumtree’s safety advice pages for tips

Local sites

Have a look on social media to see if there are local groups or sites to swap gifts. If so, that could be worth a go. No listing fees after all. That said, make sure that a family member or friend isn’t signed up to the same group...

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5) Donate it

If you want to feel good about yourself, then give the gift to charity. As the old saying goes, ‘One person's trash is another person's treasure’. There will be someone, somewhere, who will give it a good home.

But some stuff isn’t suitable to donate to charity, such as perishables, some electrical goods and sports equipment (give the charity a call first to check the will accept what you’ve got). You could sign up to Freecycle or Freegle, online giveaway websites, and list your present/s there.

6) Trade it

Some places, such as mobile phone companies, offer to buy unwanted phones for cash. Do your research, have a clear price in mind that you’re prepared to sell for, and you could get some dosh for your unwanted gift.

7) Honesty is the best policy

If you don’t want to do any of the above, but you still want a decent gift, then you’re going to have to have that conversation. But beware – you might end up with nothing at all next year though. Ho, ho, ho.

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In Brief:

You DON’T have the right to return non-faulty gifts bought on the High Street, but it’s still worth a try.

Check the retailer’s returns policy. Not all stores have one, but if they do, they should abide by it.

Most stores have a time limit in which you can return non-faulty goods. This is often extended over the Christmas period.

If you don’t like it, keep ALL the packaging - even the tags and cable ties.

Remember: Christmas isn’t all about the receiving - it’s about the giving too. When you can, include a gift receipt with the present. It will ensure everyone avoids any awkward conversations, and your loved one can take it back for something they actually want. Win win. Everyone’s happy.

Finally, all that’s left to say is… many happy returns!

This article was originally published on 26 December 2016.