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Here's How to Give Pre-Owned Gifts Without Looking Like a Thoughtless Cheapskate

Dec 11, 2015

Buying pre-owned stuff is far more attractive than it used to be. Instead of taking a chance on the classifieds, Craigslist, or random yard sales, people can browse Amazon and other e-commerce websites, where less expensive secondhand items carry buyer protections like a return policy or a "certified used" designation that assures a product's functionality.

But even though the risk of getting ripped off with defective goods is essentially gone, there's one area where used and open-box items still carry a stigma: gifts.

It's generally considered poor form to give something that's used, even if it's barely been used at all. Since gifts traditionally feature lavish presentation—the wrapping paper, the card, the ceremony—a lightly worn or open-box product could sully the experience.

But is that really true? Would someone resent you and think you're cheap if you gave them something functionally identical to the new gadget they wanted and saved some cash in the process? According to a survey commissioned by Gazelle, a marketplace for used smartphones and other devices, the answer might be no.

Surveying non-customers—in an attempt to remove bias among people already deep in the pre-owned world— the company found that of the 44% who planned on giving electronics during the holiday season, 51% would consider buying a certified pre-owned device as a gift. What's more, 61% said they'd be fine receiving a pre-owned gift because of the significant savings it would represent to the giver.

This is all in theory, of course. It's hard to say exactly how accurate these sentiments are—giving pre-owned merch still seems slightly akin to re-gifting. But considering the ease of purchasing refurbished or certified stuff that's fundamentally as good as new, it has a decent shot of turning into an acceptable practice, especially for expensive items.

According to etiquette expert Patricia Fitzpatrick of the Etiquette School of New York, "giving a 'certified pre-owned' or open box item one has purchased to give as a gift would be acceptable under the following conditions":

  1. It should be in good condition.
  2. It should be an item that you know the recipient would appreciate—one that he needs or would like to have.

  3. It should be put in a box—unless it is too large—and wrapped, as if it were a new item.

So as long as you follow those rules, you're probably fine if you want to go ahead and save some money.

Read Next: How to Re-Gift Without Getting Caught

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