Is It Impolite To Return Or Exchange Gifts?

Returning gifts can be a tricky and sensitive proposition, especially if the gift is from a loved one who really thought they had found just the right thing for you. So to help you navigate this minefield, we turned to etiquette expert Anna Post of the Emily Post Institute for advice.

There are some that think it’s never polite to return a gift unless it’s the wrong size or you’re allergic to it. But Ms. Post says that it’s “just fine to return or exchange a gift.”

She explains that returning a gift does not negate the spirit of the gift. The gift-giver “should want the other person to be happy rather than forcing their own choice” upon the recipient.

Ms. Post also says the best way to avoid awkwardness with gift returns is for the giver to include a gift receipt.

“I really like it when people give gift receipts,” she says. “Asking for a receipt is different than returning something that doesn’t involve the giver… The receipt gives you tacit approval to return or exchange the gift.”

So one shouldn’t be offended if they find out the gift they gave a loved one has been exchanged for something else?

“I wouldn’t be,” says Ms. Post. “When i give a gift, I want them to enjoy it…We all miss the mark sometimes, even the best of us.”

What about those situations where you simply can not return the gift — either because it’s non-returnable or because the person who gave it to you will be emotionally crushed?

“Every now and then, you just don’t get the gift you want,” explains Ms. Post. “In the event you can’t exchange something, you may just have to focus on the fact that someone liked you enough to give you a gift.”

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