How to return gifts better

March 24, 2022

Giving and receiving gifts can be the highlight of the holiday season, but what happens when a present doesn’t quite work out? Whether it isn’t the right fit for us or is totally off target, returning gifts can be a hassle. To make matters worse, items returned to stores without a renewal system are more likely to eventually be thrown away rather than resold to consumers. If this impact doesn’t fit into your Renewable Life, then try these steps to return gifts better.

Peruse the policy

Your very first step should be to carefully read through the details of the store’s returns policy. How long do you have to return it? At The Renewal Workshop, we follow Zappos' lead and give you a full year to return something. Next, ask what happens if you return it: a different version of the product, something else from the store, a credit or gift card? Does the policy say anything about what will happen to the item you are returning and whether it will be used or sold again after it makes it back to the store? If not, consider asking the store about its circular practices. Brands and retailers will invest in Renewal if they know that it matters to you!

Circle it back

Some items that are opened or show signs of use can be a bit more tricky to return, but that doesn’t mean they have to end up in the trash. Check to see if the company that makes the product has a program to take back and donate or resell usable items that have been gently used or otherwise fall outside of the return policy requirements. Our awesome partners at Timbuk2 have a great example of this type of program with their “break up with your bag” parties. You may also want to check to see if local service groups or industry organizations have programs to regift and redistribute your return.

Repurpose the present

Maybe that top didn’t fit quite right, or you already had a copy of that book. Remember that most gift givers enjoy the process of giving you the gift, and would rather see you using it in any way rather than not using it at all. You may want to get crafty and find or invent an alternative use for the gift. Reinvent that top and repurpose those books; get creative and channel what you already love about the objects.

Set up a gift swap

You probably share more interests and styles with your friends than you realize. If you receive some gifts that excite you but don’t quite work out for some reason, there is a good chance that one of your friends might want it. Why not organize a return-worthy gift swap after the holidays? It can work just like a clothing swap, where you get to take one gift for each one that you bring. It’ll be way more fun and easy than following the return process, and you will keep your potential returns out of landfill. 

Be a Regifter


While Jerry and Elaine might not approve, we don't consider regifting rude - it's just another way to practice being ciruclar. IF you do it right. Here's some help on how to navigate the etiquette of regfiting. 

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