Thursday, January 26, 2012

News Flash: Cupid Prescribes!

Etiquette changes with the times. Nowhere is this more evident than in archival material.

Valentine’s Day on the brain? For some charming, if slightly outdated, advice, why not take a quick travel in time…to 1959?

Feb. 8, 1959, to be precise— as captured in an article published that day in The Lakeland (Fla.) Ledger, written by a mysterious figure only known as “Nan.”

The headline?

“Cupid Prescribes…HOW TO BE QUEEN OF HEARTS…Valentine Etiquette.”

So—what does Nan have to say? For one thing, how to handle an unwanted gift.

“…If his gift in remembrance of the romantic day is lacking in imaginativeness, a real Queen of Hearts will still accept it with an enthusiastic show of genuine pleasure,” writes Nan. “After all, that box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers may have cost him a week’s lunch money.”

That’s not bad advice, actually. When opening a present, no matter the contents, you only need say two words: “Thank you.” (With as much enthusiasm as you can muster.)

Nan goes on to extol the virtues of a lady’s “daintiness.” If the Valentine’s gift is a box of chocolates (which “milady must open…as soon as she receives it”), one should first offer some chocolate to the giver, then “daintily choose a piece for herself.” No foraging in the box for favorite pieces or complaining about the chocolate itself—“The whole situation calls for a bit of feminine restraint,” Nan writes. “Don’t tear into the wrappings as if starved for sweets.”

If the gift is flowers, “the recipient should pin it upon her dress immediately,” says Nan. Corsages are “almost certain to contain something red, so bear this in mind when deciding what to wear.”

What if the lady wants to give a fellow a gift? Nan advises to “keep the token small and inexpensive….some home-made cookies or fudge, prettily packaged, are sure to please a man.”

Home-made cookies or fudge would please most people, probably.

Next week’s blog will be full of more Valentine’s goodness…just a little bit more modern.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Re-gifting 101

Is this a grin or a grimace? How many ties does one person need? Think he'll re-gift it?

It can’t be helped: somewhere in your holiday gift stash is likely something you already have or don’t really want. What to do?

You might be one of the gigantic crowd of shoppers who are returning $46 billion in holiday merchandise, according to the National Retail Federation. But there are other options to ensure a happy life for the object elsewhere: recycling, donating, and re-gifting (or giving the gift to someone else).

Use caution when re-gifting! Can you imagine holding on to a present for ages, forgetting its origin, and then re-gifting it to the very same person who gave it to you in the first place? Ouch! Our tips will help you re-gift without any hurt feelings.

Re-gifting no-nos: Used gift cards (you can re-gift if the card holds the total amount, but be sure of that!), anything you’ve opened and used, and personalized or hand-made items. Keep a personalized or hand-made gift in a seldom-used drawer—maybe you can use it in the future someday—and try to bring it out on display when the person who gave it to you is visiting.

• Store presents to re-gift in a designated place, like a closet or drawer, but be sure to keep a sticky note on each item identifying the original gifter.

Remove all original wrapping paper and tags, and make sure you’ve removed any cards tucked inside. When it’s time to re-gift the item, wrap it again and make it look fresh.

• Make sure you are re-gifting with purpose. Choose a gift hat matches the person and occasion.

• Have an unwanted gift card and don't know anyone else who could use it? Find online gift card auction sites that can give you a portion of the card's cash value, says Pamela Eyring, Director of The Protocol School of Washington (and a member of our team of experts), in a recent article.

• Try to re-gift “in different social circles,” writes our colleague, etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore. “Play it safe and don’t regift to someone who might know the person who originally gave the gift to you.” (That’s where those sticky notes come in handy.)

Don’t tell the person that it’s a re-gift! Some things are better left alone.

• When all else fails, re-gift to charity — just make sure the items are in excellent condition.

Be sure to send a thank-you note to the original gifter! Remember, it’s the thought that counts — or, as Pierre Corneille once said, “The manner of giving is worth more than the gift.”