Friday, December 05, 2014

'Tis the season for regifting: Presenting a cautionary tale


by Ken

My goodness, can it really be coming up on 19 years since the classic Seinfeld "regifting" episode first aired? You can find the script for "The Label Maker" here, on the SeinfeldScripts website.

Again, the script of "The Label Maker" can be found here.
I don't know that Mssrs Berg and Schaffer, who wrote the script for "The Label Maker" (Season 6, Episode 11), invented the term "regifting," but I'm pretty sure I'd never heard it before, and even Widipedia acknowledges, "The term was popularized by an episode of the NBC sitcom Seinfeld ('The Label Maker')," but feels obliged to add that "the practice pre-dates the term substantially" (with three footnotes). Well, of course the practice is older. I'm guessing that people have been re-gifting almost as long as they've been gifting.

The first recorded regifter, however, was that snooty, sly, occasionally treacherous dentist Tim Whatley. (I see from IMDb that "The Label Maker" was the second of the five Seinfeld episodes in which Tim Whatley appeared.) Which reminds us too that before Bryan Cranston was Breaking Bad's villainous Walter White, before even he was Hal, the hirsute father of Malcolm in the Middle, he was the ur-regifter, so called by Elaine when she is outraged to find that he has regifted the label-maker that she gave him to Jerry.

Elaine confronts the ur-regifter, shifty dentist Tim Whatley.
(Note all that hair on Bryan Cranston's head in 1995.)


. . . by Food Network Magazine Editor in Chief Maile Carpenter's "Editor's Letter" in the December holiday issue. "While we were putting together a story for this issue about fun ways to wrap up wine (page 47)," she writes, "I was relieved to learn that my compulsion to regift wine is totally normal: According to one survey, 69 percent of us have regifted a bottle in the past, and I'm as guilty as anyone."

Now I don't know who exactly was included in this survey. It must have targeted some very different demographic from mine, one where the gifting of wine is common enough, not to mention the parties at which such gifting apparently most often occurs, to give rise to all that regifting of the stuff. Nevertheless, Maile has a swell story to share, which I think we might elevate to the status of a "regifting cautionary tale."
I live in fear, particularly at this time of year, that I'm going to hand a bottle right back to the person who gave it to me.

I almost got caught last December. In a mad rush to get to a party, I scanned our wine fridge [Um, "our wine fridge"? Let me just check what I've got in my wine fridge -- Ed.] and grabbed a Brunello that a friend had given me a few years ago. In the cab, I noticed that the friend had signed the back of the bottle -- with a Sharpie. Smart idea: If we would all just start writing personal notes on the bottles we give, we could end wine regifting for all time. That night I was forced to carry the Brunello around in my purse (fair punishment), then bring it back home and do what the original giver intended: Drink it.
Ah, well, so the regifting close shave had a happy ending!

If you're still thinking about that wine fridge (I know I am; I wonder if there's been a survey to find out what percentage of Food Network Magazine readers have wine fridges), Maile has more to share.
I have to hand it to my husband. He never regifts his wine. He gets so many nice bottles from friends in the restaurant business, and while I sit there Googling the price of them and thinking about how many points we'd score if we brought them to the school auction, Wylie just thinks about which one we should try next. He'll break open a $30 bottle of rosé to drink with Thai takeout, and he'll dust off something he's been saving for 20 years just because my parents are over for dinner. The holidays with him are even better -- the good stuff flows nonstop.

I aspire to be that relaxed about fancy wine someday. The only time I came close was by accident, when I opened a bottle of white to share with my mom and sister one Sunday afternoon. For some reason, Wylie hadn't put this bottle in the special DO-NOT-DRINK area of the fridge, and as a result, we polished off $250 worth of white burgundy while we were sitting around doing a ballerina puzzle with the kids. The wine was delicious, but had I known, I'd have opened one of my favorite $12 bottles and wrapped up the $250 one for my boss -- with a message in Sharpie on the back: "Happy Holidays. This is yours to keep."
And you thought you had problems?

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