‘Just what I wanted!’: Which? reveals the UK’s top strategies for dealing with Christmas presents that miss the mark

From a pair of novelty socks to a book you already own, Which? research unwraps the true story of what really happens to those gifts that require a forced smile on Christmas morning.

Which? surveyed over 2,000 people about their shopping and gifting habits at Christmas. The research revealed that almost one in three (30%) received at least one unwanted Christmas present last year.  It can be hard to explain to a friend or family member that green and purple aren’t your colours, so what happens to those gifts that miss the mark?

Only four percent of unlucky recipients plucked up the courage to speak to the giver and ask for a replacement, and the same small percentage tried to return their gift to the retailer for store credit.  This is despite the fact that UK shoppers are increasingly confident about returning goods to retailers, with almost six in ten (59%) of those surveyed having done so this year – up from just over five in ten (53%) in 2016. Millennials are leading the way here: nearly eight in ten (78%) of those aged 18 to 24 returned a purchase this year.

If you want to return a gift, you’ll usually need proof of purchase to get a replacement or refund. The best way to do this is with a gift receipt but if you weren’t given one with your gift, you’ll need to ask if the person who bought it for you still has it.

However, instead of trying to return or exchange gifts, our research revealed that the most common solutions were either re-gifting (38%) or donating the item to charity (34%). One in five (19%) went on to sell their unwanted gift on an online marketplace, such as ebay or Gumtree, and almost the same number (20%) decided to simply accept the gift and do nothing.

Finally, six percent took the somewhat drastic step of simply throwing their unwanted present in the bin.

Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Products and Services, said:
“We’ve all been put in the tricky position of receiving a gift that isn’t quite to our taste.  Despite that, our research shows that almost none of us can face the awkwardness of telling the giver the truth.

“It’s a shame for gifts to go to waste, so we would advise asking for a gift receipt and checking a retailer’s returns policy when buying a present if you want to be sure of giving someone a happy Christmas.”

Notes to editors

  • Populus surveyed 2,089 UK residents on behalf of Which?. The survey was carried out on 6th/7th November 2017. Data was weighted to be representative of age and gender of UK population

  • Populus, on behalf of Which?, surveyed 2,119 residents of the UK online between 2nd and 3rd November 2016. Again, data was weighted to be representative of age and gender of residents in the UK.


Which? has the following relevant guides:


I want to return an unwanted gift

What are my rights with gift vouchers and cards?

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