How to get rid of unwanted gifts

We’ve all been there. It’s Christmas day, you’re slurping some champers while opening your gifts, and you’re presented with a pair of bike balls – or else something equally as obscurely and useless – by your brother-in-law. Alternatively, you might be given something that you know someone, somewhere would love and cherish, but it is absolutely and resolutely not “just what you’ve always wanted”. Thousands of unwanted gifts will be thrown away over the festive period, but here at GQ, we don’t believe in wanton waste, which is why we’re recommending reassigning your refuse. Before we begin, we must remind you that the cardinal rule is this: never, ever let the giver of the gift know that you plan on getting rid of it. Turning a crushing Christmas disappointment into a wily win is an art, and we’re here to teach you how to master those wicked ways without causing irreparable offence.

Return it

Let’s start with the obvious one: take your bad gift back to the shop. If, by some miracle, the unwanted present in question has been given to you with the gift receipt tactfully included, then this should be mercifully straightforward. Although retailers are not obliged by law to take purchases back unless faulty, most shops operate a kind of “good will” returns policy over the Christmas period where you can get a refund, an exchange or a credit note. If the gift was paid for by card, then only the cardholder can get the refund, so if you want to keep the reject status of said gift a secret, we’d advise going for the credit note.

If you don’t have proof of purchase, this is where it gets much trickier. Some places, especially where clothing is concerned, will allow you to exchange your unwanted gift for something of the same current value, providing all labels are still intact. Make sure you return it as quickly as possible – ideally on Boxing Day – if you want to stand a chance of replacing the reject with something of similar original value. Otherwise, you’ll only get the measly equivalent of the item’s sale price, which is likely to tumble with alarming haste in the mayhem of the post-Christmas cut downs. If you want to return a gift online, then check out the seller’s T&Cs first, as different retailers have different policies. Amazon’s online return centre allows recipients of gifts to return them anonymously, even if the purchase wasn’t originally listed as a gift, but you will need the order number or buyer’s name, email address and phone number. (To find out more about your consumer rights as the recipient of a gift, check out which.co.uk.)

Re-gift it

“Is it ever okay to re-gift a present?” You may ask. We think that yes, committing this perfect crime can be completely acceptable, as long as you’re subtle about it. If you haven’t already got one, create a communal christmas gift repository immediately. Whether that’s with your family or your housemates, this is going to come in handy throughout the year for those inevitable occasions where you’ve forgotten to buy a present. As far as the obviously Christmassy gifts are concerned, save ’em for next year. BUT make absolutely sure you keep a record of who gave them to you. The rudest and most mortifying thing you could do is re-gift the offending pressie to – or in front of – the person who originally gave it to you. You must also make sure that, when re-gifting or, as we prefer to think of it, considerately reassigning one’s gifts, you pick suitable recipients so that you can at least appear as thoughtful.

Sell it

If you can’t quite face dumping your duds on someone that you know, sell unwanted gifts to those who’ll show them the appreciation they (don’t always) deserve. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right? If you’ve been given a great gift that’s just not to your taste, or if you’re in it to make some mula, then this is an especially good way to get rid of items that were clearly quite expensive. eBay is the biggest and best website for selling on unwanted stuff, and every year, come 26 December, the site is flooded with thousands of brand-new items.

Alternatively, there’s eBid, a smaller site that stays a little less crowded than eBay, plus it’s worth remembering that Gumtree has an “unwanted gifts” category. Given that more than 450 million people now use Facebook groups to buy and sell items – from Wavey Garms to Buying and Selling Raf Simons – it’s unsurprising that the site has recently launched a new feature, Facebook Marketplace, which allows you to connect with people in your area to buy and sell a whole host of products.

If you’ve been bought a bit of luxury fashion that, although not to your taste, just doesn’t deserve the brutality of bidding, thenVestiaire Collective is an excellent place to sell your more high-end gifts. Grailed is another community marketplace specialising in menswear, with a wealth of brands from Rick Owens to Ralph Lauren on offer.

Switch it

If you haven’t been blessed with a gift receipt and can’t swap in-shop, then try online. Sites like swapz.co.uk will do the job nicely, and there are also plenty of specialist sites devoted to swapping, from readitswapit.co.uk for books to titletrader.com for DVDs.Game offers a comprehensive trade-in service where you can switch unwanted games, consoles and other bits by using the handy online value checker. Argos is another good place to take the festive season’s spurned items, as the retailer allows you to trade-in unwanted tech for vouchers. If your unwanted present already takes the form of vouchers, then you need Zeek – the app that allows you to make money from the vouchers that would otherwise sit in a drawer and collect dust until you decide to move house, which is when you realise they’ve all expired anyway.

And when all else fails, give it away

If, try as you may, you just can’t find a way to profit materially or monetarily from your outcast of an offering, then embrace charitable giving and just donate it. Most charity shops will be delighted with a brand-new item, so either pick a cause or pick somewhere round the corner and do the decent thing. Alternatively, if you think that even the organisers of your children’s primary school tombola (who, let’s face it, are going to be pathetically grateful to get anything that hadn’t been heading for the bin) may turn a proverbial nose up at this stinker of a gift, whack it on Freecycle. You’ll have people queuing up to take it off your hands, and it’s all in the spirit of seasonal giving, so you ought not to feel like too much of an ungrateful arsehole.

This article was originally published by GQ.co.uk on 20 December 2016

Isaac At Review

The concentrated number of eateries in Brighton & Hove never ceases to amaze me. And yet, in the six years I have been dining out in our seaside town, I have never had a culinary experience quite like Isaac At.

Serving up contemporary British food, this new fine dining concept offers so much more than just dinner. Eating here is an entire food event. The brainchild of 23-year-old head chef Isaac, the restaurant popped up on Gloucester Street last year. The focus is provenance, with a menu that showcases seasonal, fresh ingredients. The label attached to each menu describes the food as “inspired by the agricultural bounty of the Sussex Downs and beyond”, and if the food mileage list provided is anything to go by, they’ve totally embraced this ethos.

The restaurant space itself mirrored the food that we were served. Small, elegant and yet un-fussy, the minimalist décor was light and modern. At the centre of the 32-seat space is the open kitchen. Food is prepared in front of diners, giving guests and chefs the chance to interact. In keeping with the intimate and informal environment, each course is announced to the room by the chefs themselves. Upon arrival, the wonderful restaurant manager Sophia showed us to our seats at a communal table. Although we were a little hesitant about this ‘social’ aspect at first, it actually worked really well. Given that all of the guests are enjoying the same dishes from the set menu, chatting about it with other foodies made for a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. The effect was akin to being at a fabulous dinner party.

We started the evening off with an aperitif, a glass of the local Ridgeview Merret Bloomsbury Sparkling Brut (£8.50) for myself, and a Silly Moo Cider from East Sussex (£4.90) for my partner. Both were light and lovely. When the time for wine came around, the assistant chef himself, George T, came to aid us in making our decision. He suggested the Sedlescombe Biodynamic 2013 from East Sussex (a very reasonable £31, considering that’s the priciest white on offer), which turned out to be an excellent choice.

The pre-starter was one amazing mouthful of pure deliciousness. Isaac’s take on a mini smoked salmon sandwich – complete with miniature cubes of cucumber – was delicate and expertly executed. Also worth mentioning was the freshly baked bread, served with slab of Ringmer butter.

Next was the asparagus, egg yolk, pork scratching and locally foraged scurvy cress. The crunch of the pork scratching offset the richness of the yolk, and they both made a great accompaniment to the British asparagus.

The cuttlefish, smoked apple, bok choi and cauliflower that followed was, I must admit, not really to my taste. Call me a philistine, but I like my squid-like fish battered and fried. However I can appreciate that the dish was very refined, beautifully presented and definitely rather different. Isaac At is all about showing diners new ways to enjoy unusual ingredients, and it was good to see the dynamic young chefs embrace experimentation.

The main course of pork neck and belly, ratte potato, smoked broccoli and goosefoot was also a delight. We were a little disconcerted when we first saw ‘goosefoot’ on the menu, but actually it was tasty cress, also locally foraged. The pork neck was cooked to perfection, beautifully pink and velvet soft, whilst the belly was salty and crisp, reminding me of a fantastic bit of bacon.

The palate cleanser of blackberry and cucumber ice that followed did just that, as even after four courses we were still able to find room for dessert. The lavender ice cream, chocolate, lime and rapeseed was a pleasant surprise, given that lavender has the potential to taste like potpourri. However this was very subtle, and paired with the aerated chocolate it made a refined yet relatively light ending to our meal. I say ending, although it actually wasn’t, as we still squeezed in a final course of two charming little petits fours.

All in all, this is the type of fine dining that even the most hardened of sceptics could get behind. The team had clearly meticulously considered every aspect of the evening and aside from the food itself, the service was outstanding. What makes Isaac At unusual is the pairing of high quality food with a casual environment; something Brighton had previously lacked. At £45 per head on a Friday evening and £47 on a Saturday, a night at Isaac At is also unlikely to break the bank.

This piece was published in the June 2016 issue of BN1 magazine.

www.isaac-at.com