What to do with unwanted oseibo

If you have received oseibo gifts that you don’t like or can’t use, here is a tip that might be useful.  You can return your oseibo to the department store of purchase for a voucher worth 100% of the price of the original item.    You don’t need the original receipt, but you do need to return the package largely unopened and intact.    Also, food items cannot be returned.

Oseibo, which runs from December 1st through December 20th, is the largest of two gift giving seasons in Japan.  Ochugen is the smaller of the two and runs over the summer.   Both are periods where the Japanese express their thanks to those who have been helpful or kind to them during the year, usually bosses, teachers, and close family members.

During the heady 1980’s and early 1990’s oseibo gift giving was at its peak.   At the time, it was not unusual to receive individual gifts valued at over $ 1,000.   Expensive whiskey or brandy and branded products from Tiffany & Co. were typical gift items.

Today because young people don’t have the money gifts tend to be more practical: food, dried seaweed, toiletries valued at between 3,000 – 10,000 Yen.   As a result, some believe the Japanese culture is becoming socially ‘dry’; others feel the burden to return a gift-in-kind is thankfully diminishing.

After receiving an oseibo, at the very least, a thank-you is appropriate.

While some people simply allow their oseibo to pile up in closets, the stores are well equipped to issue voucher-based refunds and exchanges.   Don’t be shy if you don’t like or can’t use what you have received.  Return what you don’t need.

Oseibo also represents a buying opportunity for vigilant buyers.   At the end of season stores remove the ornate packaging and resell oseibo at discount.   Because quality brands are offered, merchandise sells out quickly.  The sales start today, at least a Takashimaya, and run through next Tuesday.

Beacon Reports interviewed Masako Nakano, a public relations specialist, for this article

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