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Does your workplace do a gift exchange? What type?

witch.hazel's picture

Every year we do a "white elephant" gift exchange. I'm not totally sure what a Yankee Swap is, but I think our white elephant is more like that because we do the gift stealing thing.

For anyone who doesn't know, our gift giving game goes like this:

Each participant brings a gift. It's supposed to be inexpensive, even something you find around the house. It can also be a gag gift.

Everyone takes turns opening one gift that they pull randomly from the collection. If someone else likes what you opened, they can steal yours and then you have to choose another gift.

I HATE this game! Every year I cannot bring myself to "gift" a coworker with my unwanted junk. I don't keep unused things in my home, and I think it's just tacky to pass your garbage on to other people disguised as a present.

So, each year I've gone and bought something. I try to keep it inexpensive but cute. However, it always adds up to around $20 no matter what. It's been "Elf on the Shelf" one year, Christmas music packaged with some candy and a couple ornaments, etc. In hindsight, that's not a good idea either- what if my gift goes to someone who doesn't celebrate Christmas?

One year I got a nice candle, but someone stole it from me, and I ended up with a dish scrubber. The next year, I picked a beautiful blue sparkly package, and it ended up being a box of old crossword books. I hate crosswords.

I've seen people give a couple bottles of old nail polish, which was received by a male coworker who wouldn't ever paint his nails. The whole thing leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

It sucks getting a gift of literal junk after you were thoughtful and tried. Maybe I'm too sensitive, but it offends me and I feel like someone who just has crappy luck. But I can't bring myself to do the opposite and give a coworker the gift of garbage. This year I'm opting out.

Am I the only one who feels this way? Why can't we all bring a reasonably priced nice gift and randomly pick one without the stealing part?? What do you do at work?


Aniki-Moderator's picture

Meh, I'm also not a fan. Some people give really nice (and waaaaaaay over the price) stuff. Others bring in crap. And I do mean CRAP. One year, a woman 'gifted' a box of spaghetti noodles (past the expiration date) and a partially used box of baby wipes. Crikey.

I participated twice. One year, I gave a cookbook (I'd bought one and my Mom gave me the same one as a gift, so I gave away the one I bought. The other year, I gathered up all of my unmatched socks (that were in good shape, but the mates had disappeared into another dimension), rolled them up and put them in (what I thought was) an absolutley hideous green candy dish. The woman who got them was in heaven - she makes sock puppets!

Anyhoo, I don't blame you for not wanting to participate. If it was an actual gift exchange with unisex gifts, I still would not. To each their own.

SMto2's picture

Funny you should ask, as our office's gift exchange is today! In the past, we've done the "white elephant" gift thing. It's obviously just for laughs, although I've been surprised about the "junk" that people ended up fighting over! ha ha ha! Fortunately, for the past few years, we've done a regular name drawing, and each participant fills out a form with what things they love, what they hate, their favorite stores and favorite restaurants. This makes it super easy to pick out something you know they'll probably like and probably won't hate! We also do a "tapas" style lunch, and everyone brings something. It's actually pretty fun.

notasm3's picture

I loved it. The purpose is not to get a “good” gift. It can be hysterically funny. One year we did gifts that one had received themselves. It was hilarious what some had received. But even funnier was the fact that often someone else actually wanted the gift.

There’s a big difference between doing a swap with decent gifts and doing a white elephant swap. Doing it with white elephant gifts is meant to be funny. Like the person who got an armadillo necklace with jingle bells.

But if this is not your cup of tea just bow out. You obviously don’t enjoy this. You have to have a certain kind of sense of humor to laugh at ridiculous things. Since that’s not you just step back.

witch.hazel's picture

See, I would like an armadillo necklace with jingle bells. That is funny. I'd just hang it in my office. There was thought put into that. But giving literal garbage that no one would want is what bothers me (like the expired noodles and old fingernail polish). I don't get the humor.

We had a family one with my ex husband. Every year someone brought a naked lady statue. Whoever got it wrapped it up for the exchange next year. That was funny.

witch.hazel's picture

I like what your workplace is doing, SMto2... white elephants can be fun, but I don't know if I'm the only one who's secretly upset when someone steals a nice gift and it's replaced by something awful!

We're having a soup lunch with everyone bringing something. We don't HAVE to bring anything, and the gift exchange is optional, so it's not like we're being mistreated. But I'm only bringing something for the lunch. I am done with that white elephant. Will sit back and watch.

Veritas's picture

You are way overthinking family does this same thing each Christmas Eve. You do not have to stress over the perfect gift as you will not please everyone. That is not the purpose, i.e. to have your gift please everyone. All there are in the same boat. You don't know who will get the gift and that's okay. $10 Specialty Gift cards and bags of coffee seem to be the highlight of our exchanges. No matter what you buy, if someone there wants it and someone else has it, it can be stolen. Just go have fun already!!! Oh and PS...last year I wrapped a mystery gift. Didn't matter what it was, it could not be opened until the end and everyone fought over it because their curiosity just got the best of them LOL!!

queensway's picture

I find this game annoying. For years our friends would do this at their holiday party. With 50 people there the game would be exasperating. And then it always has 1 or 2 people who become obnoxious and keep the game going for hours. If you can opt out do it. Buy a few gifts for close co-workers that you really care about. It is the season of giving.

witch.hazel's picture

Wow, 50 people. That would go on forever! Good idea- I think I'll give something small to those in my dept. and the office.

witch.hazel's picture

Maybe I am overthinking, but like you said, the gifts are useful to someone... except in our exchange people give things that have nowhere to go but the trash. I think it's rude.

notasm3's picture

I agree with you that “gifting” just plain old trash is rude. Sort of like wrapping up your leftover lunch wraps and crumbs. Not funny at all.

queensway's picture

OMG that is so funny. And instead of saying Merry Christmas in the holiday card it will say Kiss My A$$!!! Luv step child.

witch.hazel's picture

I have heard of some real doozies on this site. Can't remember any examples, but a lot of stepmoms have gotten some old junk or very cheap things from the dollar store... from adult kids they've spent hundreds on.

witch.hazel's picture

That's what I would like. Lots of things for that price one could find that would actually be useful to anyone.

WalkOnBy's picture

One of the perks of working for the federal government? There is a limit on the value of gifts we can give AND receive and we cannot gift up the supervisory chain Smile

Makes the holiday season soooooo much easier at work!

witch.hazel's picture

I love that- coming up with money for a group gift to our supervisor is also something I'm being bugged for. If I don't do it, I'm not on the card and that will stand out.

Indigo's picture

I gift my "coworkers" with peppermints, candy canes, homemade molasses treats, winter blankets, Santa hats & stockings.

They each gift me with ~ 50lbs of poop every day. {Snort}

witch.hazel's picture

That went through my mind as well! I know the coworker across the hall is diabetic. So am I. There are sugar free chocolates from Russell Stover that are not bad at all.

notsurehowtodeal's picture

Pretty sure Indigo's co-workers are horses - hence the reason they "gift" her with poop!

zerostepdrama's picture

The purpose of a White Elephant is to gift something funny/crappy,etc. So if it's a true White Elephant then buy for White Elephant.

2Tired4Drama's picture

I have never liked this type of event that includes "stealing" a gift. I find it contrary to the whole idea of the holiday season which is supposed to be thinking (kindly) of others and being generous.

The last time our office social butterflies insisted we do this it was a mess. The "gifts" were supposed to be $20 in value and were NOT supposed to be funny or tacky. While some obviously bought new items and put sincere thought into it, others brought old (unused) stuff that they didn't want (old faded candles, etc.) But here's the one that topped it of.

A few days before the party, one employee brought a little gift for everyone and placed it on their desk. It was a small Santa stocking with some candy canes in it. So EVERYONE in the office got one of these and we all knew who it came from.

When it came time to do the gift exchange, imagine the surprise when someone opened up their gift bag and found ... the small Santa stocking w/candy canes that we had all gotten on our desk!

It was truly an embarrassing and awkward moment for all of us. The person who opened it did an Academy-award winning performance of acting like they really wanted another one. The rest of us had to bite our tongues at the tackiness of it.

I knew who did it because I saw her surreptitiously shoving it in a gift bag at the last minute. And wouldn't you know it, this same woman actually wound up with a very nice gift (thanks to "stealing" it from someone else). This same woman regularly lets everyone know of her strong religious faith, and professes to be extremely devout and God-fearing.

So much for being kind towards others during the holidays.

witch.hazel's picture

That's so terrible, how offensive, and it makes it worst that she got a nice gift by stealing. Exactly why I hate this game!

Tuff Noogies's picture

our office and some ex-coworkers did the gift-stealing thing, but we're all grown-ups and mature. we didn't do trashy gifts and had a $20.00 limit. lots of cute gifts were exchanged and stolen by more fitting owners of said gifts than the original un-wrappers.

but, i'm more of a fan of a secret santa type of exchange where you can put thought into one person's gift and enjoy the happiness of giving. then again, i've been blessed to always have had classy coworkers. not sure what we're going to do this year tho', since there's only three of us that are 'up' to doing some sort of exchange!!!

but yeah, OP, with $#!tty, un-funny trash gifts like dishscrubbers or used nailpolish, i'd be sooo over that too.

witch.hazel's picture

Ha- we should be all grown ups, too. It's a group of mental health professionals. But, nope.

I like the secret santa also. You put some thought into what that person would like, and if you don't know, there's always the types of things anyone can use.

notsurehowtodeal's picture

I much prefer the "secret santa" type of exchange. I love to buy presents for people, but you can always find something nice but "neutral" if you can't figure out anything more personal.

I hate the "stealing game" - because I hate being the center of attention in any way. Even if most of the players are in the spirit, it seems like at least one person always ends up miffed in some way.

Acratopotes's picture

I stopped it cause it's stupid...

We had a thing where every one would pitch x amount of money, then you can pick from a box filled with gifts, yes everything was chocolate of course but to me it's nonsense...

giving a gift is something you do from your heart and a thought through process for a specific person, not random things to basically strangers.
It looses it's importance, gifts are personal things and I'm one off those people that believes, my private life has nothing to do with my corporate life, thus I do not get personal in the office... am I popular at the office, not at all, do I care.. hell NO..