my office Secret Santa gave me a gift from a pornstar

A reader writes:

I’m a mid-level employee on a team of about 20 within a larger organization. I started in 2019, though we’ve all been remote since March 2020. We’ve had pretty little turnover since then, so apart from a few newer folks, I’ve met everyone on the team in person and have good rapport with them. I’d characterize my relationship with my entire team as friendly but reserved: I don’t have any enemies and can make nice conversation with any of them, but also don’t have any super-close work friends (this is the level of boundaries I prefer at work).

This year, our manager organized a Secret Santa with the caveat that all gifts needed to be sent through some form of contactless delivery. Most of us created Amazon wishlists in case our gift-giver wasn’t sure what to get us and wanted the option to have something shipped to our door. I got my person (a known tea enthusiast) some local honey and a gift card to a tea shop in her neighborhood, and mailed it to her. For context, the Secret Santa had a $50 limit, which I thought was far too high, and I hated the thought of people stretching themselves thin over the holidays for an office gift of all things — but that’s another letter, I suppose.

I received my gift late last week to my non-work email, and it was a video message from a service that lets you buy personalized messages from celebrities. The message was from a woman I didn’t recognize, who after a google search of her name I learned is a prominent porn star. In the video, the woman is not wearing anything scandalous, and wishes me a happy holiday and a fortunate new year. The video itself is actually very sweet and pleasant! But I am confused after discovering this person’s sole occupation appears to be in porn. She doesn’t say who the message is from in the video, she just says “Your Secret Santa wanted me to wish you a happy holiday.”

To be clear, I have nothing against sex work, and I particularly hate the way people push adult stars to the fringes of polite society while simultaneously enjoying their content in private. But, it still feels some sort of inappropriate for an office Secret Santa, right? I have no idea who would have sent this. I don’t have any private jokes or long histories with any of my coworkers to explain this. I have no aversion to a nice holiday message from an adult film star, but our office has some puritanical tendencies and this would have been horribly received by some of my coworkers.

I’ve been overthinking this since I received the video, and I truly don’t think it’s anyone with nefarious intentions. I’ve been happily married since before I began at this company, and everyone has seen my husband in the background of video calls/heard me mention him. Plus there was no flirty or inappropriate aspect to the video itself. We also have a pretty even split of men and women in our team, so this doesn’t feel like a bunch of boys-club guys harassing the one woman they work with. Rather, I think it might just be someone who enjoys this woman’s content and (horribly misjudging professional norms) thought it’d be a good idea to send me a message from her? If it’s that, then all’s good: I can’t complain about some money flowing this woman’s way in a time of so much financial uncertainty, and her holiday message was actually very sweet!

Long, long story short, should I try to find out who my Secret Santa was? I mostly just want to know the intention behind this. Our manager emailed us the rules in a group thread and we used a free name generator to assign people for this, so I don’t think there’s a master list anywhere — I’d have to use process of elimination and ask people. My only concerns here are, mostly, that I’m somehow giving off the impression day-to-day that this gift was a good idea? If something in my office behavior is telling people that it’d be well-received to send me a video from a porn star, I want to correct that in myself. Second, a friend suggested that I raise this to my manager, which I initially thought was unnecessary. After all, I’m more unsettled than actually upset about this. However, maybe I should tell someone that I was sent this? While it didn’t exactly have catastrophic effects here, it might be prudent for my boss to know that someone on our team is capable of this kind of lapse in judgment?

What the hell.

I’m with you on supporting sex workers and not wanting to further stigmatize them. But you can be pro-sex-worker and still recognize that someone sending a colleague they barely know a holiday message from an adult performer is wildly inappropriate.

(Plus, inappropriateness aside, it’s also a weirdly bad gift! Even if we took the sex element out of it, sending someone a recorded greeting from an actor they don’t even recognize is an odd gift choice. But with the sexual element, it’s full-on creepy.)

I very much doubt that you are somehow giving your coworkers the impression that you were hoping for a porn-themed gift this year. I say that with confidence because even if you had somehow given that impression, it would still be inappropriate to send you — and so therefore we know the gift-giver is someone with bad judgment. They’re the problem.

The only innocent explanation I can come up with is that it’s somehow a case of mistaken identity … like your Secret Santa isn’t especially familiar with celebrities (or skilled with technology) and thought they were gifting you a message from a mainstream actor with a similar name — like they thought they’d commissioned a message from Olivia Wilde but it was actually adult performer Olivia Wilder … or Drew Barrymore vs. Dru Berrymore. (I had to do some research to come up with these pairings! Apparently there are many.) But that’s quite a stretch and I doubt it’s the explanation.

As for what to do, or whether to do anything at all …

I think you probably should tell your boss about it. It is alarming that someone on your team thought this was okay to do, and for all we know it’s possible that there have been other issues that this is a part of. For example, if it turns out that your gift-giver is someone who’s already been warned about sexualizing the office environment, that’s a big deal.

You don’t need to frame the conversation in an “I’m scandalized” way because you’re not — in fact, you can explicitly say that you’re not scandalized if you want to make that clear — but you could say, “I’m a little unsettled by this and didn’t know if I should mention it to you, but I figured I should in case it’s part of a bigger pattern you’d need to know about.”

{ 508 comments… read them below }

  1. Jam Today*

    I wonder if the person who got your name thinks you’re someone else, who would have immediately recognized her and been thrilled with it? This is so strange!

    1. Web Crawler*

      That’s my advice column headcanon- somebody in multiple secret santas getting the OP’s and a friend’s gifts confused. (Idk how likely that is, but that’s why it’s a headcanon.)

      1. NeutralJanet*

        I would think that if you’re paying for a personalized holiday greeting from a celebrity, the video should include the celebrity saying the recipient’s name, though—I’d be disappointed if I paid $50 for a generic “happy holidays” video that wasn’t made specifically for my recipient.

        1. Foreign Octopus*

          I don’t know, a generic holiday greeting from a celebrity might work if you wanted to send it to multiple people and save on spending money.

          Still extremely odd though.

        2. Lime green Pacer*

          My head canon is that the sender was getting a two-for-one deal by giving a gift that they wanted to receive—personally-tailored video of their favourite performer. Behind Door 2, we have the performer making a generic video that can be offered at a lower price to many fans.

          1. Not Australian*

            Actually, this sounds like a pretty reasonable explanation IMHO – that it was part of a larger package deal which the gifter may have arranged even before they knew who their giftee was.

            1. Amaranth*

              I wonder if they had a coupon. Or if ‘random celebrity’ was an option and they picked it because they had no idea what the LW would like. Yes, I’m reaching for a non-creepy option.

        3. Cj*

          It said it was from their secret Santa, though, and they wouldn’t have had that in a message to a friend

            1. Office Lobster DJ*

              Or saying “From Your Secret Santa” was just part of a goofy/running joke between friends. “Gee, Fergus, who could have possibly gotten me this. Hmmmmm.”

        4. J*

          The OP said it didn’t name who sent it, but they didn’t specify if it was personalised to OP’s name. I had assumed it was but you know what they say about assumptions

        5. Cambridge Comma*

          I’ve seen a birthday one from a 90’s pop star that mentioned 7 or 8 personal details so definitely couldn’t be reused.

        6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          yeah, otherwise, YouTube has plenty of videos of celebrities saying happy birthday or merry Christmas. I have bookmarked a couple of videos of my favourite artists doing just that, and however much I might love them I wouldn’t be pleased to get one of them as a present. If it’s personalised, then that makes all the difference

      2. Office Lobster DJ*

        Could be! The lack of names could be a sign that something went awry when checking off the Secret Santa gift list. Then again, that also means it could be a plausible deniability cover for someone with gross intentions.

        Bring it up to your boss, OP. If your Secret Santa made a genuine mistake, they’d want to know. If your Secret Santa needs better-calibrated office norms, they should know. If your Secret Santa was purposely trying to be inappropriate, they need to know (and so does management).

    2. dawbs*

      That was my most charitable thought. “Oh, I got Amy’s name in the exchange–she’d LOVE this and find it hilarious” not realizing they got Amy N. not Amy M. (And we’ve used services like Elfster, there’s usually a way that someone can find the name, JIC. Because you need to know if something super weird happened w/ a gift along the way)

      And I’d loop in the manager, for exactly what Alison says. When I managed people, I asked to be told about challenging guests not because I didn’t trust my employees (I usually did) but if someone was being a creepy creepster, I needed to know so I could have a working plan and make sure that a less competent employee wasn’t being bothered by them. So knowing that creepy Pete comes in at 4:00pm and leers doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to do anything–except to make sure I’ve equipped my workers and I’m available at 4:00 every day to be the heavy backup.

      1. R*

        “Amy M is going to love this personalized greeting by Drew Barrymore! I am winning this Secret Santa thing!”

        1. dawbs*

          man, if it IS a misunderstanding, SS is gonna be MORTIFIED.

          BUT, figuring it out might keep her from a repeated mistake…

          “Nephew Stu is really gonna LOVE this personalized 5th birthday greeting from Mario! Apparently this is the guy who played him in that movie!”

          “Granny and grandpa are getting this personalized 55th anniversary greeting from someone who claims to be exactly like Frank Sinatra at age 19” (yes, allegedly he did adult things when he was young and really broke. I don’t know if there’s a look alike–I’m not googling it today)

          1. NerdyKris*

            “Apparently this is the guy who played him in that movie!”

            I just died laughing at that image. Someone please feed my cats for me.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I think this week’s theme is “When you’re not sure, but should not google to find out.”

      2. AGD*

        Cracking up over here – the A in my name is for Amy and I once got a VERY sassy message from a distant male coworker meant for the other one on our team. When he and I met face-to-face, I could tell he was embarrassed but I pretended I’d never heard of him.

      3. Alice's Rabbit*

        Even if Amy M. would love this video, it’s horribly inappropriate for an office gift exchange, though. Those have to be office kosher, as it were, for any number of reasons. This is just bad judgement, so matter what excuse the giver may have.

      1. LC*

        But wouldn’t they have watched the video first, and realized that it’s not Drew Barrymore, or whoever? Unless that person is just clueless on multiple levels.

        1. NervousNellie*

          I have to admit, I’m that person who is a lot clueless when it comes to celebrities. Many actresses look very similar to me, especially when they are all dolled up in a lot of makeup and ‘styled.’ I can absolutely see thinking that “Amy M is a huge fan of and look, I can get a personalized message. How cool!” while not realizing that this particularly lovely woman is not , but

          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            Phoebe from Friends comes to mind, in the episode where she gives Monica a haircut and mixes up Demi Moore and Dudley Moore, then when she’s going to cut Julie’s hair Rachel plays on that and leads her to confuse Andie Macdowell with Roddy McDowall.

          2. nonegiven*

            I’ve had to give up watching a series or two over too many skinny, blond female characters that I couldn’t keep straight.

        2. R*

          “Ah, these famous people, always getting work done, she doesn’t even look like herself anymore!”

        3. Tobias*

          I wouldn’t be able to tell at all, I have poor facial recognition at the best of times, so celebrities are just characters to me unless I actively try to remember them. If someone told me it was Drew Barrymore and the person was blond and small, I would probably totally fall for it. But then, I would NEVER bother to get someone a gift like this because it would just not occur to me for the same kind of reasons. I tend to forget not everyone else sees faces as a fog of random features.

          1. nonegiven*

            I usually recognize an actor from something else I’ve seen by their voice rather than by their face.

      2. NeutralJanet*

        Even with that explanation, it’s not a great gift! Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t particularly want a personalized happy holidays video from even a mainstream, non-pornographic celebrity unless it was a celebrity that I was a particular fan of, you know?

      3. Anonanonanon*

        This is a possibility – there are a number of adult film stars whose names are close to celebrities, and they thought, hey, a message from Ariana Grande!? Who wouldn’t want that! Not realizing it was a porn star.

        It is also possible someone on the team needs to be fired.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          I don’t even know who Ariana Grande is, so… yeah, celebrity gifts are definitely not a good catch all. Unless you know your recipient is a particular fan, it’s probably not going to mean much to anyone to get that kind of gift. Or at least, it won’t rate anything more than a “Huh. Okay, I guess.”

    3. Just another anon*

      This was my thought. Maybe the Santa got OP mixed up with someone else, or maybe Santa got everyone they know a video this year, and they accidentally sent OP one that was meant for their uncle and their uncle got OP’s?

      1. mlem*

        Uncle: “Hey, Nibling, why did you think I wanted a scented-oil diffuser package?”
        SS: “No, I sent you … OH NO.” :changes name, flees to another country:

      1. hbc*

        There are very few people who jump straight to Obviously Termination Worthy Offense. Knowing that smarmy sales guy kept his boudoir photography side gig on LinkedIn for all to see meant we took his oops text-all to a customer (about how one of their reps was “easy on the eyes”) a little more seriously.

        If this was really an eggnog-based decision, then maybe the coworker gets embarrassed and learns not to shop while drunk before they do something that will really put their job in jeopardy. And anyone who thinks a “hey, this was inappropriate” is a bridge too far is the one who needs to relax.

    4. MusicWithRocksIn*

      This is exactly the kind of letter I would most love an update on. Like, we gotta know man, we gotta know what was the reasoning behind all this. What was going on here??

      1. SometimesALurker*

        Same! And, sadly, it’s the kind we’re unlikely to get an update on unless things spectacularly blow up, because OP is unlikely to get a ton more information on the situation.
        I don’t want to root for things to spectacularly blow up, but…

    5. urban teacher*

      As an equestrian, I would have loved a personal message from Stormy Daniels, but otherwise I can’t see anyone thinking this is a good idea except by mistake.

    6. TeacherLady*

      Or the reverse, did they see the pornstar’s name and think it was a different celebrity?

  2. Alex*

    This is extremely strange. OP, i hope you get some answers. As Alison says, it’s just a weird office choice.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Those cameos were heavily advertised to me in December, but I recognised most of the people. I can see why someone would generally think it was appropriate to send a greeting as a Secret Santa gift.

      So I’m left wondering if they misclicked, or misremembered, and thought they had chosen an actor you’d recognise from a popular show. Like if there were a Hollywood actor Sam Thomas and they clicked on an adult film actor Sam Thomson.

      Regardless, LW is right to feel startled by the gift, and to believe it was inappropriate for a work gift exchange, and to want to bring it discreetly to someone’s attention.

      As an aside, I agree that $50 is probably too much for Secret Santa as I understand it.

      1. Mags*

        I was wondering if MAYBE they sent a bunch of these to various people this year? So it was a bit of a production line and they maybe didn’t check what/who they clicked too carefully? STILL, maybe it make the adult star’s day to just have a nice, sweet Christmas message to read?

      2. Alice's Rabbit*

        I honestly can’t see why anyone would think this is a good gift. Unless the recipient is a massive fan of a particular celebrity, I can’t imagine a holiday greeting like this (even from an actor with a more mainstream repertoire) would be appreciated as much as even a cheap gift that’s useful and/or thoughtful. It’s a non-gift, as far as I can see. A card and mug from the dollar store would take more thought than this.

  3. Would be confused as well*

    Super strange – the only other thing I can think of is that perhaps this actor was relatively cheaper on the app (I think the celebrities set their own price, so there’s a wide range – maybe the options in this price category weren’t great to begin with and for some reason this person was insistent on a message being the gift??)

    1. Butterfly Counter*

      This might be it. The coworker had heard about a site you can hire famous people wishing others Happy Holidays as a gift and thought it was a good idea. And then they went on the site and chose by price rather than by recognizing a name, not realizing that famous people come from all kinds of professions.

      1. awesome3*

        Yeah that is where my mind went too, but you would hope a conscientious person would at minimum google the name, or look in their cameo bio to see what they do. If the gifter has never heard of them, what are the odds the recipient has?

        1. EPLawyer*

          I don’t think conscience thought went into it. They heard about the site, thought that would be an easy gift to give their Secret Santa, clicked and hit send.

          No having to go out and get something and then send it. No sorting through an Amazon wishlist. Just boom done.


          It’s the office prankster and thought this would be HILARIOUS that the manager who is a bit resereved at work (which is FINE, you get to set your boundaries as long as you aren’t freezing out your coworkers) got a holiday greeting from a PORN STAR.

          (Btw, totally support porn as a legit job as long its consensual but, you know, KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE)

          1. Super Duper Anon*

            See this is where I land on this and why I wouldn’t even bring it up to my boss. The gifter didn’t know what kind of gift to give, thought that this would be an easy thing, found someone in the price range without knowing who they were and sent it. It is a bad and dumb gift, but I don’t think any bad intentions were involved. Instead I would just bring it up organically as people ask what you got from your secret Santa, mention that you liked the message but you didn’t know who the actress was and had to google it and see what happens.

            Now, if the message was racy or the actress half nude or something, then I would have escalated it right away.

            1. Office Lobster DJ*

              You may be more charitable than I am. I’m all for easy gifts when you don’t know someone well (cue SNL’s “The Candle”), but to me, taking 1.5 seconds to Google to make sure an unknown celebrity is work-appropriate is basic enough that it falls in the “You had ONE JOB, Fergus” category, speaking really poorly of Fergus’ general conscientiousness in the workplace.

              1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                I agree with you. Searching cameo and going through all the steps to request the video and input the recipient’s info feels like way more work than just grabbing something from the gift card kiosk at the grocery store. If this was someone’s idea of an easy, low work gift, I have more questions.

            2. dawbs*

              Yeah, but a lot of harassers start with soft boundary pushing. Just little things w/ plausible deniability. “Well that was clearly a joke” deniability…when step 2 was for them to do something a little more racy and a little more racy and a little more….step 3 was an ‘accidental’ grope. etc.

              It becomes very ‘frog in boiling water’–and people who you’d think would not put up w/ that crap sometimes do, because ‘not wanting to make a scene’–or just not having the standing to do it (which also means reporting can be a ‘public good’ because there’s some really really lowly intern also on the receiving end who doesn’t feel safe reporting it)

              1. JSPA*

                That only works if there’s a mechanism to NOT put up with it, and if there’s some sort of continuity to the sequence.

                Randomly poking someone from behind an invisibility cloak doesn’t work as grooming, because there’s no context and continuity.

                1. Alice's Rabbit*

                  Except it does. Because if the recipient doesn’t report it, that means it worked. And the sender might try stepping up to the next level of ick.
                  I’ve had several guys try that, over the years. It took a while for me to identify the pattern, but once you know what boundary pushers look like, it gets easier to spot them at the early stages, when things are just uncomfortable and not terrible.

            3. ecnaseener*

              I find it very hard to believe that the gifter didn’t know who the performer was. A message from a random stranger = not a gift by any stretch, not something anyone would give thoughtlessly. For it to be a gift, you have to assume the recipient knows who the performer is — and you’re not going to assume that about someone you’ve never heard of yourself.

              1. Jaybee*

                Maybe you’ve just been fortunate not to meet many thoughtless assholes.

                There are people out there who are both extremely strange and extremely self-centered. There are people who do not think about a gift as ‘something nice you get someone else’ – they think of it as an obligation to get out of the way as quickly as possible and with minimal effort, and the routes they take in determining those things are radically different from the choices you or I would make.

                They will give you some trash they dug out of the back of their closet, not to insult you, but because ‘leave me alone, I gave you a gift didn’t I?’

                I can absolutely see someone like that doing something like this when faced with a situation where physical gifts need to be mailed (making their usual gifting methods way more high-effort than usual). I can, in fact, see my own uncle doing this, and then being mad when it doesn’t land well. “How was I supposed to know she was a porn star?” “Women love famous people, she’s famous isn’t she?”

              2. PeanutButter*

                The thing that pushes it into “they knew what they were doing and who they were sending it to” territory is that they sent it to the Letter Writer’s *personal* email. They knew it wasn’t appropriate for a work gift. It wasn’t a mistake.

                1. Alice's Rabbit*

                  Oh. You’re right! If it were sent to or from a work email that could be a much worse offense, in the company’s eyes. Not to mention the proof would be accessible (and possibly traceable) by the IT department.

            4. NeutralJanet*

              If OP made an Amazon wishlist, wouldn’t the easiest option just be picking a random thing within Santa’s budget off the list? With those, you don’t even need to do any searching or anything, just click Add to Cart.

            5. dePizan*

              But the letter writer says most of them made Amazon wishlists for this exchange. So if this gift-giver ignored that list in favor of the video, that isn’t a not knowing what kind of gift to give them circumstance. That’s deliberately ignoring what they do want in favor of…..whatever this was intended to be.

              1. JSPA*

                I tie myself in knots avoiding buying from Amazon, only to find that physical items I buy directly from a provider or through some other third party service, still show up via Amazon. (I know a lot of people love them, which is fine, so long as you want them in your life. But if Amazon were a person, they’d be the stalkerish date who sings AT you, given how often as they worm in where they’re actively not wanted nor invited.) I can see wracking my brains for something that can’t possibly come from Amazon, or create more waste and mess. I would probably come up with, “sponsor a tree or endangered species in your name,” not a greeting. But I can see a sort of mistaken game of telephone, where coworker A asks coworker B (who has not been paying attention) what coworker C might like. B (who has no skin in the game) tosses off a half-formed idea, or wasn’t listening, when the recipient’s name was mentioned, and replies with something they’d like, or makes a joke about what their cousin got for their other cousin, only to have coworker A take that as a serious suggestion.

                1. Alice's Rabbit*

                  Fair enough. But then, the Amazon wish list still gives you ideas and interests. Not… whatever this was.

            6. Hey Nonnie*

              Well, we have no way of knowing if the gifter THOUGHT it would be racy, either.

              I would report it to my boss just because of all the unknowns. Sure, maybe it was a thoughtless mistake borne of too little research. Or maybe it was someone trying to make A Point about OP being uptight. Or maybe it was someone “testing the waters” who would eventually become obsessive / a stalker if it’s not addressed immediately.

              Given that this range is anywhere from “whoops” to “restraining order,” I wouldn’t feel safe until I knew exactly what was going on.

              1. JSPA*

                Thought crimes are not crimes.

                You can’t get a restraining order based on what someone might have been thinking about while putting in the order, nor based on what they might eventually consider doing, in the future.

                That just isn’t a thing, and it’s not a thing for darn good reasons.

                1. miro*

                  I think you misunderstood the comment–the restraining order was in reference to stalking, not to thoughts about the video. I think Hey Nonnie’s point is that the range of possible motivations here is so wide (up to and including a level of creepiness that could include stalking in the future) that it’s worth reporting it to make sure it isn’t part of a pattern and/or is documented in case future stuff comes up.

                  You don’t have to agree with them on that, but berating someone for something they didn’t say in their comment shouldn’t be (but unfortunately is) a thing, and shouldn’t be a thing for darn good reasons.

                2. Alice's Rabbit*

                  No one is saying that. Good grief!
                  Hey Nonnie is simply pointing out that, while there might be relatively innocent motivations, there are just as many potentially sinister motives, too.
                  Someone with the mindset of a stalker takes otherwise insignificant responses to their initial approach, and blows them out of proportion. So letting inappropriate behavior slide, they see as welcoming their advances.
                  Slightly less dangerous, but still creepy, are the boundary pushers. They start with thi gs like this, that can easily be laughed off as a joke. But little by little, they step it up, getting more risqué. And it rarely stops with just unwelcome words and visuals. Those are the sort to grope you in passing, or corner you in the copy room.
                  We’re all hoping it’s a stupid mistake. But there’s enough of a chance that it’s not, the boss needs to know.

            7. Alice's Rabbit*

              While I agree “prankster” is the most likely answer, I disagree that the boss doesn’t need to know.
              This is sexual harassment. Full stop.
              It is deliberately bringing sexual topics into a professional relationship, for no reason other than to make the recipient uncomfortable. While in this instance, the sender was lucky enough that the recipient wasn’t horribly offended, could you imagine some new-to-the-workforce young woman receiving this, and being mortified? Because we’ve had letter writers here upset over far less, and not dismissed their concerns.
              There is no reason to ever give sexually suggestive gifts in the office. It’s not funny. It’s not appropriate. And it could really scare some people. Yes, this particular gift was relatively bland, but it being a porn star still crosses the line.
              So either this was done in ignorance, or the giver needs to seriously readjust their idea of polite professionalism.

          2. BluntBunny*

            Or maybe they know the performer personally and could get them to do it for cheap or free.
            If the whole team did secret Santa wouldn’t there be small talk on what you all received at the next team meeting etc.
            Eg “Oh I got a video message from X celebrity” “who are they I have never heard of them”
            “I hadn’t either but apparently they are a pornstar not sure why I was sent it”

    2. machinedreams*

      Looking up the price range — if it’s the site I’m thinking of, anyway — there are a number of celebrities that would at the very least be recognizable to people, whether or not they were actually a fan of said celebrity. Or who are from popular media — I feel like “actor from a show the recipient enjoys, even if it’s not their favorite celeb” would go over much better as a general rule than “completely random celeb that there’s very little chance they know”.

      I mean, I don’t think one of these is a particularly great option if you have literally NO real idea of the recipient’s interests, don’t get me wrong. But there are still ways to make it at least marginally less strange.

    3. Paulina*

      Well, it’s no-contact. Maybe the giver was someone from a very different (much older?) generation who assumed the names they didn’t recognize were just more modern celebs.

      Either that, or someone who got it as part of a package deal of content from the performer.

        1. pancakes*

          I’m not sure how that would change anything vs. assuming no package deal. Either way, the gift giver either has seriously poor judgment or seriously poor attention to detail (to the point of mixing up the email addresses of friends and coworkers).

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            Yeah, there’s no explanation for this that leaves the gift giver smelling like roses. Either it was a true mistake, or it was a gross failure in judgment.

      1. UghNo*

        I hear you, but I just kind of don’t buy that someone older and techno-amateur would send a Cameo in the first place. The anonymity and the personal email make me think this was a creepy move—a way to enjoy hopefully making someone uncomfortable. Bleehhh. Shudders.

    4. Jackie Grow*

      I am consistently surprised/bemused at the prices D-list celebrities ask for on Cameo! I’m guessing for $50 you’re unlikely to get someone you’ve heard of, but c’mon: there are tons of office-friendlier Bravolebrities who will send a Cameo in that range. A third stew from Below Deck Season 2 is a much better call than an adult performer in this context!

      1. CoveredinBees*

        Yes! I went down the Cameo rabbit hole for a bit and you can get people with far broader appeal for less than $50. Sex-related gifts are a terrible idea in workplace gifts. Also bad would be messages from political figures or even-remotely controversial media figures unless you know for a fact that the recipient is a huge fan. Even then, it might be better to just steer clear.

  4. 3DogNight*

    Was this the entire gift? This seems very…odd. Ignoring the fact of the video star’s normal profile, just having some random video saying happy holidays as a gift seems off.

    1. Littorally*

      Agreed. This is the kind of gift that, even removing the adult performer element, you should only get for someone you know is a wild fan of this particular celebrity and would find the message highly personal and meaningful.

      1. WomEngineer*

        Or if they’re a fan of their work. Some video game voice actors (like Roger Clark from RDR2) get commissioned for messages like this, where the character’s voice is recognizable.

        That said, for a secret Santa, I think the recipient would have to be more than a casual fan to get $50 worth of enjoyment from it.

        1. LC*

          So weird that you mention that, my sister bought a Cameo of him for her friend for Xmas, and it was a very nice and lovely video, and her friend loved the gift!

          1. Quoth the Raven*

            Must be something in the air because I immediately thought of him, too! I’m a HUGE fan of the game (as in like, my favourite ever) and I’d love a video greeting from him, but because I know this, I’d never send it as a gift for someone who didn’t like the performer or the media as much as I do.

        2. Spencer Hastings*

          I initially misread this as “R2D2” and imagined a holiday message that just went “beep boop beep boop…” :D

          Red Dead Redemption makes more sense!

          1. Hadespuppy*

            Actually, I definitely know people who would love to get a holiday message from R2D2. Especially if it was dressed up with a garland or tinsel or something. I may be one of those people.

          2. INFJedi*

            “I initially misread this as “R2D2” and imagined a holiday message that just went “beep boop beep boop…” :D”

            You were not alone :’)

        3. Nina*

          eh, I definitely count as a casual fan but a personalized video message from, say, real Olivia Wilde (not Alison’s hypothetical Olivia WildeR) would easily be $50 worth of delight for me.

    2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      Even if it’s not someone in the adult industry, it comes off strangely. For example, someone could send me a video from a rock star, and unless it was one of a handful of people, I’d probably have no clue who they were – even if I like their music! Unless you specifically know that (a) the recipient knows who the star is, (b) has an interest in the star’s other (non-video greeting card) work, and (c) would be interested in having a semi-personalized video from the star, it strikes me as at best horribly misguided.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        Yup. I was watching Only Murders in the Building, and if all the actors hadn’t constantly been pointing out Sting, I would have had no idea that was Sting, and I really like his music. This is such a bad gift. Some people like experiences like that, but with someone you don’t really know well then an actual item that they can use is always the best choice. I would feel like I came out the way wrong end of a white elephant exchange I thought was supposed to be nice and someone else though was a joke.

      2. Alice's Rabbit*

        Same. I can think of maybe 3 “stars” I might not think this a total waste of money for, and I’ve already met 2 of them in person. So a cameo holiday greeting doesn’t mean that much, by comparison.

    3. Myrin*

      I think it could be reasonably cool to receive a personalised message by a celebrity you really admire or who has a special place in your heart or whatever (a friend once gifted my sister a message written by the creator of a videogame that quite literally saved her life and which consequently is very dear to her – to this day, this simple message remains one of her favourite presents ever) – but that again brings us right to the heart of OP’s question because it would mean someone thinks she has some special connection to this porn star.

      1. londonedit*

        I know a few people who have had messages as gifts from their favourite comedians, or actors they like – a lot of the time they’ll do the message as one of their famous characters, or trot out a catchphrase, or whatever, as well as it being a personalised ‘happy birthday’ or whatever. People really do like them and I can definitely see how it would be cool to get a personalised video message from someone you really like. But I also definitely can’t see how that fits in with sending a random message from a random porn star – the only way it would work would be as some sort of in-joke between friends, definitely NOT as something to send to a colleague for Secret Santa.

      2. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

        For Father’s Day in 2020, I purchased a video message like this from a guitarist that my husband admired greatly. My hubs is in a band that of course had to stop playing gigs during the pandemic, and he was rather sad about it, so I thought it might cheer him up.

        We received the most thoughtful video message back, with the famous dude commiserating that all of his gigs had been cancelled too, and what he was doing to try to get through such hard time for all musicians, no matter how big or how small. It was so incredibly thoughtful and personal, and my normally stoic husband cried and watched it over a dozen times in a row.

        So yes, these messages can be a great gift when given thoughtfully, but for the OP’s situation that is SO WEIRD. I am really hoping for an update on this one if OP ever gets to the bottom of WTF her Secret Santa was thinking.

      3. Pray4Mojo*

        I’ve gifted them a couple of times and they were a hit. The first one was a birthday greeting from a reality TV star on a show we both watch/make fun of, and as expected it was so hilariously self-centred and random — they loved it. The other one was a pep talk from a celeb my friend really likes. It was pretty awesome for them to get a video from someone they admire saying what a d*** their boss is and how they’re smart and great and capable and going to find something better. Pretty sure they watched it every day for a while.

    4. Alldogsarepuppies*

      Cameo gifts are a thing (the name of at least one of the sites that offer a service). Our grandboss got one for the whole company in 2020 as an end-of-the-year gift with a popular actor congratulating us on a great year. My partner tried to get me one for our anniversary one year but alas no Jeopardy Super Champs have monitized themself yet. I would have loved to hear Ken Jennings tell me I’m wonderful.

      1. Becky*

        LegalEagle is a Youtube channel where a real lawyer does some analysis/hot takes of various issues and events form a legal angle, and he has in the past been quite critical of a certain politician. He found that very same politician on one of those sites…and decided to commission a video with politician congratulating him on his subscriber count (or something like that). Politician did it, without doing the most basic check of who he was making it for.

        1. Alldogsarepuppies*

          people did the same for a bunch of very rightwing figure heads on the night of presidental debates telling “Joey” “good luck tonight” and not “let the haters get you down”. Hilarious.

          1. pancakes*

            I can’t quite agree that fattening the bank accounts and fame metrics of people one doesn’t like (popularity on the site, etc.) is hilarious. Thinking of political figures as entertainment isn’t harmless.

          2. EvilQueenRegina*

            Someone did that to a very rightwing figure here (UK) and had him send a birthday greeting to “Hugh Janus”.

      2. Alexis Rosay*

        Ha, if Ken Jennings ever starts doing them, I will definitely purchase for my partner! He would absolutely love that. But yeah, you need to know the person VERY well for these to make sense. I don’t think most of my partner’s friends even know how much he adores Ken Jennings, for example.

      3. Blonde Spiders*

        I belong to a Parks & Recreation fan page on Facebook, and last summer the members got a wild notion to collect funds for a Jim O’Heir Cameo directed to our group. It was pretty funny.

    5. mama manager*

      I got a friend a Cameo from Gilbert Gottfried as their birthday gift in April 2020 (start of the pandemic/peak here in NYC) and it was hilarious, went over so well. That said, she’s been my best friend since we were 7 (we’re in our 30s) and I know her sense of humor/knew this would be a fun, unusual present for her while we were all terrified and stuck in our homes. THAT SAID, unless you really know the person or they are an avowed fan of this celebrity, it’s a horrible gift.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Well now I know what to get my husband for his birthday. Turns out there are some motorcycle riders on there, including one he talks about often. Birthday sorted (Hubby HATES gifts)

        1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          So if this fiasco accomplished nothing else, at least it helped you out :-) We’ve given a couple of Cameos, but as others have said, it gotta be someone you know well enough to know who they would want to hear from.

          Or something really funny. We found a guy called Sam Eliot (note the single “l”) who claims to be an influencer and personal trainer on there for $25. We considered messaging him to see if he’d do a video for my my mom wearing a ridiculously fake white mustache for $50 or $75, but never actually did it.

    6. Oryx*

      I’ve purchased a cameo as a gift for someone before, and it was a reality TV star they are a huge fan of. She loved it.
      But part of Cameos is having a specific message for a specific person. Just a generic “happy holidays” somewhat defeats the purpose.
      This *can* work as a gift but I would only do it for a handful of people in my life because I know there are actors/celebrities on Cameo that they would appreciate a personalized message from.

    7. Ann Perkins*

      This is what I was thinking too. If I were the manager and didn’t have access to who had who in the gift exchange, I’d talk to everyone one on one and say someone seems to have not received their intended gift and could you please share who you had and what you gifted.

    8. Abated*

      Yeah, it seems more like a gift to the person being paid to send the video message than to the person receiving it.

    9. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Yes! It’s a strange gift even without the pornstar element. Is the recipient going to constantly pull up the video to re-watch it? The only person I know who would do that is 2 years old and it’s Bob the Builder.

      1. No Longer Looking*

        “Is the recipient going to constantly pull up the video”

        Apparently yes. Other commenters above have said that they or their SO have indeed, received videos that they constantly pulled up and re-watched because they were so meaningful or impactful to them.

    10. MS*

      I agree. Unless the recipient is a known fan of that star this is a weird gift choice. I thought maybe that actor was the cheapest on Cameo or something and maybe they picked her without really looking at what kind of actor she is, but you can scroll by category and there are lots of more recognizable actors from other types of film within that price range. Some lesser known ones for only $5. This gift is super weird and wildy inappropriate for work.

  5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I have no idea what’s going on here.

    I assume this was done through one of the services that has whole rosters of celebrities who will do these greetings. It could be as innocent as the OP’s secret santa clicking on the wrong name by mistake.

    On the other hand, it could be that the santa did this deliberately and has some off-the-wall kink about this; and thus this falls into sexual harassment territory.

    And there’s probably a few points along the spectrum inbetween those extremes.

  6. Glomarization, Esq.*

    This is creepy and should be reported to supervisor and HR. How supportive one is or isn’t of sex work is completely irrelevant. You don’t involve porn in your workplace Secret Santa exchange.

        1. BubbleTea*

          A porn star who presumably buys groceries, goes to the dentist, walks down the street… do those activities all involve porn while being done by porn stars too?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            See the religious and political examples others have offered below, but this is becoming derailing and is hard to take in good faith. Please move on.

      1. ecnaseener*

        The video itself didn’t contain porn, but it required the LW to google a pornstar’s name and see the results.

        1. AES*

          YES. Thank you for articulating what was really bugging me about this. It’s not porn, but it’s a porn rickroll.

          1. quill*

            That’s the right description of it. With safe search off, you will see information that was NOT part of the original gift.

      2. JimmyJab*

        It involved a person whose only claim to fame is being a porn actress. That’s like saying you got a cameo from a famous televangelist and saying it doesn’t involve religion.

    1. MusicWithRocksIn*

      Also – Not having a master list is such a bad plan. Even ignoring the possibility for inappropriate or hostile gifts, what if someone just doesn’t receive one, because the person who was supposed to buy it forgot, or it was lost in the post? Someone should be keeping track of all this.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        We had one once where someone had to go and buy one employee an emergency gift at the eleventh hour because the guy who’d drawn his name had been off sick for a few weeks and hadn’t been able to get anything, and it was sheer luck that anyone knew who the sick employee had actually drawn. A master list would have helped with that one.

      2. Pray4Mojo*

        I think when my office has used these services the person who set it up has an admin profile and can access the master list, for situations like this. Maybe the OP just isn’t aware?

    2. TreeFrogEditor*

      I agree! I had a strong “Oh, oh no, ABSOLUTELY report” reaction to this, and it’s surprising to me to see other people having more milder/”Eh, I wouldn’t” reactions. For me, the LW’s discomfort (to the point where they’ve been mentally stuck on it) definitely makes it reportable. Even if it was a mistake (which tbh I don’t think is as likely as other people do), it’s a pretty bad mistake that’s causing the LW some distress* and making them feel weird about their colleagues. As AAM said, the LW doesn’t have to make a big deal about it, but they deserve a sounding board/someone to share the “WTF?” with.

      * I know “distress” is probably too strong and not the right word here, but you know what I mean.

      1. TreeFrogEditor*

        To be clear, I don’t necessarily think “reporting” = “grave issue demanding serious company action, HR preferred.” There’s also “reporting” as “running something by your manager to get a second opinion.” The latter requires you to have a certain rapport/relationship/trust with your manager, but it’s what I’d want/do in the LW’s shoes.

        1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

          I agree – this is a case where “reporting” can simply mean “giving my manager information they didn’t previously have”. It doesn’t come with an obligation that the LW has to also demand the manager discipline the coworker, it can be as simple as “Hey, this happened, it was weird, I thought you should know about it in case it turns out to be part of a pattern.”

          (I once reported a conference speaker to the conference organizers for opening their presentation with a joke that definitely came across as racist. I don’t know what they did with that information, and I don’t know if anyone else told the organizers about the joke, but I felt better knowing they knew about it.)

      2. Bibliothecarial*

        I do know what you mean, and that’s where I fall too. It’s the uncertainty that gets me – I’d need to know whether this was kindly intended, like Mold Jar Fermenting Buddy Coworker, or if I have to protect myself from a perv.

      3. Jaybee*

        Agreed. I think a lot of people are not thinking about how they’d feel to actually receive this as a gift.

        I’m 100% supportive of sex workers. One of my best friends does on and off sex work. If I were to receive this gift, I wouldn’t be scandalized or traumatized to receive a greeting from an adult film star – but I would spend a lot of time and energy worrying about what vibes I’m giving off at work to make someone think that was appropriate!

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, absolutely. I have zero interest in porn, though, so unless I googled the name of the person on the video, I’d have no idea. But I’d be confused rather than disgusted, if something like that happened to me.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            Except you might Google the person who recorded your video, as the LW did, and discover their porn work.
            As someone put it a few comments above this, it’s a porn RickRoll. The video itself is clean, but by dint of being made by a porn star, it is still bringing pornography into office relationships. Not okay.

  7. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Blue Forevermore*

    People’s judgment has generally taken a huge nosedive recently, I think. Speaking of Secret Santa, my office did one, limit $20. I did an e giftcard so was right at the limit, but a lot of people gave gifts far exceeding it! One woman got a new Kate Spade wallet, for heaven’s sake. It was annoying. I only did the Santa to please my mgr, who is very big on team events like this. I asked for a %15 Panera card to make it easy for mine.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      This sounds so annoying.

      If there is a price limit, going over is just obnoxious unless you happen to get your close friend who you were buying for anyway.

      1. Pants*

        Even then, get your friend something within the limit and give them the over-the-limit in private.

      2. Cmdrshpard*

        The person might not have gone over, if they are a savvy shopper they might have stayed within the budget.

        I feel like I have seen brand name wallets at TJ Max, Marshalls, Ross etc for around that price range.

        1. Golden*

          Yep, I’ve seen this too (Kate Spade, tons of Michael Kors) at the local TJ Maxx.

          Kate Spade also had a massive sale this year and I think wallets were part of many bundles, so someone may have spent about $80, kept the larger purse for themselves ($60ish), and gifted the wallet ($20ish).

          A coworker at Old Job was adamant about trying to get my popular white elephant gift disqualified thinking it was over budget, but it came from the thrift store and I actually had to add some knickknacks to bring it up to budget. Savvy shoppers unite!

          1. PT*

            Or it’s a regift. Someone gave them a Kate Spade wallet they didn’t use, they found it while cleaning out their closet, and were like, “Well I don’t remember how old this is, it can’t be worth much anymore.”

            1. Alice's Rabbit*

              Or even a recent gift they know they’ll never use. My grandmother insists on giving me all sorts of things that are not my taste. Without a gift receipt they can be difficult or impossible to return. But they’re nice gifts. So I pass them on, if I think they’re to someone else’s liking.

          2. MsSolo (UK)*

            A lot of designer brands do lines specifically to sell at TJ/TK Maxx, so as not to ‘dilute’ their high end merchandise. It allows Maxx to give the impression you’re getting a bargain and the designers to pretend they pass on unsold merchandise instead of literally setting fire to it to ensure items remain exclusive.

    2. lost academic*

      I wonder if people are regifting more valuable items though. As a family now we have an area set aside in the basement for things to be regifted (stuff we get for the kids we can’t or forgot to return now, well meant Christmas and birthday gifts, etc) that’s generally new so it’s really no cost to us if we would give it away like that, but then I would personally stop to consider the optics. However, not everyone will – they might stop with “this cost 0, even better!”. A Kate Spade wallet would definitely fall into that space for me.

      1. londonedit*

        I’ve also got serious kudos for Secret Santa before when I’ve had to buy for a really high-up boss by going to TK Maxx and buying a designer brand scented candle for well within the budget. Even had a bit of cash left over for a nice bar of chocolate to go with it. Big Boss clearly thought I’d gone above and beyond but it didn’t cost nearly as much as she assumed it did!

        1. Melissa*

          This is my guess with the Kate Spade wallet, honestly. They have really big sales on a pretty regular basis. It might have been $30 vs $20, but I doubt someone paid full price

        2. STG*

          That’s how I tend to do Secret Santa myself. I spend the right amount but I almost always buy stuff on sale that would normally cost above the price limit. Just seems like a good way to purchase a better gift than the price range allows.

      2. Danish*

        This. I gave a “new” Kate Spade bag for xmas that was technically free, because I bought it three years ago and never once used it. Sure, I paid more than $20 for it at the time, but by now it definitely had a zero-dollar value to me.

    3. Justme, The OG*

      I bought my last Kate Spade wallet from her clearance website and it was right around $20.

    4. anonymous73*

      Its very possible that a Kate Spade wallet was purchased for $20 (outlet, clearance), but if you don’t want to participate, don’t participate. You don’t have to do anything other than do your job well to please your manager.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yeah I got a designer purse as a Christmas present for my cleaner who loves the label in question when I was at an outlet centre. Just because something technically should cost money doesn’t mean it’s not been bought in a sale. If it’s last year’s model it’s often heavily discounted. Unless you’re a complete fashionista you probably won’t mind if it is in fact last year’s model.

    5. kiki*

      Oh no – I’m really good at getting deals/ finding things on clearance / buying gift-able items in bulk off-season and it just occurred to me that people may think I’m just wildly exceeding limits on exchanges. I just love a sale!

      1. KaciHall*

        My husband’s manager will ask me to help find deals because she knows how rarely I pay full price for anything. She would probably be horrified if she got something from us in a secret Santa that was priced correctly for the limit! (Of course, she wouldn’t, because I know her weakness is chocolate cupcakes so she gets homemade cupcakes for just about every celebration.)

        (Realized before posting this that I should probably explain that she’s also a family friend, and someone I see on a regular basis, so not just horrible boundaries of my husband’s job. )

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      For what it’s worth, consignment shops sometimes have new items at crazy low prices.
      (All it takes is someone who is bad at returning mail order within the time frame, has a family member who does not have the same taste, or has sad associations with the unused item.)

    7. Persephone Mulberry*

      Maybe it’s just me, but I likely wouldn’t give a Secret Santa type gift that is *valued* a lot higher than the designated spending limit, even if the amount I might *pay* is within bounds.

      Similarly, if the regular retail price of the item was near the upper end of the price limit and I could get it at a steep discount, yeah, I’m all about that.

      1. Jaybee*

        Same. Like, I’m not goin to judge someone for doing that because I understand intentions are good, but it kind of violates the point of the limit.

        I understand that many people shop for deals as a matter of course/as a hobby/because they buy more expensive brands for themselves, but shopping for deals (or going to outlets, etc) DOES have a hidden cost in terms of time, focus and knowledge that not everyone can buy in. So not everyone is capable of hunting down these deals. The result is going to be that your gift is higher quality/more valuable than what everyone can afford, even if the actual dollars spent are within range.

        And the point of staying in the range is for everyone to have fun and to avoid anyone feeling like they’ve either received a bad gift compared to others, or given a bad gift compared to others. So if your gift is noticeably ‘better’ than what would usually be expected based on the price range…it’s not great.

      2. Elsajeni*

        Yeah, I think people’s intentions are nice when they do this, but part of the point of a limit on a gift exchange like this is to help avoid wildly uneven results, so that you don’t leave feeling like some people got WAY nicer gifts than everyone else, or like you’re the only chump who stuck to the rules.

        1. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Blue Forevermore*

          That’s where I am. I feel kind of bad for not doing more, and I am resentful of that. Most people gave more than one gift as a Santa.

    8. Cat Tree*

      Oh, it’s not recent. People have had bad judgment forever. My first bad secret Santa experience was at age 9 in the mid 90s, and the most recent was a few years ago as an adult.

  8. The Prettiest Curse*

    What’s really strange about this is that the person who bought you this message thought that you would automatically recognize this person.
    To be clear, I think societal stigma against sex workers and people who work in porn is both ridiculous and harmful, but since I don’t view this type of content myself, I wouldn’t know 99.9% of porn actors if I fell over them. The message sounds fine, but the fact that it came from a porn actor is extremely strange and not at all appropriate for a work environment.

    1. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I mean, even if you are gonna do it, why get a woman porn star to do a message for a (we assume) straight woman coworker? There is an extra level of creepy there that I can’t quite put words to.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yeah, the only explanations which might potentially make sense are the mistaken identity theory, a failed attempt at humour or the gift-giver got this message for a Secret Santa recipient in a previous year and is just re-using it. But they should have considered the context in which it would be received. Not everybody watches porn, is totally cool with porn or finds porn hilarious. Some people would be waaaay more offended by this than the OP!

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          And even someone who is totally cool with porn in their private life should not be receiving it from a colleague.

    2. ecnaseener*

      I honestly think it’s possible they DIDN’T think LW would recognize the person, and got a kick out of making them look up porn. I know LW doesn’t think it was malicious, but…

      1. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

        This was exactly my thought. This is the very pernicious variety of sexual harassment that allows the harasser to absolve themselves of responsibility with “I was joking” and various technicalities, while getting excitement out of making someone else uncomfortable. It’s 100% intentional and calculated.

      2. Generic Name*

        Same. It reads as sexual harassment to me as well. The giver is getting jollies off the idea that the recipient has to google who it is and possibly getting an inadvertent glance at adult content. As well as an imaginary connection between the recipient and the star. Sort of how it’s harassment for a man to get a woman he works with a gift card to Victoria’s Secret because the man gets to imagine that the woman is buying lingerie or even that he’s enjoying thinking about making her feel uncomfortable about receiving such an intimate/sexual gift.

      3. The Prettiest Curse*

        After reading the comment from MusicWithRocksIn, I thought again about why this just seems weirdly off and concluded that it smacks of a teenage boy snickering/sniggering as he makes someone look up something “dirty”. Plausible deniability and the fact it’s a Secret Santa are presumably an added bonus.

      4. allathian*

        Yeah, and if that’s the case, the best way to react might just be not to tell anyone about it. That way, the giver won’t know that they’d (I assume only someone with some sort of sexual interest in the OP would do this intentionally) reached their target. If the LW doesn’t let on that she knows it’s a porn star, the kick will miss its target. That may be too late by now, though…

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          Disagree. Not reporting it means he gets to continue behaving this way without repercussions. This won’t be his last foray into the risqué unless he’s confronted.

    3. Elenna*

      I do watch porn and I still wouldn’t recognize any porn actors! I also wouldn’t recognize 99% of non-porn actors, either (and the ones I do recognize, I’d recognize the name but not the face). I just don’t really pay attention to the actor names.
      Like, the whole idea of “your gift is a message from someone you most likely don’t know” is just so weird, even putting aside the porn part.

  9. Falling Diphthong*

    I like Alison’s last bit about framing it as unsettling and perhaps part of a larger picture, in which case you would want management to have this piece. A single one-off vs the 17th time this person did something that made people uncomfortable, in a sex-adjacent way, but it was technically not sexual harassment.

    I actually think Alison might be onto something with the similar names, or more broadly that the adult film part was unknown. (I have heard of people doing this with, for example, a Happy Birthday message from your brother’s favorite Survivor player.) Maybe they’re a terrible gift giver, and a relative suggested one of these greetings, and they latched on to this as The One True Gift, someone said people like these, and then when they went through the catalog of famous people this was someone they could afford, and also they think she might be an actress on Parks and Rec and they thought you once said you liked that?

    “Fergus is very off in his social norms, and meant this as a funny joke” is perhaps most likely, but “Fergus can’t remember Aubrey Plaza’s name” I wouldn’t rule out.

    1. Pants*

      I’m hoping it was a name mistake. I could see my mom doing something like this. (It would forever be one of those great family legends.) So I’m really, really hoping that was the case. I don’t want to consider what else would have sparked this “great idea” for a gift.

      When my friends got engaged, they got a Cameo from Montell Jordan. It makes sense though, because we always sing “This Is How We Do It” (sometimes with our own lyrics) when we’re together. That’s a good use of Cameo. Not… yeah.

      Should anyone care, Montell Jordan gives excellent Cameo; very thoughtful and fun.

      I’m also not sorry that I’ve put “This Is How We Do It” into your heads.

      1. Scottish Teapot*

        I’m not sure it would be name error as this would mean the LW would have received two gifts. Her real one and this one meant for someone else?

        1. Cmdrshpard*

          The name error is what Alison mentioned in the post, the porn star has a stage name that is the same as a well known celebrity it spelled slightly differently.

          Drew Barrymore (person gift giver meant to select) vs Dru Barymore (person gift giver actually selected)

      2. MansplainerHater*

        Montell Jordan is a great example of why this might be a case of mistaken identity! He gets mistaken for Montell Williams all the time!

      3. Oakenfield*

        Forgiven. It’s been years since I’ve heard that song and it just started playing in my head like it was on the radio.

      4. hbc*

        My MIL would totally do this. She’s the queen of presents that start with one intention (this person reads about religion, like the entire Dead Sea Scrolls and The Encyclopedia of Cults in America) and somehow ends with giving something with a shred of a link (like Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret.)

        I can see her going “Ooh, maybe a Star Trek actor”, finding them all too expensive, and seeing some “People Also Clicked On…” below one of the catsuit-wearing actresses as close enough.

        1. Katie*

          That image, of someone who reads the Dead Sea Scrolls receiving Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret, tickled me.

    2. Artemesia*

      To me it is just such a terrible gift. Even if a star I watched and admired was chosen I would not consider this a ‘gift’ especially after I spent a pile on a nice gift for my recipient. Don’t know? Send me a bottle of wine or a box of candy or a pretty box of museum type note cards — some THING I can use. This goes triple if it is someone you don’t know well and thus have no idea who their jam is. And never ever a porn star. The only time I can imagine this being an actual gift for someone would be if they made a big deal about a particular star so everyone knew that they were really into ‘Wheel of Time’ or a big fan of Matt Damon or whatever so it was a clear identity in the workplace.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        Yeah, I honestly think this would be weird even if you gifted a porn star cameo to your close friend, unless it was an obvious joke that you knew he’d appreciate, or if for some strange reason you and your friend that you gifted it to had discussions about this particular star before.
        And in general, I wouldn’t gift a random person’s cameo to someone I don’t know. It would have to be someone significant to them specifically, like the example of Montell Jordan that Pants posted above. That would be the only acceptable gift.

    3. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

      My brain transposes names for reasons I don’t understand, to the point that I spent a few years thinking that Richard Pryor and Robert Downey Jr. were each other. So that’s where I went for an explanation as well.

      1. Anononon*

        I only recently learned Ridley Scott was a guy because I always associated his name with Ripley from Alien.

        1. Metadata minion*

          …ok I just learned that today; I haven’t actually seen any of the Alien movies and I think I also was conflating Ridley and Ripley and assumed he was a woman.

          1. Mr. Shark*

            Side note: Alien and Alien 2 are fantastic movies, if you don’t mind a little horror and sci-fi action. Ripley should be a feministic heroine icon!

            1. allathian*

              Ripley was actually written as a man in the original script. They didn’t change anything except a pronoun here and there when they decided to cast Sigourney Weaver in the role. (The first two are brilliant movies in the genre, the others, and the Predator movies, and Prometheus are pure crap, and not worth watching more than once, if that, in my totally biased opinion.)

            2. Coffee*

              Even more of a side note – the video game Alien Isolation, which follows Ripley’s daughter, is also fantastic. Absolutely nails the aesthetic and ambience of the films.

    4. many bells down*

      Just recently a co-worker wanted to share a video of Jay-Z rapping a children’s book. It was actually a woman, whose initials were J.Z. Not quite the same thing.

    5. Emilia Bedelia*

      In a similar vein, perhaps this actress is known as a “lookalike” or impersonator, and the gift giver thought it was close enough – so they knew she wasn’t the real deal, but figured “Elvis impersonators are funny, so a Drew Barrymore impersonator would make sense!”

    1. sacados*

      YES, I know it’s early days of 2022 but this definitely needs to go at the top of the “list of letters we desperately want updates on someday”

      1. Mangled metaphor*

        I’m afraid I laughed.
        Not at the letter, or the need for advice, but simply the fact that we are five days in and we’ve already hit Alison’s first “What the hell?” response.

        I am simultaneously excited and terrified for what the rest of the year will bring.

  10. Person from the Resume*

    Figuring out who it is … I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that whoever organized this may have the master list or the ability to find out. Maybe not, but an aspect of Secret Santa organizer dealing with snafus where a participant doesn’t receive any gifts or something so those free online apps should support it. Someone needed to initially input the list of names or set it up.

    Super weird. Your gift ie holiday greetings from a C level celebrity. Like I wouldn’t even be excited about this gift from a famous person I admired because it’s so transactional. That your coworker thought it was work appropriate and “outed” their own interest in this celebrity (I assume they picked someone they at least knew and lusted after). Given LW didn’t even know this porn star, I suspect this gift was much more enjoyable for the gift giver than the recipient.

    1. I want Aziraphale's bookshop*

      X Level Celebrity? XXX Level?

      And my life is similarly obscured from my co-workers and I have been here 24 years (gah, I am old). One of my colleagues mentioned last week that my life was not known to them. That, OP, is absolutely O.K.

      The number of people that I would enjoy getting a greeting from the celebrity world is two (Michael Sheen and David Tennant). The number of people that know I am wack-o-doo for Good Omens, even among my friends? One.

      And I agree about it being transactional, so only marginally enjoyable, since it means nothing on the actors end (although both Michael Sheen and David Tennant are well known to be lovely to their fans).

      The only question I would have for the OP would be whether anything on their Amazon’s request might lead the Secret Santa to think that they liked a sound-alike or spelled-alike actor. Not that it is the OP’s fault, but aside from a co-worker being creepy, I can’t see another connection.

      1. OhNo*

        Oh, interesting thought on the Amazon wishlist. I wonder if the coworker in question might have thought the person was the author of a book on your wishlist or something like that?

        Not that it excuses this… rather significant misstep. But if there is any connection that seems sensible, it might change how you bring it to your boss. It might be more of an “add a reminder to TRIPLE CHECK names before you send your gift to the Secret Santa rules”, then, rather than needing to track down who is being a perv on purpose.

      2. linger*

        Can we assume Neil Gaiman would also be acceptable?
        (Just don’t misspell it or we’re probably back in the OP’s scenario.)

        1. I want Aziraphale's bookshop*

          Yes, Neil would be acceptable as well! The day when he like one of my tweets was a good day!

      3. Kicking-k*

        Yes, this. My husband, to whom I have been attached for two decades and who knows all the things I geek out about, has rarely bought me anything fandom-inspired unless it was on a wish list. Some things I’d like; some I really wouldn’t. My colleagues get a more anodyne list because they don’t really need to know this stuff about me…

  11. Pants*

    Wow! I’ve seen some great Cameos before but this seems…. Well, yeah. Every Secret Santa I’ve ever done has a reveal of who had who. But then, no one ever gifted porn-adjacent gifts that I know of, so maybe the rules are different?

    I would personally seek out the person and talk to them separately to find out the line of thinking (or not thinking!) when choosing the Cameo. It’s a large lapse in judgement that is definitely cause for concern professionally. If the intentions were pure and the Cameo was supposed to be someone else, I’d probably give a “yeah, don’t do that again” and let it go. However, if the Secret Santa won’t come forward, then I’d go to the boss to seek out the giver.

    Never a dull moment here at AAM!!

    1. Double A*

      I was wondering about this. Don’t most Secret Santas have a reveal?

      Maybe the OP could just ask whoever organized it to do one?

      I am really hoping this ends up being a hilarious misunderstanding like the person whose coworker gave her a jar of mold.

      1. a good mouse*

        It seems to be a mix. Mine always have, because we use it more for a mechanic of round robin gift giving than a ‘ooo secret fun times’ game. But I’ve definitely heard of a lot of places where it is meant to stay anonymous forever.

  12. awesome3*

    Excited to see this one show up on the bad gift round up in December. In the meantime, OP since you’re getting less comfortable about it by the day, that tells me it’s worth saying something to get it off your chest.

    “Hey boss, something weird came up from my secret santa. They got me a video recording from someone I didn’t recognize, and when I googled her name I realized she’s a porn star. I’m getting increasingly uncomfortable that someone thought a message from a porn star would be a good work gift.”

    1. Heidi*

      I wouldn’t say it’s a bad gift in and of itself. I can kind of appreciate the uniqueness. The problem is that the success of this particular gift is going to be very, very dependent on the preferences of the recipient.

      1. Jaybee*

        I think there are very few industries where this would be an appropriate gift in a work secret santa.

        It’s not a bad gift in general – among friends, for example, assuming you know how it will be received – but work is a different situation. My general rule of thumb is: if I wouldn’t tell my grandparents that I got this gift for someone, it’s not appropriate for a work-based exchange. (Even if I’m friends with the recipient outside of work! I can get them raunchy stuff outside of the work Secret Santa. Coworkers are going to ask what they got and are not expecting to hear ‘Jacques got me a video greeting from an adult film actress!’)

  13. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    The only innocent explanation I can come up with is that it’s somehow a case of mistaken identity … like your Secret Santa isn’t especially familiar with celebrities (or skilled with technology) and thought they were gifting you a message from a mainstream actor with a similar name — like they thought they’d commissioned a message from Olivia Wilde but it was actually adult performer Olivia Wilder … or Drew Barrymore vs. Dru Berrymore. (I had to do some research to come up with these pairings! Apparently there are many.) But that’s quite a stretch and I doubt it’s the explanation.

    Well, I’ll bet my Secret Santa gift that Alison didn’t expect that to end up on the day’s agenda. Thank you, Alison, for taking one for the team!

    I suppose Olivia Wilde(r) might have made sense if OP were a Ghostbusters’ fan and the giver thought it would be holiday wishes from Gozer, or a Tron fan and wishes from Quorra, but… I totally agree with Alison. I’d mention it to the supervisor in a sense of “this didn’t go off the rails fully this time, but there’s potential here for it to do so and I don’t think we really want to see how that ends up looking.”

    1. awesome3*

      Yeah, I would imagine Drew Barrymore is well known enough that if they saw they face of someone who was not her when purchasing the gift they would know whether or not it was her.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Eh, I know the child actress not the adult.
        I’m actually wondering if it is someone who took advantage of their significant other being the person who does most of the families Christmas shopping …and SO got PO’d.

      2. AFac*

        Maybe yes, maybe no. Even if they’re not somewhat face-blind (like me), movie stars seem to change their appearance often, both by vocation (playing different characters) and by personal preference. Especially women actors, who are often expected to be following the latest fashions in hair style/color, makeup, etc. more than men actors.

        I know who Drew Barrymore is, but I’m not sure I could pick her out of a lineup today. My memory of her is stuck in the 1990’s, when she was having personal issues and I actually followed celeb gossip.

        1. pancakes*

          Ok, but if you were making a point of giving a Cameo for a gift you wouldn’t check? Or — and this seems more likely — simply pick a celeb you are familiar enough with to recognize that they are who they’re claiming to be? “I assume this is her and she’s totally changed her look” is a pretty shoddy assumption.

          1. Jaybee*

            Of course I wouldn’t give someone a Cameo without checking who it was. But I also wouldn’t give a coworker a Cameo from a porn star on PURPOSE, either.

            Obviously the gifter here has, at some point, made a choice that neither you nor I would make; why assume that it can only possibly be the choice that paints them in the worst light?

            1. pancakes*

              I wasn’t trying to suggest that the worst possible explanation is the only possible explanation. I don’t think many other commenters have said that, either.

  14. CarCarJabar*

    It’s the fact that the Secret Santa’s name wasn’t included that really gives me pause…. If I thought I was doing something *hilarious* to one of my friends- I’d want them to know it was me! Like when I sent my best friend’s kids a 2021 Pooping Dog Calendar…. Or when she randomly sent me a vintage Texas Prison Rodeo t-shirt….. It’s not a good hearted joke if it’s anonymous- that’s what pushes it into the “creepy” zone.

    1. Beth*

      “It’s not a good hearted joke if it’s anonymous”

      That’s a really, really good point. Anonymous gifts tend to be creepy by default; anonymous jokes easily come across as harrassment.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        True. But if I got a hilarious inside joke present for someone, I’d probably talk to them about it with my identity revealed eventually.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        I’ve never encountered one where the anonymity lasted beyond once the gifts were exchanged.

  15. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    Dear Abby, I think my best friend since high school is going through an emotional trauma of some sort. This year for Christmas he sent me, (32M) a scented candle and gift card to Chico’s.
    For perspective, I sent him a novelty t shirt with a (somewhat dirty) pun on it.
    Should I be concerned?

    But OP, definitely give your boss a head’s up. You might not be the only one who got something strange. And hey, they might revisit this whole thing and stop the nonsense ($50? My family adult grab bag limit is $40.) So win/win.

    1. JustForThis*

      I’m your best friend’s aunt and got a coffee mug in the shape of a log with “morning wood” on it.

  16. Girl Alex PR*

    This is different but related and remains my very quiet, kind father’s most embarrassing gaffe. My maiden name is the exact same (first and last) as a famous porn star’s. We also look strikingly similar- dark hair, same build, glasses, the works. Shortly after I left home to join the military, my father, who is not hip with social media, joined Twitter and followed said porn star, thinking it was me. My sister then walked in on him in his office, trying desperately to exit the website, and looking completely ashen. He had thought the porn star was me and we still tease him about it nearly fifteen years later.

      1. Girl Alex PR*

        He is the best. I know for a fact if I WAS a porn star he would feel about me just the same as he always has, but the palpable relief on his face when my sister FaceTimed me and stopped laughing long enough to explain to him that he wasn’t seeing me on Twitter was pretty hysterical.

    1. Usagi*

      I lowkey kind of hope your father also sent wholesome non-techy dad things to her! “Hi sweetheart this is your father thinking of you I hope you’re doing well. Still trying to figure out this Twitter thing LOL. Love you bye.”

  17. Dutchie*

    Did the actress say your name?

    My thought is that maybe your Secret Santa was participating in two drawings and they knew that their other giftee (in the personal sphere) would like this gift a lot. Sadly it was out of the budget. So they pooled together the budget for both drawings, ordered the gift and sent it to both people.

    In my opinion this would make it even more inappropriate btw.

    I say this because I think that the suggestion that “maybe this person accidentally selected the wrong person to record the message” seem unlikely. I once ordered such a video and it’s quite hard to accidentally select the wrong person and not notice in the next 10-15 minutes while you tell them what you need and while you pay. The site states very clearly what they are known for, you can see several examples of what their video’s look like and their name is written multiple times throughout the ordering process. So unless you are completely unfamiliar with what a celebrity does, how their name is written AND what they look like, I would say it’s almost impossible to order a greeting from the wrong person on accident. (And if you give someone a gift, I would say: check the list twice just to be sure you have the right person.)

  18. staceyizme*

    Well, it will make a good story. One that’s useful for a variety of contexts. “What Not To Select As a Gift At the Office”, “The Strange Gift that I Got” and so on.

    1. knitcrazybooknut*

      I’m waiting for the shoe to drop and it turns out it’s some sort of Gift of the Magi.

  19. Roscoe*

    Is it possible that this is one of your friends doing it as a prank? The only reason I ask, is that you say it went to a non work email address. None of my coworkers have my non work email. Only like HR and maybe my boss from interviews 2 years ago. Is there a directory or something with non work emails?

    Otherwise, this just seems odd

    1. Quaremie*

      That’s what I was thinking too! There doesn’t seem to be evidence that it was sent by a colleague.

      1. NervousNellie*

        Another possibility occurs to me — I have an email that is (example) There is also Guess which one my sibling sent email to for nearly 6 months? Did you guess the one that wasn’t mine? If the recipient’s name wasn’t mentioned in the video, I wonder if the Cameo was even intended for them.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      If that was what happened, it raises the question of what happened to the actual real work Secret Santa – would that have meant OP didn’t actually get a gift from work?

      1. NervousNellie*

        Could be that it’s tied up in shipping. A friend ordered me something around the first week of November or so, and it arrived on Dec. 17th, after our get together.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          Yeah, to be fair I can see that – I ordered something for one relative, it took ages to arrive and in desperation I bought that relative something else as a replacement, my original order was delivered on Christmas Eve after I’d already set off to my family and I got back on the 27th to find it on the doorstep.

    3. LizB*

      That is an interesting point! I’ve given my non-work email to coworkers in the past, but mostly if we were friendly enough that we were going to be doing something outside of work (or when leaving the position, to keep in touch). The Secret Santa could be someone the OP is close with who really, really misjudged their recipient. I suppose it’s also possible that there’s some kind of directory at the OP’s workplace, so any coworker would have access to their home email… which imo makes this weirder, because it makes me think the Secret Santa knew this was a message that shouldn’t be sent to work email, but didn’t take it one step further and realize it probably shouldn’t be sent to a coworker at all!

    4. ecnaseener*

      But why would a friend sign it as Secret Santa if the friends weren’t doing a Secret Santa? I’ve only ever seen the term used in connection with the structured gift exchange.

    5. Librarian of SHIELD*

      There are jobs where that happens.

      At my last job we couldn’t access work email from home, and our call-in procedure was to email a specific address that would send the message to everyone on the supervisory team to make sure someone on duty got the message, so call-in emails came from your personal address. So yeah, a lot of people at my last job had my personal email and sometimes after I sent a message from my personal address, one of the recipients would accidentally send work messages there instead of to my work one. LW may not be in the exact same situation, but there could be a not weird reason that some of her coworkers would have her personal email.

    6. Purple cat*

      IDK it says they shared Amazon wishlists that were probably linked to their personal emails, so SS probably got it that way.

    7. IndustriousLabRat*

      If it were a prank between friends, one would expect the pranker to do a reveal to the prankee shortly after receipt. Anonymous pranking just doesn’t seem logical to me, and the risk of a joke or prank falling flat and becoming hurtful, or in this case creepy, is too high.

      The fact it went to a non work address makes the potential creep factor even creepier and I would HOPE that a real friend would call up giggling soon after the message was opened.

    8. Policy Wonk*

      We were asked to provide personal e-mails to use in case of emergency, so my office has such a list. (Also needed when the government shuts down, as we aren’t allowed to check official e-mails, and they need to send alerts that we are able to come to the office.)

      1. Roscoe*

        Sure, but would random people in your department have access for a Secret Santa? Like it seems the list of people who would/should have her personal email address would be fairly small

    9. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I’ve got a personal email visible on my LinkedIn account. It’s a perfectly professional version of my name, but through gmail rather than tied to a company. Saves me having to update it if I move companies.

    10. PeanutButter*

      The personal email is something that made me go from “could be just an awkward mistake” to “this person intended to send this to OP.” Otherwise why wouldn’t they have had it go to OPs work email? Because they knew it was an inappropriate and awkward gift.

    11. learnedthehardway*

      We did a Secret Santa at the office this year, and I was a bit surprised at the rather inappropriate wish list one of our directors had on his list. I figured it was a joke but still….

    12. FirstTimePosterLongtimeLurker*

      I agree!! Secret Santa is such a generic term anyone could have sent it! Would your coworker even know your personal email address?

  20. A Simple Narwhal*

    A Cameo can be a nice gift if you’re into that sort of thing – it’s not really for me personally but I’ve had friends receive messages from the stars of their favorite shows as gifts and been absolutely thrilled. But you have to be absolutely sure the person wants a message from that person.

    Regardless, I agree that the LW absolutely needs to bring this up with their manager. I’m hoping it’s an honest mistake, maybe it’s as Alison said and they thought they were buying a message from someone else and they’re just a really bad gift-giver. There’s also a chance that the person knew exactly what they were doing. Either way, you/management needs to find out if this was an innocent misunderstanding or if the person is a creeper and needs to be dealt with.

  21. Graeme*

    I wonder if the gift given thinks it’s a funny joke because they see a resemblance between OP and this particular person? Or even worse, this is a comment someone else has made, the gift-giver has misunderstood this as a joke that you are in on and therefore thought it would be fun to reference the “in-joke”.

    Obviously both of these are baaaaaaaaad things to be going on, so definitely agree with the advice to at least alert a manager.

    1. Batgirl*

      The resemblance question is the first thing I would try to settle as a woman who has been plausible-deniability creeped on through Secret Santa. In my case it was just a simple bath set, but the dude in question made a pointed point of telling me it was his gift before dropping hints about thinking about me in the bath. Of course you tell yourself you’ve misunderstood and are overthinking it, but he stepped it up a few levels after that. It was sad because previously he’d seemed like a friend. I was relieved to hear OP has no spidey sense about anyone at work, and hope it stays that way but “they know I’m married” is not something that has ever prevents any creep I know and they often seem cool and friendly before escalating.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        You’re not wrong. I had a long time friend turn out to be a creeper, and it was really disappointing. He always told slight risqué jokes, but I didn’t mind terribly. We’d known each other since we were teenagers.
        But then he started asking my opinion on pictures of girls in skanky lingerie – not even tasteful stuff – and it just got weirder from there.
        Best to nip this in the bud.

  22. Michelle Smith*

    I really, really hope the explanation about it being a mistaken identity due to similar names is true. Like they intended to request a Cameo from a mainstream actor or a person impersonating them but messed up. I’d prefer to live in that world.

  23. Office Santa Hater*

    Oh, I have a similar (but worse) one. I didn’t sign up for the office santa at my new workplace because since I was so new, I didn’t want to make it awkward for whoever drew me. I’m also not big on Christmas celebrations, especially in the office, and just like to stay out of them when I can.
    However, because of Covid and WFH the gift-giving ended up being contactless: someone just went around each office and left the gifts on people’s desks at a time they were empty. My coworker was out sick with Covid that week, and she asked me to Facetime her and open her gift so she could see it. She was very excited about it and didn’t want to wait to be back in the office.
    Well, it turns out her gift was an… instructional book on BDSM. She was very uneasy and confused and told me she didn’t know why someone would want to gift her that. I had to reassure her that it wasn’t changing my opinion of her–only of the gift-giver…
    People. I swear.

    1. londonedit*

      Yeah, I really do think people can have wildly different views/approaches when it comes to gifts. Some people just LOVE giving joke/comedy/mortifying gifts and so that’s where their mind always goes, and that definitely runs into trouble when they’re matched with someone whose gift-giving style is ‘find something meaningful that the recipient will really appreciate’. Other people go with ‘pretty much anything gift-like within budget is fine’, and then there’s a whole debate about whether handmade gifts are really thoughtful or extremely tacky. That said, buying a BDSM book for a work colleague is never going to be appropriate, but I’m sure the buyer’s thought process was more ‘LOL it’ll be hilarious to get her this really funny book, I love getting embarrassing gifts for people’ than anything malicious.

      1. Observer*

        I think you are giving the gift giver here too much benefit of the doubt. As you note, this is not a gift that’s ever appropriate in the workplace. One would expect a functioning adult to understand the difference between a joke / gag / mortifying gift and something like this.

    2. Batgirl*

      I had a coworker who gave our boss a vibrator for her birthday. I had been told
      about the gift idea by the coworker in advance and tried to shut it down in the strongest terms with her and when it seemed like she wouldn’t back down, I warned our boss. I asked the colleague what the hell she was thinking and it was more or less 50% gag gift mentality and 50% “I want to help her; she’s single, she should be having orgasms”. So, yeah, she didn’t last. She was having her own bedroom issues at the time (she had no filter) that I think she was projecting, but a big factor was that she’d previously been a beautician who owned her own business who hired friends and relatives and all her previous experience was much more of a hen party/bachelorette culture.

      1. Lucy Skywalker*

        The only way that I could possibly see that being okay is if she and the boss were having sex with each other (which in itself is not okay, but that’s a whole other story).

  24. Bree*

    This is extremely weird, and I hope it’s a misunderstanding as Alison describes. Even in that case, though, a Cameo is a bad gift unless you’ve been vocal about your admiration of a certain media (like, my boss and I both love Ted Lasso, so an actor from there would be a good fit for me). But you’d think the LW would recognize the name similarity then?

    LW, you come across as a really considerate, thoughtful person in this letter and I’m sorry you are having to deal with this confusion. It would unsettle me too, and I’d have a lot of trouble not wondering about it endlessly. I hope an explanation somehow arrives!

  25. Delta Delta*

    I’d love to see an update on this once it’s sorted out. I can see how a Cameo (or similar) might be a fun gift for someone you don’t know well – who wouldn’t want Gary Busey or Ken Jennings or whomever to wish them a happy holiday? It’s not a “thing” and it’s not a consumable that may have allergy or other issues, so it’s kind of a fun idea. I’m hoping this person got mixed up with someone else, or that the gift giver mixed up some presents and a person in their personal life got a happy holiday cameo from someone totally different.

    1. I edit everything*

      See, I think a Cameo would only be a good choice for someone you *do* know well, and who has expressed repeatedly an admiration for a particular celeb. I would be completely dumbfounded by a message from Gary Busey or Ken Jennings or whomever, and feel like I’d gotten kind of a lame gift.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Agreed! You really need to know if that person would like that type of gift and from that specific person. I have friends who have been thrilled that “[famous person] said my name and congratulated me on my [wedding/birthday/event]!”. I personally wouldn’t really care, I’d rather have the $5-$1000 it took to make them say that.

        (Not to say that it’s bad to like Cameos! It’s just not my cup of tea and would be a poor gift for me.)

      2. Elenna*

        I don’t even know who Gary Busey is. And I’ve heard the name Ken Jennings before but can’t remember, off the top of my head, who he is or what he does. So, yeah, not a good gift for random people whose interests you don’t know.

        (Now, if I got a personalized message from, say, the creator of my favorite video game, that might be cool. But even then, I’d probably prefer that my Secret Santa spend the same amount of money on fancy dark chocolates.)

        1. nonegiven*

          Gary Busey played Buddy Holly in the movie about his life. Buddy Holly was one of the early rock musicians who died in a plane crash in 1959. (later memorialized in the song American Pie)

    2. anonymous73*

      I have to disagree. The point of a Cameo is to send a message to someone you know well, because you know who they love (celebrity wise) and would appreciate a message from them. If someone I barely knew sent me some rando celebrity message as my Christmas gift, I’d be annoyed. Yes i’s the thought that counts, but there was no thought put into this one at all if it was intentional.

      1. STG*

        I agree. I would assume that this was either stupid easy and thoughtless for them OR it was something that they would want themselves. It’s got nothing to do with me.

    3. CB212*

      Me. I wouldn’t want them, I don’t give a hoot about them/don’t know who they are. I know people who’ve been thrilled by these messages but that’s because they were from a childhood tv hero or hometown athlete or similar. The point of these isn’t that it’s a nice message, it’s the shimmer of a connection with someone who has meaning to you.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      Yeah, this is definitely “I know my friend would die of happiness to hear Favorite Singer say their name” territory. To me, this would be the equivalent of like a generic animated e-card where it might make me smile but I wouldn’t appreciate someone spending actual money on it. The only benefit is that it doesn’t create physical clutter.

    5. Lirael*

      I would HAAAAATE this. I’m a big fan of David Tennant and Michael Sheen, and I would still be completely underwhelmed to get a message from either of them.

      1. I want Aziraphale's bookshop*

        Ditto. I did something in the same range where you got a card with David Tennant’s signature after you donated to charity and it is not that significant to me. Now I am getting it framed in Tardis blue, so it means something to me. However, I know that it is not even as personal as getting an autograph at a convention, since I am sure he was thinking of something else when he signed a stack of cards. At least the charity got a successful fundraiser.

        1. Kicking-k*

          I agree… One time, NOT getting an autograph was more personal. I was at a Doctor Who convention and an autograph with Matt Smith was included but you had to pay separately for Karen Gillan or Arthur Darvill. But I was last in line (someone has to be) and Karen and Arthur weren’t slated to leave until the session was done… so they talked to me for longer than anyone else since they were done with signing. I felt a bit guilty for not paying the extra by the end!

          I was pleased to have Matt’s autograph but didn’t frame it or anything (it’s in a book).

    6. Observer*

      who wouldn’t want Gary Busey or Ken Jennings or whomever to wish them a happy holiday?

      Someone who doesn’t know them and doesn’t care about them?

      I had to Google both of these names. Call me a cultural illiterate, but I’d be willing to bet that there are plenty of people who really wouldn’t find anything exciting about getting a video message from either of them.

      Which is to say that while I don’t think it’s a terrible gift, I don’t see it as being such a great gift either.

    7. Metadata minion*

      I would not want them. I wouldn’t be offended or anything, but I have a terrible memory for actors’ names and faces outside of a very few, usually very distinctive people and am only a pop-culture person in specific niche areas. You get me Kate Mulgrew wishing me happy holidays as Admiral Janeway you will be my favorite coworker until the end of time. You get one of the identical white dudes named Chris wishing me happy holidays, and I’m basically going to treat that as a particularly involved holiday card and forget about it by the end of January. I appreciate the general festive sentiment, but the person delivering the message means nothing to me and I would vaguely hope you hadn’t spend much money on it.

    8. pancakes*

      For the sake of a little variety in the replies, I know who both are and would also be pretty disappointed with that as a gift. The idea that anything and everything random is funny is a pretty particular strain of humor and it’s generally not my favorite.

    9. Jaybee*

      This comment is especially hilarious given commenters above who are convinced nobody on earth would ever have the line of thought ‘anyone would enjoy a personal greeting from a famous person, right?’

        1. pancakes*

          I don’t think the take-away should be “don’t have a different perspective” so much as “don’t assume everyone will agree.”

        2. Observer*

          The problem was not that you have a different perspective. It’s that you assumed that EVERYONE would agree with you. “Who wouldn’t want” is a pretty broad assumption about what people like.

        3. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          No, it’s not that at all. It’s the idea that a gift needs to “make sense” from the recipient’s perspective, which requires that the giver uses what they know about the recipient as well as the broader context about what they themselves know to make a decent inference about recipient’s perspective.

          Think about this for a second: you would enjoy a personal greeting from a famous person, but to some extent this works because you’re thinking of famous people you’re familiar with. Even if someone else has the same perspective as you it’s still conditional on them knowing who the celebrity is. This isn’t even about assuming that everyone will agree so much as it is about recognizing what your perspectives are conditional on.

    10. Alice's Rabbit*

      Who wouldn’t want a cameo? Me. I think it’s a complete waste of time and money. Give me a dollar store mug and some cocoa before something so useless as that.

  26. Bluebird*

    OP, do you have a fairly common first name? Is it possible the sender meant to send this toJane their friend who they know appreciates this persons work/would think it was a funny joke/etc. and sent it to you instead? And their friend Jane perhaps received a message from a celebrity you’ve spoken about admiring at work/a super well-known or celebrity most everyone likes? Either way, this is one letter I really need an update on!

  27. HannahS*

    I want to echo Alison’s point. I absolutely think the sex work is work; performers deserve to be respected, paid appropriately, and work in safe places. I would also take it very, very poorly if someone sent me something like this, and would likely consider it to be somewhere on the spectrum of sexual harassment–I would argue that a colleague ought to have known that paying a sex worker to speak to you is something that they ought to have known would be unwanted. You can 100% support the basic human rights of sex workers and also not want to interface with the sex work industry in your professional (and/or personal) life.

    1. HannahS*

      All that to (somewhat incoherently, sorry) say that you should tell your supervisor, because this was weird and not ok.

    2. Batgirl*

      I think even sex workers would prefer the recipients of their work are actual fans, or purchasing for themselves. It’s a good thing OP is generally amenable towards sex work, this is exactly the kind of thing that could generate or focus negative attention on the porn star if someone was very offended.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        If someone was offended or – worse – if a nasty person weaponized such a cameo. Imagine a creeper sending the object of his attention videos like this. Not explicit in and of themselves, but still sex adjacent. It could be quite traumatizing.

  28. CatCat*

    It sounds like it could have been an honest mistake, but you have no way to know that. It is appropriate to report this.

    1. Amethystmoon*

      It would be fabulous to get a video greeting from him, assuming you could also share it on social media.

      1. R7*

        I didn’t mean it to be snide! I meant that.. secret santas are supposed to be fun, and it’s upsetting to me that even if it wasn’t meant badly, or there was some mixup, that OP is spending so much time having to think about this.

    1. Purple cat*

      Who knows what the heck the Secret Santa was thinking, but it reminds me of John Scalzi’s law “the failure state of clever is a$$hole”.

  29. Saberise*

    Maybe I’m just old so it’s a generational thing but I would be pissed if I got a recording of any celebrity wishing me a Merry Christmas after I just spent $50 on a real gift.

    1. londonedit*

      I’m 40 and I think it could be fun given the right celebrity and the right recipient (I’d think it was way better than yet another bottle of red wine that I won’t drink, because someone vaguely knows that I like wine and hasn’t clocked that I only drink white). But if the budget was £35-odd and I’d put a lot of thought into the gift for my recipient then I’d definitely expect more than a celebrity video message.

      1. UKDancer*

        This is where I fall. There are a few people I’d love a greeting from but they’re probably not the obvious ones and a lot of them are dead. Although Charles Dance in Havelock Vetinari mode would be one of my top choices. If it were someone I didn’t know (and I’m not au fait with sport stars and comedians) I’d probably find it disappointing and for that amount of money I’d want something a bit nicer.

        I think this is something you really need to know the audience for. And I say that as someone trying to book a conversation with his favourite classical musician for my father’s birthday because I think it would please him more than anything else.

    2. Dutchie*

      I am 35 and I usually list several fandoms on the interest part for a Secret Santa (some series and books I enjoy over and over again). Should someone get me a video message from an author or actor involved in any of those, I would be over the moon. Probably more than with a lot of other gifts I have gotten over the years in Secret Santa’s that were usually quite thoughtless.

      1. I edit everything*

        Yeah, I think it’s a very individual gift. A cameo from David Tennant? That would be fun. Anyone else, not so much. But the gift giver has to *know* the receiver’s fandom.

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, I’m almost 50 and this is pretty much where I’m at as well. I’ve had an on-off crush on Jonathan Frakes/Will Riker since I first saw TNG at 17. At the time, US and UK shows were regularly broadcast a couple years late, or at least they’d start late and catch up because they’d show the first few seasons in a row until we’d caught up. I’m actually about the same age as Wil Wheaton, but when I first watched the show, Wesley seemed far too young for me to develop a crush on, Picard was far too old for me, Worf and Data were too “alien” for me, and I couldn’t relate to Geordi la Forge because of his visor (his skin color had nothing to do with it, my first real life crush was a Black boy when I was 13). Whenever I watch the show or movies again, my Riker crush comes right back. I suspect that a video message from him or Sean Bean, another of my favorite actors, would have me squeeing, but I wouldn’t care about getting a message from a random celebrity just because they’re a celebrity.

    3. Boof*

      It just so much depends on the who – if it was a small creator I was enthusiastic about I might think it was cool. But you’d have to know someone pretty well to know who they’d be pumped about getting a shoutout from (if anyone)

    4. anonymous73*

      If the person knew me well, and knew who to choose, I would love it. But I can guarantee than any celebrity message I would appreciate is going to cost more than $50. It’s not about the gift, it’s the thought behind it.

    5. Artemesia*

      With you all the way here. There is no actor or celebrity I would appreciate a message from rather than a gift.

    6. SuchAThingAsBadGifts*

      I’m not too old (by my own assessment) and I would also be pissed. IMO, that’s not a good gift at all. I know it’s the thought that counts and yada yada, but some thought actually has to go into the gift for thoughts to count. First, I don’t care about any celebrities at all and don’t understand people’s obsession with any of them. Second, people who know me know I like practical gifts (my husband bought me a stand mixer and I was so happy!). What can I do with a greeting from some celebrity that I don’t even care about? I can’t cook it or use it or wear it so it’s useless to me. On the other side, I would never give such a crappy gift to others as well unless I knew with a million percent certainty that is what they wanted above anything else.

  30. Hippo-nony-potomus*

    1. You are not giving off the impression that this is acceptable. Do not victim-blame, and that is true even when the victim is yourself.

    2. Raise this to HR and stop overthinking it. Whether or not YOU have complex beliefs about pornography and sex work, it’s 100% inappropriate in the workplace. This needs to be in the perpetrator’s file; they can and will do this or something similar to someone else.

    3. Please don’t talk about people with “puritanical” tendencies. It’s critical of people whose sexuality is not the same as yours.

  31. BradC*

    I think trying to brainstorm convoluted ways that this isn’t as super creepy and inappropriate as it seems is giving the Secret Santa giver a benefit of the doubt that he (almost certainly “he”) hasn’t earned.

    Far more likely that someone thought they could hide behind anonymity to do something they knew wouldn’t be appropriate in other contexts.

    The most concerning thought I had was whether LW bears some superficial similarity (hair color) to this particular porn star, maybe LW reminds the giver of this porn star?

    As I said, super creepy in the best case and I doubt we’re in the best case.

    1. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      A resemblance hadn’t even occurred to me. Ewww. *shudder*
      Now THAT would be exceedingly creepy.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Agreed. All of the charitable interpretations are POSSIBLE, but they require so many layers of weirdness, bad judgment, and incompetence that I think LW would have to have noticed those traits in one of their coworkers.

    3. Batgirl*

      This is more or less exactly how it came over to me too. “I’m sending this to you so now you know I conflate you with this porn star and that I think about you when watching her but I haven’t said anything overt, and hadn’t had to chance my arm”. It’s absolutely possible that there’s another explanation, but that would be an almost farcical level of cluelessness about how it reads.

    4. miro*

      Yep, your first sentence pretty much sums it up for me. Besides, reporting it to a boss doesn’t preclude the Secret Santa giving a valid, non-creepy explanation and smoothing everything over (though I have to say I think that’s highly unlikely), it just means that this is on boss and/or HR’s radar.

  32. Owlbuddy*

    Okay, it’s been a very long time since I’ve done a Secret Santa thing, but do you not get to find out afterward who your gift-giver was? I remember it being revealed later on, so that people could thank each other, etc? But again, I haven’t worked in a proper office in… uh, a while. And in that case, people were leaving small gifts throughout the course of a few weeks, so it was a nice surprise to find some candy in your mailbox or whatever.

    1. londonedit*

      Where I come from, you generally find out the identity of your Secret Santa after all the gifts have been opened (and we don’t have the White Elephant or ‘dirty’ versions with horrible gifts and gift-stealing, either) but there was a mention of Secret Santa on here before Christmas and it turns out there are versions where you don’t find out everyone’s identity.

      1. Jaybee*

        You do understand that gift-stealing games are totally different from Secret Santa, right? It’s not like you get a gift from your secret santa and then someone takes the gift away from you. It’s a completely different kind of exchange where nobody is giving a gift to any one particular person.

        1. londonedit*

          Well, no, I didn’t, because as I said the only place I’ve heard about these stealing games is here and they’re always discussed in the context of Secret Santa and other Christmas gift-giving. So I’ve learned something today.

    2. Lirael*

      Oh weird. I’m in the UK and every secret Santa I’ve ever done has been completely anon with no reveal. Although someone always has a master list

  33. I edit everything*

    I wonder if it’s actually from your work Secret Santa. The non-work email strikes me as odd, for a work thing. If the SS was aware enough to know that a message from this person wouldn’t be appropriate for your work email, then they should have been aware enough to not send it at all.
    Do you, by any chance, have a pranky friend or sibling who might send you an anonymous inappropriate gift?

    1. Minerva*

      Yeah the non-work email is weird to me too…

      If it was work secret Santa then sending it to a non-work email then it kinda bolsters the idea that if it was someone from work, they knew it was inappropriate and someone should DEFINETELY be told.

      If it was a pranky friend then that’s something else entirely, but that means that her work secret Santa didn’t get her anything (which is not a huge deal in the long run, but if she had gotten another gift she could have investigated where this pornstar gift came from)

      The whole thing is just so weird.

    2. Deborah*

      But then it’s a double coincidence because she didn’t get anything from the office Secret Santa.

      1. I edit everything*

        It doesn’t seem all that unlikely. Crazier things have happened. The pranky friend gift wouldn’t be a coincidence–it would have come regardless. And flaky SS’s are definitely a thing.

  34. I should really pick a name*

    I’m not sure where I come down on this one.

    Was it weird? Yes.
    Was it bad judgement? Yes.
    Is it worth doing something about? I’m not so sure.

    In isolation, it just doesn’t sound like that big a deal to me. Especially considering that it sounds like there’d be some digging required to figure out who sent it (if it’s possible to figure it out at all).

    1. Pron Gift Fail*

      Agree. It would certainly be an odd gift to receive from a coworker, but I wouldn’t be pearl clutching and running to HR about it. The default stance on this site to weaponize HR to get involved with every little perceived slight has gotten ridiculous and undermines actual serious situations that require HR support.

      1. Observer*

        The default stance on this site to weaponize HR to get involved with every little perceived slight has gotten ridiculous and undermines actual serious situations that require HR support.

        You must reading a different site. Alison does NOT recommend running to HR for every little personal slight. But when something has the potential be a pattern of really inappropriate behavior, that IS something HR needs to know about.

        1. Egmont Apostrophe*

          It was definitely that way under Danny Lavery as Dear Prudence. He had a very unrealistic idea of what HR spent all day doing.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Nobody’s talking about weaponizing HR. There’s a difference between “This is a very horrible thing and we must take action immediately!” and “This is a weird situation that I feel uncomfortable with, how would you recommend I deal with it?”

        Alison *specifically* recommends for OP to say she was not scandalized by the gift. It’s possible for a thing not to be the biggest of all possible deals, and also for a workplace to want to know about it so they can handle similar situations differently in the future.

      3. Meow*

        As someone who works in HR I actually really appreciate Alison’s stance on this site as she doesn’t recommend HR for every little thing and she leans on managers to fix basic interpersonal issues, performance issues, etc. themselves before escalating to HR. But this is veering into sexual harassment territory and I’d absolutely want to know if someone was sending videos to their coworkers like this. OP may not be especially offended or upset by it but someone else may, and no one should have to be thinking about porn stars in relation to work. It’s inappropriate, period. this isn’t pearl clutching or a minor slight – the coworker has basically subjected OP to sexually-adjacent material.

      4. biobotb*

        Where did Alison recommend going to HR over this? She recommended running it past the LW’s manager.

      5. Zap R.*

        I don’t think OP is “pearl-clutching” at all. They have no way of knowing what the intent of sending the video was and many women in the workplace unfortunately have to always be on alert for sexual harassment.

    2. Xavier Desmond*

      Yeah that’s where I am too. I’m obviously in the minority judging by Allison and the comments on here but I don’t see it’s that big of an issue. Just chalk it up to a bad joke or a mistake and leave it at that.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        You don’t. Having dealt with sexual harassment and even assault that started with small boundary testing like this, I do see it as something that needs to be shut down. It’s not funny. It’s not a joke. And it’s not appropriate for the workplace.
        It’s sexual harassment.

    3. Sea Anemone*

      We don’t know that it was in isolation, though. The only way to establish patterns of behavior is to bring incidents up so they can be documented. How often have we read letters where an OP says they brought something up about Jane, and Jane was later fired bc it turns out multiple people had been bringing things up about Jane? Well, if every one of those people blew off Jane’s oddities as inspired by too much egg nog, Jane would still be around, giving adult star themed gifts and making other inappropriate gestures in the work place.

      1. Wordnerd*

        Agree with Sea Anemone, and also would like to point out that Alison specifically said that the OP should tell their boss, not HR.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      That’s why I like the last bit of Alison’s advice–that you don’t know if it was part of a larger pattern of carefully silo’ed bits of almost-sexual weirdness that don’t quite rise to the level of reporting.

      In which case, the first few reports can lead to a tsunami of people who thought they were alone, or thought they would be dismissed.

    5. Observer*

      In isolation, it just doesn’t sound like that big a deal to me. Especially considering that it sounds like there’d be some digging required to figure out who sent it (if it’s possible to figure it out at all).

      Except that this is NOT in isolation. Now, it could be that this person has only pulled this one creepy and inappropriate stunt, and will not do anything out of line again. In that case, I doubt anyone will do anything. But more often than not, there are PATTERNS of behavior. But those patterns can fly under the radar because no one ever brings up the individual pieces.

      This item is a big enough deal that it’s reasonable to think that the perpetrator might do other inappropriate things. In which case, it’s good to have this already on record.

    6. pancakes*

      How would you know this is an isolated incident of bad judgment if you don’t know the identity of the giver? Even if the letter writer did know their identity, they’d have no way of knowing whether this is an isolated incident unless their office is terribly indiscreet about bad behavior and bad judgment.

  35. anonymous73*

    It doesn’t matter if they got you mixed up with someone else, whether you support sex workers or not, whether it offended you or not, if the secret Santa got you mixed up with someone else, or any number of other reasons. This was wildly inappropriate in a work situation and your boss needs to be told about it.

  36. Amethystmoon*

    This is definitely weird. It’s possibly not intended as anything nefarious, but these days, you just never know with total strangers. You also might have a secret admirer at work.

  37. Nay*

    Maybe they thought it was more like a White Elephant than a Secret Santa (where you’d give a gag gift sorta thing instead of an actual gift) but then again, with a $50 limit that is way too pricey for a White Elephant, and well, this would still not be ok. People are strange lol!

    1. Lizzy Lou*

      This is my guess. It was meant as a joke. Clearly a terrible misread of the intended recipient that it would be in any way well received but still not nefarious.

  38. Cadmium*

    Are you sure it was your work secret Santa that sent it? You said it came to your personal email address. How many of your coworkers have that email address? I’m wondering if your work secret Santa didn’t send anything (which often happens with secret Santa exchanges. Someone forgets or just decides not to do it), and someone else completely unrelated to your work sent this email. If you do narrow it down to being from a coworker, then I’d definitely bring it up with your boss or HR.

    1. nonegiven*

      I was thinking it was possible someone completely unknown to OP might have accidentally sent it to jdoe233@email instead of jdoe223@email and the real Secret Santa flaked or their real gift was lost in the mail or porch pirated.

    1. kiki*

      Yes, just ignoring it and assuming it was some sort of error is probably fine if LW’s comfortable with that ambiguity, but I definitely want to know what happened now! It feels like it had to be some sort of simple yet mortifying error, like Alison said.

  39. Ron Jeremy? How nice!*

    I am guessing your secret Santa bought multiple cameos and simply sent you the wrong one.

    George Clooney went to the porn lover on his list.

    I’d just let it go, but if you have to talk to your manager I’d understand.

  40. Forrest Rhodes*

    I’m on Team “Let your manager know about this.”
    Also, how about applying the Sunshine Law here? Go public. Next time you’re chatting with a group of coworkers in the hall or the break room, in a middle-to-loud voice, throw out a general question, “Hey, is [porn star’s name] somebody famous? I got this weird Secret Santa message from her and have no clue who she is!”
    Okay maybe not, but the responses are bound to be interesting.

  41. Healthcare Worker*

    It got sent to non-work email, how certain are you that it’s actually from work secret Santa?

    1. Cmdrshpard*

      That is a possibility, but If that were the case OP should have received another secret Santa gift from the office pool.

      It would be funny if it turned out to have been mistakenly given by a random person who mistyped the email them meant to send it to.

      Ops email is op4567@email.con

      Random person who sent it meant to send to their close friend who they know really likes this actor.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Oooh, now there’s an interesting twist–it might have been for a total stranger with a similar email!

  42. Anonosaurus Rex*

    I once got my boss a birthday greeting from a well known, 4’8″, redhead Nevada sex worker.

    But I know he follows her on social media. And he knows I personally know her – didn’t get me a price break, but a girl has to make a living!

    I absolutely would not get this for anyone else, though.

    1. ecnaseener*

      You…sent your BOSS a greeting from a pornstar? Just because he follows her on social media?

      1. linger*

        Note: “sex worker” does not mean “pornstar”.
        The Wikipedia entry for the Nevada redhead in question suggests a more accurate description should include: activist, advice columnist, educator, rare book collector.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Ok sorry, I mistyped as pornstar because of the larger conversation.

          I’m not familiar with any redhead Nevada sex workers cum rare book collectors, so I’ll have to take your word for that. If this person is known for being a sex worker, my question remains: You…sent your BOSS a greeting from a famous sex worker? Just because he follows her on social media?

          1. Anonosaurus Rex*

            Yep. Some of us are friends with our bosses. I was going to give him a gift anyway, and I knew he’d enjoy it.

            She’s one of the most articulate, intelligent, friendly people I know. Just google “4’8″, redhead Nevada” and get to know Alice.

            1. pancakes*

              I don’t find it at all weird that some people are friends with their bosses, and I’ve had a couple that I was pretty close with myself. What I do find very weird is the practice of using a single Twitter (or Instagram, etc.) account, under one’s own real name, for work and personal stuff. I don’t understand why anyone would want any acquaintance who’s met them or heard of them to have access to things like their favorite adult performers they follow. That just seems totally unnecessary and careless to me.

    2. Free Meerkats*

      I could totally see doing that for my former manager. Though the closest I got was giving him a calendar by a well known cosplayer who sometimes shows a lot. YaYa’s Jessica Rabbit cosplay is amazing!

  43. Sled dog mama*

    We definitely need an update on this one!
    This should also go in that collection of newbie advice that was recently discussed as a cautionary tale.

  44. CreativeName*

    Is the OP entirely sure this is from a coworker/part of the workplace Secret Santa? The video message was sent to the OP’s “non-work email” – how many of their coworkers (if any) have their non-work email? Could a friend have decided to play a prank and the prank is being confused with the office Secret Santa exchange? (I’m grasping at straws here)

    1. Kelly L.*

      I’m leaning this way too. I think this may be someone in OP’s personal life playing a prank.

    2. biobotb*

      But then why hasn’t the LW received another Secret Santa gift from their work Secret Santa? The likelihood that their actual Secret Santa didn’t bother with a gift AND that they accidentally got someone else’s Secret Santa present seems quite small.

      1. Kelly L.*

        When I was getting married, I had a friend who didn’t RSVP, and received an RSVP from a complete stranger whose address was a few blocks away from my friend. I figured the complete stranger had gotten my friend’s mail in error and sent back the card as a joke.

        After some investigation, it turned out that no, it was a complete coincidence that he lived right near the friend. Friend’s invite had been lost in the mail, and Stranger was a family member’s new boyfriend who for some reason sent back the card with only his name and not the relative’s name we would have recognized.

        Weird stuff happens.

  45. Sleepy unicorn*

    My first thought was that maybe the actress also does non-x rated content on something like YouTube and the coworker only knew about that. But OP likely would have seen that when searching the actress and that still makes it a spectacularly weird bad gift. (“Here’s a message from a YouTuber that I have no idea if you even know”)

    It made me think of something a friend recently ran into. He discovered his sweet, older, naive parents are fans of a YouTuber who vlogs about their everyday life (they live in a cool and unusual place) but my friend could immediately see the channel was just a funnel for their x-rated OF content.

  46. DataGirl*

    Anyone else have George Takei’s voice saying OH MYYYY in there head the whole time they were reading this, or is that just me?

  47. Ann O'Nemity*

    Eh, I think there enough innocent explanations that the OP can give the benefit of the doubt and not go on a witch hunt. Mistaken identity in performer, mistaken identity in recipient, cheaping out on an unrecognized D-lister, failure to do research on what “Model/Actress” can mean on Cameo, etc. Sure, it’s possible this is a prank gone wrong. I do think it’s unlikely, however, that this was intended as a form of harassment.

  48. Hiring Mgr*

    Kind of tangential, but I’ve never been part of a secret santa where it remains a secret even after the gifts are given.. Isn’t that the point, that everybody at the end gets to see who their giver was?

  49. Xavier Desmond*

    I think there is some definite doublethink in the OP’s letter and the comments here with regards to sex work. I’m not sure you can say “sex work is just work” and then be scandalised when you receive an innocent message from a sex worker.

    1. Sea Anemone*

      She’s not scandalized, and neither is anyone else. Lots of things are part of our personal and social lives that don’t belong at work, and adult film fandoms are, at most work places, one of them.

      1. Xavier Desmond*

        But why would getting that message from adult film star be any different that getting one from say a Reality TV star. I actually agree that it’s a weird gift I just feel the response to it by the some of the commentors here, and to a lesser extent the OP, is because people are scandalised by an adult film star.

        1. Sea Anemone*

          Bc reality tv is SFW and adult films are NSFW. It’s a really simple boundary to understand, don’t bring things that are NSFW into a work context. It has nothing to do with being scandalized.

          1. Xavier Desmond*

            I actually broadly agree. I just think this issue is more ‘that is someone being a bit unprofessional’ rather than ‘This egregious issue needs to be documented’. I’m obviously in the minority though.

            1. River Otter*

              The majority opinion here is that it is not egregious! Things don’t have to be egregious to be documented. How many incidents of behavior that is a bit unprofessional but it’s not egregious does it take, in your opinion, for there to be a problem? Whatever that number is, whether it is one or 1000, how do you know you have reached it unless you have documented all of them? If it is a one off, the boss has the option not to respond. If it is the first or the last in a long pattern, then the boss can decide whether there is an egregious pattern.

              1. Barry*

                A friend once changed her name, and sent out e-mails.
                The first reply was ‘have you googled that name?’.

                (It was not a pornstar, but an actress)

        2. JimmyJab*

          A. Getting a cameo from a reality TV star would also be dumb if you weren’t a huge fan. and B., it is different because if I google a reality TV star there’s only a small chance I find porn, rather than a 100% chance. And, if the sender here was trying to get their jollies by being weird to a coworker, that’s also different.

        3. Zap R.*

          This is a false equivalency. Sending someone a Cameo from an adult film star has very different connotations than sending someone a Cameo from a Real Housewife or a Ru Girl.

        4. Jaybee*

          Because there’s a difference between ‘huh, what did I say to make my coworkers think I watch The Survivor?’ and ‘oh no, what did I say to make my coworkers think they know what porn I watch?!’

        1. Sea Anemone*

          lol, I was actually on the totally opposite side of that, where I don’t think calling your boyfriend master is that different from calling your husband, husband. I get the analogy, however. :)

          1. Lucy Skywalker*

            In the letter you’re referring to, the issue wasn’t that she called her boyfriend “Master,” but that she wanted her co-workers to refer to him as such.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Sending a sex-themed gift to a coworker is inappropriate because you shouldn’t bring sex into the workplace in any way or make any guesses/assumptions about what sexual content your coworker enjoys. Not because of sex work.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This. “Sex work should be legal” and “It is inappropriate to seek to become sexually aroused while painting the llama teapots” are congruent positions to hold.

    3. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

      By that logic you can’t love sex and be creeped out when your coworker talks at length about their sex life. Context is everything.

      1. Xavier Desmond*

        I’m happy to agree to disagree on this one as I’m clearly in the minority. I also think I’m being a little unfair on the OP with my comment.

    4. pancakes*

      Nope, those of us who agree that sex work is work haven’t thereby consented to talking about sex or exchanging sexy gifts in any and all circumstances, including at work. It seems like you haven’t given much thought to the importance of knowing your audience when it comes to jokes or pranks, nor to the many reasons why people might want to talk something over with their boss other than being “scandalized.” I can’t say I’ve been scandalized when people I have zero interest in have hit on me in a work context, for example, but that doesn’t mean I’m cool with them doing so.

    5. Batgirl*

      It’s not scandalous, but it is different to a reality TV star message in the same way that a sex toy is different to a child’s toy. A child’s toy gift would be a dumb and silly level of thoughtless, a sex toy is a make people feel surveilled, and creeped out level of thoughtless. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with sex toys per se. There’s a bunch of “ok if I buy it for myself” stuff you really can’t gift to anyone platonic, much less colleagues.

    6. Student*

      I think you absolutely can accept sex work as legitimate and not want sex worker gifts from strangers at your office. Sex is pretty personal and it is very reasonable and normal to expect it to not feature at (non-sex) work.

      I think clothing fabrication is a legitimate profession. I don’t want underwear as a gift from an office Secret Santa. It’s too personal.

      I think dental hygiene is important. I don’t want mouthwash or toothpaste from the office Secret Santa. I don’t want OTC pills from the office Secret Santa. It’s too personal.

      I think the person weaponizing and disrespecting sex workers is the guy who gave the OP a sex worker’s video as an office Christmas gift. The contents of the video aren’t XXX rated, but that is likely to give the gift-giver a little plausible deniability to hide behind; the video itself is only a “special gift” in that it’s created by a porn actress. If Secret Santa just wanted to give people cute video messages, he could’ve turned on his own camera instead of paying a porn star for this particular content.

    7. learnedthehardway*

      Disagreeing with this comment, because the key element of anything regarding sex is CONSENT.

      So, I can be perfectly accepting that some people make a living by having sex for money, but it doesn’t mean anyone has any reason to imagine that I would consent to be given cameo greeting from a porn star, particularly in a work situation.

    8. marvin*

      I didn’t get the impression that the OP was scandalized or uncomfortable with the message. I think her concern, which would also be my concern in this scenario, is that the gift might have been sent with creepy intentions.

  50. Doug Judy*

    Even if there was an innocent mix up of some kind, the sender should be made aware. I don’t think OP is going to go in blazing and trying to get the sender in trouble. But they do deserve the right to figure out who and why they got this.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing with you – it could easily be that there was something as simple as a software glitch or coding error (if the site the greeting was purchased from offers greetings from multiple celebrities). The giver might have picked someone entirely innocuous or that they thought the OP would really get a kick out of, and be quite mortified to find out that the service substituted someone else entirely.

  51. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    This is s strange gift.
    It could have done differently, pick the person you want a vid from up to the $50 limit.

  52. Purple cat*

    This is just so, so bizarre.
    A video as an add-on to a physical gift is one thing, or a video from a celebrity you KNOW the recipient is into is another thing, but THIS? This is just a whole category of “nope!”

  53. Orange You Glad*

    I agree that bringing this up to the boss is a good idea. Not in a “let’s get the sender in trouble” sort of way but in a “let’s make sure this doesn’t happen again” way. The rules could be clarified next year to prevent this sort of thing.

      1. Observer*

        You would think. But if this site has shown, there are a LOT of things that SHOULD go without saying that need to be explicitly said.

  54. Chili*

    I’m really surprised that more people are not seeing this is a blatant form of sexual harassment. Maybe I’m just too jaded. But this seems like a really easy way for some creep to have plausible deniability while still getting off on making OP look up porn…

    There’s just a lot of gymnastics being done trying to explain it away, when the most obvious explanation is that they were simply being deliberately inappropriate in a way that was less risky, and somehow rewarding to them.

    1. Tasteful Mullet*

      Hard agree here. Folks are really doing backflips to view this in the most charitable light possible (which, ordinarily, I love) when the simplest possible explanation is that this was a creep move. I wouldn’t be so quick to blame this on “coworker who doesn’t pick up on social cues” or “mistaken identity”.
      (and even if it was Just A Joke or Whoops! Dru Berrymore, impact matters more than intent. Maybe secret Santa didn’t know or mean to give something that’d be considered inappropriate, but what they knew/meant to do doesn’t matter if the impact is that LW is uncomfortable)

      1. I've Made A Huge Mistake*

        I don’t think people are doing backflips to view this in the most charitable light. But I do think that this is such a bonkers thing to receive in this situation that it only makes sense to try to figure out a reason. Especially considering all of the reasons OP stated that made it even more confusing. And I absolutely do not think that “accidentally sending it to the wrong person” is a backflip to figure out what is going on. I think it’s good to take a breath and think through things before reacting, which is what the OP is doing. Considering all of the horror stories we read about mistakes that may turn into bigger things (ie Throwing Condoms On The Desk During An Interview; The Flying Sandwich That Made People Think That An Employee Sexually Assaulted Their Boss, and more), I can see this being a horror story from the perspective of SS who accidentally sent their coworker the gift intended for a friend.

        I also wouldn’t even consider it a “blatant form of sexual harassment” personally, but that doesn’t mean other people shouldn’t feel that way. I would just be baffled and confused like the OP.

        But it I do like the advice of dotting your Is and crossing your Ts and checking in with your manager in case this is indicative of other/bigger issues.

    2. Meow*

      This was my first thought too. This seems like a way to overstep boundaries while still being able to blame it on a joke or a mistake. I’m sex positive and have no issues with sex work and have even worked as a sex worker myself when I was younger, but I wouldn’t want a coworker sending me anything that reminds me of sex. It’s uncomfortable and inappropriate.

    3. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      And the thing is, the LW doesn’t actually have to know whether it was deliberate harassment or astounding cluelessness. The LW does know they were sent a “porn rickroll” (as someone described it elsewhere in the comments). The fact that the action was inappropriate is reason enough to bring it to management’s attention, no matter what the reason behind the action was.

      (And frankly, the coworker being a creepy creeper who creeps seems the simplest and most likely explanation to me.)

    4. Observer*

      I don’t think people are doing backflips. I think what people are saying is that even IF (and I do agree it’s a BIG if) this was not REALLY meant as harassment, it is still totally unacceptable, and should be brought to the manager. Because as a one off it’s no good but not necessarily the end of the world. But if it’s a pattern, it is a VERY bad pattern.

  55. Lewie*

    I’d be super tempted just to announce that you never received your secret Santa gift, and let the chips fall where they may. Maybe people will just drop it, Or maybe the gifter will be figured out and have to explain that they actually did send a gift and what it was.
    But if they did send it with nefarious intentions, they lose out on the excitement of knowing that you saw it. And if they want you to see if they have to admit that they sent it.

    1. Jaybee*

      This would be an especially good approach if you expect the video was sent with creeper intentions. Deny the giver the satisfaction of even knowing they made you uncomfortable, unless they’re willing to own up to it.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        Oh, that might be the best way to handle this. Especially since the message was anonymous and sent to LW’s personal email address, not their work email.

  56. Wine Not Whine*

    Yanno. Maybe I’m a Grinch.
    But I’d be just as happy if employers just stopped altogether with arranging or encouraging holiday gift exchanges of any sort.
    If folks want to give something to a person or people, great. They’ll figure out the how, when, where, and what.
    If not, don’t coerce them into giving something to someone they may not even know all that well.
    That would eliminate a lot of confusion, annoyance, unnecessary (and sometimes stressful) spending, and WTF situations like OP’s.
    … stumping back into my cave now… harrumph.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think it often starts out from the bottom–new employee did this at old work and it was fun and so they start one here. (Thus did my spouse’s office tradition begin a few years back.) Then that person moves on and people expect it to happen, but also to avoid That One Thing That Time, and management gets involved in trying to make sure it happens as expected and is seen as fair.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes most of the time when it happens in companies I’ve worked in, it’s because someone wants to do it and there’s a degree of enthusiasm from people who want to participate. If management is involved it’s been to ensure it was fair. If people don’t want to do one or be involved that’s always been fine too every time I’ve been somewhere with one. My current workplace doesn’t do them and I tend to be easy whether there’s one or not.

    2. Jaybee*

      All of the work gift exchanges I’ve ever participated in have been fun and have not included any sexual or otherwise inappropriate gifts. Most of them have also been non-compulsory (which I agree is the way to go – don’t make people participate if they don’t want to!)

      I am sure there are workplaces where gift exchanges go wrong much more frequently, but you can’t base your opinion of gift exchanges as a whole by what ends up on an advice site. Nobody’s going to write in saying ‘Alison, our office Secret Santa went wonderfully this year and everyone enjoyed their gifts, what do I do?’

      1. Chashka*

        Same here. Every office Secret Santa I’ve had has gone just fine. Nothing remotely weird, and therefore, nothing worth writing in for advice.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes I mean the only thing that happened that was remotely amusing at any of mine was that someone got given a “Kung Fu fighting” animatronic hamster. The song was so irritating someone confiscated it and hid it until the end of the day and we banned singing toys from future exchanges. Which was amusing but not really noteworthy.

          There’s never been anything worth writing in about because they’ve all been nice and uneventful.

  57. Jedi Sentinel Bird*

    That’s a pretty lame Christmas gift. It would raise my eyebrows as well if I receive something like that and then had to look up who the person was. I think the advice is sound to just let the manager know hey I received this video greeting for the Christmas Secret Santa and I thought this was incredibly odd. That way things in the future don’t ask escalate from there. You never know somebody might be even more brazen and do something stranger than that.

  58. Alexis Rose*

    Skimmed through the comments to make sure I wasn’t repeating anyone, but I do wonder if there maybe IS a “master list”? I organize the secret santa for my friend group using online services like DrawNames, and I can see who got who, it is an option that is a few clicks away so nothing is spoiled and I have to go actively looking for it, but it is there.

    I would reach out to the organizer and ask, saying that you need to know who your Santa is so you can get to the bottom of it. I’d also loop in the organizer on what happened, because clearly some ground rules need to be spelled out for future versions of this if they want to do it again!!!!

    I sincerely hope this is an example of someone making a really really really unfortunate mistake with email addresses and maybe they are mortified and would want to make it right.

  59. theletter*

    Celebrity confusion is REAL.

    Teenagers who get asked for help and play poorly timed pranks are REAL.

    Coworker confusion is REAL (just ask Wakeen)

    Holiday brain is REAL.

    I’d cut SS some serious slack. It sounds like a hilarious cavalcade of mistakes.

    1. Observer*

      I’d cut SS some serious slack. It sounds like a hilarious cavalcade of mistakes.

      Nope. At all.

      This COULD be a cascade of mistakes. But it’s a bad mistake, and depending on who it was sent to, it could have been a significant issue. On top of that, at least one mistake here is not really excusable. Why would an employee be asking a teen for help getting a simple gift for someone? And if you DO ask a friendly teen then you should be paying attention to what they are doing. You don’t just let them do what they want.

      Beyond that, it COULD be a mistake. But it could NOT be a mistake. In either case, it could be part of a pattern. And this pattern is a real problem for the workplace.

  60. Student*

    The OP says their job doesn’t have a strong old-boys-club vibe. My work, however, does, and I know these folks can turn up in more “normal” professions.

    In my line of work, if a guy sent that to me, it would be to to imply that I am a butch lesbian and to further imply that said sexual orientation is an insult. Additionally, it would imply they were fantasizing about me in a sexual manner. Unfortunately, I’ve had to deal with similar interactions with jerks at work before, wherein they were willing to spell out more explicitly exactly why I should be insulted and/or attracted to them to “defend” myself against their “accusation”.

    It would be intended either as an insult because I’m a bossy woman, or as a negging-type attempt at flirting with me. And, at this point in my life, I would declare war to get the organization to investigate and then recognize the multiple layers of horrible – the stigma against lesbians, the intent to insult me, the inappropriate and unwelcome sexual behavior at work.

    I really don’t understand the rush within the comments to find an excuse for this behavior. It’s not likely intended to be a nice gift for the OP, it’s likely intended as an insult, albeit one based in a caveman mindset so far from the OP’s that she has fortunately missed being insulted entirely (but is still openly uncomfortable). It’s possible the OP’s colleague has some more subtle insult in mind than what my caveman colleagues would mean by this, but I can guarantee they did not pay this porn star money with the intent to make OP feel good. And I bet if you asked her, the porn star herself would not be on board with sending her videos to people as part of harassing them; she probably offers this service with the intent to make people feel good.

    1. I sleep when the sun shines*

      “I can guarantee they did not pay this porn star money with the intent to make OP feel good.”

      But can you really? When faced with a choice of believing someone must be either ignorant or evil, I will often assume it’s the former.

  61. Ashkela*

    Lol my full first and last name are also the name of an adult film star. We also share a birthday, with her being 3 years older than me. I discovered the name thing after my male roommate at the time came home with a ton of DVDs from a local video store that was closing and we found some of her greatest hits. We almost died laughing. Years later, I happened to see her website (because if you google my full name, you get her website as the top result), discovered her birth date, and ended up emailing her to tell her the funny coincidence. We corresponded a bit, and I went to a comedy performance of hers when I was next in the town she lives in. She was lovely.
    (Sorry, I never get to tell that story lol)

    All that to say, I’m betting Alison’s right about the mistaken identity of the person in the video message.

  62. Grapthar's Hammer*

    I’d use this as a ‘hey, maybe we should rethink this secret Santa tradition, I wasn’t at all offended by this but someone else might have been and this is only one of the problems’ conversational opener, personally.

  63. Chashka*

    I have to say I literally laughed at loud picturing Alison researching the similar name pairings? Whoda thunk AAM issues would lead to that action?

    1. Can Can Cannot*

      She better hope her HR dept is not checking her web activity for NSFW search activity. Could make for a difficult conversation.

  64. QuinleyThorne*

    This is kind of a “duh” way of going about it, but when I find myself having trouble gauging the appropriateness of a situation at work, or whether I “should” feel a certain way about it, I try frame it as one of those example scenarios you might see on a quiz in those Sexual Harrassment In the Workplace trainings:
    “For the holidays, the office conducted a Secret Santa gift exchange. While most employees received gift certificates or coffee cups, Employee A’s gift from their Secret Santa was a recorded holiday greeting from a minor celebrity. Since Employee A did not recognize the celebrity, they did a quick internet search, and discovered that the celebrity was an adult film star. While the message itself was G-rated, Employee A was left feeling unsettled by the gift, unsure of which coworker would give them that, and why. How should Employee A proceed?”

    Also, TIL: 1) what Cameo is, and 2) that there’s an influencer apparently named “Weed Al Dankovic”

    1. Ashkela*

      I love that site. I’ve gotten a musical video for my sister’s birthday, a fandom video for a friend finishing watching the show the actor was on, and got to do a live call with one of my favorite celebrities.

    2. QuinleyThorne*

      Also slightly-related, since I’m seeing a lot of comments from people perplexed by who this service might be for:

      I went to the site out of curiosity, and the first category I saw under the menu was Voice Actors. As a fan of video games, anime, cartoons, and a huge voice-acting nerd, I can ABSOLUTELY see the market for this kind of thing. There is just something about seeing an actor do the voice of a beloved character that makes people’s eyes just light up. I can think of so many people for whom receiving this kind of thing would immediately put a smile on their face. Like, if I got one of these from like, Kevin Conroy as Batman, or Chris Sabat as Vegeta I’d absolutely lose it.

      1. miro*

        I’m assuming that the Vegeta you’re referring to is a character, not the popular seasoning, but I still giggled imagining you were talking about the seasoning :D

  65. Red*

    Did you check her cameo price? Maybe it was one of the cheaper ones and your SS was just like eh, they’re famous. Who doesn’t like a famous person message?

  66. Goldenrod*

    I actually think it IS more than possible that this person accidentally booked this porn star thinking she was someone else….I’ve used Cameo before and it’s really fun, but you have to make SURE that the person you book is actually a celebrity that the recipient likes.

    But it make have been someone using the service badly and not understanding it….It’s not impossible!

    Agree with all the commenters clamoring for an update!!

  67. Fierce Jindo*

    It went to your non-work email and it didn’t mention the job—and the only reason you think it was your workplace Secret Santa gift (not generic spam) is that it referenced “your Secret Santa”?

    I’d question that assumption.

  68. Informatics Epidemiologist by Day*

    This is pretty far down, but another possiblity …. I have an OG gmail account from the beta days. firstinitiallastname at gmail dot com . Where firstinitiallastname is shared by a decent number of people in the world. All of whom forget that their email address actually starts with firstinitiallastname WITH NUMBERS ADDED. Or that it’s actually firstnamelastname at gmail dot com. Which means I get an astounding amount of email the past few years for people who share my first initial and my last name, including a lot of things that you would think they placed great importance on reaching the right place (mortgage documents were the last things that I had to send back). My favorite was being invited to the family reunion because I am obviously way cooler than their actual relative ;-)

    Anyway, my first thought was …. someone’s Secret Santa put the wrong email address into the video service, and LW got an unexpected video. But that does leave LW with the result of having not gotten a Secret Santa gift at all.

  69. DrRat*

    Wow, reading this thread was the equivalent of giving everyone here a Rorschach test. Lots of “of COURSE the answer is THIS, it COULD NOT be anything else” assumptions going on. But here’s a quick update on reality: there are multiple possibilities.
    1. The workplace Secret Santa forgot/is out sick/has a gift coming that is delayed, and this is actually from a different person just claiming to be a Secret Santa. It’s not work related at all.
    2. The workplace Secret Santa is a creepy creeper who did this intentionally.
    3. The workplace Secret Santa is terrible at gift giving, gave everyone on his/her gift list a different Cameo and just picked one in his/her price range or, as Alison suggested, had some name confusion.
    4. The workplace Secret Santa got this person’s name confused with his good friend at work who follows this porn star and is wondering why his/her good buddy is not saying, “Thanks for the great Cameo present!” Meanwhile, his good buddy is wondering why they got an Amazon gift card.
    5. The workplace Secret Santa gave his/her list over to his/her significant other, who is tired of this, is planning a breakup, and sent porn star Cameos to all the people on the list, including the Secret Santa’s grandma.

    I am willing to entertain other possibilities if anyone has any.

    For anyone saying, “There is no way anyone would give a gift this bad by accident”, I highly recommend reading David Finch’s article How To Give Good Gift on Slate magazine. As he explains, due to neurodivergence, “My knack for giving horrible gifts is unparalleled; I’ve presented people with magnetic marbles and pictures of my head—gifts that were bad enough to jeopardize long-standing friendships.”

    Alison’s advice was spot on – casually discuss with the manager, not in an “oh my GOD” way, but in a matter of fact “This happened, thought you would want to know” kind of way. And go from there.

    And yes, WE NEED AN UPDATE.

  70. EngineeringFun*

    My first reaction was next level passive aggressive BS. The person doesn’t like having $50 on a gift for a coworker. And this will end this tradition for next year!

  71. Midwest Teacher*

    The fact that they sent it to your personal email signals that the gift giver was absolutely aware that this gift wasn’t work appropriate, and chose to proceed anyway.

  72. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    You are ok with this, more or less, but what if it wasn’t you who got it wasn’t ok? Because whoever gave it to you obviously didn’t know you enough to know you wouldn’t be bothered by it.

    1. Gray Lady*

      THIS. There are plenty of people who would be Very Much Not Okay with this, and I’m surprised that’s being glossed over. It doesn’t matter if you share their not-okayness, in much the same way you shouldn’t make jokes or give gifts that are well known to have a high likelihood of being offensive in other ways, regardless of your own feelings about it. Workplace gifts should not venture into that kind of territory.

  73. I sleep when the sun shines*

    My guess is the gift-giver forgot to get something, then had an ad pop up from a site like Cameo, which has all kinds of celebrities (I got a video from a horror movie star and a former boy band member). They did a quick search for $50 videos and the adult film star popped up near the top of the list and — not being familiar with celebrities but thinking you might be — had the video commissioned thinking “Yay, a video from a celebrity is a great fun gift to give a co-worker!” So, I’m assuming the intent was lazy but innocent.

  74. pancakes*

    The letter says it was a $50 limit, not that $50 was the minimum. If someone wanted to make a display of their resentment that particular way, rather than, say, buying an inexpensive and thoughtless gift, or simply “forgetting” to get one at all, their judgment is nearly as poor as someone who gives a gift like this on purpose. Weird, oblique, intentional hostility isn’t a much better look than ineptitude or creepiness. I’m not sure it’s any better at all.

  75. Noisy Ghost*

    I don’t necessarily think that the fact the video was sent to OP’s non-work email suggests it wasn’t from the coworker, as others have commented. The coworker might have gotten OP’s personal email from the Amazon wishlist, or maybe the name generator provides contact info for your recipient – we don’t know. But I think that it being sent to OP’s personal email really lowers the likelihood that it was an innocent mistaken name or a well-intentioned but terrible judgement call. If the giver didn’t see anything wrong with it, why not send it to OP’s work email, or reveal themselves? The personal email and staying anonymous pushes this into “intentional creep” territory for me.

  76. A Wall*

    Never in all my decades of reading advice columns have I wanted to solve a letter’s mystery more.

    If I had been on the receiving end of this I would NEED to know what the heck. I would ask whoever organized it if I could get the name of my secret santa on the grounds that they didn’t leave their name and I wanted to sort out a delivery issue or whatever benign cover story could work in the circumstances. I would simply have to find out what the deal was for my own edification.

  77. Easily Amised*

    Any chance this is a re-gift situation? Someone gifted them this message and they have no idea who this is and/or don’t care so figured someone else might be a more appreciative audience? Grasping at straws here.

  78. Check Wishlist*

    Agree it’s worth just talking to your manager about it.
    Some people are saying it might not have been your coworker… It might be worth quickly checking your Amazon wishlist to see if anything has been purchased – if you had spoiler settings on you would not have been notified. If nothing’s been purchased, you’re in the same position as before, but if so, you know it’s not your colleague!

  79. Izzy the Cat*

    Please, please send an update!

    What I think happened is that the sender bought one (not personalized) for another friend and then decided that it would be hilarious to also send it to the coworker for the Secret Santa gift. I think the sender was just pissed that they were asked to spend $50 on a WORK GIFT and this was their “f you”.

    But yeah, this was super inappropriate and I would not hesitate to report it to my manager.

  80. My Favorite Thing*

    “I very much doubt that you are somehow giving your coworkers the impression that you were hoping for a porn-themed gift this year.”

    Can we have a “favorite sentence from Allison” category for next year? I snorted.

  81. Jopestus*

    Lets be honest, i would find a “gift” like that hilarious and worth a laugh. Okay, it would be really weird when coming from a workmate, but i can see that as an attempt of humour even in this context, if we assume it was not a mistake.

    Ofc, it is the responsibility of the person making/telling the joke to know the audience.

Comments are closed.