the locusts, the un-appreciation kits, and even more stories of corporate gifts that didn’t quite work out

On last week’s post about corporate year-end gifts, some readers shared even more stories of company gifts that went terribly wrong. Here are 10 more that made me laugh.

1. The locusts

“My prior company gave everyone a small tree and encouraged people to plant it. Now these were small seedlings maybe 2 inches inside of a small cup used by dentists for mouthwash and what not. Upon receiving them we read the name ‘Honey Locusts.’ They literally gave us locusts for employee appreciation. They also recommended we plant these on our property or randomly plant them on some one else’s property. These trees grow to be very large and my property couldn’t accommodate. Two weeks later an email went out stating, ‘Please do not plant your trees at work, we do not own the property.’”

2. The blown glass

“I once attended a conference where everyone got a blown glass sculpture. An incredibly fragile blown glass sculpture. Throughout the final session, and the bus ride back to our hotel, the sounds of breaking glass could be heard – if it touched anything, it went kaboom. Also, I was flying home the next morning! So I took every article of clothing I had to spare, packed them around the stupid thing as tightly as I could, and hoped for the best. Somehow it survived, but many did not. It was really pretty, and I’m sure it was expensive, but…who thought that was a good idea?”

3. Whoops

“In January of 2020 we all got a pack of Emergen-C with a note saying ‘Bring it on 2020!’ (in reference to cold and flu season) and it aged like milk on a summer day.”

4. The hammers

“My company usually just does hoodies or jackets, one year was really nice laptop backpacks, another year they got everyone these really good emergency car kits — big red bags, first aid, mylar blankets, tire inflation, reflecting cones, flares, those cut the seatbelt tools, and more. Usually a success. Then came the new lady who convinced the partners that $100 gift cards were good.

You think, ‘No problem,’ right?

Welp … you’d be wrong. They came in these big boxes which you’d open to find a hammer and a chunk of concrete that you had to bash your way through to get to your card … which were to things like auto parts stores or Cabellas or bass pro shops.

That was a loud afternoon followed by a damage assessment because we had desks smashed up, a ridiculous number of wireless mice destroyed … one guy missed his rock and slammed his cell phone dead center … a broken monitor and one dented hood by a guy who figured hurling it off the loading dock would be faster.

Been all hoodies ever since.”

5. The parade

“At a previous job, during the busy season, everyone salaried was required to work a certain amount of weekly unpaid overtime, maybe 10-12 hours. In ‘gratitude,’ the company owners would periodically PARADE through the office handing out small gifts. Very small, cheap gifts — once it was a packet of off brand tortilla chips and a shelf-stable container of ‘nacho cheese.’ During this little parade (owners and their assistants, toting a Bluetooth speaker blaring music), we workers were expected to drop whatever we were doing to CHEER for the owners as they benevolently handed out cheap snacks, like aristocrats handing pennies to the peasants.”

6. The deck of cards

“My old company gave everyone a deck of cards with the company logo on it. OK, fine, everyone needs a deck of cards, not the worst gift ever. But then we opened them.

Instead of the standard, suits and numbers, the cards had the Company Values on them, with symbols corresponding to those values. The top card contained instructions for a go-fish-type game we were meant to play with them. ‘Do you have any Innovation? Go fish.’

So basically, the only thing you could do with the cards was play this stupid game. A bunch of us punched holes in our card decks and strung them together and hung them around the office like holiday garlands.”

7. The rock

“I once received a rock with the word ‘trust’ written on it in sharpie. Morale was particularly bad at the time and management thought “trust rocks” would help. Some rocks were thrown.”

8. The fire blankets

“I worked in a nursing home tied to a large international religious charity for eight years. They gave us an annual gift, which is unusual in my country. There was no need for any gift, it wouldn’t have come off as weird or cheap. But year after year they gifted us fire blankets. The first year I thought this was useful. The second year I wondered if they had forgotten about last year. The third year I wondered if they had just received a massive fire blankets donation they were going through slowly. The fourth year I wondered if they just assumed we regularly set stuff on fire and went through one blanket per year. The fifth year I understood we were trapped in an endless loop. The sixth year I started a blog about it. The seventh year I looked up if there was an aspect of that religion I had overlooked that somehow connected to fire and blankets. The eighth year they finally broke me, and I looked forward to receiving my well-earned blanket, no further questioning of The Blanket.

I still have three of them, 12 years after leaving that position.”

9. The appreciation kits

“My husband, a middle-school teacher whose school decided to rush headlong back into in-person classes in fall of 2020, was given an ‘appreciation kit’ by his school on the first day of class (as were all the teachers). One tiny bottle of hand sanitizer, two 5-count packets of disinfectant wipes, a T-shirt in the school colors that said ‘we’re all in this together,’ and a booklet with the number and website for the local mental health crisis line.

Approximately one-quarter of the teaching staff left after the 2020-2021 school year. For some reason.”

10. The SIM card transfer

“A few years ago, I was working in a telecoms company. This was before ‘smart’ phones were a thing — and to transfer your contacts from one device to another, you needed to manually copy them to your SIM card, then insert your old SIM into your new phone, transfer them to the new phone, and then finally put your new SIM card into the new phone — a complete pain to do!

One year, as part of an employee ‘Christmas stocking’ full of otherwise unobjectionable things, the company gave us a handy little device to help automate this transfer. You put your old SIM card in one end, and the new one in the other and voila! contacts transferred. Except this thing did not work. At all. What it did instead was wipe your old SIM card of all information — so that could be hundreds of contacts completely lost — and this was from a time when people didn’t back up their contacts (and some phones didn’t let you copy contacts, only move them, so the contacts were lost from the old phone too). Needless to say, this didn’t generate much Christmas cheer.”

{ 364 comments… read them below }

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      However pretty they are – they are huge and grow very fast. These aren’t good gifts is your staff aren’t homeowners with plenty of land.

      I have a variant in my yard that went from ten feet to 17 feet in three years. And it is a wide spreading canopy tree as well. I have to trim it away from the house and gutter system twice a year.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Checked – I have what is known as a Sunburst Honeylocust, and it is one of the thorn free variants. It’s also native to the state I live in, so while the seeds it drops all over that sprout super easily in my yard, it’s not considered invasive here.

      2. LittleMarshmallow*

        Our company did the tree thing a few years ago (who knows… maybe it’s the same company). I can’t plant trees because of an HOA but one of my colleagues has a thing for plants so she took all of the ones from our location that people didn’t want (probably like 4 trees) and planted them all in her yard. She assumed some wouldn’t make it. Baby trees are hard to keep alive in the north. I think she got 2 of them to flourish. The others died.

      3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        True, but it still is not as bad as a gift of locusts. Locusts were literally one of the 12 plagues in the old testament!

    2. Sloanicota*

      Yeah I don’t disagree that tree seeds are an odd choice of gifts, but that’s just a name for a certain type of tree, I wouldn’t even be thinking about grasshoppers personally. There’s black locust and honey locust. They’re both nice!

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        It’s just that line about “literally gave us locusts” that’s the problem. Because no.

    3. Gene Parmesan*

      I agree that a Honey Locust is a tree and is not a destructive insect/pest. But I would not consider them desirable trees to plant on your land. They grow huge, spiky thorns. We had several removed from the backyard at our house, and the tree removal company acted like they are a nuisance tree.

      1. KatEnigma*

        That is what I thought- my parents planted 2 close together and as a kid, I would crawl under the lowest branches and read inside my thorny fortress.

        I don’t think of them as “huge” or particularly fast growing either. After 12 years, ours were like 20 ft.

        The thorns were what made it a particularly bad choice.

        1. BookstoreBiologist*

          Just to be fair, though, there’s a variety of honey locusts that’s bred to not have thorns–it’s actually really common as a street tree, especially in places like NYC (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis). But yeah, if the company was just…giving out trees it’s still a problem/weird (especially if it’s the kind with MASSIVE thorns).

          1. Sloanicota*

            Even if you wanted to give out trees as a gift (which isn’t necessarily the greatest choice?) at least a sapling is sort of underway, a seed has a pretty low likelihood of becoming a big happy tree in my experience.

              1. Sloanicota*

                Oh huh you’re right, I was confused by the “2 inches” description. But I guess I can picture a teeny weeny little sprouted seedling.

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            The ones that have the thorns on really do have MASSIVE thorns. My husband used to fly model airplanes and the club grounds were bounded by honey locusts on three sides (planted around cattle fields to keep the cows in), and if one of their aircraft crashed into the honey locusts, it was impaled and shredded on these enormous four-inch thorns.

            1. Antares*

              I grew up with 3 in the yard and none had thorns. I had no idea they could until now! Made great trees for hanging hammocks and climbing, but I think I loved in it’s usual zone.

              (I would’ve tried to make a bonsai out of it, haha.)

    4. Stackson*

      Pretty sure a Honey Locust is the type of tree under which Abraham Lincoln gave the Emancipation Proclamation. They are beautiful… but an odd gift, to be sure.

    5. 1-800-BrownCow*

      I read it as the OP was thinking of the symbolism, “Here’s a locust [tree] as a gift, as this is how we think of you.” Just like a company handing out 100 Grand candy bars because “You’re worth 100 Grand” and it sucks cuz all you got was a candy bar.

          1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

            Here in the PNW we have blackberries (there are some native and some invasive species). Invasive, but delicious!

            1. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

              Exactly – I was about to say, at least trees are killable. Once kudzu is established you need an army of goats at the ready if you want any hope of eradication.

              1. MondayBlues*

                My grandparent got goats for the sole reason to eat the kudzu….. surprise, goats won’t touch the stuff. At least not the goats they got. They ended up having to burn the stuff every year only for it to grow back and kill all the trees by climbing up them.

              2. JustEm*

                No, no. We had a big scraggly locust tree in our yard that was blocking light and full of thorns. After it was “removed” we have continued to have thorny suckers sprouting from any deep leftover roots as far as 25 ft from the original tree – they are INCREDIBLY difficult to kill – literally like dozens sprouting every couple of days in the spring and summer for the first two years after the tree was cut down, and sprouting through rock wall, solid clay etc. This was the third year and finally we only had to pull about one a week. We probably have spent at least 60 hours pulling locust suckers out of our yard since the tree was cut. This is a horrible, horrible gift on par with gifting kudzu or blackberries.

              3. Splendid Colors*

                “Himalayan” blackberries in the PNW also need a herd of goats to eradicate them.

                They are an invasive species that will take over any land near streams and block the stream with their enormous thorny spreading canes so that animals can’t drink. They arch high in the air and touch down 12′ or so from the roots, and grow roots where they touch the ground. They also have underground suckers that travel for yards underground. They won’t cover structures as fast as kudzu but they’re thorough and a menace to cut down, as well as resprouting readily.

                Although the novelty of picking berries by the quart for free outside my apartment is something I still miss in September, they are almost as bad as kudzu for the environment.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Kudzu is the worst. My mom, who has the blackest thumb imaginable, couldn’t even kill the kudzu that invaded our backyard as a kid. It’s still there fellow readers, 35 years later. New homeowner hasn’t been able to get rid of it either…..despite tearing up and residing the entire back yard.

        2. Reluctant Mezzo*

          For a couple of years we all got Narcissus bulbs, during year end. And the giver was very unhappy that we waited till *after* year end to do anything with them.


    6. Olivia*

      Oh, I assumed that the tree was called a honey locust because it attracted locusts. So that they were in effect gifting them locusts.

      The wildest part to me is that they encouraged people to randomly plant them in other people’s yards (I’m guessing after some people were like “”This won’t work for my yard, so what am I supposed to do with this?”), but then didn’t like it when people tried that out on the work property. I mean of course you shouldn’t plant random trees on someone else’s property, but strange that they didn’t think it was a problem until probably their landlords talked to them about it.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I think they’re named that because the seeds are said to resemble the beetles. I don’t believe they actually have any association with attracting them (this actually never would have occurred to me so I’m interested). Wikipedia FWIW says “”Locust” comes from the Latin locusta, meaning both “locust” (the insect) and “lobster”. By analogy with a levantine use of the Greek word for the insect, akris, for the pods of the carob tree which supposedly resembled it, the pod-bearing North American tree was called “locust” starting in the 1630s.” The carob tree is also referred to as a locust apparently, although I’m guessing OP is referring to either a Gleditsia or Robinia pseudoacacia.

      2. Former Gifted Kid*

        Your comment sent me on a wild goose chase to try and find out why the trees are call locust trees. It seems that basically, the honey locust (which is native to North America) looks kinda like the carob tree (which grows in Africa) which has seed pods that some people think look like locusts and is sometimes called a locust tree.

        The honey part is because these locust tree pods have a a gooey substance in them that is very sweet. I have an old Appalachian cookbook that recommends using honey locust pod pulp when brewing your own beer.

      3. JSPA*

        It’s the only locust tree that has edible (sweet!), rather than poisonous bean pod pulp. (Hm, looks like some may cross-fertilize, and have toxic, bitter pulp…only eat if sweet.)

        The leaves are messy, and the thorny ones (which is to say, the original form) are viciously thorny.

        Learning something new, apparently you can also forage and eat the young beanpods (no explanation on how to check those for edibility, though) buds and flowers, and the seeds can be ground into flour.

        Too bad the thorns are nature’s caltrops.

      1. JustAnotherKate*

        LOL, I used to live on Locust St. in Philadelphia and I always thought they meant the gross plague kind of locusts, even though every street around it (Walnut, Pine, etc.) is named after a tree.

    7. Richard Hershberger*

      The thing is, even if it were a seed from Nimloth taken directly from the King’s Court in Armenelos of Númenor, many people live in apartments, and even those who own yards probably already have them landscaped. It is simply a bizarre rando “gift.”

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          No, it’s *used* figuratively. It doesn’t literally mean figuratively. It figuratively means something like in effect, virtually, really, can-you-imagine-it…

        2. CharlieBrown*

          Merriam-Webster is a descriptive, rather than prescriptive, dictionary. I wish people knew and understood the distinction.

    8. Thence*

      Yeah, I don’t think those paper cup baby trees were a very good gift, but the name isn’t the problem.

    9. cosmicgorilla*

      Thank you. I could not understand how they were “literally” given a locust, when what they were given was a tree seedling. If you say “literal” locust, my first thought is insect.

      Not that the literal gift of a seedling was any better…

      1. fhqwhgads*

        To me it’s a Who’s on First situation more than it is a misuse of “literally”. They’re not figurative locusts. They’re things called locusts. Just not the bug one.

    10. Emmeileia*

      I love locusts! They are native to our area and huge food sources for honeybees. I also make a simple syrup and fritters out of the blossoms. Would be useless without room for it to grow though.

      1. Squidlet*

        I thought you meant the bugs, until I got to “blossoms”! Part of my brain was wondering about honeybees eating bugs… the other part was thinking about syrup and fritters made of, yes, bugs.

    11. LittleMarshmallow*

      I have one and I don’t like it. It’s pretty but the tiny little leaves get everywhere in the fall and are hard to rake due to their size. But yes… I laughed when I saw that they thought they got locusts and not that it’s just a dumb tree name.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        As a fellow owner of a honeylocust tree. In fall we use the leaf blower to get the leaves up in the grass and then mow with the bagger attachment on. Works fairly well for us.

    12. Burger Bob*

      Yeah, I’d love to be gifted a honey locust, though I don’t need to be because I have several in my yard and they have no trouble spawning saplings every year, most of which I have to just cut down. They’re pretty trees though. The saplings are thorny, but when they grow up, the flowers smell really nice every spring.

  1. Mostly Managing*

    “All Hoodies Ever Since” is the best thing I’ve read all day.

    Especially in a house full of teenagers who more or less never wear anything else. :)

    1. Veryanon*

      I give all my work swag T shirts and hoodies to my kids. My daughter still wears T shirts from like 4 jobs ago.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Same – but the now teenager steals every single hoodie….I think it’s genetic that teenagers try to live in hoodies.

    2. NeutralJanet*

      I mean, I am fascinated that they saw the destruction caused by “gift cards encased in concrete” and concluded “no gift cards”, not “no gift cards encased in concrete”! But yes, comfortable hoodies that come in lots of sizes are great.

        1. LittleMarshmallow*

          Sounded more like someone intentionally made it difficult so they could say “we tried gift cards a few years ago and it went poorly”. The stores listed sounded pretty normal. Bass pro maybe a stretch but they sell clothing and stuff so you could probably find something to buy. And even if you’re not into home improvement, hardware stores sell lightbulbs and cleaning supplies and other consumables so you could probably find a use there too.

          1. Fluffy Fish*

            Yeah I still don’t want a gift I have to settle on finding something that’s maybe moderately useful just so it doesn’t go to waste.

            I have an apartment and am not interested in buying 100 dollars worth of lightbulbs and cleaning supplies. Nor am I interested in buying clothes I don’t need from a store I would never shop at.

            Here’s a list of available giftcards from one company that makes the concrete encased cards :

            Advance Auto Parts (available in $50 and $100 only)
            Bass Pro Shop
            Buffalo Wild Wings
            Home Depot
            Fanatics (available in $50 and $100 only)
            Bed Bath & Beyond
            Morton’s Steakhouse
            REI (available in $50 and $100 only)
            Longhorn Steakhouse

            At least 11 of them I have zero use for.

            If the company just gave 100 visa card it likely would have been a different story.

            1. CrankyPants*

              Yeah – you found the company – and she intentionally chose the terrible locations – no Amazon or BB&B were chosen – not even Petco

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        My teen wears the hoodie and the winter coat…..but that’s because I refuse to drive them the two blocks to school except during heavy snowfall. And, yeah they are just that genetically attached to the hoodie that they insist on wearing them all the time.

        1. WheresMyPen*

          That’s so true that even in the UK, where most schools have a set uniform that includes a school jumper and blazer, kids will wear hoodie under the blazer that has to be taken off in every class.

    3. Petty Betty*

      I have spent the last 13 years with teenagers. My youngest is now a teenager. I can’t just have my own hoodies.
      Took the 13 year old clothes shopping last night (he needed PANTS). We bought 4 pairs of pants. It took me 60 minutes of redirects because he kept focusing on hoodies (he did get two new ones, on top of another one he bought over the weekend, plus the 7 he has and the multiple he steals from me, his dad and his older brother).

      He was also oddly giddy about a flamingo-patterned button-down and a rubber ducky Hawaiian shirt, but hey, it’s not a hoodie!

    4. CoveredinBees*

      My husband’s employer gets well-made hoodies and fleeces, so I “share” them with him. It’s not stealing if he still has access to it.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      But just imagine the look of surprised delight on everyone’s face when they finally wipe away the broken monitor glass and concrete dust off their gift cards to stores they never shop at!

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      That is legitimately one of the worst gift ideas I’ve ever heard. But oh what a story to tell later!

      1. EPLawyer*

        Not even a great story. I mean who thought people would want to pound through concrete to get to their gift cards (which were to stores not visa cards).

        Whoobooy. Please tell me this person had other duties than being the office party planner. Because wow her ideas are baaaaaaad.

          1. Caliente*

            *cracking up*
            And concrete?! I don’t even know how this crosses someone’s mind! Here I thought I was creative, but I guess not.

            1. Rosyglasses*

              Oh they are great in the right context. Google “Man Crates” and you’ll see a whole line of gifts in concrete and ducttape :)

              1. Siege*

                I love ManCrates! I do not plan to buy anyone anything enclosed in concrete, but the toolbox of jerky was the greatest Father’s Day gift I’ve ever given.

        1. Warrior Princess Xena*

          I doubt she meant it as a great story, but it’s probably going to go down in the annals of Ask a Manager Clueless Bosses, so there’s that!

        2. NotJane*

          And what about people who couldn’t physically pound through concrete? I’m pretty strong but I have arthritis in my hands and I literally couldn’t do this.

        3. CrankyPants*

          In our 11+ years of operation only 2 people have been fired – she was #2 and no one would believe me if I told the whole story of how/why

    3. Olivia*

      “To thank you for all your hard work, here’s a gift…that you also requires manual labor to use.”

      Yeah, maybe don’t make people work for something that’s a “gift”. Also, who in their right mind thinks that this is going to end any other way but with lots of destroyed stuff.

    4. Seal*

      Did they at least get to keep the hammers? Because a good, sturdy hammer that can break up concrete isn’t a bad gift!

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I am guessing that they were the hammer equivalent of the Allen wrenches that come with Ikea furniture.

        1. Seal*

          Could be. But honestly, who gets rid of all those IKEA Allen wrenches? I personally have quite the collection.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Yeah – they all got thrown in the Allen key collection box while the hubby used the Allen key bitt and extension set for his drill.

              So much faster when you have seven IKEA bookshelves to assemble.

          1. PDB*

            I hate the IKEA Allen wrench but, then again, I have a full set of Allen wrenches in most every drawer in my home.

          2. Very Social*

            I’m jealous! I don’t know where they go (I certainly don’t get rid of them on purpose), but wherever it is, I hope they’re happy.

        1. not saying.*

          I’d hammer in the evening? Right thro-ugh my phone.

          I’d hammer out Cabella’s! I’d hammer out pro shop. I’d hammer out love between my corporate brethren, all over this car.


    5. Education Mike*

      I agree it was an incredibly odd, off base idea, but, just like last weeks conference goers who couldn’t keep track of their mugs/backpacks, I’m a little baffled that so many adults thought it was a good idea to try to hammer open their concrete blocks with small electronics in the approximate area of where the hammer was going to land.

      1. Chris too*

        That’s what struck me as funny too. I’m picturing a manufacturing type environment where the shop floor people get the cards out with relative efficiency while the office staff hammer away in mounting frustration.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        If I received this, I’d start off by assuming that the material was along the lines of the stuff that they bury “dinosaur bones” and nice rocks in for kids’ archeology and geology kits – more like a hard clay that can be broken up fairly easily. So I can see taking an initial tap at it with a hammer on a normal desk surface – but once it becomes clear it’s actual concrete, it’s time to take it out to the parking lot.

        1. tangerineRose*

          If I received a gift like this, I think I’d wait to find out how my co-workers were going to solve this.

        2. Education Mike*

          But that doesn’t explain why you’d put something right next to your cellphone then start hammering it?

          1. TJ Morrison*

            I carry my cellphone in my shirt pocket. I could see how a vigorous hammering session could dislodge my phone from my pocket an fall into the ‘work’ area. Alternately maybe the phone was a safe distance away and got vibrated over to the danger zone during the team building exercise.

    6. Vio*

      Just for a laugh I asked our health and safety officer about the concrete gift cards idea. He was convinced I was winding him up until I showed him this article, which he was then convinced could not possibly be true. Turns out he’s never worked retail so he still retained some faith in humanity. A google search fixed that.
      And for the record, gifting blocks of concrete and hammers with instructions or implications to combine the two would definitely constitute a health and safety hazard under our laws and could land us in some serious problems.

      1. SQL Coder Cat*

        “Turns out he’s never worked retail so he still retained some faith in humanity. A google search fixed that.”
        Yeah, I can always tell the co-workers who’ve never worked retail. They’re the ones that are surprised by the many ways students can fail to log into their accounts.

    7. The Prettiest Curse*

      It cracks me up to think of the planning conversations they must have had for that gift:
      “Okay, Mike, what are we giving the staff this year?”
      “Gift cards encased in a rock that you have to smash open with a hammer.”
      “Great idea! No injury or damage potential there”

      1. Pants*

        And should any of these people have been hurt in the breaking process… a hammer bounce to the face, broken hand/foot/other…. would that not be a worker’s comp thing?? I mean, injured in the workplace while participating in an activity given to them BY the bosses…..

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Hmm, that’s an interesting point, though I’m sure the company would find some way of claiming it was a non-work activity.

    8. noncommittal pseudonym*

      I’ve seen these things advertised (gift cards encased in concrete). They’re usually advertised as “Gifts For the Manly Men in Your Life!!!,” which explains the stores the gift cards were for and brings a whole other level of strange to a corporate gift.

      1. Vio*

        Because manly means no problem can’t be fixed by hitting something with something else!
        And rich manly means no problem can’t be fixed by hitting something with enough lawyers!

      2. Captain+Swan*

        I once got a man crate for my husband for Christmas. It was a wooden crate with the gift inside that came with a small crowbar to open it. There was probably any easy way to open it but we missed that. We are still amazed that no one was injured in the opening of the crate.

      1. Lime green Pacer*

        The ones I’ve googled come with eye protection as well as a hammer. Perhaps they didn’t always include goggles…

  2. Rayray*

    #4- why would they do that? Why not just put that card in an envelope like a normal human would think to do?

    1. Radish Queen*

      My husband always talks about the time he did this for a family member when he was in college. A plain gift card was too “boring” so he put it in the middle of a Home Depot bucket her filled with concrete. It went SO POORLY we laugh about it now. Also he was 19 – not an HR team or business partner!

      1. Snow Globe*

        One year for our family “white elephant” game, my evil son brought a box of bricks, so heavy it could only be moved by sliding it along the floor. Whoever “won” it left it behind, and that box of bricks sat in my family room for several years.

    2. OrigCassandra*

      My brain also got stuck for entirely too long on this question.

      There’s such an insulting “dance monkey dance” flavor to it.

    3. ZSD*

      Yeah, I don’t get this at all. So getting to break through concrete was supposed to be part of the experience?

      1. Mockingjay*

        Why yes! It’s a new twist on the TEAM BUILDING EXPERIENCE.

        (Apparently this is fairly popular in real life? A quick browse found plenty online stores that offer cards in concrete. “Honey, here’s that Lowes gift card you wanted for Christmas.”)

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Closest thing to this I’ve seen is the card in the smallest box that was wrapped basically in a set of nesting doll boxes.

      Yes, this was also done by a teenager.

      1. Web Crawler*

        When I was a teenager, one time I gave my mom a box which contained a gift card and a brick, just because I knew she’d shake the box and be very confused. Dw, she thought it was funny too.

        1. Banana*

          In that same vein, I once wrapped a box dvd set and a couple of cheap video games in a gift bag with a 4-lb bag of flour, just to confuse my spouse. It worked, and he still tells that story. I try to do one weirdly wrapped thing for him every year.

          1. Vio*

            Did that with a wine bottle once. It was a running joke in our family that we could always tell which gift was a bottle. So I made sure to tape random bits of junk all over the bottle until the shape was unrecognisable and then wrapped it up. It sat under the tree generating guesses and finally laughter once unwrapped.

          2. Random+Bystander*

            Well, doing fun things with wrapping to confound that person who always proclaims an ability to know what the gift is .. that’s a little different.

            I did that with my middle son a few times. Once, I was giving him an iPod, but I put under the tree a tiny little box (like a ring box) with a note directing him to look in a particular place in the house. Every time he looked at the box, he was asking “what is this?” and I would say “it’s a nose ring”.

            Another time, he wanted a particular LEGO set (he is still a fan and collector, and even has a room in his house dedicated to the collection). I got one of those little cheap LEGO sets that isn’t even in a box, just plastic wrap (I think a droid of some kind), wrapped that into a box with a note directing him to the place where I’d hidden the iPod the other year, but that was a different set wrapped up there “This is not the gift that you are looking for; go [insert hiding place]”. This was an updated set of the Luke landspeeder from episode IV, so it really made sense. The ultimate hiding place? Yes, I found a spot in his bedroom that he would have only found if he had done a major cleanup of his bedroom. I knew it would be safe from discovery.

            I also remember, when I was younger, my mom was painting rocks (I think it was a fad then) and she did something similar for my dad with the rock telling him to look under the couch (for a wrapped golf club).

        2. Charlotte Lucas*

          My mom used to do this with gift cards, but she used a book that was always in her living room. She also wrapped batteries separately & made us open them first.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Always annoying….especially if the wish list didn’t include anything that took batteries.

            At least it was to me, because then I’m sitting there trying to figure out what weird thing my grandparent got me. Because asking for books was apparently not good enough.

          2. Lalaith*

            I do something similar with my husband sometimes. It started with putting concert tickets in the case from the cheapest video game I could find (“High School Musical”). I’ve misplaced (or gotten rid of) that game, so I’ve given him a few things in an old tax software box. Last Christmas I unwrapped an Alton Brown book… that for about a minute I forgot I already owned! When it dawned on me, I opened it and found tickets to Alton’s live show :)

        3. Snoozing not schmoozing*

          My parents gave me a gift-wrapped plain chunk of unfinished wood one Christmas. it wasn’t until a few gifts later, when I opened a set of very nice woodcarving tools, that I realized it wasn’t a bad gag gift.

      2. I want the knife*

        Had a tiny gift (Nintendo DS game) from my brother in law, he taped it to a brick, then alternated plastic wrap, duct tape, and aluminum foil until it was closer to the size of a concrete block.

        It was handed to me at family Christmas, and I was instructed I wasn’t allowed to use scissors or a knife. I played along for about 10 minutes, then demanded my husbands pocket knife. Still took way too long to open.

      3. Serin*

        I gave my brother a hundred dollar bill in a maze box once — one of those things where you have to roll a ball through the maze to unlock the box? But I also taped a ribbon to the bill so you could pull it out without opening the box, because I *like* my brother.

      4. Free Meerkats*

        First Christmas with my (now) wife of 25 years, she said she wanted some black pearl earrings. One of the first packages I gave her was a can of Black Pearls ripe olives with some earring findings taped to the top of it. There’s still a photo of her holding it with a WTF? look on her face around the house. A later gift had the actual earrings…

      5. J*

        Back when gift cards were gift certificates and generally just printed on a regular piece of paper, my H bought a box of 100 envelopes at Staples, put a gift certificate inside one of the envelopes, then wrapped up the box as a gift to his cousin.

        1. nnn*

          Did he tell them there was a gift certificate in there somewhere? Or just leave them to discover it eventually?

      6. Lellow*

        A couple of years ago my wife and I decided her teen sister really just wanted money for Christmas. So I went to the bank and withdrew the amount we’d decided in £5 notes, and then I wrapped each one individually in a different page from a big block of patterned origami paper I have.

        She was delighted! And made a tiktok of herself throwing all the notes into the air so it could rain money.

      7. yala*

        My friend did a massive box with a gift card taped in one corner. She put potatoes in it for weight.

        The closest thing to nesting boxes was when my best friend gave me a t-shirt wrapped in multiple plastic shopping bags. So. Many. Bags.

    5. Antilles*

      I presume they’re a concrete testing company or construction company or something where people thought hey it’d be cool and unique to work in something related to our industry.
      Though it’s pretty funny to me that they concluded the problem with “gift cards encased in concrete” was the gift cards part of the equation, rather than the encased-in-concrete part.

  3. Bruise Campbell*

    At the Big Bank I work at they also gave us rocks with the words “you rock” carved into them. And yes most were thrown.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I got a postcard with a puzzle piece glued to it, because I’m an essential and unique piece of our company. But I didn’t consider it a gift.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        Sounds more like someone had a puzzle with too many pieces missing but felt bad just throwing it away.

        (Just throwing it away would have been the better idea, though.)

        And extra irksome with the ablist association of puzzle pieces with Autism. (Most groups supporting autism run by autistic people use some version of a circle or infinity symbol in the colour spectrum)

    2. Jackalope*

      At a previous job we got them too, but ours were hand painted (I think by someone in our unit?), and were bright and colorful. Plus we also felt appreciated for other reasons, so they were actually popular instead of being annoying. I still have mine and I think fond thoughts of that job whenever I see it.

  4. Lacey*

    The fire blankets is my fav.

    The concrete block gift cards are good.
    Love the company values card garlands.

    But the final acceptance of the fire blankets is gold.

    1. Erie*

      The fire blankets one truly sparkled. Well told, blanket OP. They may have broken your spirit, but not your talent.

      1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

        In the original comments, someone asked about the blog, and the fire blanket OP clarified that the blog was in French and long gone!

    2. Somebody Call A Lawyer*

      I so agree, Lacey. The final acceptance and pride in the well-earned gift was the turn I did not see coming and did not know I needed. I now want eight to twelve years’ worth of fire blankets so I can experience that for myself.

    3. Queen of the Introverts*

      I could not accept. I would be asking everyone in management “Whhhhhyyy??” every year until someone came up with an answer.

  5. DancinProf*

    #2, you have all my empathy. A wonderful international colleague gave me a beautiful and slightly rare crystal dish last time I was in his country. I received this gift days before I flew back to the U.S. to get ready to move out of state. The piece made the trip (overhead bin on the plane and then back seat of my car during the move) without incident. That is, unless you count the airport security official opening the box to see all my socks and underwear tucked around it as packing material!

    1. OrigCassandra*

      I got a glass dish from a local artist as a speaker gift once.

      Did manage to get it home, got rid of it a few years later because I just… didn’t use it at all.

      1. OP #2*

        I’m not a knick-knack person, but my mom loves that kind of thing – the sculpture is now proudly displayed above her mantel. It’s the size of a smallish infant; it looks rather like the Emmy statuette, but the angel is holding a flower instead of an atom. Her housekeeper took one look at the thing and literally begged her to get a cover for it, so it’s enclosed in a little trophy case. It’s probably the nicest swag I’ve ever received, but I’m still boggled by its very existence; I can only assume that someone had a relative with a glass-blowing shop.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          …the Emmy statuette is holding an ATOM?

          I always assumed it was the Earth / a globe, or something.

          1. OP #2*

            Designed in the 1950s, so yeah. Apparently it’s meant to reference the advances in electronics that made TV possible.

    2. Laseca*

      My MIL looooooves to give gifts that are incredibly cumbersome to pack/travel with. We always fly to visit them, yet she’s forever gifting us elaborate sets of serving dishes, decorated wine glasses (that shed glitter all over our clothes), a LAMP, a 4-foot-wide easel on which to display greeting cards… she is a very well meaning person but it drives me crazy to try to transport these ridiculous gifts home when we also have, you know, our pre-existing luggage, and baggage fees on most airlines.

      1. Student*

        I find that whenever I end a vacation, I need to refill the rental car on the way back to the airport. Gas stations conveniently have really large garbage cans right next to the pumps, and when that just won’t work, they also tend to have respectably-sized dumpsters that aren’t too well-supervised. If you stay in a hotel during your visit, they also usually have a respectably-sized, mostly unsupervised dumpster around back.

        Now, I’m not saying that I’ve dumped massive bags of unwanted in-law presents in the trash at hapless gas stations to avoid excess baggage or shipping fees for items I don’t want… I’m just saying that one could, if one were so inclined. I’m definitely not saying that my wife audibly gasped and then happily laughed when I “solved” the problem of how to pack the 15 different cherry-flavored novelty foods her parents had given us at a Thanksgiving visit.

          1. Queen of the Introverts*

            We were only a short drive from grandma’s house, so transporting things wasn’t the problem. But I’d usually occupy myself before dinner packing my gifts into “to keep” and “goodwill” bags–usually actually just “this gift I want to keep” and “everything else to goodwill.” And then I’d just leave that bag in the garage.

            1. JustAnotherKate*

              Ha, my grandparents would always push ugly, sometimes broken tchotchkes on my mom and me, and we thanked them as if we were getting wonderful gifts! Which we donated or threw out on the way home, depending on the condition. Next visit, they’d have new ugly stuff and would give us more of the old ugly stuff. (They didn’t like to travel, so they never noticed that neither of us displayed these “treasures” in our homes.)

              1. Just Another Cog*

                You were kind to just accept the treasures they gave you and quietly dispose of them. My husband used to argue with his late mother when she’d give us what amounted to trash (candle stubs, chipped dishes, stained linens, etc. – stuff you shouldn’t even donate to charity). I convinced him to accept her offerings with a thanks and we just found a dumpster on the way home. Life was just so much easier after that.

      2. Lenora Rose*

        My MIL has been known to give us awkward and cumbersome gifts… but usually when she’s coming to see us, and usually she was travelling by car or even RV. She still does it now she mostly travels by plane, but only what she can fit in one suitcase.

        1. Artemesia*

          The French mother of a friend of mine managed to transport a huge set of gorgeous delicate French china to her a few pieces at a time with every visit. I thought it was so sweet and they are beautiful.

      3. Bee*

        I was just at a conference where they gave us a bunch of snacks in a hotel gift basket, which was lovely! But one of them was a 5oz bottle of local hot sauce, which now belongs to the TSA. Couldn’t use it there; couldn’t get it home.

      4. Captain+Swan*

        One visit to my MIL’s she decided that it was imperative that we take home her sterling silver flatware. Now this is something that of course I would want to have and pass along to her granddaughter someday. But we were traveling back by train with bags that were full. She was so upset that we didn’t have the heart to say no. So we shipped back a bunch of our clothes and stuff as well as the storage box for the silver and the sharp knives that wouldn’t be allowed on the train. Then we wrapped the silver up and put it in my suitcase which I dragged through two train stations and a local transit system home. It’s been sitting in its storage box in my house for almost 15 years.

      5. Edwina*

        I had an absolutely crazy great-aunt, and remember once, decades ago, we were traveling as a family, flying back from visiting the relatives in the UK, and she hurried towards us at the airport with her little goodbye gift for me (I was a very studious child)–a one-volume version of THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.
        At least this was a family joke for many, many, MANY decades (and I still have it)

    3. Kali*

      I went to Seattle on vacation, and if you’ve been there, you know they love their glassworks (thank you, Chihuly). I decided to get a little glass bird – not normally my type of thing, and I don’t know what I was thinking, but I was in the mood for glass art, I guess. I always spare a little space for souvenirs and such, so I told the lady that we would carry the 6×4 inch bird home on the plane. She said she would pack it for us.

      She came back with a 2×1 FOOT box. It was so well-packed that I couldn’t turn it down, and we spent the walk back to our hotel strategizing how to get it home. Our luggage was straining at the seams, but we condensed everything down to 3 bags so that the box itself became my carry-on. The bird made it, and now I laugh every time I look at it in our cabinet. Still don’t know what the heck I was thinking though!

  6. Meep*

    Well if this doesn’t make me feel good about my former manager being too self-centered to do anything nice for anyone ever IDK what is.

    The one gift we ever received was poinsettias that she made us get by coming into the office during November 2020 – before vaccination, when she had COVID and was still running around infecting as many people as she could. She made such a big deal about how she had gotten us something ~thoughtful~ All of us has cats so we couldn’t take them home, but we couldn’t toss or gift them because then we would get crocodile tears. So most people just let them die on their desks. Mine surprisingly finally died when she was fired in August.

    1. Meep*

      Poinsettias are HER favorite flower btw. Every birthday celebration (that she would never help out with), she would also gush about how the cake was HER favorite type and even try to bully people into getting expensive, sh*tty tasting cakes SHE wanted so it wasn’t off-brand for her to be this thoughtless. The guilt-tripping and wanting pictures of the plant was too much.

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        I’ve found there’s a reverse correlation between how expensive a store bought cake is vs how good it is. Unless I’m making the cake myself, Costco cake is where it’s at.

        1. Veryanon*

          Why is that? The best cakes I’ve ever gotten were at Costco or the grocery store. I’ve bought expensive cakes at specialty bakeries that were dry and tasted like saw dust.

          1. Clorinda*

            My theory is that fancy decoration=the cake has to harden up a bit before you put the frilly icing all over it, so it’s automatically tough and stale.

            1. Hen in a Windstorm*

              Nope. Pros do something called a “crumb coat” of frosting that’s very thin and catches all the loose crumbs. That sets a bit and then they do a 2nd layer of frosting. No need for the cake to be dry/old/stale to have fancy frosting.

              Maybe the finished cakes sit a long time because not that many people spring for them? I can’t say grocery store cakes are any good either, but that’s usually because they’re box mixes of stabilizers and oils with too much sugar.

          2. Jani*

            Cakes made with butter are more expensive than cakes made with oil. Butter cakes also very dry if you serve them chilled. They have to be given time to warm up.

            Some people prefer the butter kind of cake, some people prefer the moister oil kind of cake.

            There are also differences in the composition of various kinds of frosting. Different people prefer different frosting styles.

            1. Cathie from Canada*

              Suggestion — when buying a cake from a grocery store, get a carrot cake if you can. They are study and moist, so they can sit around for a while at the store without drying out or crumbling.

          3. Lenora Rose*

            I’ve had good “specialty bakery” cake… but rarely, and only when we were ordering a specific and odd kind, not a standard white/chocolate cake or sheet cake. (Of course, I also let my feelings about sheet cake pop up on the resume post…)

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Can’t speak to all cakes – but my wedding cake, that I thought was sufficiently fancy, came from a grocery store. It’s one day, and maybe if I’m lucky I’d get a slice. I wasn’t spending above $200 on it (and for reference I had 100 people there, it had to be a fairly large cake).

          1. Lally*

            Friend wanted a carrot cake for her wedding (this was years ago when carrot cakes behave popular) and told her caterer she had a really good recipe that had been adapted for quantity cooking. Caterer insisted they (the caterer) had their own recipe for carrot cake.

            At the wedding: everybody got a piece of white wedding cake with little orange threads of carrot through it.

            1. Dragon_Dreamer*

              (Disclaimer, this happened in 2018.)

              The person who was supposed to make my best friends’ wedding cake “forgot” and didn’t alert them until a few hours before the wedding. Cue a mad scramble to find a replacement!

              His mom ended up making a large, multi-tier carrot cake and bringing it to the reception. Minimal decoration, but it looked awesome.

              The rest of the food had been catered by food trucks, and the one thing she forgot was plates. So the bride and groom encouraged everyone to grab a plastic spoon and dig in! That cake was *delicious*.

              1. Dragon_Dreamer*

                Forgot to add, the bride and groom did get to cut the first piece, which they fed to each other with their bare hands. It was rather adorable. ;)

          2. GlitterIsEverything*

            We avoided the whole cake issue altogether, because neither of us care for cake.

            We got a sheet cheesecake from a local bakery, cut it into 2″ squares, and served it in cupcake papers.

            (Yes, sheet cheesecake is a thing. And it was the best cheesecake in town.)

      2. Terra Cotta Vibes*

        I had a boss like this! Every birthday/celebration outing had to be at a time that was convenient to her at a place that was convenient to her (usually within 10 minutes of her home).

    2. MEH Squared*

      This is how I found out that I am allergic to poinsettias. When I worked for a department at the county, it was tradition for the managers to give their administrative assistants poinsettias. I got mine and my throat started closing.

      To make it worse, I tried to get out of being given one the next year because, you know, not breathing and my manager said she HAD to give me one because that was the tradition. Good times.

      1. Just here for the cats*

        That’s when I would say, “Following this tradition, I will be going to the ER and sending the company the bill!

        1. MEH Squared*

          I was young and naive then. I just gave it to a coworker (another admin assist. There were four of us on that floor) and had her put it as far away from me as possible. These days, I would have HAD WORDS with HR, indeed.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        I am allergic to pine – I get welts on my hands if I touch the pine needles, and things scented with pine oil make me sneezy and itchy. One year the gift was a pine-scented candle shaped like a pine tree.

    3. Artemesia*

      She ‘got you something’ all right; death, it was death. You just ungratefully refused to accept it.

  7. SheLooksFamiliar*

    ‘Some rocks were thrown.’

    Through a conference room window? The CEO’s windshield? My imagination, she is running wild…

  8. WorkingMom*

    #1 … so the company encouraged you to trespass and plant unwanted thorny trees in random on other people’s properties? Wow! Who thinks of things like this?

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        That’s the part I like best about that story. “What? No you can’t plant them HERE, of course not!”

    1. top five???*

      Can I just propose a general principle that living things should never be gifted unless you happen to know the specific person very well and have spoken about the living thing to be gifted and everyone is in agreement with no surprises planned?

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yes, perfect! I once got a hamster for my little cousin but he had loved my hamster and I definitely asked his parents if I could get him one. That is the ONE time I “surprised” someone with a pet. The other time I gifted a pet was when my grandmother said she wanted a cat so I told her I’d take her to get one for her birthday. Not a surprise at all.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        This. I hate to think of how many plants have died the death because they were given to office workers just before a long break…

    1. Artemesia*

      If you are going to parade through the office when people are being worked like dogs overtime throwing out mardi gras favors then at least, some thought should be given to making these favors delux — bottles of Champagne or boxes of really good chocolates.

      1. Ayla*

        or a proper meal! if I’ve been working nonsto0 for hours I might spontaneously cheer if I saw some good tacos or a pizza coming through.

    2. PotsPansTeapots*

      This 100% sounds like something a former job would have done. How terrible to have to cheer for awful food.

  9. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Trust Rocks.


    That reeks of “7-year-old who desperately needs something for Show & Tell”.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        I can see it. “Rock” is used metaphorically for reliability or steadfastness. But this particular execution is… lacking

        1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          Right, you can get a rock imprinted with just about anything for use as a reminder or touchstone. A little woo, but it’s a thing. However, this one was written in Sharpie?!

      2. Lenora Rose*

        There’s been some things recently where people leave generally positive and affirming painted rocks around for others to find – as well as a common kid type activity our city had an entire “cityname Rocks!” facebook group with thousands of members, making them and seeking them and leaving new ones behind. And worry stones, which are usually at least tumbled or shaped, with words of Positivity on them, have been around even longer.

        Not even the sloppiest kids’ craft version of these is a plain word done with Sharpie, though.

    1. Free Meerkats*

      My mind immediately went to the poor admins who got tasked with hand writing “TRUST” on every rock with a Sharpie.

  10. Mr. Cajun2core*

    Honestly, #9 (the covid kit at the school) isn’t that bad. Now granted, that should have been given anyway and not labeled as a “gift”. It is more of a necessary supply but on its own, it isn’t *bad*.

    1. Mr. Cajun2core*

      Let me say, that I wouldn’t have minded it. If you think it is bad, that is fine. However, I think it was thoughtful.

      1. Nannerdoodle*

        But that Covid kit would have lasted 1 day. Maybe 2. And in a time when so many teachers weren’t being given appropriate supplies for their classrooms, a “gift” of a tiny amount of supplies that they desperately needed that administration refused to provide in bulk quantities is a slap in the face.

        1. Artemesia*

          This. Every classroom needed a giant hand sanitizer pump and a backup supply of goo. And a big pack of 100at least surface wipes. And a box of masks.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          What we got at my university was a university-branded clear plastic grocery tote filled with: several cloth masks with our mascot on them; a large hand sanitizer; a fat stack of about 100 thick paper wipes; a container of alcohol wipes; a digital thermometer; . . . I think that’s all? It was a nice assortment of things, nicely contained, and we could come get another kit if we ran out of the first one.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Oh, and it wasn’t presented as a gift — it was handed out to every faculty and staff on campus as a necessary supply.

      2. Jaydee*

        The fact it’s labeled as a gift rather than just being supplies handed out to teachers is pretty bad. Then add in the fact it’s probably not enough to last them a whole school day (this was apparently a middle school, so a different group of 25-35 kids in the room every hour) and it’s more insulting than helpful.

        In the fall of 2020 many teachers were afraid that in-person school would prove deadly or disabling to them or their at-risk household members. Remember, there weren’t vaccines yet at that point. “You might get sick or even die, but here’s a motivational branded t-shirt” is maybe not a message that would make one feel appreciated in that scenario.

        If it had been a “care package” or a “supplies kit” – especially if these were clearly donations or something and not the only supplies the school was providing – maybe it would have gone over better? But in general it sounds like this was a school/district that subscribed to the “let’s rearrange the deck chairs!” philosophy on emergency management.

    2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I think the thing is that it was labeled as an “appreciation gift,” when it was basic things that should actually be supplied by the school anyway.

    3. NeutralJanet*

      I think the problem with it being labelled a gift, apart from the fact that it isn’t really a fun extra thing, is that it suggests that that’s all the hand sanitizer and wipes that you’re getting for the year–if it were given as a necessary supply kit, then you could request more when you ran out, but you don’t ask for another gift after you’ve used yours.

      1. Provolone Piranha*

        yeah I used to teach and we would get “gifts” of tissues and office supplies. during Covid we all got “goodie bags” with a T-shirt, cloth face masks, hand sanitizer, and a face shield. the PTA would do a donation-driven supply giveaway every year and veterans knew you had to go early because the “good stuff” (tissues, whiteboard markers that lasted longer than 1 day) was always first to go.

    4. Shhhh*

      The problem was for sure labeling it as a gift (also it not being enough). I work at a university and they gave all employees who had to come back in fall 2020 two branded cloth masks and all instructors a big pack of sanitizing wipes disposable masks to take with them to their classes for students who needed one. But they never tried to say those things were an appreciation gift.

  11. Just Your Everyday Crone*

    “The fourth year I wondered if they just assumed we regularly set stuff on fire and went through one blanket per year.”

    Literally LOL at length for that one.

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      I feel like the story ended as a cliffhanger. OP says they still have 3 left…..but we know they received at least 8. What happened to the rest? Did the OP have to use them because of a fire? Did they give them away? Did they lose them?? I’m left in suspense….

      1. Artemesia*

        I’d love to have a fire blanket — ONE and I am betting it would last a lifetime because like fire extinguishers they pretty much never get used.

        1. Susan+Ivanova*

          I’d never heard of them until a reddit post and they sounded incredibly useful – especially since I live in a condo, and the last time someone had a kitchen fire the units on either side of them had smoke damage bad enough that they got a kitchen remodel out of it.

          They only came in two-packs. Hopefully I’m set for life.

  12. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

    #5, been there. Not the cheering, but all the rest of it, compete with the music. It feels like something that was suggested as a morale booster at a leadership conference in the early 90’s. But OP 5 nailed the feeling, there definitely was some feudal system energy with those.

    1. higheredadmin*

      When I worked in finance the partner would have us come individually to pick up our bonus letters from her in person, and then we were asked to read it in front of her so she could see our reaction. Also feudal vibes.

      1. Artemesia*

        Why are you complaining? She could have asked you to dance a jig in order to receive your bonus (or maybe she did).

  13. Sabina*

    Our risk management department used to give out annual “safety awards ” for allegedly demonstrating safe work practices during the year. It was always really cheap crap like $5.00 tool sets. One year it was pocket compasses that didn’t work (any direction was always north). There was literally nothing you could do that would disqualify you for an award. One employee managed to incur three separate workers comp claims in one shift, including wrecking a department owned vehicle. Still got a safety award that December.

      1. N C Kiddle*

        It sounds like the problem was that these compasses did not point north but merely identified some random direction as being north.

      2. Wants Green Things*

        I’m pretty sure that Sabina means that if you faced west, the compass would point west instead of rotating to point north. I’ve been given similar cheap compasses, and they do not teack north at all.

        But I suppose you’re the expert, after all, on a gift you didn’t receive.

  14. nm*

    Omg! If I got a gift card enclosed in a cement block I’d honestly just stick it in my garden and not even try to extract the card XD

    1. Ampersand*

      Right?! I thought where this was going was that people just threw them away bc who wants to deal with anything encased in cement?

  15. An American(ish) Werewolf in London(ish)*

    OP8 – does the fire blanket blog still exist? I want to read it – link please – it sounds classic.

    Many years ago, I worked for a company that seriously over-ordered branded polo shirts (actually decent shirts and the branding was very subtle…but we had hundreds of them). I was given the task of finding homes for them (as we were re-branding). A colleague belonged to a church football (soccer) team and asked if his church could have a bunch, which I happily agreed to. I received a very sweet, yet slightly odd note from the pastor of that church which began ‘Calvary Greetings in Christ.’ I’m an atheist – like I say, the sentiment was sweet and kind…the letter slightly over the top (apparently, I am blessed).

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      I think that the author of the fire blanket blog said that it was written in French and was some time ago.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        “They came in these big boxes which you’d open to find a hammer and a chunk of concrete that you had to bash your way through to get to your card”

        it sounds like they came with hammers.

        I’d be annoyed as Hell but I’d at least appreciate a free hammer.

    1. CrankyPants*

      We got to keep the hammers, mine is in my desk – I occasionally brandish it at a coworker. There are quite a few of these hammers laying around – not the best hammers but not bad either. A lot of them are in the former lady’s office – which we decided was cursed and no one goes in there.


    I was one of the national honorees of the “You Rock” appreciation campaign when I worked for a humongous health care and health care services company. My gift was a rock that said “You Rock!”
    For whatever reason, 10 years after leaving that company I still have the damn thing in its little cardboard “house.”

  17. RJ*

    I’m thinking a crossover of Tortilla Chips & Nacho Cheese parade plus Trust Rocks wouldn’t be exactly unwelcome. OMG the jumps company take in order to give the impression of generosity. Just give people bonuses – yearly, season, etc.

    1. OP 5*

      Really it’s a good thing for everyone involved that the owners didn’t realize you could just hand out rocks and call them gifts! Though I was only at that job for a short contract, so who knows what other nonsense I missed.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        The owners sound like they may be related to (or the same as!) the management from the “low performers in my office are paraded around and forced to wear dunce caps” letter.

  18. NotRealAnonforThis*

    A wristband. Silicone, company branded.

    It was good for one cocktail at a local restaurant where dinner was being held post “all-hands” meeting, which would’ve been nice, except that those of us who flew in from out of town for said meeting had to leave before the meeting even ended to make flights home.

    Amusing, but does not rise to the level of any of these!!!!

    1. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Ooh, you just reminded me of our “values” silicone wristbands. They had boxes of them at some corporate training thing. Each printed with a different company value and you were supposed to take more than one so you could wear whichever one you were performing that day. Yeeah, those never really caught on. I picked the least-bad one (can’t even remember it now) and just left it on my desk shelf next to the other crappy swag (puzzle pieces, coins, military-style “service medals”). Man, I forgot how bad the swag was under that one director. She really loved all those ice-breaking, team-building, corporate rah-rah stuff.

  19. Bilateralrope*

    Partway through reading the cards story I was expecting management to have put their own photos on the cards. Turns out it was worse.

    1. Captain Swan*

      That was my husband’s guess. I was reading him some of these while we were waiting to pick up daughter.

  20. Rachelle*

    The t-shirt in the appreciation kit (#9) grinds my gears. I work in the education field. We were definitely not “all in this together” in 2020. Teachers, paraprofessionals, and other who work directly with students had a very different pandemic experience than school and district leaders who could more easily maintain social distancing and other protocols in their offices. Teachers and others who work closely with students? Lower paid, more women, more POC, and less decision-making power. Leaders who could stay safely sequestered in their offices? Higher pay, more men, more white, and most of the decision-making power. We were definitely not all in that together.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I agree with you. I’m not a teacher or even involved in education but what you say is 100% correct and I’m very angry about the inequality of it all.

    2. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

      Yeah, our school has been doing lots of “togetherness” shirts too and I want to just burn them all in a big bonfire.

      Maybe one day, when I finally have a new job.

  21. allornone*

    I love my job. Last year, since we made all our goals for the quarter, for Christmas, they gave us two paid weeks off, on top of our regular PTO and vacation accruals.

    Apparently, they can’t do it every year and is, in fact, largely dependent on whether we make our goals, but still. It’s good to know that if they can, they will.

  22. Stargazer*

    This doesn’t quite count as swag, which is why I hadn’t thought to post it before, but: one year, a VP came out to our small, 8-person satellite office. We were in Seattle, and had been acquired by a company in Dallas, and the VP made regular trips to connect with us – he was a good guy and we liked him pretty well. His previous trip hadn’t been great – he’d had to let some people go – so we were all a little nervous about what might happen this time. To help with that, I think, this trip he’d gotten us all gifts out of his own pocket – a nice gesture, right? But there is a *significant* culture gap between Texas and Seattle, and he hadn’t taken that into account at all: he got us all customized bottle openers made from 50-caliber bullets. He LITERALLY got us enormous bullets with our names on them! Guns etc are not part of the usual culture in Seattle, and a couple of my coworkers didn’t drink at all, so this was WILDLY out of touch. And we couldn’t get rid of them easily because they had our first and last names engraved on them! I think mine is still kicking around somewhere.

    1. Sabina*

      Yeah, the phrase “there is a bullet with your name on it” does not usually engender warm and comforting feelings.

    2. NeutralJanet*

      I think that would be a kind of cool gift to give to a friend whom you knew was a gun enthusiast, I love bottle openers and the like made out of other things, but wow, not appropriate for a mixed group of virtual strangers in Seattle, or in Dallas for that matter!

      1. Evan Þ*

        A gun enthusiast who drinks! I’ve got two friends who definitely enjoy guns, but they haven’t drunk alcohol in years.

    3. marvin*

      I’m planning to legally change my full name at some point. If I had a giant bullet with my old name on it, it would be tempting to ceremonially fire it off a cliff or into the sea or something.

      1. Stargazer*

        That would be cool! This one can no longer be fired, alas – the way they turned it into a bottle opener was by cutting away part of the exterior. (They also removed any charge or whatever, of course.)

        1. linger*

          Ah, use of an expended casing could change the message — maybe to be read as “you already dodged your layoff bullet”?

    4. Captain Swan*

      There is a small business that makes those and I saw their pitch on Shark Tank a few years ago. I want to say the company is based on Texas. So he might have been trying to support local small businesses. But I could see how that particular gift might not go over well.

  23. stebuu*

    This reminds me of some swag that the development team sent out company-wide to celebrate the launch of a big software release. The swag was bouncy balls that lit up when they bounced.

    The problem was that the development team had the rowdier professional services staff directly above their floor. An email went out the next day informing us not to bounce the balls at work.

    1. NotRealAnonforThis*

      Oh lord. In a long ago previous job, it was simply understood to not give anything resembling a toy to the sub-department I was in (99% newly graduated, under 24 years old save one person) because shenanigans would be guaranteed. We were entry level support for our larger department and were definitely learning professional norms.

  24. Calicocat*

    My organization wanted to improve morale and connect with team members across the org. Everyone likes treats, they said. Once a month I had to put on WINGS and visit staff meetings across campus as the Executive Team Treat Fairy. I handed out cookies and copies of the strategic plan. I have flashbacks to this day of the stares of staffers when I crashed their meetings.

    1. metadata minion*

      Ok I would do that and would be EXTREMELY SPARKLY and the executive team would regret ever letting me have access to fairy wings. But I suspect they know this about me and so will never give me fairy wings.

    2. I am not a cat*

      I just love the combination of cookies and the strategic plan. Add in the fairy wings and, just, wow.

  25. Elle Woods*

    A friend used to work at a small company whose owner was known for being thrifty. One year the owner announced she had created customized gift bags for each employee. The “customization” came in the form of each employee being gifted various promotional samples the owner had been given over the years–pens, t-shirts, ball caps, sunglasses, notebooks, keychains, water bottles, can coolers, drawstring bags, etc. and no two bags were alike. Even worse was that it was obvious some items had been worn, used, or stored in a musty closet.

  26. SIM Card Erased*

    The gift cards in difficult to open crates/boxes isnt new. There’s an entire website called man crates or something similar dedicated to this concept. In a former workplace, one of the directors gave his subordinate one on the subordinate’s last day. The conference room table broke from him trying to smash it open.

  27. top five???*

    I have a book called “Against Creativity”, and, even though the topic as discussed in the book is a bit nuanced, I just kept thinking about that title while reading all of these terrible gift ideas…

  28. Amber Rose*

    My husband once received a Lego kit that built up into a tiny model of the hospital he was working in. It was cute, I guess.

    My work has given me: a decent quality switchblade (used mostly for opening packages and letters), a little first aid kit I keep in my car, and the cheapest, flimsiest pair of sunglasses you can possibly imagine, in a particularly ugly shade of blue.

    1. Bread Crimes*

      I would love one of those lego kits for the building I work in! But then, I work in a very pretty building. (Pity that my office is up in a windowless not-quite-attic, but I know enough people working in the basements of other buildings nearby… At least we have a skylight?) I imagine it’d be less exciting if I worked in a bland office building, though if it was brutalist architecture, it might wrap around to exciting again by the sheer weirdness of having a building kit for it.

  29. Meow*

    Re: the gift cards – there’s a company called Man Crates that makes these, and the gift cards are for the same places listed in the letter. Not to say this makes it a better gift but that may help explain how they even got the gift cards in the concrete for those asking – they probably bought them that way. Why they would think it’s appropriate to buy “Man Crates” for staff is beyond me.

  30. Angela Zeigler*

    #4 –

    If you want to make a fun joke out of giving a gift card, everyone knows you place it between two piece of plywood that are screwed together, and you don’t include a screwdriver. :)

  31. Fluffy Fish*

    For anyone dying to know, you can buy your very own concrete encased giftcard.

    Just google smash and grab gift card.

  32. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

    One year, I was working for a large corporation. There were about two to three thousand employees in our division. One year everybody received a card in the mail informing us that the division had donated a bull (as in ONE) to some village somewhere.

    Nice sentiment, but it didn’t go over well.

    1. Kit*

      The surprise donation of livestock is good… if you’re a redditor who snagged Bill Gates in the Secret Santa. (It also wasn’t the only thing he sent.)

      Using the morale/bonus funds for charitable donations, as a business, is a scam – they get a tax writeoff for that!

  33. Extra Annie Nonymous*

    I have a friend who works at a local school. In December of 2020, after an understandably difficult fall semester that was filled with unanticipated student conduct issues, the administrators gave every single student and employee of the school a massive wearable button that read: “Kindness is Contagious! Catch it!”.

    The sheer audacity.

  34. Stuff*

    Okay, so, the concrete encased gift card isn’t acceptable in the workplace. It’s not only clearly a safety hazard, considering how much stuff got broken, it also seems very ableistic to me. It’s not at all inclusive.

    However, that said, this sounds like literally the most fun gift card idea ever and if friends or family got it for me, I’d be delighted. But not the workplace, come on.

  35. anyanon*

    In the middle of lockdown, we also got care packs from our school directors… featuring an affirmation card, a biscuit, and a stress ball.

    Every so often, I hear my boss throwing his against the wall whenever he has a particularly vexing conversation with the school directors.

    1. RedinSC*

      I would frame it, and also have the picture of me, breaking down and crying in the shower because 2020 brought it and I caved.

    2. De (Germany)*

      I have a calendar in my home that’s now just permanently set to April 2020, because for a while that was just the last time I bothered changing it, and now it just seems fitting.

    3. Daria Grace*

      I own even better. At the start of 2020 I signed up for an exercise challenge that if completed got you a medal that says I conquered 2020. It’s the most surreal thing I own

      1. OP #2*

        …I mean, you’re here posting about it in 2022, so you did in fact conquer 2020? I’m not usually keen on participation trophies, but for 2020 we might all deserve one.

        1. Aworkingrachel*

          Yes, please, everyone who survived 2020 and is still making some effort to keep going deserves all the gold stars.

  36. RedinSC*

    I wonder if you could bonsai your locust tree? That might be a fun experiment.

    I wonder also, how many trees there are around that rented building?

  37. Kristobel*

    Ah, number 5 (the parade) reminded of my old toxic SVP, who one day yelled – YELLED – at her executive assistant for not being in her chair to answer the phone (even though the EA was literally 10 steps away, and would have heard the phone). Our section of cubes was right outside the SVP’s office and we all overheard and were deeply uncomfortable. Then maybe 30 minutes later the SVP came around with a cart and some ice cream bars like nothing had happened. I’m not even sure I looked her in the eye, but felt like I had to take the ice cream so she wouldn’t ask any questions. I was NOT sorry when she was laid off.

  38. Erin*

    Why oh why does management always feel the need to get so CrEaTiVe with these kinds of things?? Just give us a visa gift card (not encased in cement) or time off??

  39. Dawn*

    As a teacher, the one about the teacher appreciation kit is a bit too real. Teacher appreciation gifts are doubly plagued by the infinitesimal budget schools have for this sort of thing (if they have one at all!) and the fact that unless you are or have recently been a teacher, you really have no idea what the realities of that job are.

    To the first point, at my previous school, we were taken to lunch for Teacher Appreciation Week to a chain restaurant running a promo where you could get a half-sandwich and a cup of soup on special. We were told that if we wanted to order something not on the special deal, we had to share it with another teacher.

    Teacher Appreciation Week 2020 was during lockdown. I received notice from the post office that I had to go pick up a package, which I wasn’t thrilled about, but I went, thinking it might be important. It was an envelope from my school, filled with a few random pieces of candy and a hastily made drawing from a student I didn’t even teach. Plus, they had given incorrect postage, so I owed $6 for the privilege of taking it home.

    The next year, I had just gotten my first class settled for the day when two colleagues who do not work in the classroom dragged a cart laden with breakfast foods into my room. I was invited to fix myself a breakfast from the cart and eat it … when? where? Certainly not while a roomful of hungry teenagers looked on as I gave up teaching them anything for the day to stuff my face while they were offered nothing.

    1. Tired of Working*

      “Plus, they had given incorrect postage, so I owed $6 for the privilege of taking it home.”

      I’m wondering why the postage for an envelope containing a few pieces of candy and a drawing was more than $6.00.

      1. Splendid Colors*

        If they put 1st class postage on a Priority Mail envelope, that would be about $6. Or Priority Mail postage on a Priority Express envelope.

    2. Filicophyta*

      Schools are the cheapest. One school I worked at gave all departing teachers an branded wind-up analog alarm clock. (It was not retro-chic, just cheap.) It didn’t matter if you’d been there one year or ten, everyone got the same. They made a big deal of presentation too. According to one admin, management realized people didn’t like them, but had a closet full, and they were going to give the clock gifts until they ran out.

  40. Emmeileia*

    There used to be a lady in my neighborhood who would give out rocks with Bible verses pasted onto them for Halloween. But she spent all year painting them in these gorgeous spot patterns, so all the kids wanted to collect the ‘Jesus Rocks’.

  41. Manders*

    At my old company they confiscated all of the free crap that vendors sent with purchases, and at our yearly safety meeting they were raffled off. The piece of equipment that was used by myself and one other person came with about 40 T-shirts (we had about 60 staff members). I did not receive one, which was endlessly funny to me. They were pulling names for that for about 30 minutes. “Maybe this time. Nope. OK, maybe now. Nope.”

  42. Not admitting nuffin*

    I feel so much better about my can of chicken noodle soup that proclaimed “We think you’re SOUP-er!” and my leftover prom souvenir glass. And the dozens of “We think you deserve and extra PAYDAY” (fun sized) candy bars that I have been “appreciated” with over the years.

  43. Dagmar*

    ooh, I just thought of one! For Nurse’s Week the facility gave out small gifts every day on every shift. I was working on night shift, and the manager who had to come in the middle of the night was kind of impatient. I was in a patient’s room, doing a procedure that literally required a mask and gloves, and she set down a Dove ice cream bar on the bedside table!

  44. JelloStapler*

    #4 nothing like the symbolism of making you work for the littlest (and often useless) rewards.

    #6 *facepalm* at least they didn’t hide a GC in it, I guess?

  45. Fireblanketfanatic*

    My allergies are playing up, so I’m literally Crying Laughing at the fire blankets.
    Link to fire blanket blog please!

  46. Clare Devlin*

    Either I worked with #6 or multiple employers were doing this, which is even more yikes. I think I still have my deck somewhere. It’s a reminder of how glad I am to have left.

  47. it's dark in here*

    Recently someone came down to pass out some swag meant to promote our employee referral program. They brought everyone one of those solar-powered dancing flower things. Our group sits in basically an offshoot of the logistics warehouse — in a large, windowless room (and everyone here has been salty about the lack of windows since we moved into this building, because we are on an outside wall). This did not go over well.

  48. Maggie*

    I worked for a public library, and we got tshirts for the Summer Reading program every year. I guess someone in the community had complained about minimum-wage library staff being given FREE shirts, because we had to pay taxes on them. Even better, if you wanted a shirt larger than a 2x, you had to pay more in tax. Many people declined a tshirt because they didn’t want $2 deducted from their paycheck for a “free” shirt. We also got fleece jackets, (with tax) that didn’t come in women’s plus sizes. I got a Men’s 3x. The sleeves were 6 inches too long. I left it at a bus stop when I quit.

  49. SeenItAll*

    Years & years ago, I worked for a health care system that gave every employee a large turkey at the holidays. However, no one knew they were coming, so here I am – an 18 year old single girl taking this huge turkey home on the bus. I lived at home at the time, so luckily my mom could make use of it and we had an extra chest freezer to put it in. What were they thinking??

  50. TiredAllTheTime*

    I’ve received the same large platter from my boss for the last three years. Last Christmas when I saw the box, my heart kinda sank. I could barely wait to open it to confirm. Did he buy these in bulk?? Can’t wait till this year. Friends & family are going to get some nice re-gifts.

  51. Maggie*

    My friend’s husband was working from home during the pandemic lockdown, and his company decided to do a wine tasting over Zoom. They send these kits to each employee, which contained six FULL SIZED bottles of wine. Not little minibar bottles. 750 mL bottles. Six of them. They were expecting everyone to open and taste six bottles of wine. On a Wednesday night. My friends don’t even drink, so they logged in to Zoom, chatted with the office for 10 minutes, then everyone sat there in awkward silence for another 10 before the boss finally gave up. On the up side, it was decent wine, so they were able to re-gift it to neighbors.

  52. Perturbed Artichoke*

    I worked for a large multibillion dollar company that went bankrupt due to fraud. In an effort at cost savings they took away our coffee machines and vending machines in the break rooms. (How that was going to offset billions in fraud I have no idea.)

    For our ‘bonus’ that last year we were given little plastic kazoos with the company name on them. I still have mine.

  53. Filicophyta*

    Even if the gift is ok or good, timing can be bad. I once received a branded fleece blanket. It was big, good quality (as fleece goes), and had straps and handle to roll up into a cute little bundle. But they gave them out at an end-of-year event, after which we went to a local bar and closed it down in the wee hours. I forgot mine, and I know others did too. The bar workers probably scooped 40 blankets for themselves that night. Hopefully they gave some to charity??
    It was a company that was cool at the time but became locally notorious a few years later, but I wish I’d kept my blanket.

  54. Filicophyta*

    I’d like to hear from some people who work at the places that make these corporate incentive gifts. What on earth do they give you? Your own product?

  55. Former Employee*

    I didn’t read all the comments, but I was wondering if anyone else stared hearing “If I Had A Hammer” playing in the background.

Comments are closed.