office holiday gift-giving stories: worst gifts and weirdest gifts

In the spirit of the season, let’s hear about workplace gift debacles. Did a game of Secret Santa end in tears? Did a coworker throw a tantrum when she didn’t win a raffle? Did your boss try to give you Hanukkah balls? Were you given a jar of mold as a gift? These are all real stories that we’ve heard here in the past. Now you must top them.

Share your weirdest or funniest story related to gifts in the office in the comments.

{ 970 comments… read them below }

  1. CM*

    The year before I started at my last job, they gave company-branded plungers to everyone at the staff holiday party.

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind the Curtain*

        Agreed. Unless you work for American Standard or Kohler, what a fabulously odd gift!

        1. Clisby*

          Yeah, is this like how companies used to give away branded yardsticks? And paper fans? (I don’t think my parents ever had a yardstick that wasn’t some company freebie. Not from their workplaces – it usually came from a hardware store or paint store.)

          1. Worldwalker*

            Yardsticks from a hardware or building supply store make sense. But I can’t imagine anyone but a plumber giving out imprinted plungers.

            For a plumber, it would make sense: when you realize you’re going to need to call a plumber, you’ve got one’s phone number right in your hand!

      1. Hello-There*

        That’s what I was thinking. If you work for Root-Rooter, this makes so much sense, but if you work for FedEx, not so much.

        1. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

          I worked for FedEx for a year, and a plunger would have been an excellent gift, symbolically speaking, to represent my experience working for them.

            1. AnonForThisOne*

              What is going on with FedEx? They used to be fine but I’ll no longer order from companies that use them as their only delivery service and if I order from somewhere (such as Target) that uses various services, I’ll cancel the order if they choose FedEx. I never get those orders any more. Every purchase I’ve made in the past year that uses FedEx has never arrived and had to be refunded, except for one, and it took three weeks to go 80 miles.

              1. Worldwalker*

                A package I shipped to the home office (we’re very distributed) was supposed to be delivered today. But according to tracking, it’s not even in the right state yet.

                1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

                  I once tracked a pallet that we shipped via Fedex that needed to be delivered to a city in NJ (I don’t remember which one). It got to a different city in NJ, then decided to take a detour to Iowa, then back to the same city in NJ it left from, then eventually got to it’s destination in NJ. I was…flummoxed. But oddly enough, since the customer had taken control of tracking by then, I didn’t have to call to raise hell about it, but instead go to just track it’s position and ponder the mystery of Fedex’s logistics.

              2. DJ Abbott*

                At my job we often get documents shipped by courier. Last spring when we were having a lot of rain, we received a FedEx envelope that had been sitting in a puddle long enough to completely soak through the envelope and all the 12 or so pieces of paper inside. It was a crumpled, sodden mess. I had to take the paper out and carefully spread each page out to dry overnight. It was so wrinkled, I ended up making copies so we could work with it.
                Not the only problem I’ve noticed with FedEx, but the most dramatic.

              3. Rob aka Mediancat*

                I had one, intended for my home in Maryland, go from Anaheim, CA, to Hershey, PA, to Orlando, FL, before finally reaching me. Apparently someone at FedEx thought my package needed a theme park vacation before finally getting down to business.

                1. Erica*

                  When I started my current job, my company shipped me a laptop from their HQ in San Francisco to my house in Sacramento, about 80 miles away. It didn’t arrive when it was supposed to, and turned out it had taken a *slight* detour through Memphis on the way.

                2. Indigo a la mode*

                  A couple weeks ago, I ordered three small shipments of olive oil from a place in Modesto, CA (been shopping there for years). They always ship super fast through FedEx, and indeed, the gifts I ordered to Medford, OR and Washington, DC were both delivered within three days.

                  I live just north of Portland, OR. My olive oil traveled from Modesto to Portland…to Los Angeles, for some reason, before coming back to me a week later. Maybe also visiting a theme park?

      2. CM*

        Ha, no — it was a nonprofit national sports organization. Nothing whatsoever to do with plumbing or household maintenance!

        I lived with two coworkers at the time too, so we had multiple branded plungers on standby in our house.

        1. Certaintroublemaker*

          Your houseguests must have been so confused (and worried about the plumbing) when they used the facilities!

    1. Morgan Proctor*

      Honestly, this is great. It’s practical, it’s funny, it’s iconic, it’s of the moment. It’ll be talked about for years after. A+

      1. rayray*

        Kinda what I am thinking. I don’t need anymore fleece throws or tins of hot chocolate. This is very practical.

          1. Pudding*

            I have a small sink plunger in my kitchen cabinet, that has ONLY EVER been used one the sink. The other one never leaves a 2-foot radius area of the bathroom.

      2. Artemesia*

        i’d rather have gotten that than the fancy metal bookmark I got (hoping for a moment it was a nice pen — but no, a stupid bookmark.) Does anyone actually use bookmarks other than the envelop that is handy?

        1. Brrrrr*

          I once bought a nice little 10-pack of magnetic bookmarks in a cute tin. I still have the tin kicking around but lost every one of the bookmarks years ago. Guessing some are hiding in cookbooks, some probably made the journey to the library and into new hands, and the rest probably fell behind my bed. So agreed, pretty fancy bookmarks are not very useful.

        2. Ofotherworlds*

          Yes, there are people who actually use bookmarks. My mother would actually remove the bits of paper I used to marke my place and put in a proper bookmark instead.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            I use random bits of paper, or cut up pieces of ribbon that were wrapped around various pet blanket that we’ve ordered.

        3. Bronze Betty*

          I love bookmarks and use them, but inevitably misplace them and, yes, end up using an envelope or card that is handy. Heavy-duty cardstock junkmail items make excellent bookmarks; I cut them smaller if they’re too big.

          1. Pennyworth*

            Our local art gallery always has surplus cards advertising their exhibitions, with artwork on them. They make excellent bookmarks, and there are always new ones available through the year.

          2. allathian*

            I used to collect bookmarks when I was a teen, and I’ve kept the nicest ones and still have several dozen. We’ll never run out of bookmarks at our house. Even so, I’ve used envelopes and random bits of paper as bookmarks…

          3. PhyllisB*

            I once used a photo for a bookmark in library book. It was a photo of me posing in front of my new car. The librarians all know me so they called me to tell me.
            When I went to retrieve it, they shared stories of different things people had left in books. Money is very common. I think the oddest one was a strip of bacon!!

        4. I take tea*

          I do, actually. I love bookmarks and always take any that are handed out. But I prefer the kind that goes in the book, usually thicker paper. The ones that goes outside the book, like metal ones that you stick to the page, might damage the book if you put it anywhere else than on a table.

          1. Brain flogged*

            You just reminded me that I have one of those fancy metal ones lurking around somewhere in the house. Never used it.

            I pretty much just grab the most convenient (and clean) thing whitin reach: random pieces of paper, pens, silverware and even other books.

        5. Inkhorn*

          I do. I kept losing the emery boards/old train tickets/whatever I’d stuck in there, so I made myself a set of ribbon ones long enough to have both ends between the pages. One end stays at the back of the book, the other marks my place and just hangs over the back while I’m reading. Never had to scrabble for a bookmark again.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            When I was riding transit in the pre-electronic fare days, day passes would be my most frequent bookmarks. Patrons of the same used bookstore that I frequented tended to do the same.

        6. madge*

          Yep – I love bookmarks, use them daily (books in most rooms of the house plus car, work, etc.). I generally only buy practical souvenirs and love my bookmarks, including some metal ones.
          But I also prefer books to e-reading when it’s practical. I may have reached the “Get off my lawn” stage of life.

        7. Here for the Insurance*

          I totally use bookmarks, I have a whole collection. I didn’t always but had to break myself of the habit of using random stuff — one too many times of not paying a bill (back in the days when we got paper invoices) because I’d stuck it in a book.

        8. coffee*

          As a teen I read a lot of books (I have less time now that I’m older), so people used to give me bookmarks. However, I am quite a fast reader, and I prefer to read one book at a time, so I could pretty much always find my place without a bookmark (or had read the whole book in one go). I had so many bookmarks that I never used!

    2. Texan In Exile*

      Is it wrong that I think that would actually be a way better gift than another coffee mug or shirt that doesn’t fit properly?

      Also – I like how they subtly play on what we sometimes think about work.

      1. Giant Kitty*

        I never minded getting ill fitting junk swag work t shirts because I can wear them for sleeping, dying my hair, or doing dirty/sweaty work, or at least cut them up for cleaning rags.

    3. Mockingjay*

      But what kind of plunger? The one shaped for the sink, or the one for the toilet? (I was this years old when I saw a YouTube video explaining the purpose of the different shapes.)

    4. SunriseRuby*

      Well, that’s more original than the standard water bottle or traveling coffee mug, I’ll give them that.

      1. Random Biter*

        The resale shops in my area always have an amazing collection of water bottles and traveling mugs and now I know where they come from.

    5. bamcheeks*

      My little girl LOVED the plunger from about 18 months to four. I had to buy a spare clean one so she wasn’t carrying the in-use one around the house or taking it to bed or cuddling it in her pushchair. Could have really done with this.

      1. The Eye of Argon*

        That’s adorable! And you were a good parent for letting her keep her rubber bestie instead of forcing her to give it up in favor of a “normal” toy (not that I’m still bitter 40 years later because you threw away my Battery Family, MOM!)

        1. Hills to Die on*

          Aw! My youngest was hung of on taking flatware with him everywhere. Had to talk him into taking serving spoons to bed instead of pointy serving forks. He loved his spooning spoon so much.

        2. Here Comes Christmas Again*

          Ex-job – Boss’ young son was obsessed with sprinkler heads. He would sleep with them.

        3. Avery*

          Not a toy exactly, but my cousin was fascinated with ceiling fans as a baby/toddler, to the point where his parents made a special book for him with pictures of all sorts of ceiling fans in it.

            1. Muscovy Duck*

              My sister was the same way! My dad even wrote a ceiling fan song for her (I still know all the lyrics 20+ years later).

            2. PhyllisB*

              Yes!! Most babies love them. Sometimes I would attach balloons or small stuffed toys to the blades and run on low speed. They loved it.

        4. froodle*

          Awww! My younger brother had a bunch of those stick on bows you get for wrapping/decorating presents. He called them ribbon hedgehogs and they had names and familial relationships. Can’t remember all of them but the son was called Danny, and he make them a little house out of a box and a blanket.

          1. Worldwalker*

            Mine was a folding camping saw one year. (My parents wisely took the blade out!) I have dim memories of “feeding” it cheese spread. So in one sense I can kinda understand people who stuff credit cards into computers, but on the other hand, I was four!

          2. Random Biter*

            I am dead. Just how adorable is that!? I will never look at a stick on bow again without wondering about their family.

      2. Co in KC*

        My middle daughter had a back scratcher and graduated to a strap wrench/jar opener. She was perfectly happy for hours in her room talking with it, creating symphonies, directing plays and god knows what. Kids are weird. I saved them for her wedding bouquet.

      3. Sally Forth*

        My son was in love with a clear plastic medicine spoon. All of his pictures from about 10 months to 14 months feature the spoon. His son is now that age and his best toy is a “snot sucker” syringe.

        1. STAT!*

          OMG. Ten years of OT & various other therapies for my son, & I only now find out there is such a thing. Wish somebody had mentioned this years ago, so he didn’t wreck the skin of his nose by wiping it all the time during cold/ hayfever season (he can’t blow to clear his nasal passages, alongside various other challenges). Anyway, thanks very much!

          1. Princesss Sparklepony*

            Are you talking about the Nose Frieda or the bulb thing? The Nose Frieda works really well once you get over the creepy factor. I used it on my dog all the time!

      4. NateTheGreat*

        When I was a very little kid, I would pretend I was a bus driver and the plunger was one of those really long steering wheels that busses have.

    6. ecnaseener*

      Lololol the jokes write themselves. Why yes, an unmanageable amount of shit does make me think of this company! How did you guess?

    7. Michelle Smith*

      Everyone keeps saying how practical and useful this would be and I’m baffled. I would not want this. I bought my own plunger, specific to my bathroom decor, over 7 years ago. It has barely been used–maybe less than 5 times. I probably won’t need to replace it unless I move. I can’t think of why I would want a second plunger and would just throw it out.

      1. The Eye of Argon*

        To each their own.

        Speaking for myself, my plunger definitely does NOT match my bathroom decor, and I would think a company branded plunger was hilarious (and useful to me, since I have a bathroom and powder room and could keep one by each toilet that way).

      2. ThatGirl*

        Sorry, your plunger matches your bathroom decor??

        I mean, I get it, not all plungers are created equal but I’m having trouble with the idea that a purely functional item needs to match any particular decor :)

        1. Zelda*

          I’m afraid my bathroom decor is “Yup, there’s a towel there, sure enough.” But those people I have known who do have *actual* decor in their bathrooms have also taken steps to *hide* any plungers entirely from view. I am bemused by the concept of a “matching” plunger…

          1. callmeheavenly*

            I have one that fits in the cabinet under the sink, but I have a very specific color scheme to my (bedroom and en suite) bathroom, and if I could not hide it, I would 100% bedazzle the hell out of it, or whatever it took. I think it boils down to being able to control very little outside my immediate environment and therefore overcompensating in that way….

        2. RussianInTexas*

          That is where I got stuck too, lol.
          Mine is black rubber I think? I am not sure how a plunger can match decor.

          1. Adds*

            Mine was The One at the grocery store. And I was really glad they had one on the shelf so I could just pick it up with the groceries instead of having to go to another store.

          2. Artemesia*

            ours comes in a little container that flips open and I suppose those could be colored to match decor. We’ve never used it but it is one of those things that you have to have even if you only need it once.

        3. Worldwalker*

          I’m having trouble with the idea that they make plungers that match bathroom decor in the first place. Mine is the reddish rubber kind.

      3. Morgan Proctor*

        I’m struggling to contort myself into the mental gymnastics it would require for me to feel offended that my company gave me a plunger that didn’t match my bathroom decor. Truly, this is not a sentiment that needs to be verbalized. You can simply shrug and throw it out. Not everything is a personal attack. Sometimes a plunger is simply just a plunger.

        1. another glorious morning*

          Request for an ask a manager t-shirt that says – “Sometimes a plunger is a just a plunger”.

      4. Texan In Exile*

        You need a plunger in every bathroom.

        And it needs to live in the bathroom, even if it doesn’t match. IN THE BATHROOM – looking at you, beloved friend who kept hers in the utility room that could be reached only by walking out of the kitchen, onto the porch, and down the stairs. And that my husband and I, who were visiting her, found only after a desperate half-hour search one morning while she was out of the house. We wanted to resolve the issue without having to resort to texting her.

        1. straws*

          THANK YOU. My husband insists on keeping our plunger in the garage “because it’s dirty”, which requires me to go out of the warm house into the frigid garage and locate it wherever he decided to move it to while working in the garage last. We have an 8 year old who does not understand toilet paper and is constantly clogging up the toilet, and we’re constantly bickering over the plunger’s home base lol

        2. Jedao*

          Yeah, when you need it, you need it right then! You should keep the plunger right next to the poop knife.

      5. Deirdre Barlow*

        Is having a plunger a necessity in North America? I’m British and old, and I can count on the fingers of one finger the times I’ve needed a plunger… Colour me intrigued!

          1. Canadian Plunger Fan*

            Amen! One night when I was out at a work thing, our toilet became a problem and started to overflow right before my young son went to bed. My husband panicked because there was no plunger to be found so they had to run out and buy one. My kid kept saying “Oh Daddy, I don’t know if we’re going to survive this one!”

        1. DataSci*

          Yep. You needed one. Not frequently, but when you do, you really don’t want to have to find a store that’s open and has one.

        2. Rebecca1*

          Yes, I read about a whole technical plumbing reason for it but can no longer remember what that reason is.

      6. Curmudgeon in California*

        It must be nice having new plumbing that seldom clogs.

        I use my plunger at least once a day, because my plumbing is very old and clogs if you look at it funny or have a normal bowel movement.

    8. ThursdaysGeek*

      It wasn’t a company holiday gift, but that reminds me of that Memorial Day when we were visiting the graveyard, and an employee came by handing out branded pizza-cutters. So I now have a good pizza cutter with a funeral home name on it, that I refer to as ‘the pizza cutter of death’.

      1. Clisby*

        When I was growing up, the church we attended (and at least a few others in our small town) didn’t have AC, so along with prayer books and hymnals, they supplied paper fans so the entire congregation wasn’t gasping for breath and keeling over in the SC summer heat. These were *always* branded by funeral homes. I guess they thought churchgoers might be a good target audience; I don’t remember seeing them anywhere else (other than, presumably, the funeral homes themselves.)

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          And if you did keel over in the heat, you know who to call! I guess… same if I choke on a piece of pizza…? Advertising is weird.

    9. Melanie Cavill*

      I mean, a plunger is a thing you forget about buying until you need it, and then you really need it. I’d rather have that than a company branded ill-fitting jacket.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        At a time, my employer gave out gizmos to break car windows and cut through seat belts safely if you’d find yourself in an accident. Not quite plungers but similar in the way that you hope you’ll never need it.

    10. Vesuvius*

      I have a cat who is obsessed with the plunger. She tries to steal it regularly. If we had a second plunger I would let her chew on it because she likes to chew plastic, too. At least the plunger is less likely to be swallowed.

    11. Divergent*

      My mother bought my brother a plunger for his birthday once, but he was 7, Ghostbusters was popular, and he kept stealing the bathroom one to bust ghosts. He was pretty happy about it. I can’t imagine the staff at the holiday party were quite as enthusiastic?

    12. AdAgencyChick*

      Was the HR or admin person who chose this gift not-so-secretly salty about something work related? Because this is kind of awesome.

    13. Electric Pangolin*

      This reminds me of the software vendor that was handing out stress balls with their logo on it one year! Did they mean to imply something…?

    14. Worldwalker*

      You win the Internet. I can’t imagine something weirder than that.

      I get catalogs from several imprinting places, and over the years I’ve read through a lot of listings to source imprinted things, and that’s one I’ve *never* seen. Where did they even get them?

    15. Jess*

      Please tell me I wasn’t the only one sitting here thinking “A plunger? That’s not that weird, kind of same vibe as giving things like branded coffee cups,” then reading the comments and having an “Oh…OH…it WASN’T a coffee plunger….” moment?

  2. Pivottt!*

    I worked at a law firm throughout college and worked my way up from a file clerk to a legal assistant. The partner’s legal secretary was lazy and vindictive. She didn’t want to work, but she didn’t like that I had made myself indispensable either.

    One year for Christmas, she gave me a box of saltwater taffy. When I opened it, she had clearly eaten half of it and left the wrappers in there.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      What an ass. I would have put them out in a common area with a note that these were from Assie and let people think she gnawed on them.

      1. nm*

        My cat is named Cassie and Im gonna start calling her Assie whenever she has an “accident” in the car on the way to the vet XD. Poor fluffer hates the car more than anything.

    2. DeeDee*

      “Thanks so much for thinking of me, but you might want to contact the company you bought this from and ask for a refund. They sold you a half-eaten box!” The sincerely concerned tone would be the hardest part to pull off.

  3. TheTickMS*

    I’m sure people will have worse items, but I still remember when the call center I worked at when I was younger gave us mugs with candy in them that were clearly several years old. That, or they’d been stored on a factory floor. Never seen that much dust both on box and inside it.

  4. ThatGirl*

    This is pretty mild, but last week we had a holiday luncheon/festivities during the workday that included a raffle – they had a bunch of smallish ($20 range) prizes they drew names for and then a drawing at the end for a stand mixer and a TV that everyone was a part of.

    I was standing there with my coworkers making comments on the gifts as they were presented when a wine decanter came up. Oh, I said, I really don’t have anywhere to put that. … and a split second later they called my name. It was perfect comedic timing. But I have no idea what to do with this wine decanter.

    (We are not big wine drinkers, I don’t know anyone who is, and no, I don’t have any white elephant gift exchanges this year.)

      1. ThatGirl*

        Don’t really need a vase (have several, rarely get flowers) or a juice pitcher, honestly.

        It’s a nice decanter – I just have no need or space for it. Might end up at Goodwill.

          1. ThatGirl*

            I will almost certainly donate it. I’m amused by how many people are telling me to regift it — I would! The point is that I have nobody in my life who would use it! :)

            1. Dust Bunny*

              It doesn’t have to be a gift to somebody close–your spouse could regift through their office party or something.

              1. ThatGirl*

                I know everyone is trying to be helpful, but I have thought of all of this. Really, truly, we have no one to give it to. Yes, it will probably end up at Goodwill. I just found the situation of how I acquired it to be funny.

                1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

                  These replies are starting to get into “but have you tried yoga?!” territory and your calm and measured responses are making me laugh.

                  Also I agree that the solution is clearly to start drinking.

    1. Morgan Proctor*

      That’s not a white elephant gift! A wine decanter is actually nice. Just give it to a local thrift shop! I promise you your wine decanter is not a burden.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I’ve been to plenty of white elephant style gift exchanges where the items were at least somewhat nice and practical. And yes, I will probably end up taking it to a thrift shop.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Might be a regional difference, but for many people a white elephant is specifically for joke gifts, while a yankee swap is the non-joke version.

          1. NeedRain47*

            I’m in the midwest and this is what I thought until I heard multiple reference to nice white elephant gifts in the past few weeks.

            1. Laufey*

              This is exactly why I gave up on gift exchanges. I got so much stress and anxiety from worrying about whether I got the right type of gift and how to deal with it when I got it wrong that I just stopped doing them. I am much happier now.

              1. NeedRain47*

                Same- I generally don’t unless it’s a group I’m very socially comfortable with (not at work).

          2. tlmic*

            I always thought it was a one-person’s-trash-is-another-person’s-treasure game: you bring things from your home or a thrift shop that someone might actually want, then watch as people fight over a toy fish on wheels or a change sorter. The joy is in the silliness of it all.

          3. Autumnheart*

            My work has a white elephant exchange as our holiday party. Some gifts are nice, some are jokes. There are also perennial gifts that started out as a gag and have turned into standards—like the foil ball that gets bigger every year, and the trucker hat. It’s a lot of fun, and there is a certain amount of “One person’s trash” too. I wound up with a light-up football that I couldn’t have cared less about, but it got stolen immediately. Someone else got a homemade dresser/mayo kitchen gadget and were clearly un-thrilled, but I stole that! I actually want to make my own aioli sometime. It’s a hoot.

          4. Giant Kitty*

            I grew up in the 70s, and a ‘white elephant sale’ was basically a rummage sale, where people donated both used stuff in good condition and new stuff they just didn’t have a use for. Might end up with some strange things but not intentionally as jokes or pranks.

            1. londonedit*

              I’m British and the only use of ‘white elephant’ I knew before I started reading here was a ‘white elephant table’ at a jumble (rummage) sale – you’d have tables for clothes, books, toys, etc and then the ‘white elephant’ table was for the random stuff like ornaments and small electricals and whatnot.

        2. NeedRain47*

          This is a conversation I had last week- to me, white elephant means something funny, weird, borderline offensive, airplane bottles of alcohol, etc. If the gifts are nice and practical, that’s just a gift exchange. The chances that people are going to show up with the wrong type of gift seem high.

          Anyway, when I’ve “won” something I didn’t want at work, I just gave it to a coworker who did want it.

      2. Ace in the Hole*

        What makes a good white elephant gift depends on the group. The can be nice, as long as they’re also useless.

        For example my family had the same bottle of nice bourbon bouncing around our annual white elephant party for almost a decade. None of us drink. None of us know anyone who likes bourbon. I’m sure loads of people would think it was a lovely gift but it was 100% white elephant material for us. Eventually mom decided to put it out of its misery by making a humongous batch of bourbon-chocolate balls for a potluck.

    2. Brooklynlite*

      Do you have a local Buy Nothing? I bet someone in your neighborhood would really like it and that saves you the trip plus the risk it will break during processing at Goodwill.

    3. Artemesia*

      There are probably charity stores in your town that sell used merchandise to support this or that causes. We have one whose profits go to those dealing with HIV/AIDS and they have a really nice store. We have bought things there but it is also a great place to donate nice furniture or household items. A wine decanter would be perfect.

    4. Willow Pillow*

      A coworker at an old job was given a nice wine decanter… But we worked at a satellite office and it was broken on arrival. Maybe a big glass item isn’t best for shipping!

  5. R*

    This will sound absurdly ungrateful, but last year we received 6 pints of ice cream. Fancy ice cream. Only trouble is, I live in an apartment. It was the holidays. My apartment sized freezer was already full. I had nowhere to put the 6 pints.

    1. Blisskrieg*

      Not ungrateful at all!!! I know a terrific gourmet ice cream company and I’m always tempted to consider as corporate gifts, but imagining situations like yours has always stopped me. I may do gift cards for the same company one year so people can time delivery with an empty freezer…

      1. ThatGirl*

        I think gift cards are a good solution, and better yet if they have vegan options for folks with dietary restrictions. But at least with a gift card then you could give it to someone else if needed.

        1. Nannerdoodle*

          And gluten free/nut free options! So many fancy ice cream places put cookies/cookie dough into their ice cream or all of it is contaminated with nuts so people with allergies can’t eat any of it. I’ve received more than one “fancy dessert” gift card where I can’t eat anything the place makes other than vanilla ice cream or plain overpriced chocolate due to the gluten issue.

      2. HellifIknow*

        If they had been thoughtful, they’d have done a pint a month for 6 months o something like that…. We LOVE ice cream but… yeah no way to store that much at once. Although, it’s pretty darn cold here….

        1. Zephy*

          I’m betting six is the minimum order and they don’t ship single pints – I’m sure it gets expensive really quickly when you’re trying to ship frozen goods, especially the farther those goods need to travel, so probably the company decided that the price point for six pints was enough to be worth shipping it X distance.

        1. Phony Genius*

          Did this once when my city had a major blackout that was going to last for at least a day. I knew whatever I didn’t eat would have to be thrown out. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Several hours later, however, still in the dark, it didn’t seem smart anymore.

    2. LIZZIE*

      Not ungrateful at all! I’m in the same situation. apt size freezer with generally not a lot of free space! I’d be really disappointed if i got this. And scrambling to find a friend WITH freezer space!

      1. Hannah Lee*

        We get free turkeys at work every year the day before Thanksgiving.

        I rarely host, and have a fridge with a small freezer with drawers. Some years I find someone who is hosting who would like a free turkey. Other years? Well let’s just say I’ve gotten very good at turning a 20 lb turkey into turkey parts and have explored many turkey leg, turkey wing recipes through the months of December – February.

        1. ferrina*

          Growing up my mom’s work would always give her a turkey. We were a small family (single parent) and inevitably went to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving. So my mom would put it in the freezer, then forget about it through the holidays and re-find it in January. So she’d have me invite friends over and she’d make a Thanksgiving meal in January. The first couple years it was just an attempt to use the turkey- by the third year my friends were asking for invites to the January Thanksgiving.

          1. Belle of the Midwest*

            This is awesome. January is always such a bleak month and I would totally want to come to a Thanksgiving meal then!

        2. Le Sigh*

          That sounds excellent. I love to make a bunch of homemade pot pies with turkey leftovers. Make one fresh and then freeze a few for myself and give away the rest. They’re really nice to have in the middle of winter — just pop in the oven for 45 and you have a fresh pot pie.

          1. Zelda*

            We have done a little experimentation with moles– AIUI, Native people were more likely to use the meat in various stew or casserole kinds of dishes; the “roast the bird whole and serve on a huge platter” approach is more of a European thing.

            1. Shirley Keeldar*

              For a minute there I thought you’d found some moles (the little furry critters) to try out turkey recipes on. I was picturing them in little hats and suits around a mole-sized table, eager for their samples.

              Perhaps I need to get out more….

              1. MigraineMonth*

                I assumed they were eating the little furry critters! I know there are plenty of recipes for muskrat and similar…

              2. Zelda*

                No, I just need to know more about inserting accents/Unicode into text! Oops.

                So, pronounced roughly like MOH-lay. One useful search term is “Rick Bayless.”

                1. Giant Kitty*

                  Are you on mobile? On an iPhone, all you have to do is hold down the letter for a moment and it gives you the option to choose an accented or alternate version of that letter (if it exists): molé, ß, æ, ę, ø, ÿ, õ, û, etc.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          So… I’m one of the people who does that on purpose. My mom’s father died early in the great depression, and I married into a restaurant family, so naturally the first purchase for my house was a deep freeze. (Yes before the lawn mower!)

          When turkey comes on sale, we buy at least 2 of them. One for Thanksgiving, and 1 or 2 eat later as ingredients.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            We have multiple chest freezers. We have been known to buy multiple turkeys when they go on sale after thanksgiving and chuck them into the freezer for next year.

        4. BlueSwimmer*

          When I was just out of college, I taught at a school that ran on a shoestring. They gave out frozen turkeys as our Christmas bonus every year, but two thirds of the faculty were young singles with no idea how to cook a turkey, me included. The more established faculty members took them off our hands, cooked them, and then brought in lots of leftovers for us to eat at lunch. A few years later, they switched over to giving us gift cards to a local gourmet market, which everyone loved, but I really missed the leftovers!

        5. DataSci*

          I’m impressed you find someone the day before Thanksgiving who is hosting and doesn’t have a turkey yet! If I’m hosting, my turkey is already dry-brining in the fridge on Wednesday.

    3. Prefer my pets*

      Not ungrateful at all. I have the freezer space for that (a couple chest freezers) but like half the world I’m seriously lactose intolerant. They might as well have been gifting me 6 pints of poison. :(

    4. Cyndi*

      Yeah I know this is a “my diamond shoes are too tight” problem–but I live alone and every year I have problems with desserts piling up in my home far beyond my ability to actually eat them. I buy myself the seasonal desserts and candy I actually want–and then I have friends giving out treats, and coworkers, and parents, and by January it turns into a situation where I either have to turn around and unload as much candy as I can onto other people, or feel obligated to eat a daily dessert quota to get through it, before things go bad and have to be thrown out.

      This past January I got so tired of chocolate that I threw up my hands and left a large bag of (wrapped, unopened!) candy in the Little Free Library on my corner.

      1. desk platypus*

        I totally get that! Before I moved out from my parents place I would participate in the annual cookie exchange at my work because I had fun trying out the samplings with my family. If I didn’t like something someone else definitely would. Now I live alone hours away and no friends in the area so I can’t dump all these holiday treats on anyone but myself.

        1. Sally Forth*

          In high school I worked at Zellers, a Canadian department store that actually had a great work culture for back then. At the Christmas party Secret Santa I got a perfume/bath combo Love’s Baby Soft knock off called Luv U. It was just fine except the giver had underlined the Luv U in red marker.

          I figured it was from one of the high school guys and was trying to figure out which one. Then a friend told me she saw one of the married 30 year old managers wrapping it.

          Ugh! I could only hope he made a mistake and meant it for his wife.

          1. Jennifer+@unchartedworlds*

            Or maybe it had been doing the rounds for a while, the underlining had come from someone else giving it to someone else previously, and he just didn’t notice?

      2. Lalaith*

        A friend of mine gets tubs of cookies and treats from his mom on his birthday and Christmas. His friends are very appreciative :)

        (I believe she includes vegan and/or gluten free ones for friends with dietary restrictions)

      3. Clisby*

        LFL is a great idea! That reminds me I need to go drop off a bag of unopened plasticware I’ve been saving. These are the packages with napkin/salt/pepper/fork/spoon/knife) that lots of places give with takeout or delivery. So many times, I forget to say I don’t need any and then end up with another few. I figured people picking up things from a LFL might be able to use them.

      4. MigraineMonth*

        I am blessed with a roommate who makes sure I get at least some of each of the ice cream/cookies/candies, and then will finish the rest of it for me. I did need to ask her to stop buying the same thing as replacements, though, because I didn’t actually want an ever-replenishing pint of brownie ice cream.

        She bakes too!

    5. ChemistryChick*

      I’m lactose intolerant, so I’d actually be really bummed to receive 6 pints of something I can’t eat.

      1. another glorious morning*

        Same! Ice cream is one of the worst offenders for me. Also what is someone is vegan?

    6. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      I would find a way to make room, and be glad to have the several different flavors — but I eat a lot of ice cream, and am one of the local weirdos who will stand outside with an ice cream cone while it’s snowing.

      That said, while half a dozen pints of fancy ice cream are a great gift for the right person, it’s a bit like buying someone your own favorite liqueur, without checking whether they even drink.

    7. Zephy*

      My grandma, bless her, offered to send me and my husband six pints of fancy ice cream as a “get well soon” gift after he had major surgery last year. Six pints was the minimum order, you see. I had to figure out the most diplomatic way to convey that I did not want six pints of fancy ice cream that I had no space to store. I think the phrasing I landed on was “I understand that you want to help, and I know your intentions are good, but the thing you are proposing to do is not actually helpful to us. Your well-wishes and prayers for a speedy recovery are more than enough.”

    8. Artemesia*

      When my son died this year a friend send us a 12 pack of Graeter’s ice cream — sure was better than flowers which made me cry every time I saw them. We gave half of them to our daughter’s family and managed to find room for the others.

  6. Akcipitrokulo*

    After making a big deal of ensuring people got something they would actually like in secret santa, by having everyone nominate 3 “helpers” who would be available to ask, teetotal me got a bottle of wine.

    Would not have minded if it wasn’t so obvious no effort was made!

    (Mine got pressie all 3 of theirs agreed they would love.)

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      Not a holiday story, but a co-worker wanted to throw me a going away party when I left Capitol Hill. The organizer specifically asked me what I wanted.

      Here’s what I said:

      “I get that Boss always does the same thing for everyone. But I don’t want a store bought cake, an awkward party, a card signed by everyone, a flag, a photo with Boss (already had one), and a special coin. None of that is useful or special to me. I want a dome tour because I’ve never had one and then do an Irish goodbye. That’s it.”

      Here’s what I got: a store bought cake, an awkward party, a card signed by everyone, a flag, a special coin, and a mob of people walking me out on me last day at 5 PM. No dome tour to this day. (only chiefs of staff and members can give those.) All of that stuff sits in my attic to remind me of how no one listened to me.

      Don’t bother asking me if you don’t care what I want.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Anything is possible.
          There are museums and private collectors that are proud to own a slice of one of Queen Victoria’s jubilee cakes. Not the recently departed Queen Elizabeth 2, but her great-great-grandmother.

          1. GammaGirl1908*

            It’s even a plot point in an episode of Seinfeld that Elaine’s boss pays some ridiculous amount for a slice of antique British cake, and then (of course) Elaine eats it, mistaking it for office birthday cake.

      1. NeedRain47*

        When I left my old job I actually got to choose whether I wanted to have an awkward party and whether the whole org was invited or just my department plus a select few. Apparently leaving was the only way to get to feel listened to or appreciated.

      2. Rs*

        I still haven’t had a dome tour, because they changed the rules to require a member to actually accompany the group up the steps to the dome…

    2. AY*

      I, as the only pregnant person in my work section, received the only alcohol-themed gift at our office white elephant. You have to laugh!

      1. La Triviata*

        Two or three years in a row, when we had staff gifts, I would end up with the gift I’d brought. (This was before we added the option to “steal” a gift from someone who’d already opened a gift.)

    3. Another accountant*

      We fill out a form for “Helping Santa”, and one of the items is for ‘ Absolutely None’ of these. Other items are: fav store, always need more of, fav sports team, etc. it makes the entire process so much easier, and helps avoid any issues with allergies or dietary restrictions.

      1. HellifIknow*

        Oh, can you post a pic of the form? I’ll use it for our family swap. It’s gotten very large with many marriages and extended families and this would be helpful!

        1. T*

          You might want to check out Elfster, it’s a website that provided these kinds of forms and will also randomize Secret Santa assignments for you.

            1. Adds*

              We use Draw Names for the adults to do the Christmas gift exchange for our (immediate? previously nuclear?) family. You can make a wish list that links to online stores and whoever draws your name can see it. Very handy.

    4. Zephy*

      The solution to this, which my team implemented, was to have everyone list some things they might like along with their names on the little slips of paper we drew for our secret Santa exchange.

    5. Artemesia*

      I cannot fathom ever giving a colleague liquor without KNOWING they would like it. Yes, lazy.

      I hope you said when you unwrapped it ‘oh I don’t drink, is there someone here who would enjoy this?’ And passed it on right there.

    6. londonedit*

      Not Secret Santa, but there was someone I was friends with at uni and for a few years after (we’ve since lost touch) who would get me a bottle of red wine for my birthday every year. I had never, in their presence or anyone else’s, drunk red wine. I don’t mind the odd glass, but I am absolutely a white wine drinker and this person would never have seen me drinking red, only ever white. So it was always a little bit of a disappointment every year when they’d proudly present me with something I didn’t want to drink! (Of course I could have said something, but I’m British, so what I said was ‘thank you’ before taking the wine home and saving it for the next time I went to someone’s house for dinner). It’s just a bit of a bummer when you get a gift that makes you think ‘yeah, this person hasn’t got me at all’.

  7. the Cat's ass*

    one of my patients (with free range bats in their belfry, bless them) gave me a strange quasi-Staffordshire figure of an Edwardian era guy waggling a thermometer, wearing a stethoscope, and sitting on a pile of medical books, with a note saying, “This reminds me of you.” BTW, i am a woman.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      OMG I work for a medical school library and we get stuff like this donated to us all the time. I’m not sure what my boss does with them–they just seem to disappear.

    2. Niniel*

      Commenting to say that I LOVE the phrase “free range bats in their belfry”!! Are you from the UK by chance?

      1. the Cat's ass*

        mom was (Man U all the way!) but i’m in the US. I stole this phrase from Carolyn Hax’s Holiday Hoot from last week, where its use was sublime!

  8. Love to WFH*

    The president called up a guest — the wife of an employee — and gave her a wrapped gift. Then he began what he intended to be a funny White Elephant Swap process with her. Unfortunately for him, she had perfect manners and had never heard of such a thing, so she politely insisted that she was very grateful for the box he’d given her, and of course she wouldn’t dream of exchanging it for something else. He eventually gave up. ;-)

  9. The Eye of Argon*

    Oh, man, I wish I had saved my underwear story to post here instead of the “crazy holiday party” thread :( Are we allowed to repost stuff?

    1. Hlao-roo*

      You can re-post it! There’s a good chance there are people who are reading this thread who missed the “crazy holiday party” thread.

  10. CheapskateBoss*

    One year, my coworkers and I gave our boss a gift card to a local chain of restaurants he frequented (I know, no gifting up but we were young and naive). The next year, he took us to lunch at one of those restaurants. As he is paying the bill, the server comes back and tells him what is left on the gift card. HE USED THE GIFT CARD THAT WE BOUGHT HIM THE YEAR PRIOR. WE BOUGHT OUR OWN HOLIDAY LUNCH. I never bought another gift for him again, and when he took us to the same place the next year, I ordered the most expensive item even though it was a spicy paella and my stomach paid for it later. Worth it.

      1. IndustriousLabRat*

        And the gifted hard-to-find limited edition covetable underwear from the other story- your tale, no?

    1. 10 Days to Go*

      I fail to see the problem here–he spent his gift on his employees, which to me seems like a kind solution to being “gifted up.”

      1. Sassenach*

        I think there are two ways to look at this. 1) he thought he was being thoughtful by using the gift card for his team rather than just for himself. 2) it was a cheap way to treat the team to lunch.

      2. CheapskateBoss*

        I supposed the context lost here is knowing the boss and that’s definitely not what he was thinking. We had received gifts from vendors we work with before and he would take them home for himself so when this happened we all just had it with him

        1. Hlao-roo*

          The context makes the story. I can totally see all of you thinking “our boss is actually doing something nice for us!” only to have it revealed that “nope, we paid for our own lunch :(“

          1. CheapskateBoss*

            100%. And we were working at a small non-profit so the three of us were scraping by while this guy was at a level that he was doing well.

        2. Artemesia*

          This is the hallmark of a real jerk, someone who takes all the vender gifts. My husband’s small law firm would always disassemble the vender gift baskets and lay them out in the copy room/break room and invite everyone to take a few things. People were polite and everyone got to take a few things home from partners down to the runner.

    2. Software engineer*

      Since you shouldn’t have to get your boss a gift, using a gift from employees to treat them out to lunch actually sounds like a gracious way to handle it. Like if you brought them a snack gift basket and they opened it up to share with everyone

      Take the generous interpretation! But still don’t buy your boss a present anymore

    3. IndyDem*

      Just curious, how do you know it’s the exact same gift card? We buy gift cards all the time from our favorite restaurant, especially when they have a sale.

      1. KateM*

        Ha, that reminds me how I once gifted my mother an not-her-usual shampoo or something like that and when I visited her again several months later, she specially showed me a bottle of same shampoo and told me that this is NOT the same bottle – she had taken a liking to is so when shampoo ended, bought a new bottle of the same herself.

      2. Tired of Working*

        That’s what I was wondering – how do you know it was the same gift card that you gave him? Maybe he’s gotten that gift card from other people, too. I wouldn’t expect him to remember that you gave him a gift card from that restaurant, so he had better take you to a different restaurant. Maybe he really likes that restaurant and goes there frequently and was really happy that you gave him a gift card for it. And maybe that’s why he’s given a number of gift cards to that restaurant. It’s a better way of looking at things than saying, “I’ll show him! I’ll order spicy paella because it’s expensive! And I don’t care if it makes me sick!”

    4. ggg*

      This is sort of why we stopped giving our admin Costco gift cards — we wanted her to spend the money on herself but she would turn right around and use it to buy snacks for all of us.

    5. SaffyTaffy*

      That’s honestly exactly what I would do if my employees gave me a gift card, since they shouldn’t be giving me anything but I wouldn’t want to embarrass them by saying so.

      1. ggg*

        We’re not her employees though and in fact I was her boss for some time. She shouldn’t have been buying us anything!
        In the end we got her department store gift cards and that worked well; she will sometimes show us the nice things she bought with them.

  11. raincoaster*

    Many years ago I worked for a household name coffee company. Year one of their operations in Canada, everyone got a turkey. Gradually over the years it ratcheted down to the point where one year we each got a single apple. One year we got nothing, called HQ, and were told that the bags of popcorn our last shipment of decorations was packed in were our gifts. One year the company made a deal for their coffee to be served on a certain airline, and everyone got a $15 gift certificate to that airline, which obviously offers no flights where $15 is even a blip.

        1. Nanc*

          Right? Richard Saunders deserved an Emmy for that performance. BTW, Cincy Shirts sells a really nice WKRP turkey drop t-shirt. My family always wears them at Thanksgiving and we don’t even like Turkey.

      1. Clisby*

        A LOT of turkeys don’t make it through Thanksgiving. – Jennifer Marlowe, on the phone with an enraged humane society representative

    1. turquoisecow*

      A $15 airline gift certificate? I’m surprised you can even get them with an amount that low. Doubt it would even cover a drink on the flight.

    2. No Longer Working*

      This is kinda off-topic but your popcorn used as packing material reminded me…. Years ago, loose popcorn WAS actually used as packing material. A neighbor got a lamp delivered and a bunch of us were outside playing and our eyes opened wide to see the huge box filled with popcorn getting thrown out…. and I sent a younger kid home to get a salt shaker. I was too young to know it wasn’t for human consumption.

    3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Was it at least a good apple, or was it one of those mealy red delicious that aren’t even worth eating?

  12. Notmyrealpseudonym*

    Our safety initiative committee gave us beautiful logo’d mugs, lovely huge ones – that had a shiny gold enamel on the outside. They were neither dishwasher nor microwave safe. About an hour later, they came and took them all back after someone microwaved one and caused major, massive sparking, panicking half a lunch room.

    1. Season of Joy (TM)*

      I definitely killed a snowman mug that had a pretty shiny around the mouth by microwaving it…

      Just this past weekend my FIL nearly caused a fire at our Christmas get together trying to reheat some leftovers on a paper plate….that had foil designs on it. Why in the world would you make a non-decorative paper plate with foil designs on it??

    2. Missing person*

      Many moons ago, our safety committee held a half-day “Safety Superbowl” offsite extravaganza. The t-shirts they gave out said “Safety is #1”. Unfortunately, the exaggerated way the ‘1’ was printed caused it to look more like a ‘7’. So, “Safety is #7”, which was actually pretty accurate.

      The catered buffet lunch looked like dog food, so several coworkers and I went out for lunch on our own dime. About 2 hours after everyone else got back to work, they started dropping like flies. People puking in trashcans, running for the restrooms and going home hours early.

      Yes, the Safety Superbowl lunch buffet gave everyone food poisoning.

  13. Ragged and Rusty*

    We’ve banned Secret Santa’s and now do exclusively White Elephants after multiple years of multiple people forgetting to even bring presents. (This is after attaching an interests list to the name for the random drawings).
    So now the point is to get weird. Prior to 2020 someone gave a 4 pack of nice TP and a gift card. Someone else gave a screaming goat figure.

    1. Hmm*

      Sounds like people didn’t care or maybe couldn’t afford Secret Santa. I may totally be wrong, but now you made it White Elephant to drive the participation?
      White elephant exchange in my mind should be funny. People putting interests sounds like there is an expectation of certain gift/amount. What parameters are put on the gifts and the amount spent? I hope you are not expecting too much out of your employees, regardless of what they’re hourly rates are. Times are tough and people have personal responsibilities that come with a budget.

      1. GoLightly*

        I think the draw of White Elephant is that in the original spirit of the event, the gifts should be random things from home so no money would have to be spent. Anything can be a funny gift out of context. They’ve evolved to include new gifts and prank gifts in lots of workplaces, but I would think almost anywhere it would still be okay to regift something.

        1. Becca*

          I did that once (mostly I forgot until last minute) and people were complaining it was too nice, definitely over the limit.

          1. Becca*

            It wasn’t that nice. It was a used kids book. For teenagers (tho theatre kids so might not have been as hung up on it being uncool as other teenagers would).

            1. GoLightly*

              Honestly, that is the struggle with White Elephant – you always end up with a mix of legitimately nice gifts and legitimately crappy gifts, even if you mention it’s okay to regift things!

              1. triss merigold*

                Once my sister was invited to a white elephant exchange but it was actually just a regular Yankee swap and her present that she brought was very much not in the spirit of actual gifts. I blame the organizers for using the wrong words but it was pretty uncomfortable for her.

        1. Jaydee*

          I think the issue was that with Secret Santa they’d have 20 people sign up for it, draw names, then the day to exchange gifts would come and a few people would forget to bring a gift (or “forget” to bring a gift) meaning some people who participated didn’t receive anything.

          With white elephant, if you forget to bring something the day of, you just don’t participate. Only people who brought a gift participate, so everyone who brought something is guaranteed to get something.

          1. Ragged and Rusty*

            That’s exactly it. It’s a mixture of helping with participation and also making sure the that someone didn’t get a $20 USD gift for someone but got nothing in return. The group largely wants to do this, or I’d just let it die off as a tradition.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              Yeah, one employer that did a gift swap set a budget limit, and then did the yankee gift swap. I brought a nice set of adult coloring books and a fair sized pack of colored pencils. It was popular.

      2. A Simple Narwhal*

        I think the point is that with a White Elephant there’s always enough gifts to go around because you bring one in order to participate and if you forget, then no big deal, you give nothing you get nothing. But with a Secret Santa, you have a specific person to get something for, and if you forget then you’re probably still getting a gift and there’s someone who brought a gift who gets nothing. So White Elephant is an easy way to make sure no one who wants to participate is left out.

        And it does sound like they’re being funny with the White Elephant, since they mention nice TP and screaming goat figures as gifts. You’re totally right that some offices are awful with Secret Santas and demand participation and too high gift prices, but I’m not immediately seeing it in this instance.

        1. Ragged and Rusty*

          Our limit has been $20 after we all discussed, and some of them were actually forgetting, and a couple were “forgetting” out of spite because they drew someone they didn’t like. This year I got a T-Rex boiled egg mold to give out because it’d make at least 4 of my team members laugh.

      3. ecnaseener*

        I think the point of switching to white elephant is that if you forget to bring your gift, you just don’t take a gift – no harm done. Vs a secret Santa, if you forget to get/bring someone their gift then it’s too late to assign them a new Santa.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Whoops, and i see the whole peanut gallery chimed in with me while I was typing! Didn’t mean to add to a pile-on lol

      4. HellifIknow*

        I think the reason for the switch, is with a Secret Santa if people forget, someone who bought a gift will not get one, but with a White Elephant, it’s limited to the people who brought in a gift, and the swap is between all of those folks. So, there’s no “oh crap I forgot Sue’s present” nonsense.

        1. HellifIknow*

          Ok I should read an entire thread before I throw in my 2 cents, I see! Sorry for the repeated, redundant, and repetitive comment :)

      5. Le Sigh*

        One year someone brought an entire rotisserie chicken, freshly purchase from the nearby grocery store (they bought it right before the event so it wasn’t sitting out long). Rotisserie chicken + an office full of competitive adults = absolute white elephant chaos.

    2. Anon for This*

      Our gift exchange game one year included a box of 5-1/4″ floppies and miscellaneous cables from IT. The recipient was not pleased.

      1. Worldwalker*

        Having a computer with a 5.25” drive (even if it is in a closet) and a constant need for weird, and frequently obsolete, cables, that sounds great. Yes, I know I’m one of like five people who would think that, and I know three of the others.

    3. Netlawyer*

      That’s the crazy thing about white elephants – some places do it nice – so there are bottles of wine and gift cards. Others you are supposed to being something weird. My mom got invited to one and thought it was supposed to be weird so she went to goodwill and bought something funny, and well it was one of the nice ones.

      At my former job, you’d bring something you already had at home – so passing along something in like-new condition rather than buying something. The first year at my current job, I did the same and the person who got my gift (chalkboard contact paper and a pack of chalk that I wasn’t going to use which I thought would be good for someone with kids) was like “eww, this has already been opened.”

      So live and learn.

  14. Please, not like this*

    One year, the CEO (my boss’s boss) came up to my desk and insisted I open my gift from her in front of her. It was makeup. I was one of a very few women in my area and none of my male coworkers got anything.

    1. The Eye of Argon*

      Wow, singling you out and woman-shaming you for not living up to HER standards of “femininity” in front of your male coworkers. I hope she never has a plunger handy when she needs one.

      1. Please, not like this*

        Yeah it was pretty bad. And I’m someone who wears dresses to work everyday! I just save makeup for special occasions.

    2. Frickityfrack*

      Wooow, that is really flippin rude. My boss once gave me makeup, but she knew makeup is one of my hobbies and also knew that I loved the brand in question but couldn’t afford to buy much of it. If she’d just rolled up with some eyeshadow like it was a hint, I would’ve been so annoyed.

      1. Netlawyer*

        When I was a supervisor – I received a makeup palette from a new team as a gift my first year. I’m not a makeup person and just chalked it up them delegating gift selection to someone who was. Didn’t take it one way or another and just appreciated the gesture bc most other teams didn’t exchange gifts. (And bc of whole dynamics around gifts and the fact my previous team was really close and did gifts – I did homemade gifts every year. So sewed zipper bags out of fun fabrics, made cookies, felted dryer balls … that sort of thing. Everyone else would do similar – so one person took a trip to the UK so we each got a British flag fidget spinner for Christmas, or macadamia nuts if someone had taken vacation in Hawaii. It was actually very thoughtful and nice – never expected or required but we just sorted ended up using our staff meeting the second week of December every year to exchange our little gifts. I miss them.)

    3. Bagpuss*

      Woah, that’s rude. (I would have been very upet had someone done that to me when I was younger. I have a bunch of contact allergies and as a result, wear make up very, very rarely (becasue what tends to happen is I find something I think is safe anthen after using it a frew times find that my unhelpfully over-zealous immune system has jut been biding its time before deciding that Nope… I have thrown out so much expensive, partly used make up.. When I was younger I was pretty self-conscious about not being able to wear make up, and whther it made me look unprofessional)

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        If someone gave me makeup or perfume I would have been ticked. I’m non-binary, but AFAB. I am allergic to most perfume, and most makeup irritates my skin. Fortunately I tend to work on the engineering side and I don’t get that much fem coded stuff.

  15. Hannah Lee*

    While I’ve been involved with Secret Santas and Yankee Swaps that have had their quirks, and have seen a few OTT battles where the gloves came off over for $15 bottles of Kahlua, and one old sign and unwieldy sign from our old location that got regifted year after year (represented by a decoy gift under the tree, which when opened revealed a message “you’ve picked the sign”)

    But the weirdest one to me was a White Elephant Yankee Swap at my previous company.

    The idea was for people to re-gift something they had but didn’t need or use. Like, a coffee table book or cookbook they’d had that they’d wouldn’t ever use, or box of soaps, or a bottle of white wine when they only drank red. People put in some great stuff.

    But one guy who either didn’t understand the instructions or thought he’d be funny, put in an old candle … like a formerly 3″ tall candle in a plain glass cup that had been burned down to almost nothing. It was sooty and also dusty. It was basically trash. The guy who’d brought it giggled when it was being opened, giving himself away. And to a person, the rest of us were like “not funny, not okay, dude, why on earth did you bring that? did you not see the instructions?” Our manager wound up following up with the person who got stuck with it and slipping them a DD gift-card.

    1. Ashloo*

      That’s really obnoxious. Re-gifting swaps have actually become my favorite type because most of the stuff is useful. Otherwise, I would just like clear rules so everyone knows going in whether it’s jokey crap or meant to be desirable.

      1. ferrina*

        Hmm, I wonder if the manager had pre-planned to have a gift card in case a crappy gift came up. I’m hoping they did- I would love this (new life goal: become the manager with the Just In Case Gift Card)

        1. Foyer Office*

          I worked for a total psycho at my last job and people quit so regularly because of her (like the whole office turned over in 6 months, including me!) that I kept a bunch of thank you/good bye cards and Amazon gift cards in my office drawer in case someone quit on the spot.

    2. Girasol*

      I dunno. I’ve done Yankee Swap where people brought the most unloveable things they’d ever been given, new or used – a box of powerfully scented soaps with one missing, ugly monogram towels from a wedding, that thing from the bottom of the office supply closet – and people laughed and fought over them and ended up going home in good humor mostly with something just as useless as what they’d brought. It makes sense to me. You give things of value to people you love, but why waste money and effort on a team building event when you can have such a ball making jokes over who brought or got the funniest junk?

      1. T*

        The difference between what you’re describing and what happened here is whether or not everyone agrees that that’s the point of the exchange.

        If you’re told to bring something nice, put in some thought and effort to find something worthy of re-gifting, and end up with a piece of trash, that’s kind of a bummer.

      2. Missing person*

        I once came into possession of a mantle clock made from a wood burl. It was fine, but it looked like a tombstone and I didn’t have a mantle. I took it to the White Elephant exchange and watched in awe as people nearly got in fist fight over it.

        It was more popular than the bottle of Jack.

        1. Artemesia*

          The most fought over gift in a yankee swap I have seen was a toy submarine for the bathtub. We were among the only people there with a toddler and I hoped to keep it, but no — everyone wanted the dang thing. It was a very nice toy.

          1. Netlawyer*

            The most coveted item at our gift swap today was a neck massager that draped over your shoulders. It gave people an opportunity to make (mostly lighted hearted but somewhat pointed) digs at the big boss about being stressed. It was out of play after three steals but people kept making jokes about it. (And we did some silly games – which I was not expecting – and one person challenged the massager-having person to a game *for the massager* – it was a game where you blow ping pong balls between cups of water(????) we collectively dubbed it the super spreader game so it only went one round and the original person kept the massager.)

          2. Francie Foxglove*

            Bright pink pig wearing a biker jacket and cap. Chris P. Bacon. So fought-over, woman who ended up with him went immediately to her car and put him in the trunk.

    3. Mrs Vexil*

      The last holiday white elephant at my workplace, some people (like me) brought nice stuff they just didn’t use. Some people brought junk and weird stuff. The weirdest was my co-worker who made a pair of slippers out of (new) maxipads, then wrapped them in an annoying “huge box with 4 more nesting boxes inside” wrap job. I ended up with 3 vouchers worth around $4.00 from a used book and CD store 15 miles across town.

    4. MAC*

      I’ve been in a couple of these types of gift exchanges where people definitely had different perceptions of what the expectations were. At one, the gift I opened was a broken, rusted out electric can opener. Other gifts in the mix were wine, gourmet popcorn sets, and plush throws. I was pretty young and new to this networking/sales tips group and despite my STELLAR acting skills (LOL), my puzzlement and disappointment must have been obvious because someone took pity on me and “stole” my can opener so that I ended up with a nicer gift. At a different job, I ended up with a sad clown figurine – the person who brought it was 100% a clown (in the “he’s a total jerk” way, not in the “he’s such a goofball” way), so it was appropriate at least. My mom & sister have a hilariously embarrassing story about *being* the ones who brought the awful gift because nobody explained to them what that group’s definition of “white elephant” meant. We ALWAYS ask clarifying questions now.

    5. Elevated Learning*

      I’ve found the regifting swaps frequently highlight financial inequality across the board in my workplace. We starting the “regifting” idea for the gift swap as a sustainability initiative, but it quickly became apparent that people with great means have nice, funny, or interesting things to regift while those without means do not and it gets REAL awkward.
      I still remember the feeling when the person who walked away with a set of “tacky” (but definitely still quite nice) wineglasses mentioned in passing that they were going to try to sell them to help cover their bills. They made around $15/hour, the person who brought the glasses made $100k/year.
      We don’t do gift exchanges like that any more (we’ve also had several salary reviews since then, but the nature of the company is that there’s always going to be a wide range).
      The best approach I heard recently was a company that funded the White Elephant exchange themselves. They chose a variety of gifts that were similar in price, wrapped them, and ran the exchange as usual. They tried hard to make sure there weren’t any “dud” gifts, and participation was fully voluntary- you just had to RSVP to make sure they had the right number of gifts. This also didn’t count as the company Christmas gift. Those were gift cards distributed earlier, the White Elephant things were just a bonus for anyone who wanted to participate.

    6. t-vex*

      My former company used to do Yankee Swaps and the best year was the one where, completely by accident, 75% of the people brought a Snuggie as a gift.

  16. Cat Tree*

    I’m a woman in a male-dominated industry (engineering). Years agomi worked at a place with a male boss, 5 other engineers (all men), and 2 lower paid technicians (both women). My boss got gifts for everyone with his own money, which I guess was a nice gesture. The men all got individual gifts relevant to their interests, such as a bottle of wine, gear with the person’s favorite sports team, or even just a Target gift card. But there were no repeats among the men; at least some thought had gone into picking an individual gift. All three women got the exact same gift. One year it was throw blankets and the next year scented candles. I used to feel bad for being disappointed because he didn’t have to get us anything. But honestly I would have preferred nothing to spare me the hassle of throwing away the useless home decor.

    Maybe it’s not the most egregious example, but was one of the constant little reminders that I didn’t really fit in with the group and would always be an outsider.

    1. Morgan Proctor*

      Nope! This is egregious. It reminds me of the Susan Fowler’s story she told in her essay “Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber,” where all her male coworkers got leather jackets, but because the jacket manufacturer didn’t make a jacket small enough for her, she got nothing. She was then told that her getting nothing was “equitable” because the company would have had to go out of its way to find a solution for her, and that wouldn’t have been fair to her male colleagues. Toxic, toxic stuff.

      1. In the corner*

        On a recent project, I was the only one who didn’t get a team shirt because they didn’t order any women’s sizes. I put in a lot of extra time and effort on that (very successful) project, won’t be doing that ever again.

      2. Missing person*

        I used to work in an industry where we had to have fire retardant uniforms. I could wear the men’s shirt, but no way in hell was I going to attempt to wear the men’s pants. The only women’s FR pants available were cargo/carpenter pants.

        The amount of carping I had to put up with because I had ‘nicer’ pants than the men. Never mind the fact I couldn’t get electrical gloves that fit, nitrile gloves that fit or that I was expected to crawl in all the wet, grimy little holes because I fit and they didn’t.

        1. Morgan+Proctor*

          I worked a job that required me to wear nitrile gloves everyday. The gloves available were L and XL. This was a male-dominated role in a female-dominated industry. My boss was a woman. She VERY RELUCTANTLY bought me a box of XS gloves, and then passive aggressively muttered, “These are expensive so you better not quit.”

          I did quit, though not at that moment. There were many moments before and after that when I should have quit on the spot.

          1. Rocket Raccoon*

            After years of working in kitchens that didn’t stock XS gloves, I started buying my own to cover the first few weeks until the buyer could get some. I still keep a box or two around the house. Misfitting gloves suck.

      3. ScruffyInternHerder*

        This (behavior) is so typical in male dominated industries, that our at the time new safety director was shocked that I was profusely thankful that he took the time to order me PPE that fits. He didn’t just hand me the off-the-shelf made for a man twice my size stuff, he actually found out what size company shirts I typically requested, and got me size specific PPE.

        That the previous safety directors had to a one sent me to the field in ill fitting gear appalled him when he found out about it. Maybe there is hope for my industry.

    2. Quinalla*

      Ugh, another woman who works in engineering here. Not a holiday thing – for that he gave either real bonuses or gift cards to everyone depending how much $$ we made that year – but he would sometimes give just the women in the office a dozen roses or potted plants. It was clearly fundraiser stuff for his kids that he would buy and then gift to us, but it was so uncomfortable to have gendered gifts. He meant well truly, but ugh it sucked. He really should have just given them to everyone, FYI some guys like flowers too or will regift to someone and some women actually don’t like flowers and will also regift to someone. And it was also extra awkward since he didn’t get the guys anything so it seemed really ungrateful to be like, um please stop giving gifts to just one gender. If it happened today, I’d totally speak up, but this was almost 20 years ago where this kind of stuff was usually a /shrug.

      1. Meaghan Halligan*

        I am also a female engineer in a mostly male industry, and just went to an event in the fall that was recognizing people who were leaving a board after serving their time there. The man (1) who was leaving got a gift certificate to a sports store, the women (3) got, in no particular order, a spatula, a walking trails with your kids book, a cooking with your kids cookbook, a cookie cutter, a transformer that transformed from a car into a sexy woman, and a speech from the (of course male) president about how he was “amazed that these women could do such an amazing job with kids at home”. I complained to the other female board member an told it was “just the way he was”. We really need to do better.

        1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

          I am AGHAST. That collection of gifts is like a conceptual art installation about sexism.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          Ugh. As a CF enby, I would have been very annoyed at the “with your kids” stuff.

  17. Starchy*

    I was 16 years old working at a Veterinarian office and my male boss gave me lace underwear for Xmas, which apparently his girlfriend had picked out for me.

    1. Llama Identity Thief*

      >”which apparently his girlfriend had picked out for me.”

      Assuming that wasn’t a CYA lie from the boss, that’s the detail to take it from “astonishingly creepy and disgusting” to “still astonishingly creepy and disgusting, but with an added dose of WTF hilarious given emotional distance.”

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, like… I thought I knew what type of creepy this was, but it’s actually a different and unexpected type of creepy!

      1. Cat Tree*

        My eyebrows rose so high they circled all the way around my head to land in their original position.

    2. The Person from the Resume*

      Awful, but I am absolutely picturing the lazy male boss shoving the emotional labor of gift shopping for HIS employee onto his young (early 20s) ditzy girlfriend, and her with the best intentions in the world thinking that the 16 year girl old would love some fancy underwear.


      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        See my mind went the other way. Weaponized incompetence by the girlfriend… “He told ME to do HIS Christmas shopping? I can make sure he never does that again!”

        1. The Person from the Resume*

          That is another possibility I envisioned. She not ditzy and clueless, she’s pissed off that she’s being asked and possibly haranged by him to do the “woman’s job” of buying presents. But that’s quite mean to the poor employee so I hope it was good intentioned cluelessness.

      2. Turtle*

        I was picturing more like the vet asking his girlfriend what women like to get for Christmas, and the girlfriend thinking he meant “what do *you* want for Christmas *wink wink*” and pointing out the fancy underwear she likes.

    3. Can't Sit Still*

      This is worse than the work lingerie party (read: old-fashioned bridal shower). At least we were all adults!

    4. Vito*

      At my second job out of college (first job lasted 13 weeks) 0ne of the CSR’s (older woman.) gave me a pair of Christmas bikini underwear and had me open it in front of all the female workers in the office. she was a really nice lady but is really creepy (and the correct size.)

  18. Ho-ho-holey hose*

    We just had our holiday party yesterday, and they had a raffle draw for prizes. My one co-worker got this giant gift wrapped basket. After the party we were chatting and a few of us asked him what he won. He opened it and revealed….a 6 pack of coke. Christmas themed coke, but still… they probably would have been better off doing fewer presents and putting more in the ones they had!

  19. M of the North*

    In 2019 someone decided we should do Secret Santa at the office. In addition to the gift at the end, a few of us also did some extra stuff like leave some treats or funny little notes or did VERY innocent pranks earlier in December.
    One day, someone had double-taped someone’s office supplies to her desk as a little prank. Well, one item – a privately purchased notebook (used for work stuff) – got a little torn when removing it from the desk. The recipient was INFURIATED and went on a huge rant targeting her main suspect – a coworker who was the office prankster, but who also was innocent!
    So who was the culprit? The CEO! The recipient didn’t know how to target the CEO with her fiery anger, the CEO was embarrassed about the outcome, and that was the one and only year we did Secret Santa in the office.

    1. KateM*

      Speaking about killing a fly with a cannonball, wouldn’t it have made sense to just ban pranks in office?

  20. CreepyPaper*

    I think this year’s one that we got kind of qualifies. We get a little personalised food hamper every year and we are asked to fill out a thing which details any allergies or things we can’t eat for various reasons…

    …this year I received a hamper full of products which I am violently allergic to.

    Thanks, I guess! I’ve informed the person responsible for the hampers that I was basically given a lovely personalised gift that could kill me, and thank you very much but could I possibly swap it for something a little less… lethal?

    1. Siege*

      I want this to be an episode of a sitcom. Sort of Passions meets The Devil Wears Prada. Clueless Intern is handed a stack of forms by Cruella De Boss, who snaps orders to “get those gift baskets assembled!” as she sweeps out the door to a fancy corporate social-climb, where she will try to shiv the CFO for interrupting her attempt to drug the CEO so he’ll hand over the company to her.

      Meanwhile, Clueless Intern makes haste to the stacks of boxes and baskets and all manner of containers and begins building gift baskets, going religiously down the list and carefully ONLY including the marked items. There should be a training montage here.

      Cut to: ~1 week later~

      In the fallout from Cruella De Boss’s theft-and-murder attempt, someone finally sees the list Clueless Intern was using. “My god!” Sane New Boss exclaims! “These are the lists of allergies!”

      And it is at that moment that Clueless Intern flees for the relative simplicity of her rural upbringing, taking her into an entirely different genre of film. The End.

      1. IndustriousLabRat*

        There ya go, instead of a sitcom episode, there you have the perfect first half-hour setup to a Hallmark Christmas Movie.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yes, this is the perfect setup to “career girl forced to leave prestigious internship and return to her humble beginnings where she and the boy-next-door rekindle their romance”.

          1. Madame Arcati*

            And she gets a job at a bakery to help out a wise and kindly older man with a white beard, who shows her the True Meaning Of Christmas and advises her to let love and joy into her heart but mysteriously disappears on Christmas Eve. In the final scene as she shares a magical kiss with OldFlame by the Christmas tree in the town square, she sees a twinkling light crossing the sky and hears the wise old man laughing, Ho Ho Ho, as the snow starts to fall…

    2. Zombeyonce*

      I feel like this is something I would do accidentally. I sometimes have difficulty thoroughly reading instructions (thanks, ADHD) and can see myself reading the list and interpreting it as a list of wants rather than a list of 50 ways to kill your colleague.

        1. Emily H*

          Just poison his snack, Jack
          Hit him with a frying pan, Stan
          Crush him with a highboy, Roy
          Just get yourself free

          1. Madame Arcati*

            Feed him cheap-ass rolls, Joel
            Stab him with a paper clip, Chip
            Confront him by Wednesday of this week, Malik…

    3. OtterB*

      Oh dear. Sounds almost like someone misread the list of Don’t Give for a list of Please Give. I was thinking of a similar, but much less hazardous, problem when I suggested a gift for myself this year by saying “I like any of the colors except the lavender.” I am now waiting to receive my lavender whatsit.

      1. KateM*

        They do say that don’t tell [toddlers, dogs, coworkers, etc] what they shouldn’t do but what they *should* do. “Not” is a word which so easily slips from memory and all that you remember when you are in the shop is “ah, there was something about lavender”.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Yup, positive reinforcement is usually more effective than negative, but IMHO allergies are an instance where you absolutely need to say what you cannot have. I mean, especially since the list of things one is allergic to is usually a lot shorter than the list of things one is not allergic to, but also because it’s easier for someone to say “oh, they said that they are allergic to pineapple. Is there pineapple in this?” rather than trying to guess what things *might* be okay.

        2. MAC*

          There was a hilarious Dave Barry column about this, him trying to train his dog Zippy not to pee on the carpet. Alas, all Zippy’s walnut brain retained when the urge hit was “Blah blah blah … something about the rug. YES – TO THE RUG”

        3. MigraineMonth*

          This is also a staple of teaching. Never write something incorrect on the board; one of your students will copy it down in their notes.

        4. GammaGirl1908*

          Not to generalize, but I also run into this when ordering at fast-food drive-throughs. Whether I tell them what I DO want on my burger (yes: lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard) or what I DON’T want on my burger (no: mayonnaise, pickle, ketchup), I get at least part of the wrong set, usually after they argue with me that the sandwich I have chosen does not actually come with pickle, so they can’t leave it off (or, alternatively, that adding tomato is an extra charge). Sigh.

    4. DataGirl*

      last year we got a food box from work- it was not personalized and full of things I am allergic to (gluten, nuts). At least they didn’t include meat or alcohol.

      This year we got a $25 gift card to a grocery store (one I don’t normally shop at) from the President- who has a $10,000,000 /year salary. Somehow I’m having a hard time appreciating it.

      1. BubbleTea*

        Ten. Million. Dollars. Why would anyone ever earn that amount of money a year? I won’t earn that much in my entire life.

    5. HellifIknow*

      Hah this reminds me of my husband. I have repeatedly mentioned the one wine I absolutely hate and cannot drink, as it gives me an instant migraine. Whenever he stops to pick up wine…it’s the only name he remembers and he proudly brings home “that wine you like!”…. cue the Sigh.

      1. Artemesia*

        told my mother I don’t like or drink herbal tea — she remembered ‘tea’ and I got a giant assorted pack of fancy herbal teas for Christmas. Promptly donated it to our break room at work where it was welcome.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Slightly off-topic, but my roommate and I have been buying Braeburn apples for years, both of us thinking that the other really liked them.

    6. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind the Curtain*

      I would immediately think that you got the wrong hamper meant for someone else and the “To” card just got mixed up.

  21. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    This reminds me of the company where we got a box of Christmas fixings like stove top stuffing and crap instead of s sensible gift card and then my mom made fun of me for getting food relief.

    Also a different company gave me beans and a turkey for Thanksgiving. My company now does it right by simply giving me days off, although I did get coasters with the company name for 3 years of service. ( An unusually long time to work with company, yes but still strange)

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Also my dad’s coworker used to give him handmade nativity scenes. Like dad doesn’t… celebrate Christmas? He’s technically a Jehovah’s Witness?

    2. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      Decades ago, when my husband had just started at his job and was the lowest-paid person, he got a gift box of food. It was mostly dented cans and items past their expiration dates, so completely unusable.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Ugh. I shop at our local factory seconds food store. They don’t even sell past date stuff.

  22. The Eye of Argon*

    (I posted this in “share your funniest office holiday stories” earlier this month, but I’m reposting it because it fits so well here!)

    My first job out of college was at a department store. One of my coworkers, “Carol,” was an older woman who was nice but quirky: she hoarded paper products like toilet paper and paper towels, and this was 20+ years before Covid so that wasn’t her reason. She also hoarded underwear – unopened packages of Jockey women’s briefs. She admitted to having about 100 packs of undies in one closet, and every time Jockey came out with a new color combo she had to add it to the stash. When we had to evacuate our town due to a flood threat the first thing she made sure to pack up to take with her was her underwear stash.

    Come the holidays, each department had a little party on Christmas Eve and we exchanged gifts with each other. Usually fairly inexpensive things, with slightly fancier gifts given by the manager. When Carol was handing out her gifts, she handed me a bag and solemly said that she hated to give it up, but I deserved something special.

    So I dig in and pull out a 3-pack of Jockey women’s briefs, one size too small, taken from her precious underwear stash. In front of all our other coworkers from the department and any customers who were around.

    I knew how much it meant to give up a package from her stash, so I thanked her fulsomely and spent the rest of the day shaking my head.

    Yes, I did wear them because they were nicer than anything I had at the time, even though they were a size too small and given to me by a coworker.

    (There wasn’t anything sexual or pervy about it. It was just Carol being Carol: she had no boundaries, no shame, and was just a bubble out of plumb overall.)

    (Afternote: I call it “hoarding” because that’s what Carol herself called it, tongue in cheek. It wasn’t the sort of thing that created a health or safety hazard. Carol is now 92, and as sharp and feisty and kooky as ever.)

    1. AngelicGamer*

      I am not surprised about Carol still being sharp at 92! Has she given up her ways or is she still “hoarding”? :) Although her TP stash probably became very useful a few years ago.

        1. RIP Pillow Fort*

          I fully expect that Carol gazed upon her glorious TP collection and said quietly “your time has come.”

      1. The Eye of Argon*

        They did have to break into the paper products stash, although it broke her heart. But according to her son in law, who I see a few times a year, her comments were along the lines of “You all thought I was crazy for hoarding this stuff, but you’re not laughing at me now, are you?”

        She still has the closet full of undies, though I don’t know if she’s still adding to it since she can’t drive anymore.

        1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Some lucky women’s shelter is going to be the happy but bewildered recipient of a hoard of vintage unused undies sometime in the next decade.

        2. GammaGirl1908*

          I am always getting teased for being reinforced for the wrong thing (like, I’m usually late … and then the one time I’m early, everyone else is late, or the thing gets canceled or delayed, et cetera).

          Carol is glorying in the reinforcement given to her by the pandemic.

  23. JAnon*

    This was during a particular tough year where my boss had done nothing to the point that he almost was fired and I was the one doing the work. I worked the morning of Christmas Eve in the office while he was at home and got an email from him that after signing off included “btw, merry christmas.” …thanks guy.

    1. rocklobsterbot*

      yeah, getting an email when I was the only one working Christmas Eve, addressed to everyone including the schmuck who had been barely working for years, about “thanks for all your hard work”. that hurt.

  24. Taylor*

    I once went to my office party before a formal embassy event, and planned to go directly from the first to the second. I wore very high heels and a more formal gown than the rest of my coworkers, even though the office party was at a five-star hotel. Everyone told me I looked nice and that I didn’t really stick out, but imagine my mortification when I won a raffle prize.

    Instead of small, compact prizes like everyone else got (AirPods, a Starbucks gift card, etc.) I won a gigantic espresso machine. Not only that, but they made me walk up in front of everyone and collect it. I had to teeter up onto the stage in my heels, accept the thing, and then wobble off. Naturally I slipped and it looked like I was taking a knee smack in the middle of the floor, and the entire room let out a soft gasp before I stood back up and made it to my seat. I was beet red *and* I had to go back to my house before the other party. I’m not sure whose idea it was to give away a ten pound espresso machine at a holiday party, but it wasn’t a good one.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Yikes! I prefer what my company used to do –anything too big to fit in a blazer pocket was given as a photo, info for the person whose office contained the prizes.

  25. Tree*

    I worked in a Big Law firm. To give you an idea of the atmosphere … We were in a management group. Think lawyers who became executives for the work-life balHAHAHAHA. Sorry, there was no work-life balance. Think ex-lawyers with even bigger control issues than practising lawyers so they decided to control the whole firm.

    We had a Secret Santa exchange. One person from our group couldn’t make it for legitimate medical reasons (that had our senior director apoplectic with rage, see above re control issues). You should know that her work persona was very, very reserved.

    The last present was earmarked for her. She had a chocolate allergy, so a couple of us decided to unwrap the present to make sure it didn’t include chocolate.

    It was a Christmas-themed, adult-sized onesie. With reindeer on it. Having sex. Some were having threesomes. They all appeared to be having enthusiastically-consented to fun.

    The person who contributed the present was mortified when the group figured out what we were seeing, because she thought it was just a cute pattern and was trying to win the unofficial ‘I gave the most popular gift’ contest. She tried to throw it out. I was delighted, however, and offered to take it away and give our missing team member the candles I’d received.

    I still wear the humping reindeer onesie. (Not at work.)

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      That sounds like an awesome onesie, though entirely inappropriate for office gifting. And also, being allergic to chocolate makes my own extremely annoying food allergies sound less bad.

        1. Netlawyer*

          I have a flying squirrel onesie that was my go-to for Halloween at work since my team would dress up. One year my org had Marine Corps birthday early so I ended up attending with top management from my org and the then-head of my agency as a flying squirrel. I had to go with the bit so I swooped to the table to get my piece of cake that year. Luckily it was not career limiting and at least I thought it was funny.

      1. anonomized*

        While not technically allergic in the anaphylactic sense, I can’t eat chocolate anymore due to it causing me horrendous acid reflux issues, and I gotta say, it makes life significantly less cool to live.

    2. Mississippi*

      “ex-lawyers with even bigger control issues than practising lawyers so they decided to control the whole firm.”

      I’ve never read a more apt description of people who go into management in general.

    3. Jess*

      Funny how the holidays can be a time when those of us whose eyes are now more decorative than useful figure that out. I ate a tiny cylindrical slice of pepperoni that i thought was a pepper in a salad at our holiday potluck. Who knew pepperoni comes in the diameter of a pinkie? Anyway, I haven’t eaten meat since 1993. To the eye doctor I go in 2023.

      1. Noodles*

        Reminds me of the horror of a few years ago, when my ageing great auntie bought me a sexy gift set for Christmas. At first glance it could have been a cute toiletry set or something. It actually contained a mug with cartoon images of a man and woman in their smalls, some furry handcuffs, and some “love tokens”. My family is quite conservative and I unwrapped it in front of them. Then had to immediately hide it and be glad they didn’t ask questions.

        I gave the furry handcuffs to a friend for a joke; she was delighted.

        1. Cedrus Libani*

          I’ve also learned the value of thoroughly inspecting a gift the hard way. When I was a youngster, maybe eight years old or so, my dad let me pick out the anniversary card that he would give to my mom. I settled on a very pretty card, with flowers and a big block of text written in an elaborate cursive font…that I mostly couldn’t read, but from the bits that I’d puzzled out, it was a sappy love poem of some kind.

          My dad purchased the card, and we went on our way. A few days later, I was sat down for A Talk. It quickly became clear that I had no idea what I’d done. I had to sheepishly admit that I mostly couldn’t read the card, and then my dad had to admit the same. Unfortunately for us both, my mom was a secretary; she was used to such Victorian manuscript style scribblings, and could read it perfectly. More unfortunately, the card was indeed an anniversary card – the anniversary of the intended recipient’s divorce.

          Learned my lesson, and never made that mistake again.

          1. Karstmama*

            When I was little, daddy took me to the local tiny grocery to get mama a present. I don’t remember if it was birthday of Christmas, but I wanted to get her the box with the very happy woman on it so mama could be that happy. Yeah, no, thank goodness he had a bit of sense. It was a douche. She still uses the colander we got her instead.

  26. ILoveLlamas*

    A work colleague gave me poo-pourri. I simply stared at her. She stammered that she uses it as a general deodorizer at home, not just in the bathroom. I still stared. My work bestie, who is always up for an awkward gag gift, was beside me and even she was speechless. For the record (& TMI), our work bathrooms had deodorizer, so I always politely used it when appropriate. I quit 3 weeks later for a much better job….

    1. Siege*

      Scent allergies alone should suggest not doing that. I’d be like “Carol, I don’t care what you use it for, I don’t feel like spraying my home with migraine-inducing pain. I would rather fill it with pepper spray.”

    2. Love to WFH*

      That happened to me, too! I had never heard of the product, and laughed, thinking it was a gag gift. The coworker was embarrassed and hastened to explain that it really worked, which made her even more embarrassed.

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind the Curtain*

        Same. Someone left a small bottle in the bathroom, and eventually it was all used up, so I contributed a new bottle. I would never give it as a gift. Unlike the ones you spray around the room, this gets sprayed into the toilet so the smell doesn’t really linger much after you flush. It’s odd to me is that the coworker explained that she uses it as a room spray. It’s oily and not intended for that at all.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        I actually use that stuff if I have to go in to an office. It’s one of the few bathroom scent things that I’m not allergic to.

        I would never give it as a holiday gift, though.

    3. squirreltooth*

      At an old job, we had rampant complaining about poo smells in the bathroom (in retrospect, telling the young adults in their first job to get over it, people use the bathroom, would have been a better use of our time), so I suggested Poo-Pourri. Only it was still kind of a new product, so I was forced to send a company-wide email explaining how to use it. And then I was also the recipient of the rave reviews for the product, like I was its creator. (But not from the people who were complaining about poo smells—they just complained that the lemongrass smell still made it obvious that someone had pooped. I guess they wanted to live in a world where no one had any bodily functions ever.)

      1. John*

        I know it’s a polite fiction, but I’d prefer not to know what just happened in there and if I get hit with a face full of “Tropical breeze” I know someone just blew it up and the seat is probably still warm.

        Why hasn’t anyone invented wintergreen air freshener? I could lie to myself and imagine someone had just brushed their teeth after lunch.

    4. Bitter Angel*

      I have given Poo-Pourri. I have given it to all our employees. They love it. BUUUUUT….we own a plumbing company. Context is everything, folks! Our employees and their spouses find it hilarious, but I don’t think it would go over as well if we didn’t do what we do every day.

    5. Em*

      I was recently looking through some lists of office gift suggestions to get ideas for our exchange, and one of them actually suggested Poo-Pourri! I was absolutely baffled, but I guess she wasn’t the only one to think that was a reasonable gift.

    6. Worldwalker*

      It’s beyond weird for the office, but that stuff *does* work as advertised. I keep some in the bathroom for when I’ve eaten certain foods.

      But do *not* use it as a general deodorizer! It works by putting a thin oily film on the surface of the water; you don’t want that anywhere else. But after you’ve eaten industrial amounts of chili, at least if you have my intestinal flora, it’s invaluable.

      1. LIZZIE*

        Yes! I have digestive issues, and also am very sensitive to smells. I was visiting friends once, they had it, so I tried it out. It really smells nice, and it WORKS. I use it as well when I’ve eaten things that I know will upset my insides.

    7. GoodyScrivener*

      Poo-Pourri is actually one of my company’s clients, and yes the stuff is amazing. Just not as a gift, regardless of the occasion. And certainly not as air freshener/deodorizer.

  27. nessie*

    At my first full-time job, our Christmas party that year was at a local restaurant, with open bar provided by the company. I was still developing a sense for drinking norms and how much alcohol I could tolerate (not a lot!), so whenever people would order a round, I would get another drink too. This quickly worked against me when the accountant started ordering round after round of tequila shots. Thankfully I managed to stumble my way to the train and faceplant in my bed back home with no incident! And I now have a self-imposed one drink maximum at corporate events.

    1. Artemesia*

      long ago learned to have one cocktail at the company party and then switch to tonic with a twist — served me well.

  28. a red star of unknowable quality*

    This isn’t my story, but was passed on to me by another coworker named Jason, since it happened a few years before I started at my workplace.

    This is a story about Darcy, who was my boss for about a year after I was hired, before retiring. Darcy was a complete nightmare, evidenced by the multiple people who told me they were sorry they hadn’t warned me about her before I took the job. Anyway, Darcy was taking place in her first gift exchange within our department since she’d started. With only about 14 regular employees, we aren’t exactly huge, and once you’ve worked here for a short while, you tend to know at least the basics of who everyone is. And even if you don’t, there’s plenty of people you can turn to and say “hey, I don’t know this guy, what should I get him?”

    You already know where this is going. Maybe.

    Gift exchange starts, everyone gets their gifts…everyone except Jason. Things are a bit awkward, because he is the only one without a gift, and apparently has been passed over. But wait, there is still one gift left under the tree! Someone goes to pick it up, and Darcy tells them, “No, that’s for Theresa.”


    There is no one here named Theresa. There has actually *never* been anyone here named Theresa.

    So because there is one giftless person and one personless gift, Jason gets to open “Theresa’s” gift of a souffle dish. Because apparently, Theresa, who, again, does not exist, likes to bake.

    It turns out that yes, Darcy drew Jason’s name. And for some reason, as soon as she read his name, thought “Ah, yes, Theresa. I will get her a souffle dish.”

    A few years later, during the one holiday season that Darcy and I worked together, she gave me a weird little handmade vase (handmade by whom, I do not know) with clay bits stuck to it to give the vase the face of a grumpy old man with a beard. This was outside of the usual gift exchange. “It made me think of you,” she told me. Thanks.

    *All names fake, of course.

    1. What She Said*

      Wait, what?!

      “It turns out that yes, Darcy drew Jason’s name. And for some reason, as soon as she read his name, thought “Ah, yes, Theresa. I will get her a souffle dish.””

      1. a red star of unknowable quality*

        Yeah, I don’t know what wires got crossed, but she ended up doing her gift exchange shopping for this non-existent employee. Maybe someone from a previous workplace? Either way, I am pretty sure that souffle dish ended up at a thrift store somewhere.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Some people’s brainwires cross a lot more frequently than others’. I’m guessing Darcy is one of those people.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Hopefully Jason’s gift list included a baker, or someone who grows houseplants in untraditional containers.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah. This one is so very very strange. Darcy seems to live in an alternate universe and occasionally come visit this one, or else she is an actual alien living on Earth.

        1. a red star of unknowable quality*

          Darcy had so many moments that made me feel like “this lady is not from this planet.” Some of her more memorable ones:

          “I knew a guy who was pretty homely and his parents were too and it just made me think, thank goodness my parents were okay-looking.”

          (about movie theaters offering showings for neurodivergent kids with different sensory needs) “I didn’t even know you could take an autistic kid to the movies!”

          The time she had a space heater under her desk but pointed at her PC tower so it started melting a bit and the disc drive couldn’t close properly ever since.

  29. IndyDem*

    Our department gave out a coupon that allowed 1 extra work from home day (one time use) for the next year. Our busiest months are January and February, so you weren’t able to use them until March. It was December 2019 when they gave them out.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Okay its cute when kids give their parents coupons as gifts for things like I will do the dishes one extra night or Good for One Hug.

      But a coupon from your employer? For an extra day off? Why not just give everyone a floating holiday and not pretend its a GIFT from the company.

        1. EPLawyer*

          OMG I missed it was a work from home day. That makes it even worse. If you can randomly work from home day, you can do it any day.

      1. lb*

        It’s not even a day off though! It’s an extra *work from home* day! Obviously the timing made it spectacularly useless, but even in a non-pandemic year that’s only a so-so gift. Just giving everyone an extra day of PTO is 100% the right move.

        1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

          Interesting to read the perspectives! I would have actually enjoyed that. In many organizations PTO can be pretty rigid so this seems like a way to give some flexibility.

          1. LawBee*

            It’s still not a day off though. And if it were given to me it would be wasted, as I hate working from home.

            Weird tone-deaf gift.

          2. fhqwhgads*

            Permission to work from home for a single day, only allowed to be used starting in March 2020, when most of the world went into lockdown/everyone who could work from home was asked to do so. That’s the punchline.

      2. Name (Required)*

        Not even a day off! Just a day to work from home! And they couldn’t use it until March – of 2020.

        So not until Covid times when everyone worked from home anyway.

      3. Netlawyer*

        This was a WFH day – but I have in the past made up little cards using the “Get Out of Jail Free” Monopoly card to give folks who went above and beyond a day off under the table rather than having to go through the spot awards process to give them 8 hours of leave. Basically a WFH day where I wouldn’t check if they were actually working – *wink wink* *nudge nudge* *nowhadimean?*

    2. Mim*

      Oh that went from terrible to terribler!

      It reminded me of how for Valentine’s Day 2020 my kid’s teacher gave every kid in the class a coupon where they could choose a special lunch thing — things like lunch with the teacher, or a special indoor recess activity with a friend or something. It was really sweet, and she is the kind of teacher who kids would actually want to hang out with like that. She was basically committing to giving up 20+ planning/lunch periods to hang out with her kiddos as a special treat.

      Anyway, kiddo never got a chance to use it. Had that coupon up on the fridge for quite a while. So sad. (Almost 3 years later honestly still really sad that my kid got cheated out of 3 months of school with that teacher — she was so freaking amazing. One of those little covid consequences that isn’t really a big deal given the larger scope of the world, but makes me disproportionately upset.)

    3. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      I was thinking “That’s not a bad gift, actually! Not *great* but definitely useful!” until the unfortunate timing of it became clear. :/

    4. Hamburke*

      I mean, you could turn it around with positive spin and say that the coupon was greater than face value

  30. Best day ever*

    A boss one year got me a scented candle so stinky I knew what it was before even opening the box. It got even better when I pulled it out and discovered the glass had golden silhouettes of a full nativity scene and in giant gilded boss babe font was the phrase “best day ever!” wrapping around the container. I immediately texted photos of it to all my friends so we could cackle about it. It then spent a few days on our porch until I could donate it.

    1. Season of Joy (TM)*

      I long to see a picture of this candle. By the way, you don’t donate that, you save that for regifting!!

      1. Artemesia*

        Storing it in cellar or attic. I bought my granddaughter and daughter scented bath bombs for their stockings this year. I did my shopping locally and basically went into the Lush shop just to support the business.

        Those things stink so much that the whole back of our house is scented by them — I had to move them from the drawer I was keeping them in because they were smelling up the other gifts like sweaters and put them in the den closet with the printer — now the den and the guest room and back bathroom are all scented by them.

        1. Gumby*

          I have a special airtight glass container that I use for storing my Lush henna. I bring it to the store with me so my car doesn’t pick up the smell as much from the 3 mile trip between the mall and my house.

        2. Bagpuss*

          A fried once sent me a Lush gift box and even wothout unwrapping it I had to go put it in the shed so it didn’t stink out the whole house. It was a dead loss to me as scented products trigger my allergies, I gave it to a different friend who loved it.

        3. dot*

          Unless your attic gets hot enough to melt candles (as I unfortunately found out this year after moving into our new house which has an attic, which I’d never had before. I pulled out my fall decorations box to find that all the candles in there had melted all over everything else.)

    2. AFac*

      I understand that Jesus is the reason for the season, but somehow announcing His birth as the “Best day ever!” (or is it ‘Best day EVAR!’?) like a Spongebob meme struck me as unbelievably hilarious, and I’m not sure why.

      1. Best day ever*

        I personally read it as “evar” because that amuses me more. It was also puzzling because I knew she went to church but I sure didn’t and would make the occasional quip in the office about not being a church person. I don’t think it was an attempt to proselytize, she never did that. Normally she gifted us all small bottles of Prosecco, which I, at least, appreciated more!

  31. Anon For This*

    I used to love the stories my boss told of their management white elephant games. One year a someone brought a nice box with a piece of turf on the inside. Our high school football field had been redone with turf and I guess this was as a small left over piece. Or the year someone gave a portable toilet lid. So this gift was just the toilet lid, part you sit on and the it’s lid. The worst part is half of the gifts were gag gifts while the other half were really nice gifts. These two were extra special though.

  32. NoCookiesPlease*

    In my case, it wasn’t so much the weirdness of the gift as the situation.

    I had a director who gave out enormous tins of butter cookies to everyone on staff every year for the holidays. Nobody liked them. The thing was, she KNEW nobody wanted them, but she continued to do it. There was no escaping it. She’d show up with one of those little red wagons kids use and wheel the cookies around the building to everyone.

    One year I happened to be in the room where she had them stacked prior to wheeling them out. I tried to leave quietly without taking one (binge eating is a problem for me, so I try to limit my proximity to excess sweets) and made it halfway out the door before she demanded I come back and take a tin of cookies. I tried to politely demure, but no dice. She told me I wasn’t going anywhere without taking the cookies.

    1. Taking the long way round*

      Wow! Some people are definitely weird and it’s not a gift if you force it on someone!

    2. ThatGirl*

      Dump out the cookies and you have a wonderfully useful tin for sewing supplies or kitchen odds and ends :)

      1. Season of Joy (TM)*

        I was just talking about this with a friend this morning…always wondering as a child if this tin would have cookies, or if it were the old one with the sewing supplies!

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I have three of them in my office right now, and my husband was looking for a needle and thread last week and didn’t get the sewing one until his third attempt :) (He took cookie tax out of the first two.)

        2. EPLawyer*

          Apparently this use of cookie tins for sewing supplies is not just a US thing. Someone on Mastadon who is from Europe posted the same thing. I was all “oh you too, huh?”

          1. ThatGirl*

            I think every country and ethnicity thinks they invented it (along with a plastic bag full of other plastic bags).

          2. Vio*

            I’m in UK and my parents home as well as my maternal grandparents home were both filled with biscuit (our word for “cookie”, apparently a biscuit is a very different thing in US) tins containing all kinds of sewing supplies. Even though my mum would hardly ever find any time to do any sewing, there were still dozens of tins of different supplies in our home.

              1. Pippa K*

                My southern (US) grandmother would say darlin’ if they’re hard and flat you didn’t bake ‘em right.

      2. NoCookiesPlease*

        It was too big for an odds and ends tin. It was maybe 8x11x4-5 inches. Weighed several pounds when full of cookies. It was physically burdensome just to carry it home.

        Also the boss was an abusive narcissist, so I wasn’t about to keep anything that would remind me of her.

    3. Blisskrieg*

      I am one of the few people who loves those kind of cookies. Sign me up for a wagon of butter cookies!

    4. Artemesia*

      It would have been a service all around to collect them and take them to the nearest food bank. Plenty of families would enjoy a tin of butter cookies.

  33. NewJobNewGal*

    Bibles. The owners gave everyone pocket sized bibles.
    Just imagine walking to your desk and seeing a black book with a big white cross. And when you get close enough you realize it’s a bible. And then you see that they are on everyone’s desks.
    That’s some weird exorcism stuff.

    1. nm*

      Not a holiday gift but there were some missionary-types outside my office once and my office-neighbor had to go in and out several times for work reasons. He is just too much of a people-pleaser to say no to anyone about anything. So every time he passed through the doors, these people gave him another mini-bible and he just couldn’t say no. We still have them stacked in our office to this day.

    2. pookie*

      Awhile back I worked with a woman who was LDS. She got everyone in the office a one-year subscription to their national magazine. I try to be open minded so I read the first one. The rest went in the recycling bin before they got in the house.

      1. Primordial Nan*

        As someone who grew up LDS and has since left, I am SO sorry you were on the receiving end of the extremely pushy and offputting brand of missionary work the LDS church likes to mandate. AT WORK, no less. **shudders**

  34. Season of Joy (TM)*

    I’ve told this recently and it’s not that entertaining, but there was the time in my first job out of college where I brought a regifted infomercial microwave pasta cooker to the white elephant exchange, only to discover that people were taking it seriously and had brought nice, thoughtful gifts. I never owned up to the gift and guiltily wound up with the most coveted gift (a bottle of sparkling wine).

    Oh, there was also the time I worked at a fast food restaurant when I was 16 and one of the grill guys (aged 20) left me a gift under the mini-tree in the breakroom (a VHS of the movie Pleasantville, if anyone is keeping track). That was just awkward, especially when my manager encouraged me, over the headset with the gifter also on the headset, to accept a date with that guy.

      1. ggg*

        I brought some amusing 70s-era cookbooks to a white elephant and was also ridiculed for being the only person who didn’t bring a “nice” gift.

        However, the gift I got with was a cute cookie mix in a jar which turned out to have bugs in it, so I got my come-uppance, I guess.

        1. Season of Joy (TM)*

          I laughed at your come-uppance – I found out immediately after receiving the wine that I was pregnant, so I got mine as well!

      2. Season of Joy (TM)*

        I assume you mean the fast food place – I can’t remember how much longer I worked there, but I did go out on an entirely awkward date with the guy. I can still feel the cringey-ness of that experience.

        (If you mean White Elephant place, I also left that job a few weeks after Christmas)

    1. Thunderingly*

      I’ve done that. I brought a golden girls board game I thought was hilarious and other people had brought gift cards and so on.

    2. Oh, John*

      Not as bad as your story! But I had a coworker with whom I had an allllmost flirty thing going? Not quite, though. We were both awkward people in very different ways.
      Anyway, our supervisor gave said coworker a gift certificate to the suuuuper cheap movie theater nearby (movie tickets were I think $1.50) with a wink and a nod that coworker should take me on a date.
      1) that never happened
      2) supervisor was a fantastic boss and normal like 98% of the time, so this was so weird and out of character

    3. Rocket Raccoon*

      When my family moved to the US my mom signed me up for Girl Scouts to help me integrate. It was mostly a great experience, but still cringe when I remember the first holiday party I went to. They did a White Elephant exchange and explained to me that I should bring something “silly or useless” so I wrapped up an empty wine bottle.

      All the gifts were real gifts. Cheap, likely regifted, but real gifts. I got a little Christmas themed tin of Lifesavers. Still embarrassed.

      1. coffee*

        In Australia we have parties where you “bring a plate” – it’s basically what Americans call a pot-luck.

        My grandmother, a young war-bride who recently migrated from England to Australia, dutifully brought along a nice china plate – with nothing on it. Literally a plate.

        I hope that makes you feel less embarrassed. :)

    4. Gigi*

      I did something similar with the White Elephant at my job last year! I understood white elephant to mean silly, regifted, or secondhand. So I went to a thrift store, found a silly snowman clown statue, and wrapped it up. Got to work, we start the gifting and to my absolute HORROR everyone else had nice things. Not expensive, but nice. A mug with hot cocoa and cozy socks, a throw blanket, a multi-tool, a card game, hand cream collection. And to make it worse, mine was the last one left unopened (odd number of people) so the boss opened it in front of everyone and I had to own up to my misunderstanding. Luckily for me, one of my coworkers squealed with delight at seeing it and asked if she could have it, so now it lives in her house and she thinks it’s incredibly cute.

      1. LIZZIE*

        Therein lies the problem; people’s understanding of what a white elephant, yankee swap, dirty santa, or whatever you call it IS. My feeling is, if you’re going to do it, you need to be up front and clear about what the gifts are supposed to be. Since I think a lot of people have their own interpretation of what they are. This way no one is embarassed by bringing something that isn’t what the exchange is about.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          My go-to in those situations is something a) not gendered, b) both nice and lighthearted at the same time, and c) not likely to trigger allergies. Adult but not sweary coloring books fit the bill.

  35. Chichester*

    I already posted this in a previous thread but when I worked a mall retail job we never got gifts from corporate, except for one year when they sent us an enormous cardboard box supposedly full of “swag”. We were told not to open it until our store party, so of course we opened it immediately.

    Inside, for a staff of eight (8), we found one (1) beanie with the store logo, two (2) cheap plastic drawstring bags, also with the store logo, twelve (12) of the ugliest button pins you’ve ever seen that said “you are amazing!” in an almost unreadable font, and six (6) small unmarked boxes. When we opened the boxes they contained unbranded pop sockets which might have been cool except they were filthy. Covered in dirt. I have no idea how they got like that while still in the packaging.

    Even if we wanted any of this stuff, there was absolutely no way to divide it equitably. I also cannot stress enough how huge this box was and how little of the box the junk actually filled.

    We ended up giving the beanie to the youngest employee who had been taking a lot of customer abuse, a few people took the ugly pins and wore them as a joke for the next couple of days (I still have mine), and everything else went into the trash. Our manager was so disgusted that she damaged out a ton of candy and snacks and gave them out at the store party. Corporate never sent us anything again.

    1. IndustriousLabRat*

      On the 12th day of Forced Cheer, our Corporate gave to meeeee:
      Twelve ugly button pins,
      Six umarked boxes,
      Two drawstring bags,

  36. KareninHR*

    When I was in college, I worked in the lab a large medical office. One of the lab techs had a fun reputation throughout the facility – he was loud and funny and everyone liked him. He had a tradition of giving lap dances as a birthday gift, complete with a hot pink feather boa. People would call down to order these lap dances as a birthday surprise for other coworkers (for men or women – it didn’t matter). In reality, they were pretty mild and generally involved him shaking his butt at you and twirling the boa. I truly believe it was all intended in good fun (although as a current HR professional – I realize how EXTREMELY problematic this all was). On the last day of work before Christmas, he made the misguided decision to perform one of these lap dances as a “gift” for the (female) CEO. He was let go on January 1st.

  37. Frinkfrink*

    I *would* say that the oddest gift my institution (academia) ever gave us was the branded bottle of hand sanitizer we each got…except that was coincidentally the gift for fall commencement 2019 and shortly became the only useful workplace gift I ever received!

    1. NoCookiesPlease*

      My corporate job gave us all branded cloth masks in 2020, quite a while after the pandemic started.

      I had masks by then and was not interested in wearing that one.

      1. Season of Joy (TM)*

        I received a mystery branded cloth mask at my university on two occasions in 2021. To this day, I still don’t know why I got one, which department sent it, and why the other people in my department didn’t get one.

      2. Mim*

        We got those too! To be fair, it was not the main thing we got. But of course they were one size fits all, which means that they didn’t come remotely close to fitting most people properly. (I could practically cover my entire face with that thing. But it didn’t matter, because the non-adjustable ear loops would mean that it would just kind of hang there under my nose anyway.)

        1. Sanity Lost*

          My poor son has a large head (he is 6’7 so proportionately speaking, its right) and they were required to wear the company branded ones. Only problem was he couldn’t stretch it from ear to ear, so he asked me for help. I ended up cutting off the straps and sewing it onto a custom made one. The DM came in and demanded that he wear a corporate one, Son tried to explain and the DM wouldn’t let him. So Son put it on and in order to go from ear to ear…it only covered his nose, or his chin.

          DM let him wear the custom one.

    2. ferrina*

      My company gave me hand sanitizer once. It was right before a big conference that we hosted, and it definitely cut down on the post-conference illnesses. I didn’t exactly feel appreciated, but I guess the company got a strong ROI from avoiding productivity loss?

    3. singularity*

      I work in public ed. and we all got hand sanitizer with the district logo on the bottle, except I think they were giving us surplus hand sanitizer ordered by the state government or something, because it quickly turned a strange shade of orange-yellow in the bottle and it reeked like cheap tequila.

      I put it in my classroom for students to use, but they refused, citing its strange smell.

      1. Shira VonDoom*

        I bought a couple of bottles of sanitizer made by drink companies repurposing, early in the pandemic

        they smell like DEATH

        the contents are watery and a higher percentage of alcohol than actual rubbing alcohol though, so I use it as glass cleaner and to disinfect clothes that can’t be machine washed (and are best infrequently professionally cleaned). it works great for that. LOL

        1. GoodyScrivener*

          OOooooooooooooh was it Malört? I know they got into the sanitizer project early on in the pandemic. As a lifelong Chicagoan, I would have loved to get a bottle of that one, but distribution was limited to hospitals and care facilities.

    4. squid*

      I was looking through my institution (also academia)’s swag closet for some items to give out to a visiting alum and I saw a whole box of branded pocket tissue packets. Gave me a bit of a laugh but I went with the much more sensible and popular umbrellas.\

      Universities really will slap their logo on anything and everything.

      1. Logo Overload*

        Heh, I can speak of a university where they took down the solid metal soap dispensers in all of the bathrooms and put up plastic ones that were — you guessed it — printed with the university logo. Just in case you forgot where you were pooping, I suppose.

    5. A non*

      My company gave out hand sanitizer that a) smelled horrendous and b) was later recalled for carcinogens

    6. Netlawyer*

      Because we couldn’t have office parties in 2020, my employer decided to send a gift to every employee at their homes. They sent out an email letting people know this and that it was a shame that we couldn’t celebrate with our teams.

      So they took the company-wide office party budget and sent us … very inexpensive branded backpacks. Sort of what you would get at a conference to hold your materials. And I know you can’t please everyone and folks will always cap on corporate gifts – but I could not get over sending out backpacks, a thing you use to carry other things when you go someplace else, during the first winter of the pandemic when everyone that could avoid it was not going anyplace else much less needing to carry things while doing it. Bless their hearts.

  38. Panda*

    Someone at the holiday party yesterday won a pair of boxed “emergency underwear” in the white elephant.

  39. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

    Weird: A huge company branded crystal snowflake ornament that was far too heavy to hang.

    Insulting: I worked for a used car dealer in a satellite office that was just for finance. My boss made a big deal all week that the Big Boss was coming that Friday to give us our Christmas gift’s because he wanted to see the look on our faces when we opened it. This was about 17 years ago, so I can’t remember if it was $10 or $20, but it definitely wasn’t over $20. I’m sure the look on our faces was something.

    1. Heather*

      I worked as a teacher in an international school. We had a staff meeting on the last school day before the winter break, and our principal said, “Be sure to check your mailboxes before you leave; there is a gift in there for each of you.” I assumed it was a year-end bonus; however, when I went to my mailbox, it was in fact a bar of chocolate.

    2. VeggieBubba*

      My wife got an weird ornament like that one year, except it was a crudely painted ceramic ball. Thing must have weighed at least 5 lbs and was bigger than a grapefruit. I insisted it go on the tree, so we squeezed it in nestled up to the trunk on some branches. It’s been ages since I recall seeing that thing. I’d forgotten about it, so thanks for triggering a funny memory!

    3. Queen Ruby*

      My Christmas bonus last year was a $20 bill and 5 beat-up, partially torn ones. In a legal envelope with my name on it, spelled wrong.

  40. Off Plumb*

    Grad school internship in a small department of a large government entity. Our department did a holiday potluck/white elephant gift exchange. The department director was nearing retirement and I guess wasn’t as much of a stickler for professionalism as he might otherwise have been. Someone opened a gift that was a large plastic puffer fish (fully inflated) and he joked, “is that a sex toy?” And then it became a running gag. Tool kit for emergency car repairs – “is that a sex toy?”

    And then someone opened a vibrating massage wand.

    1. The Eye of Argon*

      Yes, we really need to cherish the sweet but clueless souls who enter our lives. They’re few, far between, and unforgettable.

    2. The Person from the Resume*

      This is not about a clueless person per se. I’d go with busy and not a great gift giver.

      It must have been a work party. I was in middle management. I was gifted a small handheld massager. I was baffled and no doubt looked confused, but I was open the gift in front of the audiance. Then I had a surprising stroke of genius (because I am not gifted at improvision) and said “I guess this is for the next time I go skiing and come back limping” which had actually happened recently. But I was pretty confused.

      My employee who had been tasked to make the purchase (with money from the organization not her own) because she knew me best (I guess) explained that she got it because it kind of looked like a computer mouse. I had been complaining that my mouse for my personal computer had flaked out, and I was having to navigate without using a mouse. [This was years and years ago in the early days of the world wide web when I was probably using the Windows NT 4 OS.]

      I see the flawed logic. She needs to get me a small jokey gift. Neither of us are jokey people. She comes up with the idea for a computer mouse. And then doesn’t find one at the store she is shopping in, but the logic goes off the rails when she buys something that sort of looks like mouse but isn’t a fake one so the joke is very much not obvious to me when I opened the gift. Instead I try to figure out why she gave me the item she gave me and not the one it sort of looked like.

  41. Lalaith*

    Gonna tell on myself here. Just out of college, I worked in a research group, and we had a “naughty and nice” gift exchange, where we all brought one nice gift and one not-so-nice one. I heard tales of previous naughty gifts (the only one I remember now is slippers made of feminine products), probably told as a warning, but instead I guess I decided I wanted to try to top them? So I brought in my homemade fruit fly trap – a can of apple cider vinegar with some plastic wrap rubber-banded over the top. Oh, by the way, this was my *already used* fruit fly trap. And it had been at least somewhat successful!

    I don’t remember what my nice gift was, but I hope it was enough to make up for that!

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      I am gobsmacked that there are two stories in here of slippers made from feminine products. Just, wow.

  42. Corrigan*

    Debacle is too strong of a word, but in years past we’ve had a “White elephant” rules gift exchange. All our leadership changed and this year we were just told “gift exchange” with no info other than the $25 limit. Wine was a common gift so I decided to get some alcoholic cider from a local place. A 4 pack was $10 so I bought two different varieties. As you can imagine, 4 cans was a bit heavy.

    Well this type of gift exchange started with everyone having a gift placed in front of them while someone else read a story. Every time “right” or “left” was said, we had to pass the gift back and forth….including my heavy one. The tables were in a U shape rather than a circle so there was one poor person standing up front passing gifts back and forth between tables….including the heavy one repeatedly. It was Remarked Upon. When we finally opened people were asking “What the heck was in the heavy one??”

    I think the person who ended up with it was happy with it, but I feel badly that people had to lug it back and forth like that. I never would have brought a heavy gift if I’d known.

    1. Ace in the Hole*

      How large were these cans? I’m trying to picture this and can’t figure out how four cans could weigh more than about 5 lbs…

      1. ThatGirl*

        If they were 12 oz a 4-pack would weigh ~3.5 to 4 lbs; it sounds like the OP bought two 4-packs. So we’re talking 7-8 lbs which is not insanely heavy but is a lot to shuffle back and forth. If they were 20 oz cans, then even more.

    2. T*

      Oh that’s so unfortunate. It probably didn’t occur to them to say anything because they figured people usually don’t bring something heavy to an office gift exchange (since you have to lug it in from your car and all).

    3. Unkempt Flatware*

      That’s a cute story! I would have just made a surrogate gift like a piece of paper that says “heavy gift” so it wouldn’t need to be lugged. I bet it was appreciated! Sounds yummy.

    4. GammaGirl1908*

      Oh no! Frankly, this is a casualty of people trying to get too creative with these events. This office was just doing the most, and Corrigan got caught out.

  43. Jenny Islander*

    At my husband’s former workplace, they play Steal a Gift every year. That isn’t the weird part. (Steal a Gift: Everybody brings a wrapped gift below a stated value limit, and puts it on a table at the office holiday party. When your name is drawn, you choose a gift. You must unwrap it where others can see. The next person whose name is drawn can either pick a wrapped gift, or steal yours. Gifts can be stolen twice before they become “dead.”)

    The weird part is that before word came down from on high that gifts must have a rating no higher than PG-13, they…

    Well, one year my husband unwrapped a pair of polished wooden bookends that were, shall we say, very happy to see him. Unfortunately for them, he is straight and married.

    But that wasn’t the worst. That honor belongs to the time when somebody, somehow–this was before easy online shopping–found a mechanical Christmas decoration whose name rhymes with Back-Off Fanta. And wrapped it, and brought it to the party for Steal a Gift.

    1. Corrigan*

      I feel like “excited” bookends are inappropriate for most workplaces, independent of sexuality and marriage status…

    2. another glorious morning*

      Steal a gift is THE ABSOLUTE WORST. We played it once with close to 20 people (this was family mind you). It took close to 3 hours after all the stealing. There were tears from the kids involved and it ended up with someone leaving in a huff and then gift exchanges period being banned from the family get togethers.

      1. netlawyer*

        Wait – isn’t that usually the rule with White Elephant gift exchanges? With ours the “steal” is limited to three steals – so (1) someone steals rather than take a gift, (2) the stealee can steal or go to the table and (3) if 2 is a steal the sub-stealee can steal or go to the table. Rounds ends.

        We also have a rule that a particular gift can only be stolen three times then it out of the game, meaning the person who made the third steal keeps it.

        1. LIZZIE*

          I think it depends on how its played. My BF and I go to an annual holiday party for an organization he’s a member of. This is how we do it, after picking numbers to see what order people pick in. Most of the gifts are booze though, and it actually gets quite funny, certain things are stolen multiple times, others not at all. Last year I got a bottle of whiskey, which I don’t drink. The next person came over and was kind of apologetic about stealing it from me! Hahaha. And I ended up with a bottle of something I actually enjoy.
          But this was all adults. I can see how with adults and kids it could get ugly, esp. if the adults are being greedy and childish!

        2. New Jack Karyn*

          Sure–but this involved kids. They unwrap a present they like, and it’s stolen from them. So they try to steal something, and are told not that one, it’s already been stolen three times. Or they unwrap a present that’s for an adult (like a bottle of wine) and they’re confused. And the whole thing goes on FOREVER. Adults can get this game, but for kids, in a range of ages? Meltdown city.

  44. OklahomaMama*

    This was around 20 years ago and I am still quite salty about it lol
    Our clinic was really into Dirty Santa and I am that Crafty Person. I bought a 2 ft artificial Christmas tree and made several different beaded ID lanyards which I used as garland. Then I made umpteen different pairs of crystal French hook earrings and used them as ornaments. This took me a couple of weeks to create, mind you. It nearly caused a riot because to be perfectly humble, it was pretty freaking awesome.
    I ended up with *drumroll please* a dogeared paperback Harry Potter book in a plain brown paper bag.
    I strongly suspect it came from one of the doctors which makes it more appalling.
    Pretty sure this was the same party my supervisor got the *ahem* anatomically correct teddy bears and opened them in front of the hospital chaplain

    1. ChemistryChick*

      Anatomically correct…teddy bears?? I had no idea such things existed.

      Though I’ve got to know, how did the chaplain react?

      1. ferrina*

        They exist. And in a wide variety. As a teen I somehow found an edgy gift store with a whole display of these teddy bears. It was…..educational.

      2. linger*

        Ah, that not-so-subtle difference between “giving presents” and … “presenting”.
        In the wildlife documentary sense.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      I have no idea what a Dirty Santa is, and I’m happy about that.

      Also, why are there so many different ways for a large group to give each other useless gifts? I get the idea behind Secret Santa (reduce the number of useless gifts) but all the others seem unnecessarily convoluted.

      1. Jenny Islander*

        With the right group and the right gifts, Steal a Gift can be lots of fun.

        Although we did end up with two meat smokers, eventually. And a turkey fryer we still haven’t used.

  45. Iconic Bloomingdale*

    At my former job, I had a colleague who was single, but who was well known for being “man hungry.” She would constantly bemoan the fact she was single, lonely, looking for a relationship and wanted to get laid.

    During a Secret Santa exchange one year, a fellow team member gave her a “personal vibrating device” made by the Trojan condom company, as well as a bottle of wine. It was rather cringeworthy, to us team members. However, our lonely colleague was amused and seemed pleased with the gifts.

    1. Trojan Maker*

      Yay! Those things are always good for a laugh around here (part of the surveillance testing program and made for interesting product give-a-ways).
      I knocked a case of vibe rings off a pallet once-set about half of them off…

      1. The Eye of Argon*

        That’s the X-rated version of the time my brother was at Walmart and accidentally set off a whole display of Tickle Me Elmos.

        1. Cyndi*

          At my very first job I worked in the “cards and gifts” section of a bookstore for the holiday season rush, and “gifts” included a whole row of talking and singing stuffed animals, each with an unboxed one left out to test, each of which had totally different little songs or dialogue or whatever…and of course people LOVED to go down the shelf and set them off all in a row. This was in 2005 and I still haven’t recovered emotionally.

  46. Lady In Pink*

    I work for a small business and we have a white elephant exchange at our Xmas party every year. Everyone who wants to participate brings a gift costing no more than $20. A few years ago, one of the gifts was 20 $1 bills stuffed in a mason jar. Our new employee “Jane”, who started that week, picked this gift first. The owner of the business “Julie”,who Jane hadn’t met yet, wanted to steal the gift. Jane got very angry and refused to hand over the gift to Julie. Instead, she stuffed the $1 bills in her bra. Julie wasn’t in the mood for drama so she let it go and picked another gift. Obviously nobody else tried to steal that gift. I think Jane only worked with us for another week before she quit (or got fired?)

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      To steal a phrase from AITA, ESH. What kind of jerk CEO steals $20 in cash from an employee, much less a brand new one? Sure, Jane’s reaction was immature, but Julie sounds awful.

      1. The Person from the Resume*

        “Stealing” the gift is supposed to be part of the fun of these types of gift exchanges. Jane is the problem here.

        Julie (who wasn’t in the mood for drama) let it go and isn’t a jerk. She sounds fairly professional about the situation.

        1. I agree, ESH*

          Right, but the business owner probably didn’t need $20, but maybe it would make a difference to the new employee’s life. Especially having just changed jobs!
          I’m guessing/hoping Jane would not have put up a fight for a candle or some such item.

          1. Yuh*

            If $20 is that important Jane shouldn’t have been playing anyway since she presumably also had to offer a gift. Jane was a baby.

      2. Loafs*

        Agreed! Clearly it’s the best gift, the boss should never steal that. I’ve had bosses who took the best gifts in swaps and let me tell you, knowing that they make a ton more than us and were willing to take from us? It definitely soured the party.

        1. The Person from the Resume*

          Eh, it wasn’t clear to me it was the best gift. To some people it would be. I was actually picturing Julie thinking it wasn’t a great gift and trying to give the Jane an opportunity to select something else more “festive” than cash. I do understand Jane thinking it’s the best gift, but people’s opinions very at these things.

        2. netlawyer*

          My boss always ends us with the worst gifts and it is always the new hires who steal from him. (I did it myself the first year.) he’s good natured about it and we always have fun.

          My last boss was *not good natured about it* and once she had something we knew she wanted – well, she kept it.

      3. Lady In Pink*

        To clarify, I still work for Julie and she is an awesome boss! Stealing gifts is part of the game-a gift can be stolen up to 2 times.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I don’t get gifting games where “stealing” from colleagues is part of the fun. (Then again, the only time I’ve participated was in elementary school, which ended in a simultaneous tantrum from have the class.)

          1. GammaGirl1908*

            Agree. I think the gift-stealing thing is boring, goes on too long, and is kind of mean. Thankfully I’ve only had to do it at one party.

            1. I need a new name...*

              I think that’s why the caps on how many times a gift can be stolen is so necessary.
              Twice per gift (once I think is also fine) should be the absolute cap on that, or I agree it just becomes too much

        2. Summer*

          While she may be a great boss there is something…kinda unseemly…about the owner of the business participating and wanted to take the cash gift. Jane behaved like a child, no doubt about that, and I completely understand the rules of the game. But the optics aren’t great for the owner either.

  47. Mrs Jameson*

    My first year in my current office, I participated in a white elephant gift exchange. Everyone put in things that were fairly typical, except for one guy, who put in a literal bag of glass, in reference to a vintage Saturday Night Live skit. The woman who ended up with it was our office director’s secretary, who not only didn’t get the reference, but had a literal plastic bag of shards of glass.

    1. ThatGirl*

      That sketch was on last night during the SNL Christmas special and … ok, I would get the “joke” but it’s not funny? Because it’s a literal bag of glass?

  48. MicroManagered*

    Last year, my employer distributed “covid packs” that were like, a nice company-branded mask, two generously-sized bottles of hand sanitizer, some disinfectant wipes, etc. Those were not holiday gifts but since we were (and are) still working remotely, we received them at the same time as the actual holiday gift. Our grandboss actually drove to people’s doors and dropped both off together.

    The actual holiday gift was a fun little gift bag with some “office-related goodies” – so like, snacks, a nice YETI drink tumbler, a small houseplant, stuff like that, and a gift card. One of those goodies was one of those little hand sanitizer key-ring things from Bath and Body Works, and then of course the hand sanitizer packs to fill it.

    Ended up being a LOT of hand sanitizer…. like 32 oz. of hand sanitizer at once.

    1. MicroManagered*

      Forgot to add: It’s been a full year now and I still haven’t opened one single container (of like 9 containers total) of the hand sanitizer.

      I use it regularly, but I had some already and just haven’t needed quite that much hand sanitizer!

      1. Season of Joy (TM)*

        We were given liter sized bottles of hand sanitizer in summer 2020 for anyone who came back to the office. By the time I switched jobs in August 2022, I still had 90% of my bottle left. I just do not use that much hand sanitizer…

      2. Nanc*

        You might check with your local Meals on Wheels or visiting nurses company. A lot of their clients can’t afford hand sanitizer and if your bottles are still sealed they may be able to pass them along to someone who could use it. Public libraries, too.

      3. fhqwhgads*

        Do you use it infrequently, or only a little at a time? I know it’s pretty common for folks not to check the amount specified on the packaging, but if you use too little at once, it’s not actually sanitizing. JFYI.

    2. The Person from the Resume*

      Ugh! I went crazy buying hand santizer once it was available again and now I suspect I have a lifetime supply. Because I’m not a hand sanitizer user. I wash my hands with water usually and rarely use hand santizer but I got caught up in the excitement and bought two medium sized bottles once they became available in 2020.

      1. LIZZIE*

        That was me with Clorox wipes. Every time I saw them, I would buy some. I think I now have 30+ containers! I also got caught up in the “OMG you can’t find them ANYWHERE”.

  49. Midwestern Communicator*

    My first year at my current company we got to pick a jacket or a blanket with a goodie box of branded swag. Last year, we got this great snack box where we could spend $100 on snacks for ourselves.

    But this year too many people complained about the snack box (MAY I ASK WHO IN THE WORLD IS MAD ABOUT SNACKS). So now we’re back to branded swag.

    1. PsychNurse*

      My husband’s job sends high-end snacks every year. I get so excited! I eat dried pears and fig jelly and exotic cheeses. My husband teases me because I could just go buy those foods if I like them so much, but somehow it seems luxurious when they come wrapped in a cute little box.

      1. another glorious morning*

        I get excited for my husband’s work gifts too. Now he often gets comfy company branded sweatshirts he doesn’t want that I can steal for lounging.

        At an old job he used to get all kinds of things for the Holidays. A giant box of cheesecake, wine basket, snack basket lol. When he left Old Job the first thing I said was… yay but no more cheesecake at Christmas. LOL.

  50. Been There*

    My first year at CurrentJob, which incidentally was also 2020, my boss and over half of the department got laid off. I had no direct boss and was a bit of a floater, so I was really looking forward to our holiday zoom.

    Not only was the holiday zoom a HUGE BUST, but he sent us all leftover Halloween candy and a badly cut slice of printer paper with “Happy Holidays” printed on it in 16 point Times New Roman. It came in a bubble pack. I think there were 5 or 6 pieces. It probably cost him more in postage than actual product.

    Thankfully we didn’t have to open them all on zoom together, because I don’t have a great poker face.

  51. Ace in the Hole*

    A customer once gave me a dead seagull he found by the road.

    It’s not as bad as it sounds. He was one of our regulars and a really sweet guy, just… not all there. He remembered me saying I like animals and he thought I’d like having a seagull. He carried it all the way across town on foot just for me.

    Other things customers gave me at that job: half a plastic flower, a painting made with spray paint the dude had obviously been huffing (came in with the paint still on his face), a bunch of trivial pursuit cards from the 80’s, and a can of baked beans.

    1. Persimmon*

      That’s… kinda sweet, honestly. He carried it all the way across town just for you!

      I just hope it was relatively fresh, and ideally in a bag or something.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        It was in a bag!

        Fortunately I worked at a garbage dump. So I thanked him and as soon as he left the seagull went in the garbage pile.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          To be fair, I might actually like a taxidermy seagull or a seagull skeleton (provided it died of natural causes). Just not one that’s… um… “fresh.”

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        Not sure. He had some cognitive disabilities that made communication difficult. We’d been talking about how I volunteered at a wildlife rescue… I assume it was either a misunderstanding or he just didn’t think it all the way through.

        1. Turtlewings*

          Maybe it wasn’t (quite) dead yet when he started on his journey, and he meant to bring it you as a rescue. Which is sad in a different way.

    2. birdlawisweird*

      I’m pretty sure every type of gull is protected by the MBTA so technically it would not have been legal for you to keep it anyway

  52. lb*

    My husband’s department head just gifted him a copy of “The ‘What’s Happening to my Body’ Book for Boys.” And while there is context to it (they teach teenagers! We have two sons! My husband is on record as having loved the book as a child!) I maintain that it’s an objectively weird gift to get from your boss! (My husband loved it and was very touched. Weirdo.)

    1. KJ*

      Lawd, I remember those books. Got one as a kid. The neighbor kid tried to take it from me & I held on for dear life in fear of being supremely embarrassed. (I was 7 or 8.)

    2. Industrial Tea Machine*

      OMG my mom got me and my brother those books and this is the first time I’ve seen anyone else mention them! Both times it was handed off with a very end-of-meeting-type “Welp (slaps hands on thighs and stands up) let me know if you have questions.” My mom was generally great at communicating with us but apparently what was happening to our bodies was between us and a book and that was that.

  53. Twisted Lion*

    Worked for a small bank in Texas and everyone in my department received bibles from our supervisor that Christmas. Then she wanted to do readings during staff meetings. It was.. not normal. LOL

  54. Shelley*

    My husband’s work always give us a huge expensive box of Xmas themed food. Each year it is different and we usually get it on Xmas Eve. It’s lovely but I never know what to buy before Xmas (eg will we get a Xmas pudding? A choc gateau? Posh stuffing?).
    Anyway, we are vegetarian but I suppose his boss forgot last year. We got a joint of pork, one of beef and one of lamb. Huge joints. And they were unlabelled as they came from the bosses’ local butcher so we couldn’t even donate them to a food bank. They didn’t even have a label with a best before date, who wants a donation of anonymous meat?? Worst year yet. Shame!

    1. Artemesia*

      neighbors? friends? lots of my friends are vegetarians but I could still find people to unload that largesse on.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Honestly, if I had the freezer space I’d be happy with the meatbut I can see that as a vegetarain it would be unwelcome!

  55. desk platypus*

    I skipped the staff Christmas party one year due to a family emergency but on my return my work bestie immediately told me drama that happened. The party had been going pretty well especially since it was the first time family members were also invited and everyone was getting along. Until the staff White Elephant. (Fake names ahead.) Most gifts were fairly standard, usually sets that you’ll find at Target/Walmart to appeal to wide audiences. Martha ends up with an envelope that has a generous gift card to a popular local restaurant but all she saw was the holiday card it was held in. She threw a tantrum saying all she got was a card but hadn’t even tried opening it. Alice (who brought it) sheepishly said to look inside. Martha finds the gift card but is still throwing a fit, saying she didn’t want it and it was an awful gift. Her adult son had to tell his mom to calm down and was clearly embarrassed by her behavior. Martha ended up stealing something else but was still fuming to the point she was later pulled aside by another staff member and told she needed to stop being rude. Alice was mortified at first but glad her gift ended up with someone else who was very excited about a nice dinner. Sadly I don’t think Martha got an official reprimand because that was kind of on par with her usual condoned behavior.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      I never understand people who get truly upset at these things. Sure, you can be annoyed when someone brings a lousy/cheap/bad gift or bummed when someone steals a gift you wanted, but to actually vocalize these feelings and throw a tantrum?? Yikes on bikes it’s always so embarrassing (but somehow never for the person throwing the tantrum!).

      1. LIZZIE*

        I don’t either. I’ve been the recipient of crappy gifts, both during exchanges and just gifted. I just act like I like it, and then give it away, regift, etc.

  56. A Simple Narwhal*

    A company I worked at years ago gave out hams to everyone for the holidays. Not only was I vegetarian at the time, but they gave them to us mid-day and there was nowhere to refrigerate them. They told us it was cold enough out that we could put them in our cars and they would probably keep fine. Probably.

    Even if I was eating meat there was NO way in hell I would eat that salmonella factory ham.

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I also worked for a company that gave hams. Canned ones. Particularly popular with the Jewish employees. One of them, to the credit of his people, organized a group donation to the Salvation Army from those of us who didn’t want our hams.

      1. Artemesia*

        my company gave frozen turkeys that could be picked up the week ahead so in plenty of time to defrost — or could be kept frozen to use later. It was very popular. They also did a drawing so a few people also got hams. BUT if you requested you could order a tofurky. The left over turkeys were donated to a local homeless feeding program for their Christmas dinners.

  57. TyphoidMary*

    We had a company Christmas party where everybody was given a bottle of wine. Ok, pretty standard.

    The messed up thing was that there were two types of wine, one clearly more expensive than the other. When it was time to leave the party, you’d go up to the tables and the person attending them would ask you if you were clerical or clinical staff.

    Clinicians all got a bottle of expensive wine, and clerical staff were directed to the cheaper wine!! And they were EXTREMELY transparent about it!

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Wow, that’s beyond tacky. Would it be so hard for them to buy the same kind of medium-priced wine for everyone if they didn’t want to spring for the more expensive ones for everyone? (And of course they should have reversed who got which bottle, but still, equality is fine for this type of present-giving.)

      1. Artemesia*

        or if they were going to be jerks, they could have put every bottle in a sack with a tag with the employees name on it to make the ugly less obvious.

    2. ferrina*

      The weird thing is that it’s really easy to find cheap, nice-looking wine. Trader Joe’s in particular has an exquisite selection of cheap, classy-looking wine (and it’s usually quite good!).

  58. KatKatKatKat*

    During a White Elephant gift exchange (limit $20), I brought a Razor Scooter. I ended up with a fart phone.