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Do Not Get Your Co-Workers Any of These 9 Awful Holiday Gifts


Call it Secret Santa, or White Elephant, or Yankee Swap: no matter how your office structures its annual holiday gift-giving ritual, it’s a potential opportunity to make enemies among your soon-to-be erstwhile office friends and resentful co-workers. Think we’re being overly negative? Consider these horrible office holiday gifts, culled from Facebook users who will never cheerfully draw a name from a Santa hat again.

secret santa

(Photo Credit: JD Hancock/Flickr)

1. The Best of the Clearance Table at Urban Outfitters

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Maggie: I once got stuck with a book about poop and some hipster action figures in a $25-and-under Yankee Swap. Seemed like a last-minute buy or a regift. Of course, I had put a lot of thought into my contribution, which ended up being really popular with the group, but I was still bitter about the whole thing.

2. The Last-Minute Gift From Someone Who Was Going to the Drugstore Anyway

Veronica: I gave an iTunes gift card in the amount we were supposed to spend. I got a farm-themed clock straight from the Duane Reade down the street that didn’t even come close to what we were supposed to spend. Yes, I’m still mad.

3. The Legitimately Awesome Prank

Jessica: I purchased a hideous Darth Vader bobble head for an office white elephant party a few years ago. I wrapped the package BEAUTIFULLY. It was seriously stunning. The president announced to everyone that he got to pick first because he was in charge. Imagine my glee when he said, “Oooh. This one looks nice,” while reaching for my gift. Then he opened it and said, “If I ever find out brought this, you’re fired.” And of course no one stole it from him because, well, it’s a pretty s****y gift. Darth Vader bobble head is the worst Yankee swap gift I’ve ever seen and I’m intensely proud that I was able to inflict it on someone else, especially my boss.

4. The Less-Awesome Prank

Ellen: Someone made a shrink-wrap basket of a whole bunch of dollar-store products…. :-/

5. The On-Ramp to Unemployment

Joseph: A toy that was not explicitly, but definitely sexually suggestive, at an office swap. That staff person didn’t get why it wasn’t appropriate. He was eventually let go as that was his style. To this day (he volunteers with some related groups), he doesn’t get it.

6. The Poverty-Inspired Present

Michelle: For a Secret Santa, I played Secret Satan and regifted an absolutely capital-H hideous choker someone gave me. It was a yellow flower on a black choker rope whatever thing. It was not my taste. Nor was it anyone else’s. The look that poor girl’s face was one of sadness and disgust. But at least I found a use for the choker. In my defense, I had zero money at the time. I’ve since gotten way better at secret gift-giving.

7. The … You Know What? We Don’t Even Know What This One Is

Jane: In the vein of saving people from themselves: do NOT rummage through the trash to find a “gift” at the last minute. I participated in an office party gift exchange, but my job being what it was, I had to leave mid-exchange to deal with an emergency. So I asked one of my co-workers to act as my proxy. It was one of those exchanges where you can pick a gift or steal from someone else and trade gifts. My co-worker decided that he wanted to play too, so he put together a gift and “wrapped” it in a paper bag. When I came back right at the end, he was holding the paper bag, and he smirked at me and said, “Here’s what you got.” I looked at it dubiously, and slowly opened it up. It had one fake eyelash, a used mascara bottle, and a piece of tissue paper inside it. “What’s this?” I asked, and he said, “It’s your gift, no one wanted to trade with you after you picked it.” “Um, no, because it’s just a bag of trash. Who put in a bag of trash as their gift?” “I did, I decided I wanted to play at the last minute. It was a white elephant exchange, right?” He walked off laughing with a bottle of Baileys Irish Cream (the present he won). I stood there, stunned that someone could be such a huge jerk. Twenty years later, I am still stunned. I also don’t participate in exchanges that might be “white elephant” for that very reason.

8. The Unsubtle Hint

Andrea: I once got a package of hair dye. Not welcome.

9. The Michael Scott

Jim: An iPod Touch that [redacted] bought. It was (obviously) way out of budget and completely derailed the exchange. People WANTED that iPod. S*** got REAL. There’s even an Office episode with the same plot, which he told me WAS INSPIRATION for the gift.

Note: All names have been changed to protect the contributors, most of whom would like you to know that they’re still mad.

Tell Us What You Think

What’s the worst holiday gift you’ve ever received at work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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Wow, this was painful (but still fun) to read. Really, though, “secret santa” should be optional. I would decline. And I personally hate the ones in which people can take someone else’s gift.


I still think if you don’t want to participate in Secret Santa in the spirit intended, then don’t. That means stop re-gifting ugly chokers and your other miscellaneous trash or save it for a White Elephant. It’s not funny. It just means someone got screwed and you probably got something nice.

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