Warner Bros./ New Line Cinema
Oh the joys of a Secret Santa gift exchange. We've all had to do one at some point in our lives - whether we wanted to or not. It can be such a pain trying to find an appropriate gift within the set budget, especially if you've never met/hardly conversed with your assigned person before. What does Sarah who sits near the water cooler even like? How can you keep your gift cheap and cheerful without looking like the office Grinch?
Unfortunately for all of us, there's quite a few ways you can get Secret Santa embarrassingly wrong. What started off as good-intentioned fun can pretty quickly descend into an office-wide argument. Luckily for you, we've put together a list of all of the Secret Santa gifts you should never - under any circumstances - give. Heed our advice if you want to survive the holidays with your dignity intact.
If you decide to get your lucky Secret Santa something edible, it's probably best to check first that the food in question won't kill them. For example, is buying someone with a severe nut allergy Reese's Peanut Butter Cups ever forgivable? Not that I did that, of course: totally asking for a friend. If you don't want to go straight up and ask your Secret Santa recipient if they've got any allergies - it might give the game away, after all - maybe see if the person running the gift exchange can compile a list of people's various intolerances. Trust me, it's worth it. You don't want to be accused of trying to kill a colleague.
It's easy to see why you might think that a gift card is a great Secret Santa gift. The person can choose what to buy - there's no risk of you gifting them something they utterly hate! However, it's a bit of a cheap way out. The recipient doesn't get anything to unwrap, for starters - where's the Christmas cheer in that? Secondly, you can't be sure that the person actually shops at the store you've bought the gift card for. If they don't, you've wasted your money and they essentially don't get a gift. Plus, you might get criticised for being a bit boring and unimaginative. These things are meant to be anonymous, but everyone will find out it was you eventually.
A lot of people seem to forget that Secret Santa gifts aren't always passed around on the day you hand them in. People bring them weeks in advance, which isn't usually a problem. However, that changes if the gift in question turns out to be perishable. Think a cheese board that's been sat in a musty cupboard for two weeks or a fruit basket that's seen better days. Even if you do bring the gift in on the day of exchange, there's no guarantee the recipient will be able to store it properly while you're at work. Unless you want to create an environmental health hazard, it might be a good idea to give perishable presents a miss.
I don't know why anybody would think this is okay in the first place, but hey. People can be weird (or have totally inappropriate senses of humor). Buying someone a sexual Secret Santa gift is usually motivated by either thinking it's funny or wanting to humiliate your unlucky colleague. Thing is, there's no guarantee that everyone else will share your sense of humor - including the recipient of whatever raunchy product you've decided to purchase. Repeat after me: butt plugs are not an appropriate gift for a colleague. Neither are dildos, vibrators, or plastic moulds of boobs. If you feel a bit awkward buying the gift in the first place, that's probably a sign that you should stop. You don't want to end up looking like the office creep. The truth will always out.
Yeah, this one actually happened. One poor soul was genuinely given Tampax and noodles as their Secret Santa gift. While this may be the perfect "I'm on my period and just need carbs" survival kit, it's not the best Christmas present, especially when the recipient is a guy. What clearly happened here is that somebody forgot to buy a gift, and had to grab whatever they could find in the grocery store. Don't be that person. Try to plan your gift shopping in advance. If you can't, and the nearest 7/11 really is the only option, at least try and pick something relevant to the person you're buying for. If they don't have a vagina, they're not going to want Tampax.
Everyone has that one colleague who really, REALLY gets on their nerves. Maybe it's that guy who always steals other people's food. Maybe it's the heavy breather in the cubicle next to you or that girl from accounting who always seems to have something to brag about. However, Christmas really isn't the best time to let these frustrations out, even if you have to buy a gift for the person you hate. Come on, it's the most wonderful time of the year - try to give them a break! Getting your boss a 'Management for Dummies' book probably won't go over well, nor will buying the messy eater a set of napkins. Just get them a nice box of chocolates and be done with it.
There's a time and a place for joke or novelty gifts, and Secret Santa might not be it. The main issue here is that sense of humor can be a very subjective thing. Unless you know the person really, REALLY well, they might not find your 'joke' gift all that funny. Plus, there's nothing more soul-destroying than being the only person who doesn't receive a serious gift. Dave got a set of bath products! Natalie got a scented candle! Your recipient got... Some novelty glasses shaped like flamingos? Don't ruin that poor person's day. Get them something nice (and that they might actually get the chance to use).
Even gifts given with the best of intentions can sometimes cause accidental offense. People have a tendency to look really hard for something to get upset about, so it's best to avoid any present that could be interpreted as critical. Bath or shower products, for example, can be a bit of a minefield. Are you trying to say that the person smells?! Same goes for makeup they don't typically wear — are you calling them ugly?! If you're lucky, you'll get assigned someone you know is super chill and laid-back or someone who'll be grateful for anything they get. If you get someone a bit less laid back - well, good luck finding a gift that won't upset them.
There's accidental offense, and then there's gifting something actually insulting. A weight loss cookbook, for example, is incredibly rude and a bit mean. Not that lovely readers such as yourselves would do such a thing, of course! Some people out there clearly have no boundaries at all, though. They missed the memo about Christmas being a time for cheer and skipped to the "let's prove to everyone we're total assholes" part of the holidays. Pro tip: if you've got even the smallest sneaking suspicion that your gift is racist, sexist, or homophobic, just don't give it. Find something else. Not being a dick really isn't that hard.
Look, we've all been in the position where an important task has totally slipped our mind. It's easy for it to happen when you lead a busy life! However, how you deal with making such a mistake is really important. Let's take the example of forgetting to get your Secret Santa anything, or ordering their gift too late. The good way to cope with it? Take your person quietly to the side, explain the situation, and apologize profusely. People can be more understanding than you'd think. A bad way to react? Embarrass them in front of everyone by giving them nothing but an IOU note, and make yourself look like an idiot in the process. Ideally, don't forget to get them anything in the first place!
If you're a sports nut, getting some fitness gear or sports kit as your Secret Santa gift will probably make your day. If, however, you couldn't care less about anything that could even remotely be seen as exercise, you'd probably be quite disappointed with that kind of gift. Do your research: try and find out even just a little bit about your recipient's likes, dislikes, and interests. It may sound like a simple and obvious thing to do, but you'd be surprised just how many people decide to leave their gifting down to luck. It often leads to quite a few people ending up disappointed.
Public service announcement: throwing a bunch of unrelated random objects into a gift bag does not make the resulting mess a 'gift basket'. It makes it a terrible present, and will also make it abundantly clear that you put very little effort into gift shopping. If you DO want to go down the gift basket route, try to make sure that the included products actually make sense when given together: for example, make it an assortment of cosmetic products, or a selection of different (NON-PERISHABLE) foods. Don't try to get away with giving someone a novelty pencil, a hat, and a bar of Hershey's. That's not a gift basket; it's just a couple of bits you picked up at Target.
Walt Disney Pictures
If you decide to give someone a holiday-themed gift, make sure it's something that they might actually get some use out of. Christmas tree decorations are a great example - if they're to the person's taste, they could be something that they use year after year. A tacky Christmas-themed stationery set or a bad quality Santa beard is a less brilliant idea. If your holiday-themed horror is something that's likely to get thrown to the bottom of a box and never seen again, don't waste your money. If it's something that you'd be proud to display in your own home, go for it!
Again, you wouldn't think that this is a problem, but apparently, it is! If you're considering giving someone a poor quality, damaged, or half-used item as their Secret Santa present, PLEASE THINK AGAIN! Nothing says "I place no value on you as a person" like a blatant hand-me-down gift. Especially if the gift exchange is in a professional context! If you're worried about breaking the bank, don't be: you can get brand new gifts pretty cheaply. Show a teeny bit of respect for your coworkers here. It's polite, and it's common sense! Would you want to get a half-eaten box of chocolates for Christmas? Of course not!
Tyler Perry Studios
As joke presents go, this one is surprisingly common. Edible underwear is, in fact, a thing, and comes in such mouth-watering forms as beef jerky, candy, or gummy shapes. Like, this is almost as bad as the chocolate anuses that are on the market. Who on earth would actually want something like this? More to the point, why would anyone think it's an appropriate gift?! If a person REALLY wants nipple tassels made out of candy, they'll just go and buy some themselves. It's a good idea to get them something a bit more office-appropriate. Likewise, nobody wants to receive a gift that's ridiculous to the point of uselessness.
Why is everyone so obsessed with the poop emoji these days? You can get it on keyrings, mugs, cushions, and even clothes. It might seem like a hilarious idea at the time of purchase, but who is actually going to go out with tiny pictures of poop emblazoned on their shirt? Likewise, who's going to want to greet house guests with a feces-shaped cushion lying on their sofa?! Emoji products may be all the rage these days, but it's better to give them a miss. Hopefully, this ridiculous trend will die before it goes any further.
Alcohol always seems to spring to mind when people are stuck for gift ideas. Who doesn't love a nice bottle of wine, some cans of beer, or some nice, warming whiskey? Well, a lot of people, actually. You just know that the one person who receives alcohol as their gift will be the one person in the office who doesn't drink it at all or worse — is a recovering alcoholic. Even if you do decide to buy someone a bit of booze because they make their love of spirits known around the office, it probably won't be very nice considering the spending limits that Secret Santa imposes. Nobody wants to receive some cheap, dodgy-looking vodka that might turn them blind.
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