NEW YORK (MainStreet) – One of our favorite holiday traditions is the Secret Santa gift exchange. The rules are simple: Each person in a group is given the name of a friend or co-worker, and is tasked with getting that person an inexpensive gift. There is also the White Elephant exchange, in which everyone buys a gift for no one in particular and each member of the group goes in order to pick from a pile of wrapped gifts. An element of gamesmanship is also introduced: someone who picks after you can decide they like the look of your present and steal it from you, leaving you with another gift that may be inferior.
There are certain under-$10 items that make for safe gifts in these situations: A cheap bottle of wine, for instance, or an iTunes gift card. But some people have a tendency to phone it in at the last minute and give some truly awful gifts to their unfortunate recipient. We talked to a few veterans of the gift exchange game to collect the best stories about the worst gifts they’ve received in an exchange.
Brad Simon, a public relations professional, recalls picking out the largest box in his office’s White Elephant exchange last year.
“I opened it up to find a pair of ‘booty pop’ shorts!” he says. “These padded shorts are designed to add curvature to your otherwise ‘flat’ posterior. I was fortunate enough to receive the ‘midnight black’ edition. Still haven't taken it out of the packaging, it's somewhere around the office.”
Paul Dawson, a town manager in Massachusetts, told MainStreet on our Facebook page that he received a single Ping-Pong paddle as a gift one year. We suppose he could have bought a ball and played against the wall, but we imagine that would get old fast.
“Last year I received a NASCAR-branded pocket knife that a criminal left in a colleague's vehicle when he broke into it to steal some CDs and the radio,” reports Alex Stern, a PR professional. “I had put in a pretty nice gift, and received this odd knife in return that was involved in a crime! Needless to say, I deposited it in the trash upon my return from the office party.”
MainStreet’s own Kali Geldis says she once received a whole cooked rotisserie chicken in a White Elephant exchange. Oddly enough, that wasn’t the weirdest present given that day: Geldis remembers that one person received a pair of live mice – the kind you would feed to a pet snake. That, at least, explained why the host’s cat had spent much of the night clawing at that particular package.
Finally, our favorite story comes from dating expert Rochelle Peachey.
“Mine was a Christmas card with the words ‘buy your own gift’,” she reports. “It seems the woman who gave it forgot to put the gift certificate inside the Christmas card!”
Have you ever received an unexpectedly funny or weird gift in an anonymous exchange? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page!