"I have a friend who is terrible at gift giving. He is so absent-minded and last minute about things like this, and also refuses to care about 'materialistic things.' Which good for him, but if you're participating in a Secret Santa, you are supposed to be thoughtful to your giftee. It's not about you.
The first time we run Secret Santa in our friend group, he gifts his giftee a full boiled egg. The worst part is, he passed it to her prior to the gift exchange so she ate it (while waiting for dinner) and only found out later that was her 'gift.'
The second year he gave his giftee a book in a language she doesn't read. It was most certainly a book he plucked off his shelf.
The third year, he is assigned the same person from year two. He gave her a coffee tasting experience (his friend owns a cafe). She doesn't drink coffee.
This year.... we'll see. We've all warned him to put in some effort.
He's a good friend outside of this gift-giving debacle."
"The place where I used to work did one of those gift-giving games where you either got to pick a new present or steal one from someone else. It was a hideous idea, but all the presents were just goofy little things.
I had the last number, so basically my pick of any gift. Right from the early stages, I joked that I'd be taking the 'dogs playing poker' serving tray. People kept stealing it back and forth, it became a running joke throughout the whole game.
When it got to the end, I did exactly as I said and went and took the box that had the serving tray in it. That person got up and picked whatever the last remaining gift was, seemed satisfied.
Later, after they'd left the party, I went to open the box with the serving tray in it and found out they'd only given me the empty box, had hidden the tray in their coat and taken two presents.
Even the next workday after the party, that person was all like, 'Hahaha! Got you! You got an empty box, idiot!'"
"I'll never forget the year that I was both the disappointing Santa and the disappointed recipient.
The person whose name I drew had the most insufferable list of requests I've ever seen. The price range for our gifts was $5-10 for the first two, with the big 'reveal' gift at the end being up to $20. Half of the things this witch asked for were things you could only find at specific stores in a specific part of town, and most of the things she asked for were way out of price range. I was a broke high school student with no car and a busy schedule. I got her candy canes and a box of tea because they were the only requests of hers I could accommodate.
I watched her open the gifts. She was clearly unimpressed. Whatever, Becky, get over it.
And then whoever got me... gave me crayons. Not even decent crayons, but those super cheap 4-packs you get for free at family restaurants. No, I did not ask for crayon, or art supplies at all, for that matter. It was such a bad overall experience that I almost never participated again."
"It took me a whole week to convince my wife to participate to Reddit's Secret Santa 2 years ago. It will be fun and exciting, I said. So we did it. We are from Australia and her match was from Argentina. Her match didn't have a particular gift in mind so she bought a book, a bunch of chocolates and candies that you can only buy here, a perfume, and a nice Christmas postcard, where she wrote all the best wishes with love and care. This whole package cost $60, took about a week to put together, and then it was carefully wrapped. We went to the post office to send it and based on the size and weight, it would cost $45 to send it to Argentina! That was horrible, we didn't expect that. But since the gifts cost more than that she sucked it up and paid for it. So in total, she ended up spending $100+.
She never got anything in return. Not even a postcard. Not even a message on Reddit saying thanks. Zero.
We waited till February, maybe the mail was taking a long time to get here during holidays and all. Nope. We applied for a re-match, and nothing came out of it. Kept waiting another month. Nothing at all.
She was so disappointed about it she swore to never ever do a Secret Santa in her life."
"I went to a high school church gift exchange, and this dude who considered himself a poet scribbled a poem on the back of a Walgreens receipt. To add insult to injury, he 'wrapped' it in another Walgreens receipt. Nobody realized it was a gift until the end when one poor girl thought she got left out. Honestly, she would have been better getting left out.
When she opened it, the guy kept telling the whole crowd how he had been working on the poem in his head for a while, and how lucky the girl who opened it was. He made her read it to the whole room, and the cringe was tangible. He had opened a Nerf earlier and would shout when people tried to steal it from him (perfectly within the rules). His dad was the preacher, so nobody felt like they could do anything.
We never had another gift exchange."
"I found a Lego Christmas set, still in box, from the year the giftee was born. They collected legos and mentioned that sometimes they just collect them in the box, so I thought it would be a fun gift. Miraculously, I managed to stay under budget, except for shipping.
This person also ended being my Secret Santa but didn't get me anything. It would have been forgettable, except they kept bringing it up every week or so. Then, they finally 'bought me lunch' by bringing in an energy drink and a bag of chips."
"At one of the schools I used to work at, it was basically a tradition that you participated in Secret Santa, both staff and students. But the main thing was that this school apparently 'transcended the boundaries' or some deep quote stuff because you could be matched with anyone. Teachers with students, students with students, students with the janitor. Anything. So, for 3 years I got students I didn't even know, and got them stuff based on asking around.
One year, I got matched with a student in one of my 11th-grade classes. Score, the kid was a known HUGE Pokémon fan. After a week of prodding around, listening in on conversations in class and walking by during breaks, I finally heard him telling a friend that he really wanted a ditto plushie. Boom, it was within our set budget, so I got it.
The kid was ecstatic. I got a bottle of 'Liquid Fart Spray.'"
"I did a secret Santa with a club at my school. The budget was around $35. For my person, I went all out and basically got them a bunch of items they wanted and listed down on their paper.
The person who had me gave me a takeout box filled with broken cookies. The worst part? Those cookies were leftovers that she took back home from our Thanksgiving party we had a few weeks ago..."
"We had a gift exchange several years ago between my wife's cousins and all of their significant others. The guy I was gifting for is a lot like me and is into board games (among other things). I was able to find a game that normally ran for $75+ dollars on sale for $50 ($50 limit for our exchange). In addition, I made him a double growler carrier using my woodworking tools and spare lumber in my garage, so practically free aside from my time investment of about 8 hours or so. It turned out pretty nice and professional looking and I was really proud of the overall gifts.
The person who was supposed to bring a gift for me ended up not showing up to the Christmas celebration and promised to send me a gift. After 5 years, I am beginning to think I won't be seeing that gift."
"A senior level guy at my company ended up being the secret Santa for a low-level employee at my job. The two of the normally wouldn't interact, but he engineered running into her at the coffee machine or whatever, had some chit-chat, and found out she liked African wildlife.
So he got her a little collectible figurine of a gorilla or some sort of primate.
When she received it she immediately took it the wrong way, thinking it was a comment on her Afro-Caribbean heritage/appearance, and went to HR and filed a complaint. It became a whole big thing in the office and after a couple of days of hoping it would blow over, the senior guy went to HR and said it was him, based on a conversation about wildlife.
The junior person was reminded of this conversation, she realized the gift came with only good intentions, everything blew up entirely unnecessarily and that was that...
Except the senior guy was so mortified that things were so misinterpreted that he quit shortly thereafter."
"My former church had a women's group. We didn't do Secret Santa, but we did a $10 gift exchange where if you brought a gift you got a gift. I didn't like this system because the ages range from mid 20's all the way up the 70's, so it was hard to find something that would appeal everyone.
For the Christmas party, I bought this necklace and earring set. The necklace was an aqua colored stone in a hexagon shape, small and on a 19-inch chain. It had a little bit of sparkle, but it was understated and I figured both young and old would like it. The earrings matched the necklace. The next year I got the same set back in the original box. I'm not mad at the regift, I'm just mad that they didn't keep track of where they got it from."
"We did a Secret Santa type game with my work a few years ago. We played White Elephant, where pretty much you could 'steal' someone else's present, but each gift could only be 'stolen' twice.
One of the women (who honestly no one liked but she was good at her job) brought her husband along to our Christmas party and they each brought a 'gift,' so they both got to play. The price of the gift was supposed to be $20. Most of had bought really cool gifts like a heated car seat cover, gift cards, travel coffee mugs, holiday decor stuff, all the stuff the employees had brought met that $20 mark. Except for this woman and her husband. They had got these terrible smelling $1 candles. One of the girls who was a student and was honestly pretty broke had bought a $25 Bluetooth speaker and ended up with a $1 candle that smelled like cough syrup. I wasn't well off at the time either, but seeing the disappointment in her face was too much for me. So I 'stole' her candle.
My boss ended up 'stealing' the other one because all of our employees were good people (except the woman who brought a $1 candle to a $20 gift exchange). I threw that candle away before we even left the party."
"For the last 5 years, my husband and I have hosted our family/close family friends for Christmas. We don't really want to do it because it's an expensive pain in the rear, quite frankly, but the only other couple with space large enough to fit all 25 people for dinner did it for 5 years before us, so we felt it was our turn and took over. After dinner, we do a secret Santa gift exchange with a $40 limit.
Last year my gift was a 1 oz. jar of some anti-aging potion from L'Occitane. Now it's perfectly possible that a jar of one of these fancy (but, let's face it, ultimately useless) potions could cost $40, but as I had just been into that store the week before, I was aware that particular jar had been handed out as a free gift with another purchase over a certain amount. I smiled and feigned graciousness, but I was somewhat insulted by the 'anti-aging' slant of the gift, as well as the fact that it had been free. I put it down on an end table near where I was sitting and rushed back into the kitchen (where I end up spending most of these Christmases) to get coffee and dessert ready for the next onslaught of hungry guests.
Later, once everyone finally went home, I went to bring my potion up to my bathroom, but couldn't find it anywhere. Eventually, my husband admitted that he had probably accidentally scooped it into a trash bag while I was in the kitchen and he cleaned up the wrapping paper from the secret Santa session. We didn't bother looking through the trash for it.
So, after spending hundreds of dollars on food and beverages for 25 people, plus doing all of the work involved in preparing the house and the meal and the clean-up, I ended up with a free gift that got thrown out while I was in another room. Worst deal ever."
"I love playing Secret Santa. At my workplace last year, we were supposed to leave little surprises throughout the season and then do the main gift with the reveal at the office party. I enjoyed leaving little treats for my Santa and made good use of the form we all filled out so I knew some of her likes and dislikes. She loved her gifts. Unfortunately for me, my selfish, cheap and lazy boss drew my name. She clearly ignored my form or didn't care what was on it. I got a grand total of 2 little surprises throughout the season (most people did 4-8) one of which was candy I didn't like and one was something she got from HER Santa THE YEAR BEFORE! We all clearly remembered it!
Party day comes and we open gifts. This woman got me a tacky light-up decoration that played loud music. If you know me, and she did, it was the furthest thing from something I would like or display in my home. What a slap in the face!
At least I took the tacky decoration immediately to a White Elephant exchange at a party with friends where it was properly mocked, derided, and taken off my hands."