Hey, we got another letter. As in actual snail mail, which is honestly kind of weird. How did you get my address? Anyway, let’s see what my new stalker has to say for him/herself:
Here’s my holiday office party problem: the dreaded Yankee Swap. Every year I get suckered into participating in this suck show of mediocrity masquerading as good-time holiday fun. Every year I wind up having to cart home some ridiculous set of lotions that smell like “Ocean Berry” or “Calm Evening”. What the hell does a calm evening even smell like? I don’t know; I usually throw that stuff away.
Here’s my question: Is there a way to get through this stupid tradition unscathed? By which I mean, is there a way to ensure that you will at least wind up leaving with something inoffensive, and not a bizarre shiatsu massager?
Swapper of Rage
Okay, let’s start with your pseudonym: Swapper of Rage? Really? First of all, it’s not even funny, but more troubling is the rage. Why the rage? It’s a stupid office party game. It’s not worth getting angry about. And yes, this is coming from the guy who has grand fantasies of flipping over a desk at least once in his life, but that’s totally different. It’s the harmless (I would argue healthy) fantasy of a generally level headed person. Barring the desk flip, I would settle for sweeping everything off of someone’s desk with my arm, but we’re getting off track here, so let’s get back to your letter.
Other than your obvious anger issues, you actually raise some very good points. Workplace Yankee Swaps are stupid, and the gifts usually fall into one of two categories: Either you’re getting some weird, useless junk that someone is re-gifting (the aforementioned lotion set, an electric back warming pad in a box that looks suspiciously like it has been opened), or you’re getting something that the giver ran out the night before and purchased (scratch tickets, gift cards). These latter items are obviously the more desirable ones, but given the capricious nature of The Swap, you’re liable to wind up with a goddamn plastic reindeer that “poops” candy — the same one that someone else got last year. Seriously, who held on to that thing for an entire year? Where did they keep it? Had they been saving it for just this moment? The mind boggles.
Bottom line, I don’t really have any good advice to offer you, because it’s a situation you can’t control. I thought I might have figured the whole thing out this year, and I bought a Starbucks gift card fully intending to keep it for myself. I was counting on the fact that the people I work with are far more likely to be Dunkin’ Donuts loyalists who look at Starbucks as “snobby” coffee, and sure enough, the Starbucks card was passed over in favor of DD cards (and scratch tickets — oh, how people love their scratch tickets!) many times, and I almost walked out of there with ten extra dollars to blow on frappuccinos and vanilla scones. Of course, the tragic word in that last sentence is “almost”, because what I ultimately wound up with was a Calvin Klein “mahogany wood” scented candle. Amazing. This is actually the worst kind of gift to get stuck with because of the scent. In this case, the smell was almost unbearable — it even got on my hands somehow.
Fortunately, I remembered that a former co-worker in another department was on vacation, so I left it in his desk drawer. I imagine his desk will smell very manly when he gets back.