Since the Friday following Thanksgiving, Sue Allen McClain, of Bartlesville, has drunk her morning coffee from a mug bearing a Christmas mouse. She'll maintain the routine until Jan. 2, when she'll pack away the beloved cup for next year's Yule season.
It's been the same every year since 1987 — when McClain landed her beloved mouse mug in an office gift exchange.
Sometimes called a Dirty Santa, Secret Santa or White Elephant exchange, the holiday ritual — and workplace gift-giving in general — plays out this time of year in untold workplaces, where's there's sure to be plenty of unique gifts, if not awkward, unwanted or re-gifted ones.
The most unusual gift that Oklahoma City-based public relations professional Cyndy Hoenig ever received was four corn on the cob butterers from a famous actress she represented in L.A.
“I had to ask what the gift actually was!” she said.
Annette Oberhofer, of the FAA, once opened a beautifully wrapped box bearing a brick with several names on it. “I didn't get this, but it was funny,” Oberhofer said.
The next year, she got a box of half-eaten chocolates. “I got this one but, of course, couldn't get rid of it,” she said.
Jim Perry, managing editor of The Cushing Citizen, once received a salt shaker shaped like a Roman figurine with a few grains of salt still in it. “There was no accompanying pepper mill; just a salt shaker that I used proudly for a number of years!” Perry said.
Some 87 percent of people believe they, like Perry, have received a re-gifted item; 62 percent plan to re-gift this season; and 92 percent think re-gifting is acceptable, according to recent survey of the Bookoo.com yard sale community. The most commonly acceptable re-gifted items are home decor products, antiques and books.
As long as it's done with care, re-gifting can be a savvy way to save money, said Jackie Warrick, president of CouponCabin.com. “Make sure the gift is appropriate for the person you're giving it to, and all signs of its previous gift status, like cards and wrapping paper, are removed,” Warrick said.
Re-gifting may be the consequence of longer gift lists. Fifty-one percent of U.S. adults plan to buy gifts for people outside of their extended family and friends this year, up from 45 percent last year, Warrick said.
Among the most awkward gifts received by CouponCabin.com survey respondents were a bag of dog food (the recipient had a cat); a belt buckle (with no belt); three expired bottles of barbecue sauce and a gift card with a zero balance on it.
Chris Norris, owner of Chris' University Spirit in Stillwater, once received an unwanted “Jelly of the Month Club” subscription, while Oklahoma City teacher Martha Ellis was given an apple by a student who'd re-gifted the fruit from her school lunch. Ellis' favorite gift was a lottery scratch-off ticket that brought $100.
The first year he worked for Brinker International, Oklahoma City native David Woodard received a 5-year-old fruit cake and was told he was its keeper until the following year. “Talk about pressure,” Woodard said. “But the person who got the cake was given a $20 Best Buy gift card for being a good sport.”
The favorite office holiday exchange gift of Capitol Abstract & Title Company's Valerie Fried was the gift bag; not the gift. The bag, which she still has, bears “an adorable misty photograph of a little girl in pink-footed pajamas opening a present. She looks just like my daughter when she was that age,” Fried said, “and it brought tears to my eyes.”
If you still are in a quandary about what to buy your boss or co-workers this Christmas, take a tip from the International Association of Administrative Professionals.
Never-fail gifts, according to their membership, include gift cards for coffee, e-books or music; stationery; Cross or Mont Blanc pens; fruit baskets; silver picture frames; leather calendars or planners; business card cases; event tickets; unique plants and alumni-focused gifts.
Happy Holidays — and here's hoping you draw the primo last round of Dirty Santa picks in your office gift exchange.