Strategy: The Office Holiday Gift Exchange

If you work in an office, around this time of year you'll probably be participating in some sort of gift exchange. If you don't do Secret Santa, it's probably some variant of the White Elephant theme — everyone spends 20 bucks on a present, you draw numbers to determine the order in which you choose your gift, yadda yadda.

Almost everyone wants a nap afterward. And, possibly a cigarette.

Almost everyone wants a nap afterward. And, possibly a cigarette.

But then eventually theft becomes involved, as part of the game's rules state you can "steal" the present you really want from someone who got it before you did.

This name suggests to me that some shit went down after those nights at the Regal Beagle. And, that television reference makes me feel old.

And, this, dear readers, is where shit just gets real. In order to score that Pottery Barn gift card and pass the Three Way Poncho onto some other chump, I learned today that you gotta play by some rules. And, much like Fight Club, the first rule is that you don't talk about the rules.

That one's unwritten and not really true, so, like, here's the rest:

#1. Do you like your gift? By absolutely NO MEANS TELL ANYONE. Stare down at that really practical gift card or those baddass fingerless gloves that are just SO TOUGH and resist the urge to do anything but maaaaaaaybe kinda smile and describe it as light and matter-of-factly as you possibly can. Be all like "Oh, gloves. <show everyone> And they don't have fingers." <weak smile> Then sit your ass down.

Avoid statements about how the lack of such a joyful, fun present might literally make you cry  in attempts for mercy on your godforsaken soul with the belief that people might let you keep it. It's a cruel, cruel world we live in, and the reality is that if you, say — hypothetically, go on and on at length about how boss, let's say, a flask is (not that any of this happened) — your, say, COO or something, might swoop on in and mercilessly steal your joy for a loved one.

(Wait. Forget that last line. I might get fired* and it was truly a really sweet sentiment.)

Of the same genus as the Pocket Snake.

Should you violate rule #1 and get that Pocket Hose, don't flip out just yet, because the inverse of why this works, works too. Which brings us to...

#2. Got something you don't particularly want? Pretend you're just pretty cool with it, until it's time for someone close to you in proximity to steal something. There will be silence for a second as they decide — and this is the perfect time to drop that this gift is never leaving your cold, dead hands. It will then almost immediately be snatched. (Heh heh...snatch.)

I'm pretty sure the psychology of office gift exchange hasn't been extensively researched, but I just said it on the internet, so boom. It works. Feel free to cite me in your thesis.

#3. This shit is war, people — all's fair. Collusion is absolutely kosher. So build alliances and strategize early in the game once you figure out what you want.

Was exactly like this, but with a bitchin' high five. In relation I have failed at life.

Was exactly like this, but with a bitchin' high five. In relation I have failed at life.

Today, two of my coworkers executed a steal-and-swap so beautifully that if it wasn't choreographed beforehand I'm going to go ahead and consider it an act of God. If you could genetically create a being with the grace, precision and stamina that lives within both Mikhail Baryshnikov and Michael Jordon, that might get close to what I saw today. And their victory high-five made me realize I haven't truly lived yet. I'm pretty close to the brink of existential crisis right now because of it.

#4. If you really just want to enjoy the spirit of the holidays or whatever, then I guess you could just remind yourself that this is all in good fun. But, better yet — remember to take comfort in the fact that it takes about an hour and a half or so to complete with an average-sized office, which is a pretty sweet ticket out of actual work for close to two hours that Secret Santa just doesn't offer. So choosing this gift exchange is really all the miracle we need. Isn't it? Isn't it?

This Hello Kitty rice cooker should kill several offensive birds with one stone in regards to Asian-named gift exchanges of most sorts.

This Hello Kitty rice cooker should kill several offensive birds with one stone in regards to Asian-named gift exchanges of most sorts.


So, there you go.

On a related note, in my office history past this game has happened with several different names, the origins of which I'm way too lazy to Google. "Dirty Santa" seems rather common but makes it sound way more salacious than it actually is, and on a racist/politically incorrect note I have to tip my hat to "Chinese Gift Exchange." I'm actually curious about the origins of that one, because I don't know any stereotype jokes about the Chinese stealing. Should I? Is this some sort of historical reference that happened in a war? Eh. I went to public school in South Texas. I don't have all the answers.

So, like, happy holidays and junk. See ya next year, office gift exchange.

I totally scored this year. I'm sure we're all very happy for me.

I totally scored this year. I'm sure we're all very happy for me.

*Settle down people, this is probably untrue. My COO is hilarious and appreciates hyperbole and is truly a sweet, kind and generous soul. (Unless she, like, fires me some day.)