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By Tina Gallagher

Nothing is more frustrating at Secret Santa time than watching some people opening gifts far over the agreed dollar amount while others open things obviously found in a cereal box. Secret Santa is supposed to be fun, not dreaded. Every year, it seems there are people who just don’t read or follow the directions, leaving many people to not sign up next year. Enough already. Here are 10 tips to become the perfect Secret Santa in your office, church or school.

Stick to the Dollar Limit

This is where most of the hurt feelings come from. Someone gets a gift far above the limit, others, well, read the above. Spend only the limit, not over. And for others, spend the limit. If you make handmade gifts, give them separately.

Don’t Trade Your Secret Pick

You signed up. You chose a name. It’s someone you don’t like. You signed up. Never mind who you wound up with. It’s Christmas. Go out, buy something generic and Christmas-y and spend the limit. That person and friends will see you can put differences aside for Christmas. If that person doesn’t thank you, blow it off. People will want to choose you next year.

Think About the Person You Pick

It happens every year- especially if you’re new- you get the name of a person you don’t know. Have fun. Ask who knows that person. It’s a fun way to get to know people. What do they like? Have pets? Have a favorite music artist? Movie? Take notes, get to know people. Don’t give gift certificates unless the person wants one.

Add a Wish List to the Name Tags

A lot of offices solve the problem of what to buy by listing the person’s name and top 2 or 3 choices on the name tag. This solves so many problems of what to buy. If you’re the Secret Santa- pay attention to the listed wishes. If the wishes are above the dollar amount, get something similar that’s within the amount.

Don’t Complain About What You Receive

The wish list is just that- wishes. If you got something that’s obviously far below the dollar limit or isn’t on your list, be quiet. It’s Christmas. You had to send a “Thank You” letter to Aunt Maggie for those gosh-awful sweaters every year, so use the same lesson now. Say “Thank You and Merry Christmas.” Leave it at that. At worst, don’t sign up next year.

Blow off Complaints About What You Gave

There will always be people who aren’t going to be happy with what they receive. They are going to be tacky and rude no matter what. The whole room is going to hear how much they hate your gift, and in detail. Blow it off. Try. It’s Christmas. The majority of people are going to tell them to shut up and be grateful they got something. Look at it this way; no one is going to want to choose them next year. Maybe they won’t sign up.

Only Complain if the Gift is Offensive

I believe the worst Secret Santa gift I’ve seen was a sex toy given to a woman whose husband had died that year. Although the giver thought it was funny, no one else did. The Secret Santa committee let the giver know they were banned from the program while management took steps about the pornographic gift brought onto company property. The offensive garbage was taken to the dumpster, and many people gave their gifts to the woman.

Don’t Forget to Bring Your Gift

No matter what you have to do to remember; get the gift there on the day it’s going to be given. Nothing is more embarrassing to the recipient than watching everyone else open gifts and theirs isn’t there. And you have to answer the committee members about “where’s your gift?” You got something and the person you drew didn’t?

Say Thank You

Unless you get a truly offensive gift, remember to say “Thank You.” Thank you cards are cheap and available just about anywhere. It’s simple to fill out: “Thank you for the xxx you gave me for Christmas.” That’s it. Or better still, say it in person. Exercising manners gets you farther than no manners. And, remember: the person you’re thanking (or not) may be your manager one day and will remember you.

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