Buying gifts for the forced merriment of the office holiday party is a tricky endeavor. Because gift guides suck we can't tell you what to get, but we can keep you from embarrassing yourself in front of your coworkers.
The problem with these gift-giving endeavors is that you may know next to nothing about the coworker whose name you select other than the department they work in and that they could really use a new winter coat, because the one they have been showing up in for the past five years is looking a little bit ratty. The gift should be personal to show you put some thought into it, but not so personal that you creep the recipient out. You don't want anyone thinking you were lurking on their Facebook page looking for ideas.
The other problem people fall into is just getting some random piece of junk to fulfill their obligation to the random present pool. A good gift can not only win you a great ally in the office, but the admiration and respect of all your coworkers. Fuck it up, and everyone will laugh at you behind your back and talk about how your homemade fudge tastes like chalky cats hit. Here are 10 throw-away gifts that will be calling your name this Christmas time. Don't fall into their trap!
1. Gift Certificates: This is a no-thought gift idea, and an insult. Not only were you too lame to think up an actual gift, but then you go and limit my options by choosing only one place where I can spend your money.
Give Instead: Cash. At least then we won't have to go for soggy buffalo wings at T.G.I. Fridays.
2. Baked Goods: This shows you are too stingy to actually buy something, and we also got the same thing that everyone else on the bottom tier of your gift-giving list got. We know if you gave us this that you spent a whole Saturday making a hundred batches of these cookies to give to everyone who you don't want to spend real dough on, but feel compelled to give something to. And no, putting them in the Christmas tin your drunk aunt Fanny left at your house last year does not spruce up the gift. This is never a good idea. Unless you make those peanut butter cookies with the Hershey Kiss in the middle. Those always rule.
Give instead: Drugs. If we want something from your house, hook us up with a few left over Vicodins from your ankle surgery.
3. Candles or Pretty Much Anything Smelly: Here is how the thought process goes: "What should I get Joyce from accounting? Oh, I'll just get her a candle. Everyone loves candles!" No, everyone does not. The same goes for bath salts, incense, and room fresheners. Aside from telling Joyce outright that you think she and her house stink, you also revealed that you thought more about the wrapping you put around the gift than the gift itself. A candle is the ultimate cop out.
Give Instead: A bottle of poppers. It says "room deodorizer" but it will make you the hit of the office party.
4. Swag: If you got it for free, it is wrong to give it to someone as a gift, no matter how cool it is or how much you despise them. Period. If it actually has another company's logo on it, not only are you a Scrooge, but you are going to hell.
Give Instead: A business trip. Try to get your coworker assigned to a cushy conference somewhere with lots of sun and little work where he can pick up some swag of his own.
5. Calendars: Everyone needs a calendar, right? Wrong! We have iCal and cell phones and the internet and watches and about seven million other things that will tell us the date. We don't want to learn a new word every day or see a different almost naked Hooters waitress every month. Calendars—even ones with naked fire fighters—are not only stupid, they are useless.
Give Instead: A pen. We may not need calendars, but we still need to write, and nothing says class like a nice pen.
6. DVDs: Many offices have a $5-or-less rule, so it's easy to pick up a $4.99 copy of Kangaroo Jack at the Duane Reade or a cheap bootleg copy of Ninja Assassin on Canal Street. Guess what? Your taste in movies sucks, and probably isn't the same as ours.
Give Instead: A gift certificate to Blockbuster. Go ahead, break rule #1, but then kill yourself.
7. Anything with a Slogan on It: If it says "Hang in There" or "You Can Do It" or "I Hate Mondays" or "Dare to Soar" then it is stupid. We don't care if it's a mug, a hat, a pencil, a poster, or a gold-plated watch. If it tries to make us do something, the only thing we're going to want to do is throw up. And if you think we'd actually like one of these, you don't know us at all.
Give Instead: Incriminating pictures of the boss. Nothing says holiday spirit like, "These will be great for blackmail if you need it."
8. Funny Things for Our Desk: Instead of actually giving someone a desk-top zen rock garden or a clock in the shape of a golf ball or any of those other silly office accessories that come pre-wrapped at Macy's, just take the gift and throw it in the trash. That's where it's going to end up anyway.
Give Instead: A dart board. Preferably with a picture of your face on it.
9. Scratch Tickets: You might think this says, "I just gave you the chance to win $1 million," but what it really said is, "I have no imagination, and I just picked these up at the 7-Eleven five minutes before the party started." This is even worse than a gift certificate, because if we lose, we get absolutely nothing. Thanks for 30 seconds of fun and five useless pieces of paper, jerk.
Give Instead: Casino chips. If we're gonna gamble, we wanna play our own game.
10. Donating Money in Our Name: Chances are, we want nothing to do with your charity, especially if it is related to some sort of political or religious cause. Also, you're totally ruining our street cred. We don't want people thinking that we actually give money to charity.
Give Instead: Cash, of course. Just give us the $20 and we'll donate to the "Jack Daniels Fund for Sober Writers."