Office etiquette can be tricky, especially when gifts are involved.

As Mamamia reports, an office Secret Santa exchange took a turn for the worse and bizarre when one gift recipient looked up the price of her gift and contacted the person who sent it.

The giver posted the exchange on Reddit, explaining that his office Secret Santa exchange had a $50 gift limit. That’s where the trouble started. The co-worker who received his gift started by thanking him, writing, “Hey, thanks for the chocolates and blanket! I really appreciate it!”

Not realizing where this was about to go, the giver responded with a comment about how comfortable that type of blanket is, and the recipient added, “I love it!”

If that had been all, etiquette would have been satisfied and no one would have made an alarming faux pas. But the recipient decided to raise the issue of her gift’s price. She wrote:

“So, I know this is kinda awkward … but the spending limit was $50 and I looked online and it seems that the blanket and chocolates only add up to about $30?”

And then she followed up with a request to bring the total up to the maximum:

“Do you think it’s possible you could get me something else? My kids have been spending me up the wazoo!”

From there, the conversation quickly devolves into Miss Manners’ worst nightmare. The giver offers to top off his gift by giving her $20. The recipient counters by asking for a Samsung Galaxy tablet that costs $120, generously offering to take the cash if that’s easier for him.

He points out that this is way over the spending limit. She talks about how she wants to do something nice for her kids at Christmas, adding, “I don’t mean to be abrasive or anything, but you’re an engineer so you make quite a bit more than I do!”

When he declines, saying that, “I also have things I need to pay for, and unfortunately $120 for a co-worker is a bit out my budget,” she is incredulous and then abusive.

First, she points out that he doesn’t have kids and asks, “What else would you spend your money on?” When he doesn’t respond, she calls him, “disgusting.” Finally, she agrees to take the $20 he offered earlier. Which he is no longer willing to consider.

On Reddit, commenters condemned the recipient for looking up the price of the gift, pointing out that complaining about the value of a present is a big no-no. One commenter wrote:

It was unbearably tacky just to look up the value of the gifts she was given to ensure it met an arbitrary standard.

Others pointed out that Secret Santa exchanges should never be about the value or desirability of gifts, and that the real point is participation:

These sorts of things are always a crap-shoot, and the fun is more in the giving than in the receiving. I always walk into them assuming my gift is a sunk cost and I’m grateful for whatever it is that I receive.

The question of whether the giver was in the wrong for picking a present below the limit was a bit more complicated. However, at least one person felt that the $30 gift was acceptable and the recipient missed the point of the $50 guideline:

A spending limit is just that a limit to avoid people feeling like they need to spend to not get embarrassed by spending $40 and everyone else is buying things for $100. It would be shitty to buy them a $5 gift but $30 to me while maybe slightly on the lower end for that limit is no amount that should be questioned or felt inappropriate.

This is what makes office gift-giving such a minefield. When you mix a business relationship with a social activity (like a gift exchange), there’s always room for hurt feelings and mixed signals.

To be honest, I question the $50 limit for an office gift exchange — assuming we’re talking about a mix of employees at different salaries, not an exchange among hedge fund managers.

I don’t even spend $50 on some of my friends and relatives. So I wouldn’t be happy to spend that much on Doug from HR. (Especially if Doug is the guy who keeps taking half a doughnut from the box in the break room and leaving the other half to go stale. Just take the whole doughnut, Doug! People hate it when you do that.)

However, assuming participation is truly voluntary and not go-ahead-and-don’t-participate-but-we’ll-remember-this-at-the-next-evaluation-and-mark-you-down-on-team-building voluntary (see my point about minefields), there’s nothing automatically wrong about setting a $50 limit. That leads to the real sticking point: how close do you have to get to a Secret Santa limit?

My rule, which should be enshrined in the Constitution or enacted by a federal agency, is that the value of the gift needs to be within a 10 to 20 percent range of the limit.

Notice that I say “value,” not price. If you get a great deal and only pay $20 for something worth $60, then you — or rather your giftee — got lucky. But in general, you should stay relatively close to the cap. That doesn’t mean you have to hit it exactly. There’s no need to buy enough Tootsie Rolls to bump your $47.25 up to an even $50. As long as you’re in that 10 to 20 percent buffer zone, you’re fine.

My rule for gift recipients is much simpler: whatever you get, no matter how disappointing, allergen-heavy, awful, or pointless, you say, “Thank you.” That’s all. Save your grumbling for when you get home. Never complain to the gift giver. Don’t look up the price. And don’t gripe to your co-workers.

Doing anything other than being completely gracious is the best way to guarantee that your Secret Santa ends up being the person in charge of your quarterly review. Or someone willing to post your complaints on the internet.

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36 Replies to “Office Secret Santa Exchange Goes Very Bad When One Recipient Looks up the Price of Her Gift”

  • Anonymous 2 years ago

    I think maybe he should have walked down there and bitch slapped her

    • Anonymoose 2 years ago

      I laughed so fucking hard when I read this!

  • masterredfox 2 years ago

    To actually look up the price of a gift is totally crass. Is this a PC move on gift giving. Ridiculous!!!! If you get a gift, say thank you and accept it. This is why there’s this attitude of gimme without giving thanks for what you have. Stop being so selfish.

  • Gidge 2 years ago

    Wow what a bitch.

  • Kelly Turner 2 years ago

    if this company has an HR department, i think i would report her. she needs to learn a lesson or two about etiquette. feel sorry for her kids, though.

  • Anonymous 2 years ago

    They aren’t his kids, honey. No one is responsible for their well being or happiness except their parents. What a bitch.

  • Lee Kent 2 years ago

    Liberal mentality, you got more than me so gimme! Forget that he is in a better profession or more educated. Forget that he had to attain this position. LIBERAL=SOCIALISM!

    • Jay Jay jetplane 2 years ago

      No its stupid mentally I’m very liberal and I think this is bullshit I would of been happy with a dollar fluffy blanket and that would of been that. This is way fucking over the line I guess it never does hurt to ask people for anything but they have every right to say no and u take the no if need be. I would be embarrassed and afraid to ask for something that out there. Also I thought secret Santa was a secret like who bought for u so she like this dont happen?

    • DIANA 2 years ago

      Not everything is a partisan topic.
      This is not a liberal mentality. I am very liberal and I find this repulsive.
      This is a class issue and an entitlement issue.

      • Anonymous 2 years ago

        I hope you can see why we are confused because liberalism = entitled. Perhaps you aren’t as liberal as you think.

  • Pat 2 years ago


  • Kathleen 2 years ago

    WOW! I would have waited till we were at work and called a meeting of all employees and laid it all out for everyone to see! Then slapped the $20 on the table and said “take this money and go buy yourself some manners, some class, and last but certainly not lest some plastic surgery because you have got balls as big as Atlanta! Shame on you!!” Then I would have walked out.

    • Susan M 2 years ago

      Excellent and I like how you put it all in prospective.

  • Nunya 2 years ago

    I have to believe this is fake because, if there are people out there like her, I clearly am not of the same race and do not belong here. Hell, I’ve been wanting to leave anyway, but I’m too afraid of heights.

  • Alan Doud 2 years ago

    First orf all I think it is unfair to place a burden on employees that may affect them in ways not known. For example an employer may have some financial challenges they are not willing for everyone to know. Fift giving should not be manditory, but rather volunrary. A limit means up too and is a suggested amount. It appears we have “Beggars Syndrome,” going into effect here. That is where a person who has less assumes because you have more you owe them. Though having a well paying position does not mean one may be financially secure,.Looking a gift horse in the mouth is rude, assuming, jealous and greedy. Maybe if one struggled and accumalated debt to go to school to better themselves they could also be an engineer. Has anyone looked at how much education cost today. Medical costs and education can bankrupt a person. It sounded like the engineer put some thought into the gift. That in itself should have been appreciated

  • me 2 years ago

    I’d just have to take that thread to HR and complain about her. You know as she escalates it she is going there eventually against you.

  • Anonymous 2 years ago

    Great way to Kill the Secret Santa. Next year nobody gets gifts.

  • Anonymous 2 years ago

    There is a $50 limit. Can’t spend over 50. To me that means spending up to 50 and not over it. I would love that gift because I would eat my chocolates under the blanket while watching a movie!

  • Mary Freeman 2 years ago

    Wonder if she is still married? Talk about a modern day “gold digger”, she certainly fits the profile. I certainly hope he DID NOT give her the extra $20.00. The maximum limit was up to $50.00. That doesn’t mean you have to spend at least $50.00.

  • Susan 2 years ago

    I think no one anywhere wants an office gift exchange! There is nothing good that comes out of it except hard feelings! Why not everyone give a monetary gift to a local charity of their choice and publish a list!

    • Anonymous 2 years ago

      great idea, so much is wasted on things not needed when there are so many that would appreciate anything

  • Anonymous 2 years ago

    That is so rude! We did a secret santa at work this year and it was super fun. No was outwardly offended nor did anyone complain. If you are respectful and respect each other, it’s a fun team building activity!

  • Mary Jo Fitzpatrick 2 years ago

    Anybody want to bet that whatever she bought her co-worker didn’t even cost $30? Anyone petty enough to look up the cost of a gift isn’t going to go whole hog for someone else.

  • Cranky recipient 2 years ago

    I remember doing it one year and my boss drew my name. She gifted me two of those bath sets. The kind that never get used cause they stink and are cheap. I was thoroughly disappointed because she put zero thought into the gift and the gift I gave to another was awesome with lots of little goodies and thought involved. My boss also put her name on the gift. It’s called SECRET SANTA. Weirdo! Lol. I don’t expect something fancy but dang, it’s one gift and it’s terrible not to put any thought in it and at least get something the recipient will use! I don’t participate anymore.

  • Anonymous 2 years ago

    the time I did a secret santa I didn’t get any thing at all…

  • Jason 2 years ago

    If it was truly a “secret” santa thing how did she find out who gifted it to her?

    • Darlen 2 years ago

      It is only secret until you give them the gift, then they find out. That is how my coworkers and I have done it for years. Also, we only participate if we want to. I think that some people do Secret Santa and do not reveal who bought who. People do it differently.

  • Anonymous 2 years ago

    No wonder her brats are “spending her up the wazoo”, they learned of from their greedy bitc h mom. She complains about, then used them to try to get another $120.00. Stupid hoe.

  • Jean 2 years ago

    The Greedy person has no manners. Totally out of line to ask the gift giver to reach the limit.

    • Anonymous 2 years ago

      I fully agree. Very ungrateful and “entitled”.

  • Naynay 2 years ago

    My company does not allow us to do anything like this. I would not even join in if they did. Just be thankful for what you were given,

  • Rhonda 2 years ago

    She is completely in the wrong. That $50 is WAY TOO HIGH of an amount to spend on a coworker. Employees, I hope, are given the option of opting out of participating. Whether you love or hate the gift, you say thank you in a very sincere way and leave it at that! End of story.

  • Anonymous 2 years ago

    Wow, what an ungrateful **tch!! The audacity to even ask and to say the things she said.

  • Anonymous 2 years ago

    I would not spend fifty on a coworker unless it was my bff or boss but she is a stingy bitch

  • Anonymous 2 years ago

    The limit was awful high, but to verbally assault the coworker who gave what the giftee thought was substandard is unforgivable. Seriously, Secret Santa at work should be a 5 or 10 dollar limit. It’s a token gift, for goodness sake! Wonder who’s harebrained idea it was to set a $50 limit?!?

  • gzizzel 2 years ago

    She is way out of line. If she had any class, she would have said thank you and moved on. It is unblievavle that she would even look up the cost and more outrageous for her to even bring it up to the giver. She is disgusting for even asking for $20 more and then to ask for a $120 tablet!!! How rude and presumptious of her! Then, to point out he is an engineer and has no kids to buy for? Maybe he has been trying to have kids and has been unable to. What a kick in the gut to him! Maybe he hasn’t been trying for kids, but has an ill parent that he is paying medical bills for! Even if these situations don’t apply, she is acting like a bimbo and exhibits a sense of entitlement that is completely ludicrous. I think the giver should demand a full box of chocolates back along with the blanket and tell her to jump off a bridge for being so ungrateful!

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