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The Coffee Run: The White Elephant Strategy Guide

December 14, 2010

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This week, you may or may not be subjected to some sort of workplace gift-exchange ritual that forces you to plop down even more shopping cash on something that nobody could conceivably ever want.

As anyone who has ever dated or taken a sociology class knows, gifts are a social construct invented to destroy relationships. Therefore, you should probably approach your office’s “white elephant' exchange with extreme caution – and only after all efforts to bail out have been exhausted.

If you are compelled to participate, you can still protect your interests with these time-honored strategies:

1. Buy something only you could want. If you end up recouping your gift, you’ve gamed the system and risen above the stupidity of giving. To ensure nobody develops a sudden affinity for your DVD copy of Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, you’ll need to disparage your white elephant gift at every opportunity without giving away that it’s actually yours.

2. Buy something that’s exactly the same shape and weight as something wildly inappropriate for an office party. If you can disguise your gift by wrapping it to resemble a weapon, a sex toy or a frozen corpse, you have a very good shot at recovering the item when nobody has chosen it from the pile.

3. Wrap the gift tightly in electric tape. If it looks completely impossible to open, there’s a good chance nobody will try. Even if they do, the frustration of trying peel off multiple layers will be conveyed to other participants, and they won’t be inclined to steal it. Then you swoop in during the last round with an X-Acto blade,and the rest is history.

4. Eat your gift before they steal it. If you buy something edible,like a Croissanwich or a giant salad, it becomes the same as a regular lunch purchase, and – if you’re somehow able to involve a company client in the game – potentially even tax-deductible. All you have to do is steal it back once and wolf it down in 15 seconds or less.

5. Buy a powerful electromagnet. If placed at the center of the gift pile before the game, a strong enough magnet will destroy each and every electronic item purchased by your coworkers. This won’t actually help you win the game at all, and will probably lead to your dismissal for ruining Christmas. But something about it is pretty hilarious.

As you can see, a solid plan of action can ensure your office white elephant party works for you, and not the other way around. So what are some of your favorite white elephant gifts and strategies? And what kind of random crap have you gotten stuck with in the past? Let us know in the comments below.

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