White Elephant Gifts to Avoid

21 Things NOT to Bring as a White Elephant Gift

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White Elephant Gifts to Avoid

d-list gifts

Companies everywhere are gearing up for the holidays with festive happy hours, parties, and white elephant gift exchanges. The rules may vary, but generally everyone is asked to bring a mystery gift and pick a number to dictate the order in which they choose a gift to unwrap — or steal something that's already been opened. Want to be the one who brings that coveted item everyone wants to steal? Not everything is potentially a good gift for co-workers. Here are some gifts most people probably won't want to get stuck with.

Purifyou Glass Water Bottle
Courtesy of amazon.com

water bottles

Fruit infusers, insulated containers, thermoses — who doesn't have half a dozen bottles lying around? Instead of taking up the recipient's cupboard space, pass on that trendy new water bottle.



These days we're glued to smartphones, tablets, and laptops in our spare time. A nice journal and pen may seem like a beautiful gift, but notebooks tend to accumulate and will likely remain empty unless the recipient is a dedicated journaler.

Tacky Sweaters

ugly christmas sweaters

Want to bring an ugly sweater as a gag gift? Don't! They're everywhere now, and who wants to see another tacky shirt or sweater get worn for a few hours and then tossed into a donation pile?

Decorative Knickknacks

decorative knickknacks

Magnets, figurines, and commemorative sculptures can be cute, but don't saddle your co-workers with small knickknacks that don't have a purpose. Unless someone at work as an empty display cabinet crying out for curios, they'll most likely collect dust for a while and then get put in a storage bin.

Picture Frame
focal point/shutterstock

photo frames

Rolls of film and disposable cameras are things of the past; almost everyone snaps high-quality photos with their phones. Unless you have an amazing moment to share in a photo print for someone's desk, skip the frame.

Egg Separator
Courtesy of amazon.com

niche kitchen gadgets

Avocado slicers, egg timer, herb scissors ... these are very niche kitchen tools that take up space and may get used only once in a while, if at all.

Unicorn Plush
Courtesy of amazon.com

stuffed animals

A cuddly buddy may catch your eye, drawing out your snuggle instincts. But if you're looking for a white elephant gift, keep walking. Kids love stuffed animals; co-workers might be weirded out.



Enough with the coasters! Wooden sets, sassy paper coasters, custom printed plates — they're everywhere. How many spots actually need protection from watermarks?

Naughty Gifts

naughty gifts

For a company gift exchange, it's best to keep things professional. Avoid awkwardness and stay far away from anything naughty, like toys or lingerie.

Bath Bombs
Courtesy of amazon.com

bath bombs

How many long baths have you taken in the past month? The answer is probably few, if any. Think about our busy lifestyles and the amount of time and water needed to draw a relaxing bath. Then drop the bath bombs, no matter how tempting they look and smell.



Themed dishware or a cute utensil set may seem like a fun, useful idea. But most people who prefer cooking and eating at home to lunch in the break room already have a fully stocked kitchen.



Before choosing a set of unique bookends as a gift, consider how many of the potential recipients actually read as a hobby, and how many are likely to have a spot for this niche gift.

Inspirational Wall Art

inspirational wall art

Motivational quotes are on display everywhere, from social media to the local coffee shop. Spare everyone the cheesy "inspirational" "art."

Tote Bag
WilleeCole Photography/shutterstock

tote bags

Just like plastic bags, tote bags and reusable grocery bags can build up. Avoid gifting yet another bag that will just be shoved in the back of a closet or a car.

Witty Mug
Courtesy of amazon.com


Put down that clever coffee mug, even if you think it's hilarious. It may seem like a witty gift to you, but your co-workers probably have cupboards full of mugs collected over the years and may not share your sense of humor.

Selfie Stick

selfie sticks

Any co-worker who doesn't have a selfie stick by now most likely doesn't need or want one.

Fidget Spinner
Courtesy of amazon.com

fidget cubes and spinners

The fidget cube was first released on Kickstarter, and cheap knockoffs quickly took over the world. Avoid bringing one to a white elephant exchange, lest you trigger people who were driven crazy by this toy fad.

Cheese Board & Cutlery Set
Courtesy of amazon.com

charcuterie and cheese boards

Meat and cheese boards are great, but they're mostly for entertaining guests and spend much of the time packed away. Skip them unless all your co-workers are generous, frequent party hosts.

Yankee Candle Large Jar Candles
Courtesy of yankeecandle.com

scented candles

This is the ultimate boring, generic gift. Most of us have at least one too many candles, and not enough occasions to light them. The scent will be a dead giveaway when people are choosing what to open.

Key Chain Trinkets
Courtesy of amazon.com

key chains

A key chain might be a perfectly fine stocking stuffer for a particular person, if it commemorates a favorite place or reflects a personal interest. But this trinket makes a pretty meager white elephant gift. And it can't hold an office key card.