oh no. i screwed up.
December 23, 2014 1:15 PM   Subscribe

In true sitcom-character form, I've gotten myself in a situation. I promised weird and exciting Christmas presents for work people by accident. I was half-bluffing half-joking, but now it has been taken seriously, and I didn't kill it soon enough, so now it is too late. And I need to deliver. By tomorrow.

I'm relatively new at work. My group is 7 other people. I don't want to spend more than about eight dollars per person. Gifts given to me include a picture frame, a box of chocolates, lottery tickets, and a mug with truffles in it.

My original plan was to buy Russian candies (and maybe a little matroyshka keychains or another little tchotchke alongside them) for everyone because they are delicious and a little more unusual than what you can pick up and Duane Reade. I was asked what I was getting and I hinted that I was getting something a tiny bit unexpected, and it has been blown out of proportion, and plus, now it has been stated very loudly all day that everyone is very very very sick of candy and does not want any more candy.


Stipulations include: No alcohol. Nothing that is seafood based (just in case someone was going to suggest something really weird). Nothing illegal. I work with a variety of men and women in their mid-30s to early 60s in the public sector in NYC.

I need to buy it tonight. It needs to be in Manhattan. It needs to be somehow unusual or otherwise exciting, because I have fucked up. Oh metafilter, please help me. I am going to leave work in about an hour, and go directly to the place you tell me to go buy the things.
posted by millipede to Shopping (50 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Have you seen this question?
posted by yawper at 1:17 PM on December 23, 2014

yes. those are a little more utilitarian and a little less festive than what I was going for. it would feel really weird to hype up a series of spatulas or nail clippers or banana holders.
posted by millipede at 1:20 PM on December 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Foodwise, could brainstorm some interesting savory/hot snack rather than sweets. Interesting pickles? Wasabi peas, mustard pretzel bits, ....?
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:21 PM on December 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thought being, if there's a little spicy/novel/"dare you to eat it" element, that would match up with your "it's a little unusual" line.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:22 PM on December 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

What about something a little magical instead of wacky? I'm thinking something like these color changing LED candles in a simple cut out house. Although that does get a little involved.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:23 PM on December 23, 2014

(done threadsitting after this) I should have mentioned that there are several very picky eaters in this group--so I don't want to get something they can't enjoy or that will gross them out. That's why everyone else got candy!
posted by millipede at 1:24 PM on December 23, 2014

Dean and Deluca has Holiday Sprinkle Chocolate Covered Pretzels

How about chestnuts? You should be able to pick some up in any grocery store or whole foods or trader joes.
posted by bq at 1:25 PM on December 23, 2014

I picked up saffron for $5 per gram in tiny little bottles. People have no idea how much saffron costs and then they are, like, "Ooooh! Expensive and fancy!". It only cost $5 and I got the ooooooh factor.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 1:31 PM on December 23, 2014 [23 favorites]

A fancy mustard store (yes, really) just opened on the UWS. They have an interesting assortment of things for $9.

You can get flowering teas (which even if you are not a tea drinker, are pretty awesome) at Pearl River Market. In fact, Pearl River has lots of interesting bits and bobs that might make for cool presents.
posted by kimdog at 1:31 PM on December 23, 2014 [10 favorites]

7*8= Half Hour visit from a balloon artist?
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 1:32 PM on December 23, 2014 [36 favorites]

Bug rings? Mini microscopes? Mini skulls? GOLD?! The Evolution store on Spring St.
posted by otolith at 1:32 PM on December 23, 2014 [9 favorites]

OH! Novelty toys! Think about how unusual and amusing a potato gun or a beautiful kaleidoscope would be. There is sure to be a toy store near you, although they may be a little crazy tonight. You can poke around a little to see which one has novelty items, although even Toys R Us has a decent novelty section.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:32 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Japanese stationery for the win. Go to the downstairs area of Kinokuniya, pick out a bunch of silly little erasers and goofy stickers and some pens.
posted by tchemgrrl at 1:33 PM on December 23, 2014 [21 favorites]

How about Lego? A small set of mini-figs costs $4 online or you could buy everyone a Santa set for $8. If you have to avoid anything obviously Christmas themed then you could buy key chains for each person - pick the keychain that most expresses their personality (or how you feel about them).

And there is a Lego store in the Rockefeller Center.

That way they can decorate their desks with them and you've suddenly nailed a theme that you can use year after year. Pure win.
posted by Not on your nellie at 1:38 PM on December 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

2nding the flowering teas, totally weird and exciting!
posted by DarlingBri at 1:38 PM on December 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Homemade macaroni and cheese, and a bunch of small food containers to put it in. Homemade macaroni and cheese is *delicious*.

Or: get tiny "lucky plates" (maybe teacup saucers) for everyone, and bring a big plate with cheese, nuts, and maybe olives.
posted by amtho at 1:38 PM on December 23, 2014

If you live near a stationary store you could get some sealing wax and maybe an inexpensive stamp for each person (or make the stamps with a dowel rod and flat button with a cool engraved design).
posted by lharmon at 1:40 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hexbugs are little robot bugs (similar to wind-up toys but autonomous) that walk around your desk, might be fun for the right group. They seem to be in most toy stores/Target type stores these days.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:40 PM on December 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Seconding Pearl River Market. Lucky cat! Crystal Balls! Laughing Buddha!
posted by kinetic at 1:40 PM on December 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Miracle Fruit? Maybe call this place and see if they have it (I don't live in NYC and just asked Yelp)?
posted by quince at 1:40 PM on December 23, 2014 [22 favorites]

Miracle Fruit tablets are inexpensive and totally exciting and hilarious. Bring along lemons and limes to sample with them.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:50 PM on December 23, 2014 [36 favorites]

Since time is of the essence, you might be better off going to the holiday market at either Union Square or Bryant Park. You'll at least have a lot of different types of gifts to choose from. If you go to Union Square and can't find everything, a Muji is nearby on 19th Street between 5th and 6th. They have a lot of small fun things for the office. Paper Presentation next door also has many small unusual gifts at the 18th Street end of the store near the cash registers. A.I. Friedman, on 18th near closer to 6th Avenue, has similar things.

Between all of those options, you should be able to find something for everyone -- good luck!
posted by amicus at 1:51 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

[one more thing--i definitely want to get the same exact thing for every person. that's what everyone else did, so i want to do it too.]
posted by millipede at 1:53 PM on December 23, 2014

PIQ at Grand Central has great, unusual stuff but not sure how much of it would be under $8.00
posted by Mchelly at 2:05 PM on December 23, 2014

Third vote for Miracle Fruit/tabs. It's a really trippy sensation, definately a wacky surprise gift.
posted by k8oglyph at 2:06 PM on December 23, 2014 [10 favorites]

Get beautiful loaves of fresh Russian Bread. The big brown ones. They're good for Christmas Breakfast, or leftover sandwiches. Also, slightly exotic. In addition, get a bottle of jam, perhaps in unusual flavors.

Or Russian Tea and cherry preserves to put in it to sweeten.

Then you can still do the key chain doo-hickey.

Go to Moscow on the Hudson, they should have everything you need.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:06 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Though looking on their site you could get a set or two of cat butt magnets and give each of them 1 or 2
posted by Mchelly at 2:07 PM on December 23, 2014

miracle fruit tabs sound awesome, but you will also have to bring a small assortment of flavors that are most altered by them...
posted by th3ph17 at 2:25 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

This fellow sells Bobcats... but maybe you're not brave enough to give a litter of wild animals to your co-workers.

What's more unusual than a thousand meal worms in your stocking?... but maybe you're not a psychopath.

Hire a Santa! Or a Caricaturist!

Duck Dynasty Chia Pets
A Fog/Laser Machine for the office!
Pickles from The Pickle Guys.

Well, Good luck finding something, if nothing else you can give a box of chocolates and an apology.
posted by FallowKing at 2:28 PM on December 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Welding mask replacement filters(just the glass) from a hardware store, and a reminder that there is a solar eclipse on March 20th?
posted by sawdustbear at 2:31 PM on December 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

Seconding (or sixthing?) Kinokuniya. They now have a huge selection of cute post it notes - everyone needs post its!
posted by asphericalcow at 2:37 PM on December 23, 2014

Fish's Eddy is open tonight till 9 and have some fun things as well.
posted by Mchelly at 2:46 PM on December 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Now I want miracle fruit for Christmas so I'm voting for that. Definitely bring a selection of things to taste.
posted by fshgrl at 2:47 PM on December 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Super sexy underwear was a hit as a present for an older, public service giftee.
posted by saucysault at 2:50 PM on December 23, 2014

Maybe your 'weird and exciting' gifts got "held up in shipping" and you'll have to go with something plain/easy. Good luck!
posted by fourpotatoes at 3:09 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Kiosk has some cool little things from various countries, like Audubon bird calls, gadgets you can stick in an orange in order to drink juice straight out of it, various maps (best ramen in NYC, best doughnuts, etc.).
posted by xo at 3:10 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

My daughter was just telling me yesterday about the Miracle Fruit. It's a thing. Makes for family fun!
posted by tamitang at 3:35 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hire a mariachi band to come sing and then order in Mexican food?
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:00 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Color change LEDs are always fun.
posted by leahwrenn at 4:03 PM on December 23, 2014

No, seriously. Miracle Fruit is the correct answer to this problem.
posted by lydhre at 4:54 PM on December 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Seconding Fishes Eddy. They have sets of presidential coffee mugs and famous rabbis and other kitschy stuff. Saved my butt many times.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:54 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Those cat-butt magnets are the sitcom-iest office gag gifts in the history of ever. You can get people arguing over who got the best cat butt and scheming to swap or steal them - the jokes just write themselves!
posted by Quietgal at 5:06 PM on December 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Although they are technically illegal *gasp* in the USA because they have a toy inside, most Russian groceries will sell you Kinder Surprise eggs if you ask for them nicely. Yes, that is technically candy and technically illegal, but come on! Kinder Surprise!
posted by Behemoth at 7:15 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mediterranean Foods II in Astoria is a goldmine for this kind of thing. Grab some Kraš chocolate! Or, whatever!
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:33 PM on December 23, 2014

In a similar situation once, I bought a bunch of wooden puzzles that interlock (just google wooden puzzles and the images that come up first are exactly what I'm talking about). They were a huge hit, only cost a few dollars and staff spent ages trying to work them out and then swap with each other to figure out everyone else's puzzles. They then became permanent desk fixtures.
posted by Jubey at 10:35 PM on December 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Bottles of Essentucci # 4 and Borodosky bread. Russian themed and not a common taste to americans.
posted by WeekendJen at 6:31 AM on December 24, 2014

romance novels for all!
posted by caoimhe at 7:03 AM on December 24, 2014

I bought the flowering tea at Pearl River Mart, along with a little teacup for each person, and then I went to buy Matryoshka dolls at my new favorite store, St Petersburg on 5th ave in the 20s. They even wrapped them for me all festively and gave me a teeny little fruity candy to go with them.
posted by millipede at 8:09 AM on December 24, 2014 [21 favorites]

posted by stoneweaver at 8:30 AM on December 24, 2014

Next year, get the Magic Fruit! ;)
posted by k8oglyph at 3:28 PM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

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