Wanted: gift ideas for employees
November 30, 2005 10:01 PM   Subscribe

What should I buy my employees for Christmas?

I manage twelve people, all women, with ages ranging from 20 to mid-60's. This is my first Christmas as their manager and I would like to buy them all something. I don't want to purchase individualized gifts, because half of them have been with me less than 6 months, so I don't know them well enough for that. However, this is coming out of my own pocket and I want it to have some thought and care put into it, but can't seem to think of anything unique.

I've purchased a lot of small gifts used as motivation (sales environment) and would like to stay away from the same types. Some items I've used in the past are: Starbucks cards, movie tickets, Bath & Body Works lotions, etc. Items I can't/don't want to give: alcohol, time off, money, lottery tickets, food. Items previous managers have given: desk clock, hand-made Christmas ornament. My price range is under $20 per employee.

Any suggestions for such a wide range of people and so many limitations? I'm truly stumped.
posted by cyniczny to Shopping (38 answers total)
posted by toxic at 10:20 PM on November 30, 2005

Lottery tickets. I used to work for a company that got each of us a ticket for a dream home raffle. $100 a pop, but it was an oilfield company. Lottery tickets might be a cheaper substitute.
posted by atchafalaya at 10:29 PM on November 30, 2005

what kind of work does your company do? if it's an office, perhaps some nice photo frames for their desks. it becomes personalized once they put a picture in it...
posted by purplefiber at 10:29 PM on November 30, 2005

$6-$9 will get you a nice selection of Running Press Mini Kits (generally available at your local megabookstore).
posted by Guy Smiley at 10:36 PM on November 30, 2005

5 lb. bags of pistachios.
posted by wsg at 10:44 PM on November 30, 2005

Burt's Bees has gift kits for sale. I would heavily suggest the head-to-toe starter kit ($13 each, but you can find them $3 cheaper at Borders, I think).
posted by itchie at 10:47 PM on November 30, 2005

I just found out that where I work we're all getting Starbucks cards and flash drives.
posted by tangerine at 10:52 PM on November 30, 2005

Not very original, but it's hard to go wrong with gift certificates from the local bookstore.
posted by normy at 11:01 PM on November 30, 2005

Amazon.com gift certificates. They can buy anything they want.
posted by frogan at 11:04 PM on November 30, 2005

Don't forget the handwritten note that thanks them for their work and hopefully has an individualized touch. This way, the gift says they're all equally important, and the note says they're still individuals and are seen as such in your eyes.
posted by lorrer at 11:21 PM on November 30, 2005

The $5 subsription cost of singing up to MetaFilter.
posted by planetthoughtful at 11:25 PM on November 30, 2005

posted by Cranberry at 11:35 PM on November 30, 2005

You can buy the usual mom-type presents: Gift certificate for some spa treatment (massage, pedicure, facial). Candles. Slippers. Potpourri. Scented soaps.

Or, the pointedly non-gendered gifts: Car safety kits like this, a basic tool kit, scratch tickets, gourmet coffee in seasonal mug.

Or you can just go quirky: Who could resist a chia pet? Toe socks. Some wacky sombreros and plastic margarita glasses. A basket filled with silly string, slinky, silly putty. Sea Monkeys.
posted by SassHat at 11:49 PM on November 30, 2005

We get poinsettia baskets from a florist for the support staff where I work: a couple of small poinsettias, some ivy, a pretty basket. $35 bucks or so. Some leave them on their desks, others take them home. It's had the best reaction of the various gifts we've tried.

Another idea: a gift card that can be used anywhere in a mall, rather than at a specific store. Lots of malls sell them now.
posted by SashaPT at 3:23 AM on December 1, 2005


Items I can't/don't want to give: alcohol, time off, money, lottery tickets, food.

Are there any cool events coming up in your city that you could get them tickets to? (Seats at a New Year's Eve concert, craft fair entrance, circus, Festival, etc.)
posted by Marquis at 4:03 AM on December 1, 2005

Thank you for the answers so far!

More information: we work in a financial institution with no permanently assigned desks/cubicles and are located in the greater Phoenix area, so gloves and scarves and cold gear are out.

Some really good ideas to give me a start.
posted by cyniczny at 5:12 AM on December 1, 2005

Yankee candles.
posted by MegoSteve at 5:15 AM on December 1, 2005

Christmas ornaments and other random christmas decorations were usually the standard gifts from management who didn't know me.

Even if they don't like it, they're not obligated to keep it around the house for more than a month a year anyways... after that it'll go in a box.
posted by FortyT-wo at 5:31 AM on December 1, 2005

The $5 subsription cost of singing up to MetaFilter.

That will totally boost productivity in the office.
posted by grouse at 5:39 AM on December 1, 2005

Mouserugs. I can't tell you how great these mousepads are. Mine's lasted four years with very little wear. They work great with roller or digital mice, feel nice under the hand, and can feel very personal.

Like the Dude said "That rug really tied the room together."
posted by furtive at 6:01 AM on December 1, 2005

Someone asked a question about this book, Material World, the other day, and it looks great. I haven't seen the book yet, but it's on my to-buy list just because of that question, and I'm thinking of giving it to my dad for Christmas. It shows average families from various countries sitting outside their homes surrounded by all their worldly possessions. I think just about everyone would appreciate that, especially around the holidays. It's $20 on bn, but $18 if you pay $25 for the annual membership which gives you a 10% discount on all your purchases. So if you buy that many of them it will work out for a free membership for yourself that you can use all year.
posted by leapingsheep at 6:24 AM on December 1, 2005

Whoops! Sorry. That ticket for the dream home raffle was a great one, though. I loved working for that company.
posted by atchafalaya at 6:42 AM on December 1, 2005

A multitool or a really great LED flashlight. If they travel for work, an organizer for the car seat.
posted by theora55 at 6:54 AM on December 1, 2005

I second the Yankee Candles. That's a good idea.

Other thoughts include a small planted flower pot, a brooch for the holidays, a desk calendar, and for a little more you could get them all Red Swingline Staplers.
posted by Argyle at 7:06 AM on December 1, 2005

Yankee Candles are those really uber-smelly ones? No way, nothing that odiferous. I second a great LED flashlight for the keychain (some come on a carabiner) or a nice plant (one that can sustain office-level sunlight would be a bonus).
posted by fionab at 7:23 AM on December 1, 2005

Not sure if you can get them where you are, but I give out 2 Ciniplex Odeon Gift certificates (2 x Single person movie pass). Sometimes you can get packages that include drink and popcorn as well.
Always a good gift to receive. That way they can take a friend to a movie of their choice for free. Very few people do not enjoy a gift like that.
Bonus is that it is a consumable, and so you are not contributing to the flood of plastic crap-gifts that most people get at Christmas.
posted by TheFeatheredMullet at 7:40 AM on December 1, 2005

At our work Christmas party we always do some kind of game/lottery where you end up being allowed to pick your prize from a table if you won. (So winning first is an advantage and winning last will leave you with a gigantic white T-shirt from the sponsor.)
The FIRST items to go are ALWAYS the gift certificates. It might not be original, but everyone loves them!
posted by easternblot at 8:04 AM on December 1, 2005

I'd say a nice gift can be made of a tin of fine tea, but perhaps that's too close to "food". I really like gardens in a bag and egglings, which, while edible are plant gifts. They can also be easily re-gifted, which is a bonus. Other ideas: a nice moleskine (which could allow for some variation and trading amongst recipients), a monogrammed silver notepad (though it narrowly breaks the budget), a (second vote) amazon.com gift certificate (such freedom!).

I've got to run out but will supply more ideas later. Such a fun question.
posted by cior at 8:52 AM on December 1, 2005

Hot cocoa sampler box.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:00 AM on December 1, 2005

I don't consider baskets of soaps/lotions particularly good gifts--I think they're tacky and impersonal--but I'll give Soap Flowers. The recipients have always seemed happy with them.
posted by Soliloquy at 9:11 AM on December 1, 2005

Calendars or day planners for the coming year. They come in all price ranges.
posted by orange swan at 9:32 AM on December 1, 2005

Origami gift packs?

(You can probably find something locally, too).
posted by PurplePorpoise at 10:36 AM on December 1, 2005

Take them all out on an outing somewhere. Maybe bowling.
posted by BrandonAbell at 12:40 PM on December 1, 2005

I'm giving my co-workers home made hot cocoa mix. I just sealed it up in mason jars. Note that it is laced with cayenne. Delicious.
posted by clgregor at 2:28 PM on December 1, 2005

Take a picture of everyone together, looking festive.

Buy them each a Moleskine journal. In the back of Moleskine notebooks is a pocket for putting bits and pieces in.

In that pocket, put a copy of the photo, a handwritten note thanking each of them for everything they've done throughout the year and wishing them a safe and happy holiday season, a bookmark, a fridge magnet, anything else that is flat and might be enjoyable.

Don't tell anyone that these things are in the pocket. Let them discover them on their own. Someone is absolutely bound to look.
posted by planetthoughtful at 3:23 PM on December 1, 2005

Thank you to everyone for all of the inspiration! I think I'm going to go with a combination of the best answers I marked. Although, they were ALL great answers. Cheers and Merry Christmas!
posted by cyniczny at 5:10 PM on December 1, 2005

Another idea, particularly suited to your finance working women: volcoino bank.

Just so you know most of "my" ideas sprang forth from Margaret Mason's delightful Mighty Goods.
posted by cior at 9:42 AM on December 2, 2005

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