Yankee Swhat?
November 22, 2006 6:58 PM   Subscribe

What's appropriate yet quirky for a yankee swap?

So, somehow I got signed up for a yankee swap at work. We're in the high tech/aviation industry. There's a strong software engineering presence, but also other engineers, supply chain/manufacturing, human resources, etc. I guess what I'm trying to say is most of the people are pretty geeky, but there are still many that are, well... normal?

So what I do for this? What kind of gift should I get? The only rule I was given was a fifteen dollar price limit. What's something quirky, yet won't get me fired?
posted by backseatpilot to Work & Money (18 answers total)
I went to one where the favorite gift was a song performed in that person's honor on a trumpet.
posted by k8t at 7:06 PM on November 22, 2006

Thinkgeek caters to the geeky, and has an assortment of mildly amusing $15 items. Maybe something from the cube goodies?
posted by blue mustard at 7:12 PM on November 22, 2006

Sorry to sound ignorant, but could someone please explain what this yankee swap thing is?

I grew up in the south, is this something Yankees do?
posted by Pollomacho at 7:48 PM on November 22, 2006

It's a white elephant gift exchange. Everybody who participates brings a wrapped gift - usually something kind of quirky or fun. Then each person picks a number.

Whoever has #1 goes first. They pick a gift & unwrap it. #2 goes next - picks a gift, unwraps it. Except, #2 can decide to swap gifts with #1.

Continue iterations where each successive person can swap the gift they unwrapped with any other already-unwrapped gift. It sometimes gets very crazy, where the people participating are vying after the same two or three cool things and they keep getting grabbed away.

That's how we do it at work, anyway.
posted by brain cloud at 7:59 PM on November 22, 2006

I generally get something from ThinkGeek. Anything that makes a noise and/or has flashing lights while in its container makes it a prime target for stealing.

Depending on your company's age range, nostalgia works well, too. Star Wars light sabres (the cheap kind) were wildly popular at my company's swap last year. Lots of people in my office tend to buy silly toys - the younger people steal the gifts for themselves and the older folks steal them for their kids/grandkids.

Outrageously tacky things work well, too. I'm in Florida and sometimes folks get really tacky souvineers. Such things often become the "booby prize" and often make reappearanes in the following years.

If all else fails, just buy something you wouldn't mind taking home yourself.
posted by Sangre Azul at 8:03 PM on November 22, 2006

Well, I work for a smallish tech company and I plan to get the Twisted Sister Christmas Album for our yearly Yankee Swap.

Basically all of the gifts are either something goofy (like my suggestion), booze-related, or some sort of fancy package of chocolate, with a few obvious regifts thrown in (I think people keep regifting the same set of martini glasses year after year).
posted by tastybrains at 8:03 PM on November 22, 2006

Why, an Elephant pencil sharpener and paper shredder, of course.
posted by FreezBoy at 8:38 PM on November 22, 2006

An iPod.
posted by emelenjr at 9:02 PM on November 22, 2006

This made me want to have a cubicle.
posted by redsparkler at 9:09 PM on November 22, 2006

I grew up in the south, is this something Yankees do?

I grew up in the north (New York) and this is the first time I ever heard of it. So "Yankees" meaning "northerners," no. I live in SW CT now and still never heard of it but the rest of New England considers my 'hood an extension of NYC anyway, so, "Yankees" meaning New Englanders, maybe?

Anybody know for sure?
posted by Opposite George at 9:27 PM on November 22, 2006

'the Office' (tv show) season two has a very funny episode about yankee swap. Everyone tried to get the i-pod. (American version).
posted by Kilovolt at 10:14 PM on November 22, 2006

Opposite George, I also grew up in New York and neither I nor any of my friends/family from NY knew wtf a Yankee Swap was until I moved to MA and got roped into my work swap. That said, I really enjoy them, they wind up a lot more fun (and funny) than a typical grab bag or secret santa, as long as there are some amusing gifts in the mix.
posted by tastybrains at 3:53 AM on November 23, 2006

I never heard 'Yankee Swap' until exactly five seconds ago, and I live well above the Mason-Dixon line. We call it Chinese gift exchange with apologies to the billions.
posted by fixedgear at 4:41 AM on November 23, 2006

My favorite definition of "Yankee":
To someone in the rest of the world, a Yankee is someone from America. To an American, a Yankee is someone from the north. To a northerner, a Yankee is someone from New England, to a New Englander, a Yankee is someone from New Hampshire, to someone from New Hampshire a Yankee is someone who eats pie for breakfast.

We once did a very successful Yankee Swap in which participants were instructed to bring the worst possible gift they could imagine. Some of the "best" were a Dan Quayle autobiography, a Regis and Kathie Lee workout video, and a Home Enema Kit. Still fun and eliminates any hard feelings caused by Michael Scotts and their iPods.

I've never know a geek who didn't drool after my copy of the Pocket Ref. The nice thing about a Yankee Swap is you don't have to get something everyone will love, in fact it works better if your gift is only in demand by a small percentage of the crowd.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:23 AM on November 23, 2006

Actually we call it Chinese pollyanna, but I had a momentary brain freeze.
posted by fixedgear at 5:41 AM on November 23, 2006

Fifteen $1 lottery scratch tickets. That was *incredibly* popular at my office one year.

Just don't bring a box of candy. Sigh. I always end up going home with a mug of hershey kisses or something equally boring.
posted by belladonna at 6:35 AM on November 23, 2006

In Vermont it is called a Yankee Swap.
posted by k8t at 9:45 AM on November 23, 2006

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