Why I Hated Gift Exchanges Before Elfster


The first time I ever participated in a gift exchange was in college. I’m not sure how I escaped my entire life before that point without having taken part in one, but when I heard the rules for my very first White Elephant gift exchange, I took them very seriously. I spent a lot of time thinking of a gift that would be worthy of being “stolen” per the rules of the game. 

What’s A White Elephant Gift Exchange?

If you’re not familiar with how a White Elephant exchange works, the basic premise is that all participants purchase a gift at a set price point. On the day of the exchange everyone brings their wrapped gift and each person is given a number that designates the order in which you are to choose from the pile of wrapped gifts. When the first person opens a wrapped gift, the turn ends. The next person has the choice to either unwrap a new present or to steal from one that has already been opened. If a person’s gift is stolen, that person can either choose another wrapped gift to open or can steal from another.

So on the fateful day of my first gift exchange, I got a low number, but that’s okay because my gift was one of the first to be chosen and I watched in delight as it got “stolen” more than once. I was having a great time observing and then it was my turn. I was being egged on by two girls to choose a specific gift from the pile. Not knowing any better and thinking that they just might have some good intel, I picked the one that they were encouraging me to select. 

The person who brought that “gift” pointed at me and laughed and laughed at my reaction after opening the well-wrapped box. I was in shock at how lame the gift was. She explained that there always has to be an awful gift that no one wants otherwise where’s the fun? 

Not only was the gift completely unworthy of being stolen, it was nowhere near the value of the set price point, it was not useful, it wasn’t even re-giftable. I suffered through the rest of the exchange knowing that I had spent my hard-earned money on a thoughtful gift and I wasn’t going to get anything similar in return.

That experience soured all future gift exchanges for me. I dreaded them. I was always convinced that I was going to get another bogus gift.

Banish Bogus Gifts

In truth, that hasn’t actually been the case. I have gotten some decent gifts along the way, but my first experience didn’t erase the trepidation of gift exchanges until I discovered Elfster.

With Elfster, the fear of getting stuck with a gift I didn’t want or need has completely disappeared.

Elfster allows you to create a wish list that you can add and edit as much as you like. Elfster holds onto that wish list even after your designated gift exchange has been completed. I didn’t realize that until my brother-in-law got me a birthday present from the list I created last Christmas. I couldn’t have been more thrilled!  Once again, I got something that I wanted, but this time for my birthday! My wish list didn’t just benefit me, it helped out my family too! It took the guessing game out of trying to determine what I might want or like.

It’s hard to explain the relief I feel knowing that I will unwrap something I have pre-chosen. My joy is genuine, I won’t have to fake a reaction that isn’t real.

The feel-good vibes go both ways as well. I like shopping off of someone’s wish list, too. To know that the person you are assigned to will get something that they want? Well, that just reinforces the joy of giving.

P.S.  — If you’re still wondering what that awful college gift was, it was a few toys from the dollar store. She said she intentionally picked toys that she knew no one could use. Because how do you play ping pong with one plastic paddle?

When you do think of a good White Elephant gift and are ready to play, use the holiday gifting site that makes everything easy for everyone, whether in-person or remote. Thanks to Elfster, you can easily shop for gifts and start a Wish List. Plus, you can access it all from an iPhone app or Android app.

Photo by Bianca Ackermann on Unsplash

Garmen C

Garmen C was a journalist and television producer who moved on to focus on raising money for non-profits. She’s always been an avid event planner and gifter!

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