The trouble with office gifting

Chicago TribuneDecember 18, 2013 

Museum stores often carry unusual and fun gifts like this desk egg paperclip nest made by Fred & Friends for under $25.


Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I supervise three people – all women. Two of them are in their 30s with husbands and children; one is a grandmother in her 60s. Every year I wrestle with what to get them as a Christmas gift. Among the gifts I have given them are: plants, boxes of candy, Christmas hand towels, Christmas necklaces and earrings, calendars, candles and Christmas dishes for appetizers – and I always feel the gifts fall short. Can you recommend something in the $25 to $30 range? (By the way, this comes out of my pocket – my employer doesn’t give me a budget for this.) I really don’t want to give them gift certificates. – Nancy

Dear Nancy: This is such a common problem with office gifting. You don’t want to give boring, ho-hum stuff, and they don’t want to get it (even if it is the thought that counts). And before you know it, you’ve blown $75 (of your own money, you good woman) on three gifts that give no one even the remotest kind of a thrill.

How about something just a little festive that doesn’t involve a Christmas theme? I took a spin through one of my favorite online museum stores, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (, clicked the button for “under $25” and found dozens of options that could work for your co-workers. A “cat purse hook” ($17.95), so you can keep your handbag nearby at the restaurant, a whimsical “hot man trivet” ($20) shaped like a prone man or my personal favorite (and you can’t beat the price: $5.95), a fun “blinking ring” to wear to a party, let the kids play with or use as napkin rings if you buy multiples.

Museums across the country have similar unusual and reasonably priced gift offerings. Enjoy browsing. I guarantee you’ll have trouble making up your mind.

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