What do cellulite cream and a defecating reindeer have in common?

Unwanted gifts reached an estimated $1 billion in Australia a few years back – and I’m sure it has only got worse since. As Kris Kringle buddies are assigned to family members and work colleagues in the upcoming weeks, please remember that what you think is a good gift can go badly.

In the recent article ‘Trashing the planet for a talking piggy bank‘, researching her film The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard discovered that, of the materials flowing through the consumer economy, only one per cent remain in use six months after sale.

Not only are all these unwanted gifts bad for the planet – they are also bad for relationships.

The research tells us that gifts ranged from the mundane to the outright awkward, including: hankies, tandoori spice rub for chicken given to a vegetarian, a dog bowl for a dog-less recipient, a brick, cellulite cream and even inappropriate sexual gifts.

The topic of inappropriate gifts has generated keen interest from our RedBalloon Facebook fans, who have shared nearly 100 stories of shock, horror and surprise as a result of being given inappropriate gifts. One entrant talked about receiving a box of tea and undies from a fellow colleague as a Kris Kringle.

Unsurprisingly, the giving of inappropriate gifts is also taking place in the workplace, as experience gift experts RedBalloon observed in their reward and recognition survey of 3, 053 employees RedBalloon asked the employees, what is the WORST gift they have received from an employer?

The responses ranged from strange, obvious freebies to creepy. From rubber chickens, a defecating reindeer, baked beans, floral shower caps, CDs that bosses really want for themselves, hand soap and even bath robes. Only 16% of employees have NEVER received a gift they would rate as terrible, leaving the majority of employees exposed to corporate inappropriate gifting blunders.

Gifts should be memorable – for the right reasons! They are about enhancing a relationship, not breaking one.

According to research by eBay, 43% of Australians currently store their unwanted gifts in cupboards, and it comes as no surprise that they attempt to hide them away if they are as inappropriate as the responses suggest. There is too much stuff on the planet anyway.

How simple it would be to make people to feel good this Christmas, not look at a gift and think ‘they don’t know me at all’ and let it gather dust in storage. What people want more than anything is time with the people who are important to them.

What is your tragic tale of a gifting blunder? Do tell us!

One of Australia’s outstanding entrepreneurs, Naomi regularly entertains as a passionate speaker, a blogger and a published author, most recently publishing Five Thanks a Day. She has received many accolades and awards for the business she founded, RedBalloon.com.au including the 2011 Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year – Industry.


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