Tuesday, December 22, 2009

White Elephant gift exchange rules – Plus 3 BONUS Tips!!

We recently held a White Elephant gift exchange at my work. We have a very diverse workforce since most of the workers are contractors and many of them are from other countries. I couldn’t help but hear all the different explanations of the game and the different names (like Yankee Swap) that it’s know by. I came up with some very good bonus variants for the game and would like to detail them below, but first I will talk a bit about the actual game and how it is played. The best part about a few of these ideas is that they play well given the current economic environment.

Wikipedia has a very good explanation of the game and a few of the variants. The basic idea of the game is that everyone who wishes to participate will purchase a gift (usually there is a max budget amount that is set when planning the game). This gift can be serious, funny (a “gag” gift), thoughtful, used, or a re-gifted item – as long as it doesn’t go above the budget.
On “game day” everyone will draw a number (1 to n) and this will determine the order that the players will take their turn. Player one will draw a gift from the pile and open it. Player two has the option of stealing player one’s gift or opening any of the other unopened gifts on the table (or in the middle of the circle). This continues with each subsequent turn. If a player has their gift “stolen” they cannot immediately take the gift back and they have the option of either drawing a new gift from the pile or taking one from someone else. Then that person has the same options. This continues until all gifts are drawn and there is no more “swapping” going on. Usually a “max out” or max trade rule is established whereby a gift becomes “dead” after x number of trades.
I would like to tell you some of the cool observations I have had in the several years that this has been played. In addition you will get some great bonus tips that will ensure you have a great white elephant game:

• The best gifts are ones that have some sort of nostalgic value or other value (see tip #2). Some of the gifts that always max out are: Starbuck’s gift cards, other dining gift cards, playing cards, Nerf guns, wireless weather stations, and other card/board games.

• Bonus tip #1 – “The Twofer” – I call this the twofer because it accomplishes a few things a once. I’ve done this one a few times over the years and I am always pleased with the results. First I would go to the store and purchase something that I would like to have. Then as the gift rotations begin I stealthily watch until I can either a) grab my gift on the “max out” turn or b) get my gift from someone and try and hide it until the end. This is really nice since you buy the gift, play the game, and still get to take it home and use it. The only downside is that there might be an even cooler gift in play at which point you would take the cooler gift and stick someone else with your crappy junk.  This year I added to the twofer by not only getting my gift back but I also took it back to the store. This accomplished 3 things – I brought a gift, played the game, and got my money back at the end (it’s one of the few times you can “have your cake and eat it too!!)! I thought that was a classic moment in work politics and personal financial frugality. The financial bloggers would be jealous!

• Bonus tip #2 – “The Giver” – the second idea I had was one I like to call the giver. This is a cool gift because it can come back to you 10, 100, or 1000+ fold. Last year one of the guys brought in a bar of chocolate (50 cents or something) and all the rest of the gift was a combination of 9 scratch lotto tickets and powerball tickets (our max was $10). Then, with the remaining 50 cents he got a card and in the card he wrote that the stipulation of the gift was that all proceeds over $10 had to be split with him. To which the recipient agreed (who wouldn’t in a large group setting like that – you don’t want to be know as the jackass that wouldn’t share the money right!). I think one of the scratch tickets got a $20 so he basically cruised for free as well.

• Bonus tip #3 – “Light?” – Finally, and as a personal plug, I’ve tried giving away gift cards for my own services. Basically everyone I work with knows that I run my own “side hustle” so I gave a $10 gift card for one of my headlight restorations ($75 value) which resulted in a job. I made money on that gift, not too shabby!

Hopefully these were some ideas you could implement at your next gift exchange whether it’s a Yankee Swap or a White Elephant. Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Where's Heath?

I currently have a boss who told us that her old boss used to always send emails to everyone when he was running late or out sick with the subject line "Where's Jack?"(replace Jack with the person's name). So now it's a running joke among our team that we use this when we aren't going to be around. I personally like it when I see this in the subject of an email especially when it's someone with whom I have a meeting scheduled for that day. But I digress.
So, you might be wondering: "Where's Heath?". Well, I'm right here and I'm sure you are there, or here, since you're reading this. My last posts discussed how I would be making an effort to be here as well sharing all the minutiae that was clogging my head...well, that was almost a year ago. Oops.
A quick update, or perusal of the web/facebook/twitter would tell you that I have been busy in the last year. Basically I have a very restless mind and I can't help but continually think of new products, new businesses, new ideas for the minutiae report, funny sayings, and ingenious ways to make millions - only one problem (according to my wife) - I never do anything about them. Well I didn't.
It was during one of these "Hey honey, I have a great idea" moments when she said one of the most pivotal things I have ever heard - "why don't you stop talking and do something already?!?" Oh, okay, I will. So I did. Soon after my last post in the minutiae report I found a really neat product for restoring the lenses on automotive headlights and decided that it could be a viable business concept - that of restoring headlights on cars.
You see I had a very common problem on my 1997 Honda Civic, one of the headlights was yellow, cloudy, and foggy looking and no matter how hard I scrubbed on it at the car wash, nothing would clean it. Until I mentioned this problem to my friend and car pool companion at the time. He just happened to have a dad who was a chemist and had invented a product and process for headlight restorations. He was running a distribution/service side "hustle" with this product and asked if I wanted to volunteer my car to be used as a demo vehicle when he went on his next sales call - um yes! Well the results were great and I mentioned to him at the time that I thought there was a big demand for this type of niche service company - he agreed - and I told him if he didn't live near me that I would want to do it. He chuckled.
Not long afterwards I used this idea as a project for my Marketing Strategy class (I'm getting my MBA currently and only have 2 classes left) which was a big hit and everything I discovered proved to me that it was a very viable business. Guess what, he got a job transfer and his "side business" suddenly became "my business". In a nutshell I have started 3 companies in the last few months and am starting a new one over the holiday break. I will thoroughly detail the entire process over the next couple of postings (in segments) including what I have learned, how I started a business in Colorado, which businesses I started, what they do, how I'm learning to market and how I'm coping with it all.
In the meantime you can check out my website for the headlight restoration company, Lumina Headlight Restoration, at www.luminaheadlight.com and let me know what you think. You can also follow me on facebook and twitter (LuminaHeadlight, exampleMKTG, and zot717). Oh, and by the way, how did the restoration work on my car's headlights? I know it's small, but look at the photo below and let me know what you think! (before on left, after on right).