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Subject: Being a Secret Santa: What have been your experiences? rss

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Occasionally I like to randomly visit player profiles, mainly to look at the game collection.
At this time of the year many profiles also include a message to their Secret Santa. I usually enjoy reading those letters and wish lists. And while most are really nice I have also come across some that seemed me somwhat difficult to deal with as a Secret Santa. Some examples:

First example:
There was that one guy who explained to his Secret Santa that it would be really cool, if he got game X. If his Santa preferred to give him some of the expansions or promos of this game X instead, that would be ok too, but it would be better if he got game X. Of course Santa can just look at his wish list and pick any of the games there. He will be disappointed though, if he doesn´t receive game X.

Second example:
This person wrote a really nice letter to his BGG Secret Santa and mentioned that he would be happy with any of the games on his wish list. Now, the list was quite lengthy, but a closer look revealed that pretty much everything was OOP and the majority titles from the 1970s.

Third example:
This person had just received a message from his Secret Santa, that his gift should be on the way soon. In response he wrote, that he preferred not to get the parcel but instead his Santa should donate for some U.S. military veterans foundation.
(Considering that only about half of the BGG members are from the USA this request feels quite irritating to me. After all his Santa could as well be from Vietnam, Russia, Cuba or wherever.)


I have not been a Secret Santa myself yet (intended to participate this year, but somehow missed the registration) and now i ponder how i would deal with such situations. How would you handle it?

I´d also love to hear about your experience with being a Secret Santa so far. Have you ever got assigned a target who you felt to be no good match for you? Run into any difficulties yet?

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Rue Sailmana
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I secret santa'd three years now:

First year was pretty fun, bought some games for someone in Canada, who was really happy with the gifts.

Second year I had a difficult country ánd my santee wasn't very responsive. I sent him two packages, one from here and one from a store in the US. I never heard from that santee. I know he didn't receive the game before january, but the package wasn't lost, it's just a thing of that country. After that I still heard nothing though, but I checked his profile last month, and it seems he received the game. However, it looks like he never received the other package, but I don't know for sure, because he hasn't got anything in his profile ánd as said, is not very responsive.

That was a bit of a bummer, since I did put some effort in it.

This year has been really great though, had a lot of fun with my santee, check his profile:
Jafet Valdez
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If I had one of your examples, I would probably taunt them a lot first. Maybe they lighten up or expand their interests and wishlist. If they don't respond, then for the first one I would probably buy that one game, unless it's really expensive, then he just has to do with one of the other games on his list. He could still get the expensive game though, if he would be responsive and 'earned' the extra effort. (that probably sounds harsher than meant).

The second example I would keep taunting. I'd ask him if he would be happy with any other game, maybe make some suggestions, because these aren't available. I would try to find a game from his list, but if it's impossible ánd he doesn't respond, then I'll do the best I can and would try to send a game similar to one on his list which is available.

The third one I would probably pm Octavian, because that's just no fun. I understand the donate part, I can see where he comes from, but if you really want your secret santa to donate, then at least let him choose his own cause. And besides... I already donate games besides taking part in this exchange! At my own free will
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ParisianDreams
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This was my first year participating and it was a lot of fun. I got a match that had very similar tastes to my own and also played mostly 2P games with her partner. My SS was super nice and thoughtful. I felt a bit bad bc I was not able to show off my gift to everyone in the geeklist until today due to RL stuff keeping me busy, but other than that, it was a good experience.

I think in your examples I'd geekmail them about other interests and suggestions. I want to think that the one person was not aware that everything on his list was OOP..
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Rose
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Ruesailmana wrote:

This year has been really great though, had a lot of fun with my santee, check his profile:
Jafet Valdez
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Oh my goodness, that person does look like a lot of fun! I'm glad you had such a wonderful experience with this one.
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Rue Sailmana
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anjulka wrote:
Ruesailmana wrote:

This year has been really great though, had a lot of fun with my santee, check his profile:
Jafet Valdez
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Oh my goodness, that person does look like a lot of fun! I'm glad you had such a wonderful experience with this one.


The downside of that is that my wallet is less happy with it since I tend to buy more
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James Palmer
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I've participated several years now, with a mix of experiences, but mostly positive.

I have had a couple silent santas (this year my santa is completely silent again and I'm still waiting on my present, but still plenty of time until Christmas.) That's no big deal though - being a noisy Santa is not a requirement.

I've also had silent targets, who have not put up a note of thanks, or put up the item in the "Look what Santa got me" geeklist. The only way I know for sure they got the item is that they marked it as "owned" in their profile. This kind of irks me a bit more - if the person was happy or excited to get their present, I'm hoping to share in that joy at least a little bit. Again though, there's no requirement for the target to do anything in particular.

As far as getting presents though, I have usually had very generous Santas. I had one year where what I got was certainly well below the price requirement, but that was back when the price requirement was vague ("it should cost at least around as much as Ticket to Ride.") That was a tad disappointing, but I still enjoyed the game. Every other single year, however, my Santa has been very, very generous. I'd say at least half of the years, my Santa has at least doubled the required giving amount, and I've had some Santas either do some fun taunting, or at least send me some nice messages wishing me a merry christmas and telling me my package has been sent.

This year I decided to reveal myself to my target after he received his present, and we've had some fun conversations, and he's planning on sending me a treat as a thank-you!

I haven't had anybody with Profiles that the OP mentions above. I think if they were very restrictive, I'd simply send them a post as Santa asking for them to expand things out. There is no rule that you *have* to even get them something from their wishlist, so you could always try to be creative as well.

I feel though that my goal as Santa is to try to make someone's Christmas a happy one, not to try to show them that they need to smarten up and do things right. So if someone really really wants game X, I'd probably just send it to them. I might chide them a bit about their profile, in the hopes that maybe they'd see how much more fun it can be if they loosen up on their requirements a bit, but in the end, I'll just do what I can to make sure they have a good time.

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sarahb
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I've had both good an mediocre experiences as Santa; I often seem to get international targets, which make it a) more difficult language-, tariffs-, and shopping-wise b) more expensive since usually for ~$50 USD that's only one game and c) less personal, since I'm just ordering something from their local game shop to be delivered to them. More than once, my target has had a non-updated wish list and been uncommunicative, which makes the whole process unfun (though my first year, my international target really wanted a war game that was only available in the US which I was able to send to him, and that was fun).

And too, since my SO is a gamer and we have the means to buy ourselves games, my wish list is one of those where most things are OOP or tough to get domestically, making it more challenging for MY Santa. So this year I've decided to be a "Give Only" emergency Santa... and we'll see how it works out. I also really like the Christmas Card Exchange; it allows for creativity and the social aspect, but doesn't have the high cost buy-in that the Secret Santa does.
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I've never done the main Secret Santa, but I have done the Thrifty Santa exchange every year (since 2009), and for the last 2 years I did the newly-minted W&G envelope exchange (which doesn't have a wishlist or anything, but is an exchange with a received geeklist).

I like the Thrifty Santa exchange because it operates under the premise that you're not asking for specific things, but rather giving your Santa an idea of what you like, and seeing what they've thrifted that you might like. It also opens up the opportunity for trades (you send someone a game from your trade list, they send your target something they'd like). It allows for surprises, and trying things you maybe hadn't considered.

We do have thrifty wishlists as well, and I think most people get a couple of things from their wishlists, if they're reasonable.

One year I had someone that never, ever, said a peep about receiving the box, but in others I had great targets. My W&G exchange targets have both been awesome. Seeing everyone's great entries in the received geeklists is my favorite part.
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Caysi McQuillan
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I've only participated in the SS exchange twice. Both times i have had a lot of fun. My first year i had someone who gave me a nice letter and a wishlist with a lot of choices. I was only able to send the minimum + the cost of shipping last year. But i was really creative about it. Instead of getting one big game, i concentrated on the smaller games on his list and was able to get him more for my money. He seemed to be really happy about my choices and he posted in the geeklist the moment he received it.

This year i had a target who gave me a really long letter. He had a few games on his wishlist and was even nice enough to rate them and add comments to help me out with my choices. Before this exchange he never posted anywhere on the site. He admitted he has been a long time lurker. I had a really generous santa last year - he spent A LOT of money on the 5 big games he sent me. I decided to spend a little more on his gift since i wasn't able to last year. I got him the big game he wanted plus two expansions for it. I was also honored that his first post on the site was to add to the geeklist and thank me.

As for your examples above, if they were being too restrictive i would send them a message asking for more information. As for the last one, i would most likely pm octavian as that is just not cool - especially after the gift was already sent.
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Kent Reuber
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I've participated in both the Boardgame and Wargame Secret Santas for several years and I enjoy it.
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Slightly Alive
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Ruesailmana wrote:
...He could still get the expensive game though, if he would be responsive and 'earned' the extra effort. (that probably sounds harsher than meant).


This was my first year doing SS, and even though I did only a little light taunting (three or four messages, mostly reminders about naughty children who don't update their Owned games lists or offer a good variety of in-stock price points accidentally getting duplicates or purposefully getting coal), I'm really glad about the conversations I did have - I ended up learning that I wasn't just buying for one high-game-weight gamer (which his wishlist and short letter initially led me to believe), but for a dad trying to get his family into gaming. And knowing that I was buying for a whole family of fledgling gamers, he "earned" a little more thought and definitely more stuff than he would have if I'd been stuck just throwing one heavy game at him. So, doesn't sound harsh to me at all; I enjoyed learning his family's story a bit, and have especially loved his follow-up messages about how much they're already enjoying the lighter games as a family.

Unfortunately, in my first year, I also have a completely silent Santa. Honestly feeling anxious that I've heard (and received) nothing to date, but that's also very much my personality, hating being in the dark. I know there's time, I'm sure I won't be disappointed, and the giving side of things has been rewarding enough even if the receiving side is a wash that I'm already plotting for next year...but I'd still love to hear something soon.
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Rue Sailmana
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OnlyMostlyDead wrote:
Ruesailmana wrote:
...He could still get the expensive game though, if he would be responsive and 'earned' the extra effort. (that probably sounds harsher than meant).


This was my first year doing SS, and even though I did only a little light taunting (three or four messages, mostly reminders about naughty children who don't update their Owned games lists or offer a good variety of in-stock price points accidentally getting duplicates or purposefully getting coal), I'm really glad about the conversations I did have - I ended up learning that I wasn't just buying for one high-game-weight gamer (which his wishlist and short letter initially led me to believe), but for a dad trying to get his family into gaming. And knowing that I was buying for a whole family of fledgling gamers, he "earned" a little more thought and definitely more stuff than he would have if I'd been stuck just throwing one heavy game at him. So, doesn't sound harsh to me at all; I enjoyed learning his family's story a bit, and have especially loved his follow-up messages about how much they're already enjoying the lighter games as a family.


This is exactly what I mean; once you 'know' your santee you can make a gift more personal, which mostly leads to doing just that bit extra
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Bonnie Beyea
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This is my second year participating. Last year I missed the main sign up and joined the second round. Last year my target had a only a few games on their owned and wish lists, so I spent only a bit above the minimum and bought them a game from their wishlist and Forbidden Island, which is my go to game for introducing people to cooperative games. My recipient posted on the GeekList and was happy with the games I sent. My Santa last year sent me a game off my wishlist, an small expansion for a game I own, and a game I had never heard of. To me this is the cool thing about the secret santa - someone who sends you a game you may have never heard of but they enjoy or they think you will like.

This year my target had a okay wish list but didn't own many games, and was from Belgium. I was a bit uncertain until a friend reminded me about the Santa account and that I could ask for more information :-) Turns out her husband is a gamer and she was looking for games she would like or to play with her young child. I felt I had to stick to games on her wishlist as I didn't know what her husband owned (I should have asked for his username!) I happily spent more than the minimum due to wanting to send a couple of games and the exchange rate :-) I know she has received the games as she posted a message on her profile, but is waiting until Christmas to open them and hasn't added to the GeekList.

I will happily continue to participate, but I think next year I will get more in to taunting my target, finding out more about their interests, etc.
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Mary Ann Harrison
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This is my first year participating in the Secret Santa program, and I also did the W&G envelope exchange and the BGG Christmas card exchange. My husband also did the Secret Santa. We've never done any online exchanges before.

Of the three, I've had the most fun with the envelope exchange, because it was really fun to shop for little tidbits to put in the envelope, and I could do crafty things too. Plus, most of the people in the envelope exchange are active on BGG, so you could find out a bit about them and target the envelope better. I'm really really looking forward to my envelope -- it's probably what I'm looking forward to most this Christmas, actually. =)

With the Secret Santa, my husband got a very quiet target from Canada who I don't think even acknowledged receipt of his gift. My husband's Santa hasn't sent anything yet, but did send a taunting letter that my husband interpreted as harmless banter, but I thought sounded horrible and would have had me in tears. Maybe this evil Santa stuff is more of a guy thing.

My target was a really interesting guy from Spain that I felt a connection with right away because he's a paleontologist and I used to be in a local fossil club, so I feel like he's a kindred spirit. Shopping for him was challenging because I used a game store in Spain (while not understanding any Spanish), but it was fun at the same time because I contacted a BGGer from Spain who had offered help for people with Spanish targets. So, I made a geekbuddy in the process, which was cool! My Spanish target posted to the geeklist right away, and I'm actually following up his major gift (2 games) with a very small box I'm shipping directly from my house with stuff in it similar to the envelope exchange (for instance, I put in a letter describing my area's geological history, fossils, etc). So, that's been quite fun!

My own Santa was very quiet, but sent me three great games that I'm very happy with! I'm going to get a chance to play them this weekend, and will post pictures to the geeklist.

The Christmas card exchange has been fun so far -- I sent out my cards, and also included a postcard from my local area. So far I've received three or four cards, and I'm actually thinking about putting them up on the wall or something so that I can see them all at once. I usually only get a very very few Christmas cards, so I've really enjoyed the influx that has come from the BGG exchange!

Anyway, my experience has been mostly positive so far, but the envelope exchange is my favorite.

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Agnieszka
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I participated in 2 BGG Secret Santas (2011 and 2012), when I was still a lurker on the site. Both experiences were positive, although I was so stressed the first time that I ended up being a silent Santa (which I think my target didn't like ) But he did like the present, so that's cool enough. I had targets in Canada and Brazil, and I must say that Brazil was tough - I bought the games and prepared the package at home, then sent it from Poland. It took a very long time to arrive, my target received it sometime in January, but he was happy with it and prepared for the delay. Both targets posted in the geeklist so I felt appreciated Both my Santas did a very good job and brought me games from my wishlist, there was a little communication / taunting involved as well.

So all in all the experience was good, but it was very impersonal. For the last two years I've been participating in FTL Secret Santa, FTL Summer Santa and W&G Envelope Exchange and I've enjoyed them immensely! Not only do I get targets that I recognize (and know very well) from the forums, but I can also get creative, especially with the envelope exchange. From both exchanges I got amazing, personalized gifts thumbsup

As a target, I try to keep my wishlist big and varied and my collection up-to-date. And I always post thanks in the appropriate geeklist and in my profile. I think it's important to communicate with your Santa / Santee and to let them know that their effort is appreciated.
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Amanda Hagee
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I'm doing the W&G envelope and the PnP main exchange.

I enjoyed shopping for my envelope person and knitting something that I think will be useful, based on their profile information.

I enjoyed getting to pick and craft a game that someone else had on their wishlist.

I have not received my package, or envelope yet - but this has been about the sending for me, not the receiving.
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Greg S
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This is my second, and it has been a blast.

I chose to participate in the Wargame Secret Santa rather than the general one, and while my target was less than responsive, he did actually receive and acknowledge his gift.

I, on the other hand, have made out like a bandit! My SS was quite generous and I am very thankful to whoever it was - he/she truly exhibited a Christmas spirit!
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This year I tried 3 exchanges. I had more fun as a Santa with the W&G and the thrifty one because I liked the detective work of figuring out what they may like and coming up with creative gift ideas. It was a fun challenge. The W&G exchange I tried to fit as many presents as possible into the small flat rate box. Santas in the thrifty exchange often help each other out to try and get good gifts for their target so it has a nice community feel like the W&G exchange.

I have not got my W&G envelope but I'm sure it will be cool. My Thrifty Santa got two helpers to send me very cool things and I am to get a third! present soon from my Santa.

I had a very good experience with the main exchange as well. My Santa was very generous and gave me games I really like that I was unlikely to get for myself and my target, a new BGG user and a new gamer I think, was happy with what I got him and said he was now hooked on the secret santa exchange. Still next year I'll probably just do the thrifty and W&G ones as they fit my gift giving style better.
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Stasia Doster
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I have discovered that I am a terrible Secret Santa and I totally stress myself out during the entire time. I never can think of the right thing to get and am completely uncrafty. I am not sure I am going to do it again next year.
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scdoster wrote:
I have discovered that I am a terrible Secret Santa and I totally stress myself out during the entire time. I never can think of the right thing to get and am completely uncrafty. I am not sure I am going to do it again next year.


Hugs to having that experience. I fully understand it. However, I don't think that makes you a terrible Secret Santa.
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Agnieszka
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anjulka wrote:
scdoster wrote:
I have discovered that I am a terrible Secret Santa and I totally stress myself out during the entire time. I never can think of the right thing to get and am completely uncrafty. I am not sure I am going to do it again next year.


Hugs to having that experience. I fully understand it. However, I don't think that makes you a terrible Secret Santa.


Being crafty is not a requirement for being a Secret Santa. I remember your presents from last year and this year Stasia (and Rose!) and I think they're really awesome I'm sure your targets can confirm that.
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I have only done the W&G envelope exchange for Secret Santa and both years I have had targets who are lurkers and have not acknowledged or responded. I have had to geekmail them to find out if they received it and like it.

I may also not participate next year because it is very frustrating. I guess I cannot expect people to be like me but what possesses someone to participate in a gift exchange in a forum/place where they barely participate or know the regulars? I don't get it. But.......c'est la vie!

I once participated in The Tavern Christmas Card exchange and that was a lot of fun. I sent out 5 or 6 cards and received about 7 different cards from all over the world. I really enjoyed that.
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Agnieszka
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EgorjLileli wrote:
I have only done the W&G envelope exchange for Secret Santa and both years I have had targets who are lurkers and have not acknowledged or responded. I have had to geekmail them to find out if they received it and like it.

I may also not participate next year because it is very frustrating. I guess I cannot expect people to be like me but what possesses someone to participate in a gift exchange in a forum/place where they barely participate or know the regulars? I don't get it. But.......c'est la vie!

I once participated in The Tavern Christmas Card exchange and that was a lot of fun. I sent out 5 or 6 cards and received about 7 different cards from all over the world. I really enjoyed that.


I'm really sorry about your experience MMB, I know that part of the joy in participating is being able to see / read your recipient's reaction to the gifts, hearing nothing at all must be very frustrating. When I saw my target this year, I knew that she very probably won't post in the geeklist as she didn't do it the year before, but she acknowledged receiving the gift and sent me thanks I hope you will still decide to participate next year, as you're a very important member of W&G Community and I can't imagine this exchange without you Maybe, third time's the charm? Please, give this exchange one more chance
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Erin Jean
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This is my second year participating in Secret Santa, and I was fortunate to have a target who just started to get into board gaming. I was able to get them some gems I knew they'd love. They were responsive to my messages and posted to the Geek List.

Last year, my target didn't communicate as much, but posted to the geek list to say they received their gifts. It was great. And last year's Santa was a silent one, but I loved the three games they gave me.

My Santa this year is quite communicative, and I am expecting a package from the North Pole any day now

While I think the exchange here is 99% awesome, it does bother me when I see that some targets are not responsive at ALL. I don't think Santas should have to taunt, or people should even have to answer taunts, but I don't get why someone would (what seems like) purposely not say they at least received their gifts. Like MMB, I have to wonder why someone would sign up for this event and then not post what they received. Perhaps some of this silence has to do with not understanding the website mechanics, but yet they were able to figure out how to sign up in the first place. I don't get it.

Also, I sometimes worry that the extra generous Santas are setting a precedence that makes people feel like they have to go above and beyond. I went above the limit myself, so I guess I am being hypocritical here. I don't think there's anything wrong with giving more, but I wonder how that affects the overall expectations of Secret Santa. Does anyone else feel this way or am I being ridiculous? Feel free to say so, haha.
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Agnieszka
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You've touched an important point, Erin. I like to be generous, but I know that the super extra generous gifts can make some people feel bad about what they send to their targets. I try to take it this way: people who take part in the exchange know the rules, so they shouldn't expect anything over the minimum (there is a minimum amount of money in Secret Santa and I think every Secret Santa exchange on this website has some rules). It's nice to receive something more, but you shouldn't be disappointed if you don't get spoiled. Unfortunately, some people DO expect a lot from the Secret Santa, and then they are disappointed that they didn't get as many items as others... I remember seeing some comments like that in the general BGG Secret Santa (or in threads related to it) and I don't like this attitude. Also, I assume that any Secret Santa spends on their gift such amount of money that they can afford to (with meeting the minimum of course), not everyone is rich and sometimes the shipping costs more than the present itself.
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