Secret Santa – do we have permission to make a small change?

My name’s Rob, and I’ve got a question to ask you as a previous (or prospective) #nzsecretsanta participant. Depending on your feedback we’ll either leave the magic formula alone, or we’ll make a small change which we think could make it even better.

Some background

Back in May this year we heard that @websam was looking for someone to adopt NZ Secret Santa. We exchanged a bunch of emails, DMs, and finally spoke on the phone a couple of times as we both got comfortable with the hand over. We were both focused on ensuring we were doing the right thing for the #nzsecretsanta community.

Personally I was most concerned that NZ Secret Santa might be turned into a corporate promotion of some sort. So to make sure I was comfortable this wouldn’t happen I got approval from a bunch of VIPs that my team could run it however we wanted. Then I confirmed with Sam that we were happy to take it on.

At the moment we are planning everything carefully to make sure things go smoothly, and I’m happy to say that we have just one measure of success: happy participants.

Our chats with previous participants

As part of our planning we have spoken to a number of participants from previous years – including some in our team, and on our floor. Everyone told us they had really loved playing, but there were a couple of cases where the experience had been soured by the fact they hadn’t got their gift in return. We also noticed that a few others seemed to have had the same experience.

It was great to see that it was clear to all that the big buzz is associated with the giving rather than receiving, but the feeling that some people might be playing the system had left a few in doubt about whether they’d play again this year.

Can we fix it – without breaking it?

So we’ve been thinking about how we might go about removing any suspicion that a few people might be spoiling it for others – and we’ve got an idea we’d like your feedback on. If you don’t like it we’ll abandon it, and keep our mits off @websam’s winning formula.

The idea is that we can play the middle-man in the gift exchange. All gifts get sent to us (NZ Post), and we will ensure that participants only get a gift if they’ve sent a gift.

How would this work?

Login with Twitter

When you register for secret santa, in addition to requesting your email address and delivery address, we would ask you to create a NZ Post account by logging into your Twitter account (see image).

This simple change allows us to be sure that the delivery address you supply really belongs to your Twitter handle. When we do this we’ll request the minimum possible access to your account that Twitter allow for this process, because we are only interested in storing your twitter handle and proving that you own it. You remain in full control of this link and can cut the link with one click from within your Twitter account at any time.

It also allows us to issue you an address that we can share with your Secret Santa – for example; my address might look like this…

New Zealand Post
Wellington Mail Centre
Lower Hutt 5045

I noticed that we use a much more stylish address for our Letters to Santa each year – so maybe something like this is possible too…

Santa’s Workshop
North Pole 0001

This means we no longer have to share your real address with the secret santa you get allocated (which concerned a few previous participants). It also means all gifts get sent to us initially. When we receive the gift for you, we’ll check you’ve sent in your return gift – and send you an email (with a tracking number) to say it’s on it’s way!

In the small number of cases where santas don’t send a gift in, we will return the gift intended for the naughty (or forgetful) santa back to their secret santa. This removes any incentive for people to join with the intention of not sending.

What do you think?

I’m really keen to hear your feedback – either in the comments below – or using the hashtag #nzsecretsanta. We won’t make these changes without being confident that we have the approval of the #nzsecretsanta community. We are all geared up to run things the same way as last year, but we have an opportunity if we move quickly to implement the approach outlined above – should we do it?

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41 Responses to Secret Santa – do we have permission to make a small change?

  1. meow says:

    Great idea about the way people send/recieve their gift. I really liked knowing where my gift was going and where my gift came from, though.

  2. pixie says:

    Sound’s like a good idea as to this day im not sure if my recipient got yheir parcel as they never tweeted it.

  3. Jenna says:

    Love this idea. Good work guys

  4. caycos says:

    I guess my thoughts are – would it still basically be just as easy? There’d be an extra step, but there’d be the extra certainty about getting a return gift, so that cancels that out. I assume we’d only pay one lot of postage. So yeah, sounds ok to me 🙂 Would make for less sadness.

  5. fettucini alfredo says:

    i personally would like mine just sent on .instead of it going back . if my person doesnt send something and the person thet were to send someyhing to did just cut out the middle man and send on the pressie i semt to them n

    • robholmesnz says:

      We had a suggestion on Twitter that some people might want their gifts donated to charity when their recipient failed in their duties. What do you think of that option?

  6. I think thats sounds like a great solution. The non-participation of other people put me off taking part in something that seemed pretty great.

  7. I love the idea and huge kudos for thinking up such a brilliant solution. But… after having two dud years in a row we won’t be participating any more. It *IS* all about the giving… but it’s also disheartening to have someone send you a crummy $2 shop gift… and not even bother to remove the price tag… when you played it straight and sent a $10-$20 gift out to your allocated participant.

    Sure, you can ensure the gifts arrive… but alas it is beyond your control or remit to ensure the gift received is actually a fair one.

  8. Sounds great! It’s like Rando + Secret Santa = I FINALLY GET A PRESSIE!

  9. I think its a great idea, and saves from worrying about wither recipient has received their gift etc which i had happen last year they never tweeted so we never knew if they got it.

  10. I found out about nzsecretsanta last year & I am excited to participate. The change is good & brings a little more security to those of us who want to take part, or are a little hesitant to give a stranger out address. We are the elves & NZ Post is Santa 🙂 Fun times ahead.

  11. runningwhio says:

    Seems reasonable to me! Look forward to playing again this year 🙂

  12. I’m in two minds about it. I think it is a positive thing to try and work out how to make everyone who signs up play nicely… but two things on the other side 1) Will you be waiting until EVERYONE who signs up has sent in a parcel before distributing (i.e. 3 days after send day, so you can work out who hasn’t sent it)? It was really pretty exciting to be the very first person to receive their gift last year (hand delivered to my work, because I was one of those leery of giving out my home address), and if they’re all distributed from a central point on the same day, some of that excitement would be dissipated.
    2) I tend to be very careful about linking 3rd party anything. So having to do that would make me think twice about signing up, even though I totally trust NZ Post.

    PS Last year was the first time I participated in NZSecretSanta, and it rocked. I also took part in another online Secret Santa, from a community I’m a long time participant in, and got flaked on. It really didn’t hurt that much.

    • robholmesnz says:

      We haven’t thought through the detail of when we’d start distributing parcels. In theory we can send as soon as we have the incoming gift from the recipient. The other option is a big-bang approach – would make for a better Twitter event as people all get their stuff at once?

      Good feedback re linking accounts. We really don’t want this to be a barrier to people playing – this is the bit I am most nervous about.

  13. Felicity says:

    is this just going to be kept to twitter like previous years? i dont want it to be a huge thing

  14. ashtron says:

    Yep, all good by me!

  15. dclegg says:

    Sounds good to me. Also love the donate to charity idea, but perhaps this pool of unclaimed gifts could be shared amongst all senders who had deadbeat recipients assigned.

  16. sonyacole says:

    Can you clarify, is it still random? I’m sending my gift to A, they send a gift to B, and I get a gift from C. The above sounds like a swap between A and B to me. Not-so-secret.
    I’m not sure if I think it’s a good solution or not. How many tweeps don’t get their gifts?

    • robholmesnz says:

      Yes it’s still going to be random. This sounds more complicated than it really is: In your scenario (under the proposed change) “A” would get their gift because they sent a gift – in this case for “B”. You would get your gift because you sent in a gift – in this case for “A”. “C” gets their gift (from their Santa too because they sent a gift themselves). “B” would only get their gift if they sent a gift.
      We have no idea how many tweeps didn’t get gifts – but in our chats with previous participants – and in recent tweets – there were far more disappointed honest players than we expected.

  17. meow says:

    With the whole holding of peoples gifts to make sure they send one themselves before sending them on, do keep in mind that some people like to send their gifts really early, while others like to send them later, like a week before Christmas even. And perhaps gather up a list of everyone who did not send a gift in previous years, and not let them participate this year.

    • robholmesnz says:

      Need to give this some thought. I can’t see how we would avoid a delay when a someone sends a parcel very early, but the person they are sending to sends theirs in late. If we go with the model where we send parcels as soon as the receiver has sent theirs in then the exchange may well happen early on.
      Not sure at this stage whether keeping the window for sending short (and then forwarding the parcels all in one go) is a better model.

  18. Trevor Eastabrook says:

    Excellent idea, keen to participate again and if it turns out I get to share the opening joy as well as the giving joy this year so much the better!

  19. I like it! 😀 But yea, would love to keep the town and region on, both for the recipient and the senders. It would be fun to know where in NZ “Santa” sent the parcel from.

    And yes, sending the gifts to charity instead (if ever) is a great idea. 🙂

    I’m not too bothered with how early or how late the parcels will be sent, really. I vote for one big-bang sending date maybe a week before Christmas so that everyone’s not too busy yet to tweet that they have received their gifts already.

    • robholmesnz says:

      Hi April,
      Thanks for your feedback. Really interesting to see the requests for town/region to be shared. I quite like the big-bang sending approach myself, but haven’t fully thought through the implications yet!

  20. I like the idea. The only thing I’d suggest is that maybe you could be allocated a Twitter handle that your gift is going to. If they don’t send anything, then the gift obviously gets passed on to someone else, but if that way you’d be able to look through their tweets to see if you can find something they might like?

    • robholmesnz says:

      Thanks for your feedback. You’ll definitely get allocated someone on Twitter that you are buying for (their Twitter handle) – this is how it has run in previous years. IMO the Twitter-stalking part is an important part of what sets #nzsecretsanta apart from other Secret Santa efforts overseas where gift-givers need to rely on information their giftee supplied at registration time.

    • Felicity says:

      ccould we have some special type of postage for this so we know how long its going to take. because times vary vary to get to certain places and if we are told we sent something it could take longer to get to the person

      • robholmesnz says:

        Hi Felicity,
        We aren’t going to be able to change any of our postal services to accommodate #nzsecretsanta. I’m just not that influential ;-). If we do have a standard destination for all parcels sent in – then I would expect the delivery time would be pretty consistent for everyone.

  21. Hi Rob (and the team), clearly as a former team member of yours – I love your work. This is a brilliant idea, and very much in the spirit of #NZSecretSanta and @WebSam’s efforts. Well done!

    I like the idea of the big-bang gift send out, but can’t figure out how you’d cope with all the varied early-ontime-late senders. Great approach though.

    My concerns are only that if anything goes bad (because we are still relying on others to actually send the gift), how do you stop the NZ Post brand (and yourselves) from being blamed? I don’t think you can’t really answer this one, so I guess it’s more for all the others commenting and participating to remember that you guys are just trying to do your bit to help, not commercialise or profit from it at all. It’s too easy for us all to become keyboard warriors when things can go a bit awry… Otherwise, bring on the fun!

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