Thursday, December 08, 2005

'Tis the Season for Business Gifts

I’ve held a lot of jobs through the years where folks who have done business, or want to do business, with my company during the year feel an impulse to celebrate this ‘relationship’ with a token of appreciation.

Like today, I got a gift basket in a big cardboard box shipped directly from the warehouse to my office. Nothing like taking a moment to personally browse a catalogue! When I saw the box I got a bit excited – it said “Wine Country Baskets” and I was thinking “ooh Napa Wine!!”

No such luck. It’s probably the first of many highly impersonal gift baskets full of stuff I don’t like that I will break up and pass around the office. The weird dried fruit things and the ‘cashew roca,’ along with the raspberry bon bon candies and some ‘cheese nibbles’ are sitting at the bagel spot in our office with a sign that says “Help Yourself – Happy Holidays”

I admit, I did bring home a few of the items for myself and the SO. He has already consumed the butter cookies and the summer sausage. I think the sesame water crackers and La Region Des Vignobles Camembert Pasteurized Process Cheese Spread will be left alone for me to nibble. I’m hoping one of the baskets I get this year will have a big bag of pistachios; I love them and nobody else does.

I’ve also in days of yore, received gift items that initially look really thoughtful and classy – like a leather padfolio – until I opened it and saw their big embossed gold leaf logo inside the cover. I deal with lots of companies, so I don’t want to seem like I favor one over the other. I guess I could try to remember to swap out my notepad from my plain leather padfolio into their embossed padfolio when they visit – but it’s a bit of a bother. First time I got something like that I tried to take off the gold leaf with nail polish remover. Not recommended for real leather. I actually thought it was ‘faux’ and was mistaken. Live and learn.

I wish it wasn’t gauche to just say “How about you forget the embossed items and donate the money to a charity?” I sent a bunch of these guys an email from my personal account (so it wouldn’t seem like my company was involved) telling them all about Stories of Strength. So far two of them have mentioned that they were buying copies for clients. Alternatively, if you have to get me something or your boss will fire you, I’ll take a nice mid-priced bottle of Merlot. Either way, someone will get something that makes them happy.

I used to be an account rep. I was a vendor to the company that I currently work for before they lost their minds and hired me during the dot com frenzy. I had a couple special clients here that got personalized gifts. Everyone else got a nice corporate card that said a donation was being made to some charity by my company in their name. But the special clients – I knew them, I’d spent time with them during the year and learned things about them that I bothered to remember. And every year in early December, I’d go to a bunch of places and hunt down about $50 each worth of items that would be special and meaningful to them. For example, one of my clients was a British ex-pat. I always put a box of “crackers” in his basket. Not the kind you eat, but those tubes of paper with little toys and a paper crown in them that you pull apart and they go “Pop!” There were other little things – English biscuits, jam, teas…stuff like that. I think he appreciated the personal effort more than the gift – and that was the point. He and I are still friends. Every year I buy him a “Demotivators” calendar for Christmas (we both share a rather cynical sense of humor about work) and he puts it up in his office, so I’m pretty sure he appreciates it.

Well, I guess I’ll know who the reps are that think of me as a special client – they’ll either be sending out Stories of Strength and letting me know about it or I’m in for a very Star Trek holiday.


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