Friday, December 03, 2010

What to Give, the Biz Edition

Shopping for and selecting appropriate gifts for business associates during the holidays can be a challenge, especially when you're on a tight budget, which I think we all pretty much are these days. During the holidays you want to let the people you work with know that you do care about them, but you don't want to spend a fortune or send something that says you are completely clueless about their likes/dislikes.

I like to ask people what they don't want; that keeps me out of trouble and they almost always volunteer information on what they do like. First, here's a list I've compiled of gifts that my editor and agent friends and associates have told me that they get every year that they don't like, and why:

Chocolate. Every year the most popular gift authors send their editors and agents (particularly those who are female) is chocolate. One box is nice, an editor told me, but fifty tends to be overwhelming.

Homemade Baked Goods. No matter how well-wrapped they're sent, by the time they're delivered they're almost always on the stale side. Also, some people aren't crazy about eating personally-made baked goods because they generally don't come with a list of ingredients, which presents problems for recipients who have dire allergies to things like gluten or nuts.

Cheese and Sausage gifts. Weight- and health-conscious recipients generally avoid these food catalog gifts like the plague; these are also the gifts that are most frequently thrown away because no one wants them.

Alcohol. I was surprised to find out how much booze is still sent out during the holidays, particularly wine. It's not workplace-appropriate, and one wine-loving agent told me that most wines sold via catalogs is of questionable to poor quality.

Gag Gifts. What seems really cute and funny to you is probably going to annoy or embarrass the recipient. The gift you sabotaged to shower thousands of bits of confetti all over your editor, her work desk and her office rug will not be appreciated by her, her boss or housekeeping. Neither will the Playboy sex toy your agent unwittingly unwraps at home in front of his wife and their three preschoolers.

Religious Gifts. Putting more reason back into the season is a popular theme, but unless your faith is shared by your recipient these type of gifts can be as offensive and inappropriate as sex toys.

Some alternative gift ideas that will probably be more welcomed by your biz associates:

Business Card Case. Most professionals have cards and also hand them out frequently in the course of business, so a nice case is likely to be used a lot. For conference-going biz folks look for cases that can hold larger amounts of cards.

Charity Donation. Giving a cash gift to a charity your recipient supports is always a great thing (I recommend first checking out the charity over on Charity Navigator to make sure the donation is being used for the needy and not to line the pockets of a well-paid CEO.)

Desk Stuff. Workspace is always at a premium, so look for items that don't require a lot of surface, such as stacking or tall organizers for commonly-used office supplies (and stock them with some supplies to tempt your recipient into actually using them.) Perpetual calendars are also much appreciated because they can be used basically forever.

Fresh Fruit. Healthier than chocolate, cheese and sausage, and more apt to be actually consumed; look for fruits in reasonable quantities and interesting assortments. Any fruit that can be juiced was mentioned to me as especially nice because it can all be used before it spoils. Note: Grapefruit can be a problem for anyone who is on certain cholesterol meds that require them to avoid it.

Gadgets: If it's related to books or the industry, chances are the recipient owns one already, so you might check with them first. Also, look for devices that aren't as obvious and can be used at work or at home. A couple of things I saw in a gadget catalog that I thought were interesting: gloves that are techno-friendly (with fingertip pads so you don't have to take them off to use gadgets) and a handheld digital scale for luggage (handy for the frequent traveler.)

Personalized Memo Pads. One editor received a basket of different-size memos and sticky notes custom-printed with her name, and mentioned these to me as her #1 favorite gift of all time (make sure you know exactly how to spell your recipient's name, and choose colors and styles that are workplace-appropriate.)

Your Art. If you sew, knit, quilt or create any other kind of hand-crafted art, giving a one-of-a-kind item you took the time to make for your recipient is something that really comes from the heart. My advice is to keep it simple and useful, and avoid enormous-size projects or things that have to be dry-cleaned.

What sort of business gifts do you guys like to give and/or receive? Let us know in comments.


  1. My agent is a junk-food foodie, so every year I send something munchable for the whole office. Brownie assortments (from Fairy Tale Brownies) went over well, but last year, when I sent a collection of Dale and Thomas Popcorn, not only did my agent send his usual gushing thank you email, so did another agent and their accounts manager. They got another, different, variety collection this year. ;)

    My editor, who I know better, gets more personal things (also usually food related). I once made her a couch-sized quilt, and another time, a hand-made christmas stocking full of goofy little toys and candies.

    I've also sent 'Iowa Giftpacks' full of various snacks and things from Iowa. I hear the Pig-A-Pult was a hit in the office. ;)

  2. Chocolate as a gift is pretty over-rated, I must admit. But personally, I do love cheese and sausage gifts!! ^_^ Hmm, my parents sometimes give their colleagues a bottle or two of wine.

    Desk stuff = always appreciated! :D


  3. I suppose this is a typical English reserve thing, but I don't send or expect to receive anything more than sincere good wishes.

    Also, I've chosen you for a blog award. I know how busy you are, so please don't feel obliged to respond. I just wanted you to know how much I enjoy your blog. :)

  4. When I was an editor, my favourite gift was the super-fancy flower arrangements from the high-end florist in town. A) They had a finite life, so I didn't have to deal with it forever, and B) I didn't get flowers very often, so it wasn't like I was buried in them.

    I usually donated things like perpetual calendars or desk stuff, because chances were I would already have one. And none of my flock of writers ever made me anything handmade, so I couldn't say how that would go over -- a lot would depend on the quality of the work and the aesthetics of the giver.

  5. Anonymous8:40 AM

    My cousin is an optometrist and her favorite gift from me has always been the Bath and Body gift bags. I used to fill them with different body washes and soaps when she was in college (because she was single and dating and needed to smell good!). Now that she is a doctor in a busy office, I fill her gift bag with various anti-bacterial washes, waterless gels and hand lotions. She is in contact with a lot of patients every day and her hands were drying out from all of the constant washing. I stay away from any heavy fragrances and stick with neutrals like lemon or even scentless. She loves them! And I stalk Bath and Body all year long for their sales so I'm not spending a great deal of money!

  6. Back when I was working outside the house, my all time favorite holiday gift was this thing called a Kringle. It's a danish type thing made into a ring and filled with yummy goodness. I'd stalk the mailman waiting for mine to come. Nowadays the only gifts we get are from my husband's work. The fresh peaches were awesome and he's especially fond of the toffee.

    On the other side of the exchange, I've given out baskets of homebaked cookies for years. This year I'm not doing it because my waistline can't handle another cookie extravaganza. We'll see how the former recipients take the news.

  7. This year I've decided to send Yankee candle gift sets.

  8. Anonymous11:32 AM

    I just discovered all of the free ebooks that exist in the StarDoc universe and I nearly jumped for joy. Can't wait to read Have Mercy. You're one of my favorite authors. I jumped ship for a couple years after Cherijo became Jarn, but I recently cautiously tried the books after Rebel Ice and they did not disappoint.

  9. Hello! I just wanted to say your blog has been an inspiration to me for quite some time now. I know it may not mean much, but I am now a follower of yours and look forward to more postings.

    As for business gifts, I haven't sent any that have offended anyone as of late (I hope not) but my boss Shane has told me he feels pressured to eat food when its sent by clients. I suppose I can see where that gets overwhelming, especially when one's attempting to conserve their poor waistline.



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