Woe The Digital Sale: Reflections On Gift-Giving

From the mailbox: Our agency mail room was a bit more busy this year than last year delivering vendors' gifts -- but ouch, my stomach still hurts from eating too many Harry & David gift towers.  If I see another foil-embossed holiday card, I may lose it.  Why is it that publishers have to send such lame gifts?  Give me something I can use like an iTunes Giftcard.  Or why can't they just make a contribution to charity?  Give it to someone else who can really use something special for the holiday season.  I know I seem ungrateful here, but why can't the business of giving gifts be more meaningful?


Amy says: I will admit that during the dotcom heyday, we agencies were very spoiled with Razor Scooters, margarita blenders and the occasional Xbox as a holiday present.  We never complained back then. But times have changed -- and so have we.  And I'm not just talking about the economy. 



In many other industries, and in traditional media, gift-giving is common practice.  It represents a simple courtesy and a token of thanks for partnerships throughout the year. The gift-giving should not be extravagant as not to be interpreted as bribes (there, I said it).  Maybe you have lost sight of the true holiday spirit that this tradition represents.

I agree that too much chocolate is not a good thing and charitable donations are a nice alternative to summer sausage and shelf-stable cheese.  But I'm not sure if the folks who we work with actually have much say in corporate gifting.  For all we know, it's some guy in a cube, looking for his stapler, while he is sending a contact list to a fulfillment house to get the packages delivered by Dec. 21. Logistics can be an obstacle to personalization in this case.

Next year, instead of complaining about what you are getting or not getting, why not give instead.  I know you don't have an expense account to send out presents but a nice word of thanks, a return phone call, or a nod of appreciation to your vendor partners will mean a lot to them.  That happy feeling you give to them will come back to you in spades -- and that beats any box of chocolates.

I'm not sure how vendors actually handle their end of year client relations but we are lucky they don't keep a list like Santa does.  Do you think you would make it onto the nice list of most of your partners?  Jason, am I being naughty or nice here?

Jason says: Bah! Humbug! How about cash? Or maybe we could come and paint your house? Would that be acceptable to you? Seriously, as a recipient of many un-gifts myself (I once received a Snuggie), I feel your pain.

Though you may feel that nobody put any thought into your gift, I can assure you they did. There were definitely a few senior people involved, sans staplers, in making sure that the holiday presents were of a certain quality and they represented the giver in the best way possible. And the gifts most certainly had to fall within a budget, as well as being appropriate, professional, special AND generally appealing all at the same time. While some may think the Beer-of-the-Month Club is sheer genius, others may not. While iTunes may sound like a no-brainer to you, some people find it impersonal -- and many CFOs think gift cards are like sending cash and refuse to do it (I am sure there is an accountant type out there who can comment on that below).

Those of us who give want to choose gifts that are well-received; the last thing we want is to look foolish. The fact is, I have loved some gifts that my team has sent out over the years - others, not so much. Regardless of the actual gift, though, I have always wanted the recipient to know that we genuinely value their relationship and look forward to more in the following year. It is our way of saying "thank you."

So, to those of you who received a "C" gift (a bucket of popcorn), we appreciate you and look forward to expanding our relationship. To those of you who got the "B" gift (tower of treats), remember that it is the thought that counts, enjoy it or put it out at your holiday party, and send a "thank you" note. Otherwise, next year you may get a piece of coal stamped with the ole company logo. And to those lucky few of you who garnered the "A" gift, I look forward to having you join me at the Super Bowl.

7 comments about "Woe The Digital Sale: Reflections On Gift-Giving".
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  1. Wayne Willis from Wilco, Inc., January 15, 2010 at 12:12 p.m.

    Anachronism alert: The Xbox was released on November 15, 2001.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 15, 2010 at 12:14 p.m.

    Whipper snappers! The first rule is to accept graciously regardless of the gift. It will cost you if you don't.

  3. Erin Ulicki from Centro, January 15, 2010 at 1:14 p.m.

    Bah humbug is right! In a year where many of this person's colleagues in the business were laid off and many vendors were tightening belts, they should be honored to have received any gift as acknowledgement.

    At the same time, if you have the flexibility to send a thoughtful gift it will be appreciated more. Each year we aim to send a locally made gift to our partners, this year it was a case of Sprecher soda, proudly made in Milwaukee, delicious and enough to share with your hard-working staff.

    At the same time, on our end we received more e-cards and donations made in our name to local shelters and food pantries.

  4. Ari Rosenberg from Performance Pricing Holdings, LLC, January 15, 2010 at 1:27 p.m.

    When it came to giving gifts, I would insist we as a publishing organization gave a gift that represented the market/audience we delivered in some way -- so if you work at a gardening site, giving flowers makes sense, if you work for an entertainment site, then a DVD would make sense, etc....otherwise it really does come off as bribery.

    Jason & Amy -- once again, great advice from the ground floor of selling and buying media.

  5. Brian Quinn, January 15, 2010 at 1:54 p.m.

    "A" gift story... years ago I wanted to get a special gift for my top client. I knew he was a horse owner and called his asst to get some advice. She found out that he rides Western style. I cabbed it down to a horse store downtown and bought him a $125 bridle. Not one thank you or ever a mention of it. I guess he got a lot of bridles that year? Bah humbug indeed!

  6. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 15, 2010 at 7:18 p.m.

    You are right, Brian. A simple thank you goes a long way. That little extra you may have added for a top client just may not have happened.

  7. Bruce Christensen from PartyWeDo, January 15, 2010 at 7:39 p.m.

    I suggest an internet based gift-exchange, where you are invited by the vendor to share in holiday conversation and banter over a period of a few days.
    During the party game, you share gifts, and at the end of the party, the gifts are delivered to each persons door. A vendor could then cover many locations at the same time and build a stronger network across departments.
    This would engage the vendor sales people with customers in a relaxed atmosphere and build some social ties. It would be more memorable than a gift just showing up at the reception desk.

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