For exhibit and event professionals  

Your Dilemma Answers: Should presents be a thing of the past?

November 2, 2010 By Editor

During the holiday season, vendors sometimes send me presents to thank me for the opportunities I’ve given them throughout the year. Management allows me to accept these gifts, but some other people at my company don’t seem too happy about them. Should I share food items and maybe divvy up other gifts among my coworkers? Keep everything for myself? Or is there another way to handle this situation?

— Polly, Senior Conference Manager

Make the present better for one and all

Readers of eConnections digest suggest you:

  • Share the wealth with coworkers.
  • Re-gift with gusto.
  • Pay it forward.

Share the wealth with coworkers

Getting gifts is always fun, and knowing someone thought of you during the holiday season makes anyone feel good. But showing off your “prezzies” to your coworkers can cause hurt feelings — unless you invite them to share in your largesse.

An account manager describes how she handles gifts tactfully.

“If I receive a gift basket, I normally share it with my coworkers. But I don’t make it a habit to let my coworkers know if I receive a vendor gift that I can’t share. That way, no one’s unhappy.”

Re-gift with gusto

Receiving vendor gifts is OK, and no one should resent it if you dispose of the bounty properly.

An exhibits manager explains what she’d do in your situation.

“Hospitals and nursing homes can be depressing for anyone stuck there during the holidays. If you receive plants or flowers, take them to one of these facilities and ask the staff to give them to those patients who don’t have any visitors. Ditto on the candy or cookies you receive.

“While you may not want or need these items, they can certainly cheer up some lonely people at a time when most of us are surrounded by loved ones. And invite one of your coworkers to come with you when you drop off these gifts, so everyone will know what you’ve done and they won’t think you selfishly kept everything for yourself.”

Pay it forward

It’s virtually impossible to send flowers or a gift basket for less than 50 bucks these days. So, instead of allowing vendors to spend so much for so little, why not suggest they spend their money another, better way?

A trade show coordinator explains how to do this.

“We all know the economy sucks, and lots of people need whatever money they have to take care of their own. That leaves many charities hurting when it comes to helping others.

“If you’ve received gifts from certain vendors in the past, contact them now and let them know that in the true spirit of the season, you’d prefer they make a contribution in your name to a charity of their choice. Or suggest an organization like a local food bank or Toys for Tots. Your vendors and you will feel good about providing some joy to others, and the recipients will have a brighter day during a dark time. That makes this a win-win-win solution.”

Polly, you shouldn’t feel guilty about receiving presents from your vendors. But, when it comes right down to it, do these gifts mean that much to you? Share what you can with your coworkers, give these tokens of appreciation to those who may be forgotten during the holidays or seek contributions to worthy causes instead. After all, this is the season for sharing — gifts and joy!


  • Polly, giving gifts to customers is a long-standing vendor tradition. I would say that most send presents for two reasons — to thank clients for assignments received in the past year and to engender work in the future. But unfortunately, these gestures may cause problems for some recipients, a consequence few, if any, vendors may have considered.

    How do others handle this annual gifting without ruffling vendors’ — or coworkers’ — feathers?

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