For exhibit and event professionals  

What gifts are appropriate in the present corporate culture?

December 7, 2012 By Editor

With so many companies either forbidding their employees to accept gifts from corporations or setting dollar limits on gifts they can receive, how can I know what’s OK to send to our important customers? Are there alternatives I should consider?

— Gaby, Marketing Manager

And you thought Santa had it easy

Gaby, corporate gift giving can be a real quagmire, so you’re wise not to just send a present — especially a relatively expensive one — to any of your customers.

But fear not. Our readers have some ways for you to solve your generosity conundrum. They suggest you:

  • Ask and ye shall receive.
  • Go to the answer man (or woman).
  • Avoid the issue of individual gifts.

Ask and ye shall receive

It’s not worth it to try to figure out what to do on your own, so don’t!

An exhibits manager thinks contacting potential recipients is your best bet.

“Don’t email your customers; phone them. Explain that you appreciate all the business they’ve given your company this year, and you’d like to send them something to express your gratitude. Then, ask whether their company has a set policy on what they can accept.

“If it’s OK for them to receive a gift, be sure to abide by the regulations. If they can’t accept any goodies, tell them you’d like to make a contribution to a charity of their choice on their behalf. This way, even if they can’t benefit from your generosity, a group they care about will, and they will appreciate your thoughtfulness.”

Go to the answer man or woman

If you feel uncomfortable speaking to potential recipients, call the people who enforce the rules.

Julie B., events coordinator, describes how you should proceed.

“Give your clients’ HR department a call. Explain who you are, your relationship with their company and why you’d like to know about their gift policy. Since I’m sure this isn’t a ‘trade secret,’ they shouldn’t have a problem giving you the information you need.”

Avoid the issue of individual gifts

On the other hand, there’s a simple way you can skirt the holiday gift issue altogether.

A marketing director uses an alternative method to say thank you to important clients.

“Food is ALWAYS a safe choice and can be enjoyed by the entire office. Give your clients regional items you can’t find anywhere else. Specialty chocolates and Chicago’s famous Garrett’s popcorn are two of my personal favorites.”


  • Personally, I like the idea of sending a present that Gaby’s customers can share with others in the office. After all, the customers may do the buying, but they don’t work in a vacuum; those “little people” behind the scenes help pull everything together. It seems only fair that they benefit from Gaby’s generosity, too.

    How do you thank your important customers when the holidays roll around? Is corporate policy a consideration?

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