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You shouldn't have: Business gift no-nos

It's the thought that counts with gift giving, but some presents prompt the question, "What were they thinking?" Staffing service The Creative Group recently asked 250 advertising and marketing executives to describe the most unique items they've been given by business contacts.

Those surveyed were asked, "What is the wackiest or most unusual gift you or a colleague has received from a business associate?" Here are some of their responses:
  • "A gold tooth."
  • "A pick axe."
  • "A ketchup bottle."
  • "A container of fake worms."
  • "A dancing statue of Hank Williams Jr."

    "As the holidays approach, many professionals are considering gift ideas for their co-workers and business contacts," said Tracey Turner, executive director of The Creative Group. "The challenge is finding items that are distinctive yet appropriate for the recipient and the occasion." These next gifts certainly are unique, but their appropriateness is questionable:
  • "A nail gun."
  • "A box filled with other boxes -- there wasn't anything in any of them."
  • "A wooden propeller blade."
  • "A set of chattering teeth."
  • "A salami."

    Animal-related items such as the following also may prove problematic if the recipient doesn't heed the call of the wild:
  • "A screeching monkey."
  • "A live dog."
  • "A camel ride."
  • "An actual turtle."

    Clothing is always a popular present, but not all attire is suitable. To wit:
  • "A pair of shoes with a hole in the bottom.
  • "One shoe."
  • "A hat with a fish sticking out of it."
  • "A baseball helmet with holders for beer cans on top."

    Some people made a big impression with these jumbo-sized gifts:
  • "A two-foot-long pencil that was ten centimetres in diameter."
  • "A giant plastic carrot."
  • "A humongous hand."
  • "Tennis balls the size of basketballs."
  • "A kid's bazooka that was six feet tall."

    "Advertising and marketing executives pride themselves on creativity in everything they do, including gift giving," Turner said. "In most industries, however, it's best to err on the conservative side, particularly with new professional contacts. Those with long-standing business relationships may have more latitude in their choice of presents."

    She offered the following do's and don'ts when it comes to business gift giving:
  • Do provide a personal touch. Gifts that relate to the recipient's interest or hobby show you're paying attention. If your client is a yoga buff, for instance, consider giving a book on the subject.
  • Don't give items tied to a religious holiday. For example, unless you know the recipient's religion, it's best to avoid Christmas or Chanukkah-themed presents.
  • Do reveal your talents. Handmade gifts, such as a framed photo you took or a candle you made, are typically well- received.
  • Don't give food or drink without thinking first. Keep in mind that some people have dietary restrictions or don't consume alcoholic beverages.
  • Do consider spending time with someone. Taking a contact out to lunch can be a nice gift. Just be sure to schedule the appointment for after the holidays.
  • Don't overlook packaging. Unique wrapping can make even a small present seem exquisite.
  • Do make a contribution. If you're at a loss for ideas, consider a donation to a well-respected charitable organization in the recipient's name.
  • Don't rush. If you're running out of time for holiday shopping, consider presenting a small New Year's gift, such as a calendar or journal.

    "Presents don't need to be flashy or expensive, particularly in the current economy," said Wendy Fox, division director for The Creative Group. "The goal is to give thoughtful gifts that show recipients you appreciate them."

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