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Vendor Reps: To Gift Or Not During The Holiday Season

Small Giftbox on wood table

Soon enough, the gifting season will once again be upon us! Small tokens of gratitude will be carefully, sometimes even exasperatingly, thought out for the postal carrier, favorite barista, or local butcher. In the eyecare business, connections to new partner companies can happen daily, and established friendships with longtime business partners are strengthened almost equally. For established employees, outside company representatives are a given. For newer business partner connections, the holiday season brings us many different emotions and challenges, both professional and personal—truly a case of the good, the bad and the ugly!


The Good

It’s true that there is something about the holiday season that fosters a genuine sense of harmony and puts many in a generous mood. Many people are great at listening closely during exchanges with their outside vendor reps and noting their hobbies, music or television favorites, food or drink preferences, and if the rep may be a pet owner. These tidbits of information pave the way to a small gift that will not only be a surprise but even more appreciated and memorable because the gift was tailored to the recipient. I keep a log of my outside vendor reps and note many of these categories, as well as what was given the year before. I follow my mother’s advice on gift-giving: it is tacky to give the same gift to a person two years in a row unless the recipient has hinted they’d enjoy the same gift again.


The Bad

Gift giving in a corporate setting has strict rules and regulations that must be followed to avoid disciplinary actions and, potentially, fines. Even if you are not in a corporate setting, it’s best to err on the side of caution and consult with your department manager or Human Resources department to learn what the company policy is regarding giving and receiving gifts.


Smaller companies may consider perishable gifts or gifts valued at twenty dollars or less for giving and receiving. Other companies poll their employees for gifting ideas to outside business partners, then vote on those ideas, ultimately sending out the winning gift to all vendor partners on their list. This method eliminates room for speculation on which partner may have received a gift valued higher than another’s gifts.


The Ugly

Some business owners loathe the commercial aspect of the holiday season and the unseasonable greed that comes along with it, and for good reason. I have dealt with vendor partners who have commented that their company must have performed poorly because they didn’t receive a gift for that fiscal year, and I was left to awkwardly explain that I was unaware gifts didn’t go out to our partners that year. Yikes. I have also happily dropped a frame rep from my personal gifting list because at our very first meeting, she rather gleefully announced to me that her and some other reps would joke about what a ‘dump’ our frame gallery was, but that it was looking so much better now. Wow.


Bearing in mind that when gifting business partners, it shouldn’t be seen as an opportunity for self-promotion.  When you choose to gift business partners, keep it simple, within compliance, and gift because you want to. When you receive a gift, there’s nothing classier than a handwritten thank you note posted via snail mail!


Leave me a comment and tell me your holiday gifting methods in your company!


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