my boss is taking my Christmas gifts away!

The flow of questions about gifts continues, so brace yourself that this won’t be the last of them! A reader writes:

We recently received Christmas gifts from our suppliers. We are told that we need to declare all gifts. I deal with certain suppliers, just like anyone else I work with, and the suppliers that I work with send me gifts. My boss has said that I can only accept one gift and the others I need to give to someone else in my firm who really has no dealing with the any supplier.

You know that those gifts aren’t really to you personally, right? They’re essentially to the company, because the suppliers want to maintain the relationship with the company and continue to get your business. (Obviously, the exception to this would be if you were getting really personal gifts from suppliers, like a book they knew you loved, but most gifts from suppliers are pretty generic — food, wine, electronics, etc.)

It’s perfectly reasonable that your boss wants to share the gifts throughout the company, so that you don’t have a situation where the people with jobs involving suppliers end up with all kinds of gifts as a result of that work, while the people whose jobs don’t deal with suppliers end up without anything. In other words, you’re not supposed to be profiting by the fact that your job happens to put you in contact with suppliers.

Think of the gifts as being to your company, not you personally, and you’ll have less of a problem with this.

{ 130 comments… read them below }

  1. LL*

    The OP mentioned that other co-workers work with certain suppliers. Are they being asked to give away their supplier gifts? I could see the OP being upset if she/he was the only one asked to share.

  2. Victoria HR*

    I was on maternity leave over Xmas in 2007 and my coworkers happily enjoyed the chocolates and other food gifts that I received from suppliers while I was out LOL

  3. Dog Mom*

    I used to work in cosmetics and would get freebies from vendors at various meetings. The people who worked in electronics also got free items at their meetings. We were never asked to share, it was just a perk of working in a specific department. If this is a generic thank you gift (chocolate, food, etc) and not some sort of promotional item intended for the person working with that specific vendor, it is probably meant to be put on the break room table for everyone to enjoy.

    1. BW*

      In a previous job where I (and later, someone else) worked with vendors and conference planning, whenever the point person got goodies, we shared with the team. No one even had to be asked to do so. We just shared, because we understood everyone on the team worked hard and had a piece of work into either getting a product to the printer or putting together an off-site meeting or whatever it was.

      Just share the love!

      1. Dog Mom*

        I am all for sharing the love, but in my case, I don’t think guys would have been interested in lipstick and nail polish samples. As for the people who got electronics, there wouldn’t have been enough to go around and someone (or multiple people) would inevitably have been left out.

      2. Long Time Admin*

        The world’s largest retailer does not allow associates to keep ANY gifts, period. They have the strictest gift policy I’ve ever heard of, and they enforce it stringently. Everything that comes in must either be returned or shared with everyone (usually goes out to the reception desk). When I worked there, one associate received a plant as a thank-you for going above and beyond the call of duty, and had to put it out in the lobby. My own boss made me return a gift of food, which was embarassing as hell, along with a copy of our gift policy. (I don’t know if I should mention, but this is the boss who went off the rails at the local airport and is still in jail. She’s seriously disturbed. Of course, I liked her except for that one incident.)

  4. Just Laura*

    Could this about being equitable– that is, benefiting those who might not get a gift from any vendor (such as a receptionist, or an accountant, etc.)?

    1. AnotherAlison*

      “My boss has said that I can only accept one gift and the others I need to give to someone else in my firm who really has no dealing with the any supplier.”

      While I think it isn’t cool for someone to be munching on a box of chocolates while their cube neighbor isn’t offered any, I kind of feel like it’s part of the tradeoff that you get the reward for dealing with the negatives of the job. When the receptionist clocks out at 5 pm and the procurement person is staying till 7 pm or later to negotiate a contract with an overseas vendor, that’s part of why the buyer gets a gift & the receptionist doesn’t.

      Now, that’s not to say we shouldn’t give small gifts of appreciation to our support people. Whoever the receptionist has been particulary helpful to during the year should give her a gift — and that’s probably everyone in the company. (It just doesn’t need to be your own gift, imho.)

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        The buyers don’t get gifts because they work long hours. The buyers get gifts because the vendors are hoping that will result in increased business the following year. There are probably all kinds of other workers who work just as many hours as the buyers, but who aren’t given gifts simply because they’re not the direct procurers of services.

        I think it’s fair to make the buyers share across the company by putting the gifts out for public consumption (or a raffle, as other posters have mentioned) — both to discourage buyers from being influenced by gifts and also because others at the company are responsible, if indirectly, for the buyers getting business — so it’s fair that they should share in the gifts as well.

        1. Jamie*

          The influence is the real business reason to disallow keeping gifts, for those companies with the policy.

          Not that anyone is going to be swayed to keep a crappy vendor because they sent a box of Frango mints, but the rest of the year some of them show up with impossible to get sports/concert tickets, etc. and those are the kind of “relationships” that can keep a crappy vendor around if the person purchasing isn’t completely ethical.

          1. BW*

            This is why my company does not allow us to accept gifts over a certain dollar amount. Plus, because I work in pharma, we’re subject to anti-kickback laws. It’s just bad all around.

      2. jmkenrick*

        I’m going to disagree with you, just because we don’t know what kind of company this is, and what kind of roles these people have. And for all we know, the receptionist had to stay till 7 too, to facilitate that work!

        This is definitely something should be left to the company’s judgement, based on what kind of work they’re doing. I don’t think there needs to be hard and fast rule.

      3. Schnauz*

        Yeah, the problem with this is that it takes everyone to make the company work. You need receptionists so your high-level buyers (or salespeople or CFO or accountant) can concentrate on making great deals for the company instead of signing for the fedex packages and transfering Tom’s college buddy to his voicemail to coordinate this year’s Vegas trip. Everyone plays their role and because they do, you get to concentrate on your role instead of everyone doing everything. Your job may be more important than another (for a value of important that means fewer or more skilled people are needed to replace you), but that doesn’t mean it’s operating in a vacuum.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’d also add that the person who has to work longer hours with more responsibility than the receptionist is presumably being compensated for that in their paycheck (and if not, they should be).

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Being the receptionist, I didn’t usually get gifts specifically from vendors, but when they sent people food at my last company, they shared with everyone. If someone got a specific thing from a vendor, like a gift card, that was theirs.

      There were people who did get gift baskets and would NOT share, but I didn’t get butthurt over it. I wasn’t the one who maintained the relationship with the vendor, and I didn’t see it as an entitlement to eat chocolates that weren’t given to me.

  5. fposte*

    Since I’m at a state university, I’m subject to the strict state limits about what gifts I’m permitted to keep–I have to donate the item or its equivalent unless it’s pretty small. Conveniently, nobody I deal with has funds enough to do gifts of any size, though I’d like to at least have been tempted once.

    1. Jamie*

      Just out of curiosity – do you have an actual dollar amount or is it just left to your judgment about what’s small?

      I ask because auditors are also sticklers for not taking anything which can be construed as a substantial gift. When we had external auditors in I offered them each one of our promotional pens – people love them (not me, but I like med point papermate 20 for 1.99 so what do I know). Solid metal, refillable rollerballs with our name engraved.

      As we know from other threads there are hard core pen people out there, and many seem to love these.

      Anyway, the auditor was on the fence as to if it were too valuable a “gift” so we had to pull the records and since they were somewhere around $8 he couldn’t keep it. If it were under $5 he could have.

      Then I made joke about how if I were trying to bribe him I’d go a little bigger than an $8 pen…but he didn’t laugh. Aint nothing funny when you’re auditing.

      1. KarenT*

        I used to work for a company with very strict policies due to bribery and corruption laws. You were encouraged to accept nothing. You had to declare everything to an ethics committee (accepted or offered), And you were often asked to return gifts that you did accept.

      2. One of the Kates*

        Federal government – we just got a reminder message on this and I think it was $20 per gift and $50 annual cap.

  6. Jamie*

    We have a policy about not accepting any vendor gifts. They all go into the Christmas raffle unless it’s perishable food in which case it’s put out for everyone.

    As long as this policy applies to everyone, I don’t see the issue. As Alison said, they are gifts to the company not you personally.

    That said – there should be a better way than to have you give them to someone who doesn’t get vendor gifts. How are you supposed to keep track of who has gotten what and maybe Cindy doesn’t get any because she’s in engineering, but Bobby in purchasing already gave her a snowman filled with cookies. So you have to find someone yet to be gifted? Seems silly.

    The raffle works because believe me there are hard feelings if someone got the tin of Mrs. Fields cookies that Marcia wanted, and the snowglobe with the vendor logo on it was just what Peter needed to complete his vendor snowglobe collection, but Jan got it and she’s not trading for anything.

    Have a drawing and pick out of a hat and no one is on the hook for having to decide who gets what.

    1. Jamie*

      Oh, embarrassing story. My first year here I took this very literally so when I went to a seminar put on by my biggest vendor I came back with a couple of things all with their logo: a cheap bic pen, a stress ball, an emery board, and a t-shirt. Per policy, because I am nothing if not a rule following policy wonk, I turned them in for the raffle.

      The CFO laughed and asked me who the hell would want any of that crap for Christmas. And that’s when we all learned that I am very literal when it comes to going by the book.

      Emery board came in handy when one of our engineers broke a nail, the pen stopped working after a couple of days, my dogs killed the stressball in under 7 seconds, and the t-shirt became factory rags. So – clearly there was quite a bit of profit.

      What I keep getting are Starbucks gift cards. I think I’ve gotten 7-8 this year. Thye always go last at the raffle because no one picks them until there is nothing left, my vendors are not making me look good.

        1. Jamie*

          Coffee is very good, we’re just not a very Starbucksy kind of place. I love coffee and I hate it from there. It’s too…bitter or something.

          Or maybe in this blue collar environment no one wants to be reaching for the trendy coffee when there is a perfectly awesome ice scraper with a vendor logo available!

            1. BW*

              It’s also too caffeiney, which is bad when you’re a slow metabolizer of caffeine. I have never been able to finish a small Starbucks coffee even if I could ignore the taste, because it was too much WEEEEEE. Even their “decaffeinated” has a good dose of caffeine still in it.

              1. Aimee*

                I have a theory that it’s crack, not caffeine, in their coffee. And that is why I’m a Starbucks addict and if I don’t have time to stop for it on my way to the office, the crappy office coffee doesn’t do a thing to keep my n0-caffeine headache away.

                I don’t like their regular coffee though (except the Christmas blend). I’m a fancy iced latte drink kind of person.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  I’ve never set foot in a Starbucks. Not one time.

                  Did try the little iced coffee things in a bottle once. Those were good for summer, but they’re too expensive.

            2. moss*

              all their roasts are burnt to heck. I tried to get the “blonde” roast in hope of getting something fragrant… nope. Starbucks coffee is THE WORST.

              (i still drink it tho, sigh, caramel macchiato i can’t quit you)

          1. BW*

            Related sort of… Starbucks won’t open store in my neighborhood because it’s too blue collary for them. They think people won’t spend money there, but as my neighbors say “They’re happy to take your money in any other location!”

          2. Josh S*

            Since you’re in Chicago, see if you can get the company to use Star Lounge coffee. It’s seriously the best roast in the city…

          3. Chinook*

            Makes sense – trying to remove ice with hit coffee is very messy, especially when the ice is in the inside

        2. Sasha*

          Seriously, at my office party last year, we did white elephant and I opened the first gift, which happened to be 2 bags of Starbucks coffee. That gift got stolen almost as much as the Macaroni Grill gift cards.

          But from Jamie’s descriptions of raffles at her company, where apparently entire TVs are being raffled, I guess Starbucks cards are low on the desirability list.

          1. Jamie*

            Whole tvs as opposed to wining a part of a TV and hoping to get the rest over the next few years? Like a puzzle? ;)

            I know what you meant, but that cracked me up.

            And for the record we only have a couple of the big ticket items like that – the rest are pretty mid-range…and some lower stuff like the gift cards, smaller candy things, coffee cups… which I think management should take and leave the nicer stuff for the operators but there’s no policy. It’s what I do, anyway.

            1. Sasha*

              “So Jamie won the screen this year, and Bob got the casing…I got the stand but maybe they will trade with me…” :)

            2. A Bug!*

              I picture it like Wheel of Fortune, where they put “1/2 Car” on the wheel in each round, and you have to manage not only to land on the 1/2 Car in two separate rounds, you have to also get through the whole game without landing on Bankrupt.

              1. Heather*

                Ha! I just saw that for the first time the other night. I was extremely disappointed to find that they didn’t actually give the winner half a car. How awesome would that be? “Susan just won $24,000 and the front half of a Chevy Malibu!”

        1. Jamie*

          Ha – don’t let my free spirited bohemian ways fool you.

          I know I seem devil may care with my 1001 food rules, departmental policies that always contain fine print, and the 1217 pages of procedures, work instructions, control plans, and matrices I wrote in 2012.

          Seriously I ran a count – 1217 in just QC documentation for ISO. Pared down for the final product, obviously, but in the process I wrote the equivalent of a couple of freaking books. That just now dawned on me, weird.

          You know what I want for Christmas, and if a vendor were to send one to me I’d fight to keep it – policy be damned? You know those devices which emit a high pitched outside of human range noise which are supposed to keep vermin out of buildings? I want one that works on end users. That as they are about to cross the threshold to my office they are compelled to flee and send an email instead.

          Seriously – the person who comes up with that will make a fortune.

          1. moss*

            you need a more labyrinthine path to your room …like that guy that hides in the back room in “the IT crowd”

            security through obscurity. works every time.

              1. moss*

                all i’ve ever wanted is a house with a secret passage. And a tower. And maybe a trapdoor or two. I have modest desires.

          2. Aimee*

            I want one of those that will work over the phone so people will e-mail me instead of calling me with their ridiculous questions.

          3. Blanziflor*

            I want one that works on end users. That as they are about to cross the threshold to my office they are compelled to flee and send an email instead.

            Put one of our Hello Kitty toys outside the door. People are required to explain to the toy out loud what the problem is before they are allowed to bother you.

            Best of all, this can actually be an effective means of problem solving.

            1. Jamie*

              A funny yet brilliant solution because you’re absolutely correct – if they could work through the explanation on their own first it would save a lot of time.

              It takes a while to figure out what “it’s doing that thing again” means.

      1. Anonymous*

        Oh, embarrassing story. My first year here I took this very literally so when I went to a seminar put on by my biggest vendor I came back with a couple of things all with their logo: a cheap bic pen, a stress ball, an emery board, and a t-shirt. Per policy, because I am nothing if not a rule following policy wonk, I turned them in for the raffle.

        The CFO laughed and asked me who the hell would want any of that crap for Christmas. And that’s when we all learned that I am very literal when it comes to going by the book.

        “There was only one catch….. and that was Catch-22.”

      2. Mike C.*

        Where I work, those cards would be worthless. Mostly because we have a few on-site Tully’s. I think we’re up to six or seven now.

      3. ARM2008*

        I have volunteered for an organization for 5+ yrs and during that time I have donated many 100s of hours, a good number of them with a certain provider. I found out that the provider had sent me a $5 Starbucks card. The mail goes to the Treasurer so I asked her to forward it to me. Instead, she used it for herself, then laughed and told me she had used the other ones that came for me, also. Silly me, I had tried to figure out a way to share it with the other volunteers and felt a little guilty for deciding to just spend it on myself. I didn’t get to do either.

    2. Schnauz*

      This is such a great policy. Of course, only if the gifts are good – like you say, who wants a logo’d pen in the holiday raffle? ;)

      1. IT_Person*

        My last place the vendor gift raffles were pretty good – normally, the “duds” were 1L bottles of brand vodka, or similar, moving up to normally 2-3 items the boss would chuck in himself to make life interesting (TVs, speakers, etc). Everyone would get something, even if they weren’t around on Christmas Eve when the raffle occurred. This then kept us happy while he took the bigger gifts without telling eg tickets to sports games, music concerts and similar. You’d just spot it in the director’s calendars.

        Looking back, it was fairly smart. I’m now in an industry with public-sector clients and they can’t be seen to be giving gifts (or even drinks/refreshments during meetings) when people are going homeless due to centralised cuts being pushed out. In some ways, it’s much simpler, and you don’t get that “sense” of missing out.

    3. Anonymous*

      My spouse worked for a consumer product certifying agency in a fairly corrupt society, where companies sending things to be tested would say “How many of our TVs do you need for the tests and how many people work in the lab?” And then they’d add up those two numbers and send that many TVs.

  7. Ariancita*

    I’m laughing that this is even an issue. I get gifts all the time from various members on my team and I always automatically share it with the entire team/office (I’ve rarely even had the opportunity to enjoy the gift–usually some sort of edible–since it’s been enjoyed by others before I get a chance to partake). Why wouldn’t you want to share? I couldn’t imagine not sharing it. What’s the fun in selfish hoarding?

    1. EJ*

      I agree with this. Why wouldn’t you automatically share with your coworkers? And why wouldn’t they share theirs with you?

      Sure, keep the one gift that’s particularly nice or targeted to you (as long as it adheres to organization rules). But why not share the rest? Plus, it’s always better to volunteer to share than to have something taken away.

      This sort of ‘hoarding’ thing might be a product of the working environment more than the just OP themselves (e.g. if the norm isn’t to share).

    2. Anon*

      Plenty of vendors send things that are not easily conducive to sharing. For some reason, there was a year that lots of vendors were sending turduckens (seriously!) that have to be taken home and cooked. I believe everyone in the department who wanted one put their name in a hat and then we raffled them off.

      1. Jamie*

        My husband has wanted one for years – we’re about due for our annual turducken discussion. Those are really pricey…that’s a cool raffle although I agree with you, a totally weird gift from a vendor.

        1. KellyK*

          Wow, that is a bizarre vendor gift. Cool, but weird.

          If I were you, I’d be very tempted to get the 3 birds at the grocery store (assuming a store near you even sells duck), and present them to your husband. Here’s your turducken, honey…some assembly required!

        2. moss*

          I saw them in the frozen foods, in a box. I think it was turducken strips or something. Very unappetizing.

        3. Liz in a Library*

          We did that for Thanksgiving one year.

          Completely not worth it. Plus it took 13 hours to cook…so we were eating at 10pm.

        4. Laura*

          If you do just breasts and not whole birds, it’s actually really easy and cooks in a “normal” amount of time (for a bird — 3-4 hrs, IIRC). You’re essentially making a roulade with the breasts — I used a cornbread-sausage stuffing between layers and also bacon, with a final wrap of the whole thing in bacon as well. Totally worth it (but I’d never try to do the whole birds).

      2. Ariancita*

        I like the raffling idea for gifts not to share but significant enough that more than one person would want it.

    3. Aimee*

      I would generally share, but the chocolate covered cinnamon bears that came in a gift box from one vendor (I think…if they were trying to buy my loyalty/continued business with them, they probably should have made sure they included a note to indicate who it was from) were mine…all mine! :)

    4. Ellie H.*

      I’ve got a couple gifts from the catering company I often order from (this strategy really works – I LOVE them and recommend them to everyone). They make it pretty clear that the gift is “for” me, the order-er. So far they’ve given me a mug, an insulated lunch tote, a loaf of pumpkin bread, a thing of granola, and a bag of iced gingerbread cookies. I fully admit I’ve hoarded all these things . . . but when my colleagues have been the one to place an order, they’ve also received the mug and lunch tote. On Wednesday I won a free platter of cookies for being the 12th order on 12/12/12 . . . that I did give away!

    5. Anonymous*

      I was laughing too. One of my vendors is supposed to come in on Monday with a gift and I was imagining myself snatching it and running away from my coworkers while laughing maniacally.

      But man, I’m in the building and construction industry and the holiday gifts are NOT what they used to be. We used to get tons of food, pear of the month club subscriptions from Harry and David, cheese and salami baskets, etc and now it’s like a few box of chocolates.

      1. Ariancita*

        Suddenly I had a vision of grinch who stole Christmas, but instead of running off with the tree, he is running off with the fruit basket! :)

  8. Kelly O*

    We get lots of food related gifts from our vendors. They’re in the break room for the most part.

    There are a few notable exceptions that I won’t share, for fear someone might one day stumble upon this, but seriously… it always blows my mind the way some people act about things. The way you act toward others says more about you than anything you could say. I think that gets forgotten.

    1. Ariancita*

      Yes, exactly. I just can’t wrap my head around not wanting to share the gifts. Seeing everyone’s face light up because of unexpected chocolates adds more happiness to the office spirit and overall morale than the limited guilt-ridden satisfaction of having Precious all to myself.

    2. -X-*

      I actually like the idea of a bag of foods that are easily shared, such as by being left in the breakroom or kitchen.

      “Thanks for your business, please think of us, share it with your team” is not a bad message from a vendor.

      Ditto what KellyO and Arancita said about sharing within the company.

  9. Jamie*

    Slightly off topic – but I never understood why vendors send holiday flowers.

    It always looks like a funeral home around here from mid-December on. There are only so many flat surfaces and I swear our vendors are consipring to cover every inch of them with poinsettias…which you cannot get rid of because people with pets won’t take them home.

  10. Zahra*

    I remember a company that I worked at had no such policy. Which meant that the IT people kept the iPods, PlayStations, etc. they got from their supplier for their departmental party instead of sharing at the company-wide party. You know what we got in my department? Gift cards to Tim Horton’s where a coffee isn’t even 2$. And I don’t drink coffee but I am a gamer. The IT people said that the supplier sent the gifts to their department so they didn’t feel any need to share but it still felt so unfair to the rest of us. After all, if the other departments were not there, the IT department would not have been buying enough to get those kind of gifts from their suppliers, right?

    1. Sasha*

      PLAYSTATIONS???? Where are you people working with all these awesome gifts??? Well, I chose higher ed, I guess I have to live with that.

      1. Jamie*

        I’ve gotten an iPod and a Canon digital camera…no PlayStation.

        And yes, some years IT donations to the raffle rock. :)

      2. Zahra*

        I kid you not. I’m not sure if it was a PS or an XBox, but definitely a mainstream gaming console. The company did travel insurance on their own but also did cost containment (fancy speak for “We negotiate your US hospital bills down for a fee”) and North American customer service for other travel insurance companies. There were about 5-600 employees at the most in the 2 locations (same city, opposite sides of town). They sold their travel insurance business last year and still do a variety of services for other insurance companies. I’m actually applying there because I went back to school and they are one of about 10 companies that hire in my domain in my city. The irony is that if I’m hired, I’ll probably be in IT, but god knows what the recession has done to those lavish gifts. (I worked there until May 2008, so just before the recession.)

    2. Schnauz*

      And here I used to get mad that our IT department had their own fridge, shared by 6 people and the rest of us peons had to share 2 fridges for 75 people.

      Of course, my company doesn’t have a holiday party to raffle off these things anyway … so who knows what our IT department gets from their vendors.

      1. snuck*

        It comes down to writing business cases and getting funding – something IT are specialists at often (and having small slush contingency funds)… cozy up to them and ask them to help you write some business justifications and learn their tricks :)

        1. Blanziflor*

          It’s all Jedi mind tricks: “These BladeCenters aren’t the cost overruns you’re looking for.”

          1. Blanziflor*

            I should add that the quote belongs to a post on the Scary Devil Monastery by Rodger Donaldson (with an update to contemporary technology).

  11. Schnauz*

    My Mom and her boss go to a huge vendor conference every year. They come back with lots of freebies – pens, paper (notepads big and small, post its, etc), water bottles, clothes, shoes, laptop cases, keychains, books, etc. One year, my mom entered a raffle and won a laptop. Most of their freebies just go into a bin at work for everyone to share in, but Mom had to declare the laptop. It was very ambiguous, but higher management decided the laptop belonged to her personally and not the company in general so she was allowed to keep it. That’s really the only type of thing that would even be wanted by others, the rest are just little things.

    Still, I’m always excited to go through the pile. Some of it is pretty cool, even if it’s “just” a pen. ;)

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I love free notepads and pens! At my last job, vendors would bring them in and some of them would always gave me some just for me (front desk). I used a massive amount of scratch paper so it was welcomed.

      1. Blanziflor*

        At a place my sister worked, inviting in vendors was the recognised method of restocking the stationary cupboard. Apparently the place was a little on the bureaucratic side when it came to ordering such supplies.

      2. FreeThinkerTX*

        I’ve been in sales almost my whole career, and I always make sure to give reception/front desk folks plenty of pens, note pads, and post-it notes, regardless of what I was giving to the folks who had the authority to purchase what I was selling (usually the IT Director or CIO). Nothing good comes from alienating the front desk!!

  12. Forrest*

    We actually had this issue the other day. My boss got a gift from a vendor but wasn’t here to open it. My coworker wanted to open it anyway since its a gift for the department (you could tell it was some coffee and a cup).

    I said that even if its for everyone, the boss should be the one to open it since it has her name on it. Then my coworker brought up last year how I kept gifts to myself. I was like “I shared all the chocolate and food I got. Tell me, should I cut a cutting board into four parts?” (One of the food baskets came with a cutting board and knife and it was the only solid thing I got and I kept it.)

    That shut her up.

    1. A Bug!*

      Is that person kind of nosey and unpleasant normally? Because between the two things you’ve shared about her, I already dislike her.

      1. Forrest*

        She can be nosey and also a little entitled. We work for a nonprofit and have a modest to some Christmas party. She always compares it to Christmas parites where her relatives work. I’m like “there’s a major difference between nonprofit and government funding.”

        We also get a cost of living raise every year but its not enough.

        I like her but she disappoints me at times.

  13. KayDay*

    hmmm, most of our vendors send cheese/chocolate/fruit baskets, which I always by default share with the office. It never occurred to me not to (I’m the main vendor contact, so if the gift is addressed to any one person, it’s usually me).

    I did have a weird situation where I could have gotten an iPad. My organization would have needed to spend a certain amount at a hotel chain, and the information about the promotion even said that the it was a personal gift, not to the company. It made me so uncomfortable that I never tried to get it. We don’t have a specific enough policy about gifts that I just didn’t want to deal with something that personal and valuable. But I’ll take all the free treats I can get (and then share them, of course)!

  14. Katie the Fed*

    What??? This is a real thing? People just give you stuff?

    Nobody gives their friendly neighborhood federal employee anything!


    1. KellyK*

      Isn’t that because you aren’t allowed to accept gifts from your vendors (government contractors)?

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Ha, I totally needed an ice scraper this morning. I’ve been too lazy to dig out my winter supplies and I have no idea where they are.

        2. Chinook*

          But some of those ice scrapers are just the right size time fit in your glove compartment and work so much better than a credit card

          1. FreeThinkerTX*

            I always use a CD case. Covers more real estate than a credit card, and keeps your fingers further away from the snow and ice.

            But, then again, living in Texas I’ve only had to do this a half dozen times in the past few decades.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Yeah I’m pretty sure there are rules. But still. Sniffle.

      I’d actually be happy if my pay got unfrozen for the first time since 2010 or I stopped being a political pawn, but whatevs. I’m lucky to have a job I like reasonably well :)

      Whine over.

      1. Cruella DaBoss*

        Katie, what is your address and I will forward one of 2 dozen half-stale tins of popcorn. Do you prefer designs featuring puppies in jaunty holiday hats or kittens wearing tacky sweaters?

  15. -X-*

    “the promotion even said that the it was a personal gift, not to the company.”

    They can say that, but it’s not really true.

  16. Jenny*

    Thanks for this info. This is something I’ve long been curious about as well! Generally our suppliers will send a small more personal gift to those they work with directly, and still send large gift baskets for the entire company. I was asked to share a particularly nice gift the other week, which I did happily, but I didn’t know what the standard was until now.

  17. Penguin*

    I used to work for an event venue and around the holidays, we’d get presents from promoters (Cds, but also wine, chocolates etc). Anything that was not perishable. As the boxoffice manager, many of these were addressed to me, and most others to the Sales manager. What we did is everything went into a closet and at our Christmas part, it was laid out on a big table. Everyone drew a number and got to choose a gift. That is fair.- my secretary or the usher directing people may not have directly dealt with the promoters, but their work contributed to the success of the event as well.

  18. Elizabeth West*

    Oh, I forgot one I received. Our office supply vendor had a survey to fill out and it came with a reward of a $10 Amazon gift certificate code. I asked my boss if it was okay if I did that, and she was fine with it. So I did the survey and got the code. I spent it on a DVD of “Freaks,” a movie I had been dying to buy. :)

  19. Suz*

    This brought back a long forgotten memory. At my last job, all vendor gifts were shared equally among the staff. One year a vendor sent us a bag of onions. Yes, onions. Everyone who wanted one got to take an onion home. Weirdest gift ever.

  20. Cassie*

    I get gifts from students (both incoming and graduating) from time to time, and sometimes from visitors. I’ve never shared… (well, I did re-gift a box of Godiva chocolates to a coworker because I know she loves chocolates). It’s usually something edible or something small like a keychain. Once in a while, I try to share the food (which is typically some pastry or dessert from the foreign country they are from) with some coworkers and they all say “yuck” and pass.

    My boss gets gifts from students as well – he always tells them not to do that anymore and sometimes he’ll pass the gift to me. It never occurred to me that places would make people pool their gifts and then have them distributed.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      My mom was an ESL teacher who worked at the writing center of a community college and grateful foreign students would always bring her goodies. I think that’s how I developed a love of ethnic food. Once, a student gave her a HUGE platter of stuffed grape leaves and I think I ate a few dozen (I was a fat kid). Such good times.

  21. snuck*

    I think it depends on industry and job role. In procurement I was always getting free coffees and lunches – the problem was that if I didn’t go it was seen as snubbing the vendor. Then there’s the distinct lack of meeting space – you can’t hold vendor meetings at your cube farm desk, so you go to a cafe – a noisy one if you need medium confidentiality – to discuss contracts or performance. They buy the coffee, you make sure they have a nice conversation, and you keep the nasty stuff / contract misery to a minimum. But you know that next time you send them an email full of that mess they know you are listening to them talk about their dog’s surgery and sharing Christmas office stories, and they will help you more than the person who doesn’t coffee.

    Same thing with vendor gifts… sometimes it’s oil for squeaky wheels – they like to feel they are treating you, and you share that. You don’t manage a whole contract on your own – you might officially but accounts payable / receivable does all the leg work, admin staff do a hell of a lot of it too, whoever mans your database software probably deserves a cut.

    I wonder if the OP has a history of receiving presents that are normally shared (like food items or simple stationery) and pocketing them for herself pissing everyone else off. A $3 stress ball in the shape of something fun is always loved by the accounts payable person who might have spent hours and hours untangling missing invoice issues – a basket of them on the contract managers desk just says “I get the loot, so much of it, look see!”

    Share. Even the little stuff. If it’s a nice diary (common) or an IT item discuss it with your boss – don’t hoard it, and you cannot in your right mind give it to family/friends when you should give it to your office. Things like cameras or ipods can become office equipment for parties, things like nice diaries or event tickets can be handed on as ‘thankyous’ for people who helped work on the account, things like coffee cards can be given to a team of people to share for a morning tea. You get heaps of that guff in procurement, why not share?

  22. Noah*

    The largest gift I’ve ever received from a vendor was a Kindle Fire. I debated with myself for days what to do with it and finally asked my boss. He told me to keep it. Usually vendor gifts are smaller though, like $5 Starbucks cards or tickets to a local sporting event where the vendor has either box seats or season tickets. I guess I’m selfish because I figure other departments get their own gifts from vendors so I don’t share.

    I do share food items with the whole office. In fact this time of year the whole office is sick of chocolate and treats so the junk good just sits on the break room table.

  23. Helena*

    I’m curious – what about conference swag that one picks up while traveling? Is that expected to be shared as well?

    1. Jamie*

      At my company if it’s pens, an emery board, and a tress ball it’s all yours. If you win a laptop or iPad in a conference raffle you report it and let tptb make the call.

  24. Anonymous*

    We are not allowed to buy calenders or organizers. We are expected to find someone who will give them to us. By the way, the calender I wanted cost less than $10. Our finance department advised me to walk around to major banks and ask them if they could give me a calender. I asked around at 4 banks and didn’t get any. It took at hour and I’m paid $30 an hour! Some savings!

  25. IT Girl*

    At a previous company, it was in the employee handbook that we could not accept/had to declare any gift over X amount. There was some legality about this (it was an investment management company). I wish I had more details for you, but I’m on a train… My point is that it may not be anything to do with fairness, rather it prevents intercompany bribery and whatnot. I think.

  26. Jamie*

    I just got a gift I would never share – upon penalty of being fired!

    I walked in this morning and there was a package that said “to Jamie from Santa” and inside was a Hello Kitty KISS figurine…combining two of my favorite things in the world.

    I was stumped because very few people have the code to get into my locked office – but I finally got a confession out of one of my most favorite co-workers.

    Part of me feels bad I don’t have anything for her, but we’ve worked together 4.5 years and never exchanged gifts.

    It’s been a very rough couple of weeks and despite my feeling on gifts in general this one made me feel very happy…I was told recently to smile more and this may do it!

    I just wanted to share.

    1. Laura*

      That’s awesome! And your coworker’s “gift” from you is the joy you’re taking in her gift to you, I’m sure (or possibly just projecting, as one my favorite things in the world is to find and gift The Perfect Thing to someone…but it sounds like she just wanted to give to make you happy, not because she felt obligated or wanted you to).

  27. Barry*

    I work for quite a big global company and years ago, every gift that came from suppliers, whether it be lcd TVs, wine, Xbox, laptops etc all went into the company christams raffle, which I believe was a very fair way of distributing gifts and everyone, no matter job, salary or position was treated equally. However, over the past 5 years, thing shave totally changed. This year one of the suppliers sent in 10 brand new iPad Airs. However, the senior management felt that they should keep them for themselves, so they all go one each and none of the other staff get anything.

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