The holidays come but once a year, and that’s a damned good thing! At least it is for me. I’m one of those people you see wandering around the stores toward the end of December with a permanent scowl, mumbling and grumbling while everyone else is filled with the spirit of the holiday season.
No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to find the rapture so many of my customers and friends immerse themselves in the day after Thanksgiving.
It could be the pressure of ensuring that no one walks to and from their destination because they are without transportation the last two weeks in December, or having to deal with an armada of sick, tired and dying vehicles whose owners are left penniless and in debt after overextending themselves at the local mall. It could be agonizing over the “perfect” gift for everyone on my list, or it could be the great disparity in the gifts I receive: some incredibly thoughtful, others incredibly thoughtless.
I know what you’re thinking. Who would complain about receiving any gift, regardless of how thoughtful or thoughtless it might be?
My answer: the kind of person who can’t understand what drives people to give a gift that screams just how little thought, concern, consideration or dollars were invested. I know how that must sound, but I still don’t get it...especially after I just got it!
A small, local vendor just dropped off a really nice assortment of cookies and sweets, along with a bottle of wine, some cheese and a basket filled with fruit: a nice gift, especially considering the small volume of business we give him. I received similarly disproportionate gifts from other vendors that spoke volumes about appreciation for the business received.
Then there are the companies with whom I do a significant volume, tens of thousands of dollars, who send a couple of dollars worth of cookies, a bag of jelly beans and a bottle of champagne.
“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth!”
I’m not. There is just a principle operating here that most people fail to understand: the Principle of Reciprocity. It suggests that if I do something nice for you, you will feel obligated to reciprocate — generally, in direct proportion to the first act of giving.
What does that mean? It means looking for a way to say thank you for the really nice gifts because I will be compelled to do just that, and based upon a finite amount of volume, it might just be at the expense of the really big vendors who sent the really small gifts.
I’m not saying any of this is right. I’m just suggesting that it’s normal: an aberration of what we love to refer to as human nature.
Is there a kernel of wisdom to cling to here? Perhaps. First, recognize that the best gift of all is world-class service and quality products. No material gift will compensate for the absence of either.
Next, if you are going to give a gift, make it proportionate to the level of volume involved in the relationship, or make it a really thoughtful gift that reflects the time, effort and consideration involved in its choice, like the CDs one of our salesmen dropped off filled with music he knows I love. They mean a lot more than a bag of jelly beans, a bottle of wine or a tin filled with stale cookies.