Friday, 16 September 2011

Gift or inducement?

It is the norm, come festive seasons, for many of us to be giving or receiving gifts in the form of hampers. Such a practice is normally done based on a business relationship rather than a personal one… I mean you’d never send a hari raya hamper to your old school friend, would you? Also, the act of giving and receiving is almost always a one-way street. From a supplier to a customer. From a contractor to a client. From a sub-contractor to the main contractor. In short, from a beneficiary to another who is in authority. Never the other way round.

Which begs the question : is hamper-giving during festive season to be considered a token of gratitude or an inducement of (future) favours? Having been on both sides of this equation throughout my working life, I can offer arguments either way… indeed, I’ve had long and serious discourse with colleagues on such an interesting topic, but that is not the intention of this post. We’ll leave the discussions on ethics for another day.

I’d like to talk about the hamper itself… or rather, the things that are packed or wrapped inside the standard hamper to create a visually enticing gift.

Many years ago, during the early days of being in the work market, it used to be quite exciting to be receiving hampers. The feeling is not unlike a school kid getting a gift of candy. It did not matter what was inside the hamper, as long as it was BIG and nicely wrapped in colourful cellophane paper. Pretty soon, the novelty wore off when you realise the stuff inside such hampers are simply packs or cans of everyday foodstuff, most of which you would not normally buy on your own anyway. I may sound like an ingrate but the things they give you are so easily predictable… boxes of chocolate, confectionery, cookies, cans of preserved fruits and maybe some glassware. All these arranged in a plastic basket with a bottle of orange squash concentrate or bubbly fruit drink forming the pinnacle.

The sad thing is, most of the items are from unknown manufacturers (ok lah… if you want me to say it crudely, `unbranded’). In the hamper that I received this year, the only recognizable item is the box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates (to give the hamper a look of respectability, agaknya lah). The box of biscuits is an unknown brand from a factory in Batu Pahat. The can of fish cracker snacks is made by a manufacturer I’ve never heard of before. The bottle of mango cordial is similary from some obscure source, definitely not found on the supermarket shelves.

There you have it… I totally sound like an ungrateful jerk, aren’t I? Dah dapat hamper, nak komplen lagi!

Which now brings me to the point that I really want to make. If you honestly want to give something to somebody to show your appreciation, then please put some thought into what you intend to give. Don’t just pick a typical package from those fly-by-night hamper packing companies that mushroom during festive seasons.

At one of the place where I used to work, we gave our clients gifts of quality hari raya cakes and cookies packed in beautiful wicker baskets, each tied with a lovely ribbon. Doesn’t cost much more than the standard food hamper and certainly much smaller, but I’m pretty sure, much more appreciated.