The Top 10 WORST Corporate Gifts!

We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s the thought that counts”. 

Well, it’s not entirely true.  The fact is that if you want to make a lasting impression on your clients or employees, you really should give it some forethought.  To the recipient, gifts say a lot about the gift giver.  Think about it, if you have ever received a gift that you thought was just awful, how did you perceive the person after they gave you the bad gift?  Did the question “What were you thinking” come to mind?

Here are a couple of suggestions to stay away from in the gift giving category.  Try to steer clear from a few of these suggestions, and it should keep you off of your clients and employees “Bad Gift Giver” list this year!

(In descending order, 1 being the worst)

10.  Poorly Funded Gift Cards or Gift Certificates

One of the worst experiences I’ve ever had, was receiving a $20 gift certificate to a fancy store, only to find that I couldn’t buy one thing in the store with that amount of money.  Everything in the store was more than $20.  Now as I looked around for something I could throw a little extra money in for, I thought to myself  “Didn’t somebody in management know what type of store this was?” It just didn’t make the management appear to be the brightest of individuals. The same goes for gift cards.  If your budget is strapped, look for other creative ways to gift this year.  The $10 gift card is NOT going to make the big impression you’re going for.

9. The Branded Polo Shirt 

I have to admit that this isn’t the worst gift to give someone.  However, giving any type of clothing is always a gift risk.  The standard “small” can completely swallow a petite female, while the largest extra large can be a midriff to a big guy.  And if it’s the wrong color, forget it.  That polo will be thrown in the Salvation Army bin and forgotten quickly!

8. Company Mugs

I can’t really think about why this isn’t a good gift other than the fact that my cabinet is overflowing with logo’d mugs. I always have clean mugs left in my cabinet no matter how much coffee or tea I drink.  They are always there taking up space.  Actually, if I get another logo’d mug  I may just lose it completely.  Enough said.

7.  “Scaling Down” your gifts

We all know that budgets are tight these days, but don’t make it blatantly obvious in your gift giving.  When a company starts off giving awesome gifts, and then scales down to grandma’s knitted booty’s, it leaves a sour taste in the mouths of the recipients.  Let me give you an example:

2008- $ MP3 players for everyone! Whoo-hoo!
2009- $ 20 Grocery Store Gift Card
2010- $ A company Logo’d Pen and Pad set.

See what I mean?  Kind of deflating right?  Work with your budget, really crunch the numbers and get creative with your gift giving.  Don’t leave your recipients wanting for more.

6. The USB drive

Personally, I LOVE getting USB drives!  That’s because I’m a wanna be IT nerd.  However, I understand that everyone else is not!  Most people who get USB drives don’t even use them.  They end up lodged in the back of the desk somewhere collecting dust.  And those that DO use them, spend most of the time formatting them to get the company advertisements removed to make more space!  Honestly, unless you work in the IT field, USB drives don’t make the best of gifts.

5. The Calendar

Chances are, many people in the corporate world are already working with a fully functional calendar.  They probably aren’t in need of another one with your logo on it.  Calendars are fine as an extra “throw in gift” every once in a while, but as a holiday gift, it leaves much to be desired.

4. The Mousepad

The average person is never in the market for a mousepad. And with laptop sales on the rise, they won’t need one in the future either.  Someone got creative once and gave me a notepad/mousepad combination one year.  I actually can’t even tell you where that thing is right now.

3. The Paperweight

Now, perhaps I am too young to know (I seriously doubt it), but when were paper weights ever actually necessary?  Most corporate execs work inside, so I can’t really see the need for a paper weight inside an office.  My only memory of paperweights is playing with them on my father’s desk when I was growing up.  Other than that, I really can’t think of a functional use for one.  A doorstop maybe?

2. The Logo’d Pen

Ah yes, the infamous logo’d pen.  It always seems like a great idea to the OWNER of the business that the pen is on, but for the recipient here are the typical various uses:

  • The pen that is left on the counter to take messages
  • The pen that is left in the car, just in case
  • The pen that is forgotten after it is received, and left on the desk of the person who gave them the pen.

1. Stress Ball

And finally, the worst gift to give is a logo’d stress ball.  I am sure that you don’t want your brand/logo associated with stress.  As a matter of fact, it’s kind of ironic to some employees when they receive stress balls from their employers.  It can be interpreted as a way of relieving current employer imposed stress, or even worse, giving a stress ball as a gift says:  “Hey, take this stress ball, you’ll need it for what’s coming!”- Not a good message to send your employees!

Obviously, this whole list is my slanted opinion of what bad corporate gifts are, but I’m open to suggestions.  What are your opinions?  Better yet, what is the absolutely worst corporate gift you’ve ever received? Leave your comments below! I look forward to hearing from you!

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  1. Michele says:

    Too funny! I have received several of these items myself and like you, I no longer have them. I think cash is always a welcome gift. Another thing I would love to see employers do is give away an extra one or couple of vacation days. To me, spending time with my family is worth more than any silly chochkie.

    • adminvip says:

      I agree Michele! Sometimes companies spend so much money on incentive plans, when they could simply let their employees go home an hour early every once and awhile and be done with it. With the economy in it’s current state it’s a little expensive to give extra vacation days for some companies. But you are definitely right, the right amount of cash, and extra time off is always welcomed! :)

  2. Maybelle says:

    Couldn’t have said it better – and a really good advise as corporate giveaways are sort of going to pick up the next few months because of the holidays. While these are classic, I believe that this really depend on the location, nature of business and recipients. For example, banks here in the country give out desk calendars, umbrellas and pocket calendars during the holidays – it’s not much, but some people look forward to it. Come to think of it, a gift is still a gift. A freebie is still a freebie. But yeah.. i hear you! :D

    • adminvip says:

      I agree with you 100% Maybelle! Choosing the right gift does have a lot to do with the variables as you said- location, nature of business, and especially budget! What I’ve noticed is that some companies focus so much on their budget, they forget to factor in all of those other variables. More importantly, I feel companies need to keep in mind what they want to accomplish with the gifts they are giving. If it is a simple quick “Hey thanks for sticking around” gift, a mug is fine… but if you are an employer honoring your employees at the holiday season, a little more creativity may be in order. You are so correct though, a freebie is a freebie! And EVERYONE likes FREE!

    • adminvip says:

      I could be wrong, but in my experience companies usually go with the logo’d pen because they’re inexpensive, free advertising for the company. Unfortunately, the business or company isn’t really thinking about how the employees or customers will view the gift. Companies that really want to make an impression definitely put a little more thought into their gift giving. Thanks for your insight!

  3. says:

    I strongly disagree on the USB as being a bad gift. In today’s digital world, a USB is very useful for storing backup files and transferring files from one device to another. They’re compact, yet pack a bunch of storage powers.

    Also, suppliers such as offer many stylish and cool USB models such as usb business cards, key shaped usb, usb pen, usb bottle opener, usb paper clip, leather usb, wooden usb, etc.

    They’re not only for IT people, but useful for everyone!

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