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The 7 Worst Gifts You Can Give To A Customer

Want to alienate your clients? Make them feel bad? Here's how.

They say that it’s the thought that counts. But I don’t think so. Give your client a lousy gift and the thought is that you are cheap and that you don’t really value the relationship. In fact, the whole idea of a giving your customers a holiday gift is to sincerely say thank you. With that in mind, here are seven of the worst possible gifts you can give your customers. They seem boneheaded, but I've received all of them. and I bet you've been given at least a couple. 

1. A bottle of wine with your logo on the label

We’ve all received these over the years; in fact, at one stage I had 80 bottles in my cupboard that I couldn’t give away. The concept was kind of cute 20 years ago, but now it’s simply sad. It tells your customers you are cheap. And not particularly creative.

2. Pens, notepads, and stationary embossed with your company's logo

These are not gifts--they are promotional tools for your business. If you have a bunch of these items lying around, give distribute them in the course of doing business. And remember: Just because you give someone something for free doesn’t make it a present.

3. A "special holiday offer"

I received one of these just the other day: “Dear Valued Customer, to wish you a Merry Christmas we will be offering you a very special five percent discount on all purchases over $1,000 in December.” So to get my discount, I have to spend at least a $1,000? What kind of a gift is that? Giving a gift that you hope to profit from is a sure fire way to sour any relationship.

4. A portfolio with your logo all over it

I’ve never understood why someone would consider a portfolio with a company logo to be a gift. Once again, this gift is not about you--it is about them. If, for some reason, you must give a portfolio, get a really nice one with their name personally embossed on the front cover.

5. A lottery ticket

Throwing a two-dollar lottery ticket into an envelope with a cheap holiday card simply says, “I couldn’t be bothered. I know that the odds of you winning anything are virtually zero. But have a great Christmas.” Really?

6. A lousy gift basket

You know what I’m talking about: wicker baskets filled with an eclectic mix of things that you will never use in a million years, often supposed delicacies like stale truffle crackers and some kind of exotic vegetable in a bottle filled with a bizarre colored liquid.

7. Clothing (especially clothing with your logo on it)

Hats and t-shirts emblazoned with your logo fall into the category of the anti-gift. Another problem with clothing is that one size rarely fits all. So if you give someone a t-shirt that is a size too small, and has your logo emblazoned all over it, you have a double whammy of making them feel fat and like a billboard for your brand. Don’t do it.

Last updated: Nov 26, 2013

ANDREW GRIFFITHS | Serial entrepreneur and author

Andrew Griffiths is a Cairns, Australia-based serial entrepreneur and the author of 12 bestselling books covering starting, managing, and growing small companies. He is a founding mentor in the global entrepreneurial program "Key Person of Influence" and he presents around the world on small business, customers trends, entrepreneurialism and publishing. For more Andrew check out

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