Whether 'tis better to give than to receive is debatable during recessions. To determine what blandishments customers can expect this season, Inc. queried a number of CEOs.
A few, like Chet Giermak, CEO of Eriez Magnetics, in Erie, Pa., send only small gifts. Others have withdrawn entirely: Harry Featherstone, CEO of Will-Burt, in Orrville, Ohio, concludes that business-to-business giving has gone the way of the three-martini lunch. And CEO Phil Pachulski of Prime Technology, in Grand Rapids, defers to the "don't-send-us-anything" dictums of his customers, most of them automobile manufacturers.
But some still believe in the value -- fiscal as well as social -- of the corporate present. Here, a few budget-minded gifts calculated to make sure the giver is remembered through the year.
From Partners & Simons, Boston: a work shirt embroidered with the customer's name in front -- and this marketing firm's own logo on the back. Approximate cost: $40 (for which the firm bartered services).
From Reference Software International, San Francisco: a picnic basket stuffed with local viands. RSI's contains sourdough bread, cheese, chocolates, and sparkling cider. Approximate cost: $20.
From RailTex Service, San Antonio: a collection of consumer products whose basic ingredients were shipped via RailTex. Items include breakfast cereal (wheat), cups (paper), detergent (phosphate), pencils (graphite), and a towel (cotton). Approximate cost: $15.
From MEECO, Warrington, Pa.: a donation to charity. Last year the total was $3,000, contributed in the names of some 250 customers. Approximate cost: $12, plus an explanatory card. -- Teri Lammers