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This truly is the question these days!  What gift is considered ethical and what gift crosses that thin line?  Lately, these lines have really become thin and it is becoming very public just how often they are being crossed.  Crossed by very big expensive gifts.  We can thank companies like Enron and Tyco for making public the jaw-dropping lavish gifts that were exchanged.   But do we truly understand the ramifications of this?  We all need to pay attention and think twice before we act.  For instance, in some professions, a mere lunch is considered an unethical gift.  Whereas on the other hand, in some countries a gift is mandatory if you wish to continue doing business and that not giving a gift is considered the ultimate insult. It’s not always a good idea to decide to err on the safe side.

So, what is a person to do?  You want to show your appreciation for a job well done, but you don’t want to offend by doing the wrong thing.  It’s simple, do a little research.  Think of the profession of the recipient of the gift.  Is there any way that the gift could be misconstrued as a bribe?  In our profession of court reporting, it certainly could and most assuredly would be considered so if anyone ever questioned the validity of the materials we produced.  Gifts for us are an emphatic NO!

Court reporting is a “literal” world…every word is recorded and records (whether on paper or digitally) are kept by the court reporting firm to be used in the future if needed.  (By the way, that’s the advantage of doing business with a Court Reporting Firm instead of a freelance reporter…but then, that’s another blog!)  Gifts just don’t fit into this picture.  Google a profession with the word “gifts” and you’ll find some interesting scenarios.  You’ll find that some professions don’t allow corporate gifts of golf, but private gifts of one-on-one golf are acceptable; others say that a meal is acceptable so long as the meal is reciprocated.  And then goes on to say that if the recipient of the first free meal does not return the favor, then the first free meal is no longer ethical and thus suspect.  And some even  put a price tag on the gift – under $25 OK, over $25 No.

It’s enough to make your brain tired!  Do yourself a favor and simply ask someone in authority if gifts are acceptable or not at their place of business.  If that isn’t possible, and you feel compelled to send a gift, send something perishable such as food or flowers.  These types of gifts can always be donated to a local hospital or charity under your name.

Please share your gift stories!  We’d love to hear about them.

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