Are business gifts bribes?
Within recent years, corporate gifts have been under intense scrutiny particularly corporate gifts provided to companies and individuals that appeared less then ethical multi-million dollar gifts made to executives from within companies that were going through financial struggles. There is a high likelihood that these gifts are unethical, and are not so much gifts as bribes for business that may not be best for shareholders.
This has lead to the questioning of corporate gifts themselves the style of gifts given by sales staff to various prospects in other companies in order to help win their business. These gifts (ranging from $0-$500) have been a constant sales tool for years and years, but recently it has been questioned how ethical these gifts truly are. Are they gifts? Or are they simply bribes masquerading as gifts?
A Little of Both
In many ways, corporate gifts are a little of both. In their truest form they are still gifts. Though they may have similarities to the type of unethical gifts that had been given to corporate executives, most corporate gifts are nothing more than branded items that are designed to help woo companies into choosing to go with their product.
The gift is not designed to make someone get the product or service. Rather it is to help create a positive impression of the brand name, and hope that that impression helps win over the potential client. It is similar to buying a gift for a romantic interest with the hopes that they will like you (the brand name) more and ultimately want to continue or further the relationship.
However, there are some ways that it is still a “bribe,” but these are within the nature of gift giving. When someone gives a gift, it is human nature to want to return the favor. By providing a prospect with a potential gift, they will naturally feel a little bit of guilt for accepting the gift without returning the favor the favor, in this case, being their business. In addition, there is an expectation of if not winning the business furthering your chances of closing the sale with the gift. Thus the similarities between bribes and corporate gifts run deep.
Rest assured, however, that a business gift is not a bribe because it doesnt force the potential client to accept it. Rather, it simply helps improve your chances on a more inherent level by improving your brand name. The fact that the individual receiving the gift feels as though they should give you their business is a nice bonus, but that is the nature of gift giving. Surprise a personal acquaintance with an expensive present on their birthday and chances are they will feel the need to buy you a nice gift on yours.
Provided the gift is given without an expectation for returning the favor, a corporate gift is still an excellent and completely ethical sales tool for your staff. Only if the gift is given on the condition of winning the business does the gift cause any ethical dilemmas.