Navigating holiday gifting and tipping dilemmas

holiday sweaterWondering if you can regift that ugly sweater Aunt Mary gave you? Are you stumped by office gift giving protocol? Feeling tripped up about tipping the service people in your life? The holidays pose many etiquette dilemmas that can leave you fretting. No need to fret, here are answers to the most common holiday etiquette dilemmas:

Q. Do I need to give my boss a holiday gift?

A. No, you do not need to present your boss with a present. In fact, it’s somewhat frowned upon because it can look like you’re kissing up. If you really want to honor your fearless leader, get your coworkers to pitch in on a group gift. Boss Bob will be very touched.

Q. My cousin Carol gave me a crocheted cat cozy for the holidays. Can I regift it to my friend who loves cats?

A. This manners maven is rather torn about regifting. It can be acceptable if it’s done with the right intent. Sadly, too often people regift something they don’t like that the other person also won’t like, or that is an obvious regift. Here are some guidelines to regifting:

  • Don’t give the unwanted gift to someone in the same circle as the original giver. If Cousin Carol hangs out with your friend Fran and happens to see said cat cozy sitting beneath Fran’s feline Fluffy, Carol is going to know you regifted her masterpiece. Not good.
  • Be sure to remove any cards that came with the gift. You wouldn’t want the person receiving the unwanted gift to see a card in the box addressed to you from Cousin Carol.
  • Be intentional about who you give the gift to. Only pass on an item that you’re pretty sure the receiver would enjoy. If in doubt, don’t regift it. No sense passing on an unwanted gift to someone else who won’t enjoy it.

Q. Do I need to give a holiday tip to the service people in my life like the garbage collector, mail carrier, house cleaner, etc.?

A. No, you do not need to give a tip or gift, but I’m sure it will be appreciated. It is a nice way of thanking those folks who make your life easier and better. And, you just might be rewarded with better service. For detailed tipping guidelines for most of the service people in your life please see Holiday gift giving and tipping.

Q. I’ve heard you’re never supposed to show up empty-handed to a party. What does that mean?

A. When you are invited to a party or dinner it’s polite and proper to show up with what’s called a hostess gift – a little something to say thank you to the host and/or hostess for inviting you to the party. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive or extravagant. Spend anywhere from $5 to $25 for a simple gift. Great hostess gifts include homemade cookies, a pretty jar of jam, a nice balsamic vinegar or quality olive oil, wine glass charms, a cheese spreader, gourmet chocolates or some festive cocktail napkins. You don’t need to wrap the gift, but do put a tag on it that includes your name so that the hosts know who gave what after the party. Try to hand it to the host when he or she greets you at the party. Say something like, “A little something for the hostess with the mostest. Thank you for inviting me to your party.”

I hope that clears up some of your sticky seasonal situations. Here’s to mannerly and fret-free holidays. Cheers!

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

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