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Sticky Situation: Solutions to the Four Stickiest Gift Situations

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Here you are in the hustle and bustle of the gift-giving season. Wonder, magic, surprise and even shock may arise from any exchanging encounters with loved ones, clients or colleagues.

To help you keep the gratitude spirit alive, here are solutions to the season's stickiest situations.

1. Sticky situation: A client offers you a three-day cruise to the Bahamas. Yesssss! Well, not quite...Your company's policy only allows you to receive gifts with a maximum nominal value of $100.

Solution: After graciously thanking the offerer, you must decline it. Don't let it linger. When offered in person, immediately inform the person that according to your company's policy, you cannot accept such a generous gift.

"Thank you for thinking of me. I sure could use a few days in the sun. Unfortunately, our company's gift policy is very strict. It does not allow me to accept such a generous gift."

If it was offered via a delivery, return it to its sender right away. Accompany it with a succinct explanation note that foremost acknowledges your appreciation. In both cases, document the incident and involve a witness, like HR.

2. Sticky situation: Your new neighbours have a gift for you and you don't have one for them.

Solution: Don't lie or make up excuses. You do not have to reciprocate, if you do not want to. From an etiquette's perspective your only obligation is to graciously thank the offerer.

"How thoughtful of you. Thank you for thinking of me. I appreciate it."

If you wish you can send a thank-you note.

You can avoid this sticky situation by pre-gifting. This includes gifts of the host(ess) type such as perishable goodies, tea towels, scarfs and ornaments. My favourites this year are this magical snow globe and a gift card for the charitable organization of the receiver's choice. Of course, a gift card to the local coffee shop is a great way of showing your gratitude.

Before reaching for your pre-gifting closet, make sure that you validate your gift intentions for that person. Reciprocating could mean adding a person to your list of annual gift exchanges. You may be starting a new tradition.

3. Sticky situation: You are a woman and your male colleague offers you a Victoria's Secret gift certificate.

Solution: Just as when you received an overly generous gift from a client, when you receive an overly personal, intimate gift, you must decline it.

"Although I value you as a colleague, I really cannot accept this gift. It is much too personal for our professional relationship."

Once again make sure to document and have a witness.

4. Sticky situation: You have received two Magic Bullets. Can you pass one on to someone on your list?

Solution: Seven out of ten women and almost half of men do it. Re-gifting used to be a complete no-no. These days, with our current recycling trends and over-consumption concerns combined with our economic situation, it may be acceptable, if, practiced seldomly and when the following conditions apply:

* Your worlds will not collide. Remember the Seinfeld episode? Watch.
* The gift was not homemade or made especially for you.
* It is new, unused and still available in stores.
* Original packaging, merchandise tickets and instructions are intact.
* The wrapping and gift tag are freshly replaced and personalised.
* The receiver will really like this gift.
* There is no chance of offending the original "gift giver" or the new "gift receiver."

Remember, as Oprah says: "Doubt means don't." If you are afraid that someone's feelings will get hurt, tuck the gift away in a closet and take it out when your giver visits.

In the end, it is the thought that counts, not the gift. Christmas gift giving is about recognizing the people that make your lives easier and more enjoyable. A handwritten note of genuine appreciation that accompanies holiday wishes will always warm the heart of anyone, from Richie Rich to the Grinch. Really. Try it and see a smile grow.

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Have a Sticky Situation yourself, write to julie@etiquettejulie.com and Julie will reply promptly. You can also ask your questions on her Facebook page.