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What do you stock in a reserve of inexpensive rewards?

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Question: "My boss had the good idea to start a drawer filled with doodads that he can pass out to employees whenever he wants to reward them with a little something. These people are generally admins, both male and female. I'm looking for suggestions as to what sort of $5-$10 items I can buy that will give pretty much anyone a lift." - Ray, Customer Response Specialist

See comments below, and send your own question to Admin-Pro@nibm.net.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori August 21, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Stop in a Five & Below store. Lots of fun and cool stuff in there. Check out the electronics area, they have headphones, fans, lights that plug into a USB port, keyboard dusters (to brush the crumbs away) just to mention a few items. Have fun shopping!


DeeCee August 21, 2014 at 4:19 pm

I don’t need a lot of unusable junk, but I appreciate the small things that I can actually use. Some of the things I can think of (and some have the firm logo) are: letter openers, deck of cards, nail clippers, pencils, pens, highlighters, sticky notes, nail files/emery boards, note pads, etc. Also chocolates, bags of nuts/candy, gift certificates, and especially the “certificate” for an hour (or more) off. We all like our time off. These are all even better to receive with a handwritten note of thanks and appreciation.


Michelle August 21, 2014 at 4:11 pm

What about a special batch of “cool” office equipment? It would be nice to get something I can utilize at my desk. Maybe a Media Lounger with the company logo, or a fancy keyboard/mouse wrist rest set, really nice pens, speakers/headphones, funky post it note dispenser, etc. I know at some offices this stuff isn’t that special, but at some places w/ less $ these would be a fun reward.


Claudia Wright August 15, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Employees or managers can recommend someone receive a recognition which is a handwritten note card signed by each of the managers (a note – not just their name), and we write in the card why they are being recognized. There’s also a small slip of paper in the card that lists available $5 gift cards. It’s their pick. Some people love Dairy Queen while others are coffee drinkers and want that Starbucks card. Then again, diet watchers may prefer WalMart, etc. Why not give them something they really want and can use?


Theresa Kasel August 15, 2014 at 3:36 pm

I worked for a Fortune 500 company and our department had rewards program that allowed anyone to give a co-worker a note saying what they did that was appreciated (a copy of the note was given to their manager) and a $5 gift. Someone kept a stock of them — local coffee shops, the cafeteria, B&N, Amazon, iTunes, etc.

At that small amount, my company didn’t consider it a tax issue — although, apparently other companies do.

I, personally, would prefer a written note with nothing over a gizmo (like the dancing flowers) — but that’s me. I’m trying to stop adding “things” to my life. I would want to throw it away soon after getting it, but would that was wasteful and feel stuck with it or having to find a new home for it.


Admin August 15, 2014 at 2:30 pm

You can give gift cards, just report it to your payroll dept. and have them gross it up in the employees next paycheck. You’re then basically giving the employee the money in their paycheck that they would be taxed. AMEX or VISA cards are ALWAYS appreciated.


Stacie Pinto August 15, 2014 at 8:09 am

You can never go wrong with Starbucks or Dunkin’Donuts gift cards. It’s the little treat in the morning that sometimes fuels a long day of hard work!


Anita August 14, 2014 at 5:08 pm

I know that my team loves time off. I make up coupons 1 hour . there are stipulations on when they can use them but it works out wonderfully. only to be used when slow or overstaffed, never on a Saturday. They Love It!


Julie August 14, 2014 at 4:48 pm

The company I work for formed a committee to make employees aware of and to promote our vision & mission. The committee created a recognition packet complete with our logo, instructions and examples of how to recognize an employee. It may seem a little formal but it makes it easy for the managers/supervisors and we found that most employees are pleased to receive a personal touch. So the packet includes a blank “Thank You” card that can be used to give the employee a hand-written message, thanking them for going above and beyond and points out one or several of our core values that they exemplified. The employee is directed to contact the committee to be given a trinket of their choice. The trinkets include small items like cups, water bottles, lanyards, rally towels, keyrings, etc. If an employee is recognized often and has received all of the smaller items we offer, then they are given a t-shirt with the committee logo/mascot for being a “frequent flyer”. It’s kind of a status thing! The local sandwich shops give us discounts on quantities of gift cards and we’ve also used gas cards, Wal-Mart/Lowes/Home Depot gift cards, and sometimes sporting goods gift cards. It’s always nice to be able to save up for a larger purchase. Be sure to watch for expiration dates though.


Lisa August 14, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Hi Tiffany…we have a limit of $100 on “cash” value gifts, but every company probably has their limits. Of course, $100 is too extravagant for the type of reward system we’re discussing here, in general. We had an executive here who has since passed away who used to give $100 gift cards to show her appreciation for employees who went “above and beyond” when it wasn’t expected of them. Believe me, I don’t know anyone who every minded giving her a hand in a pinch!!!


Tiffany August 14, 2014 at 4:35 pm

WIth all the suggestions of gift cards, I would advise you to check with your Finance Department before you go down that path.

We aren’t allowed to give gift cards as rewards because, per our tax folks, when given by the employer to an employee they are considered by the IRS to be taxable income and must be taxed accordingly/reported on the W-2. Our employees are also not allowed to keep gift cards received from patients/families/vendors.

We implemented scratch-off lottery-style reward cards where an employee has the chance to win various prizes such as items in our facility cafeteria, items from local fast food shops, up to $100 cash.

I look forward to seeing the other suggestions as well.


Lisa August 14, 2014 at 4:30 pm

I think the gift cards are an excellent idea. Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, someplace close to the office where everyone goes for lunch. Even a gift card from a supermarket close by the office is a good idea. People often pop in at lunch time or on the way home from work for the salad bar or take out counters. I’ve collected tons of doo-dads over the years from friends who brought me souvenirs home from their vacations and, after a while, they were taking over my desk. I brought them all home and put them in a big basket for my grandkids to check out and fondle whenever they want. I call it my “basket of useless junk” and they’re facinated by all that stuff. Go figure???


Karen E. August 14, 2014 at 4:21 pm

I used to work at a place where one of the remote managers would visit and bring us Russell Stover chocolates (individual ones with colorful foil wrappers, Crabtree & Evelyn lotions, lovely scarves, and when he traveled abroad he would bring beautiful jewelry. The nicer items were always wrapped, too. I absolutely loved working projects for him. We all knew he would take of us with little incentives — and it worked! No one ever declined working his projects. He’s retired now, but I appreciated his special rewards.As an after thought, he had a sophisticated, lovely wife who was involved in his purchases.


Karen August 14, 2014 at 4:17 pm

We go to the Oriental Trading website where we can purchase bulk items very cheap. We also use Starbucks gift cards along with Amazon gift cards, iTunes gift cards and Dunkin Donuts.


Cindy Jennings August 14, 2014 at 4:13 pm

We’ve adopted a program where employees can award one another points for anything they witness that is “above and beyond” the norm. These points can be used to purchase items from a gift catalog. They can be banked if the employee has their eye on something that takes more points to purchase. We now also award points on anniversaries, etc. That way each person can get what they want, when they want it as long as they have points in their account. We’ve gotten great feedback on this.


Donna August 14, 2014 at 4:13 pm

If you have a Dollar Tree near you, you would be surprised what you can find there. I don’t do this for work, but I have a large family & for our Easter family get together, I do baskets for the adults as well as the children (about 30 in all). I put all kinds of things in them, not just candy. You can get wind chimes, sun catchers, inspirational books, gardening tools, puzzle books, coffee mugs, pocket sized screwdriver sets, …… I can always find little inexpensive items there for everyone on my list.


Lynn August 14, 2014 at 4:11 pm

If you are unable to purchase gift cards/gift certificates like we are, as they are considered a monetary gift and not allowable (weird, I know), you could get some neat sticky notes or sticky note holders, bags of coffee or boxes of tea with a fun coffee/tea cup, colorful notebooks and pens, bag/box of cookies or other snacks (maybe nuts for the health conscience or dried fruit). For most people it’s the thought more than the actual gift. Kudos to your boss for doing this for the staff. Wonderful idea!!


Karen August 18, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Since gift cards have an expressed cash value they are reportable income if they’re in relation to employment duties, so your company is just protecting itself from trouble.


Lisa - !! August 14, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Squeezable balls also make people feel better.


Kathy Moresi August 14, 2014 at 4:01 pm

I’ve found that people enjoy the little solar powered dancing flowers, turkeys, hula girls, etc. Just brings a little smile to faces to see them dancing in the windows or on desks. Fluorescent light activates them as well. Typically find them at $1.00 stores.


Pat August 14, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Definitely gift cards! If the boss has season’s passes to sporting events, try rewarding an employee by giving them your seats to a special game or event. Have lunch brought in and share with the department in their honor. Nothing extravagant, pizza parties are always fun.


Ann August 14, 2014 at 4:01 pm

A gentleman who used to work with us (now retired) would send $5 Dairy Queen gift cards to anyone who had assisted him in any way. People used to love to receive those tokens of his appreciation.


Cici August 14, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Gift cards are the way to go. Amazon, Starbucks, Target, Walgreen’s, Dunkin Donuts – almost any vendor you can think of sells gift cards.


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