Corporate Gifting, Swag Ideas

7 Stories of Awful Corporate Gifts

It’s no secret that we believe in the power of swag to make a lasting impression. The right swag, delivered at the right time, can leave your audience feeling warm and fuzzy about your brand for a long time.

However, the opposite is also true: bad swag will leave just as strong of an impression for all the wrong reasons!

To show you what we mean, and illustrate why being thoughtful about the gifts you send matters, we asked some folks for stories of the worst corporate gifts they’ve ever received. We were not disappointed!

Let these cautionary tales serve as a reminder that investing in the kind of quality gifts offered at is always going to deliver a higher ROI than doing things carelessly. 

1. Poor quality grocery bags

“One of the worst gifts that I’ve ever received from my previous company is, I think, a grocery cloth bag with a hook that you can attach to the grocery cart. I love the idea of going green by bringing your own grocery bag to the store but what I don’t like is the quality.

The bag’s quality is so poor that I only put in 3 cans of tuna and it got destroyed already. I mean, my previous company is so big that I thought they would have the capabilities to put more money into something that their employees will really appreciate. But I guess not.”

Scott from BetWorthy LLC

2. Too many mugs

“I love drinking coffee but I do not love receiving a mug with a giant company logo for every occasion there is. My previous company gave us mugs for every occasion— birthdays, company anniversary, and even Christmas gifts.

Hence, before I left the company to start my current one, I had collected a box-full of mugs already. Yes, I do appreciate the gifts, but a variety of items could be much more appreciated.”

-Craig from Academia Labs

Read more: The Best Microwave and Dishwasher Safe Drinkware Options

3. A mis-gendered gift

“I used to work for a large company with hundreds of employees. We had a secret Santa one year, and a woman received my name as her gift responsibility.

She didn’t know me and assumed that I was a woman since my name is Jamie. She bought me a gift card to a salon to get my nails done.

The look on her face when she gave it to me was a lot more entertaining than the gift.”

-Jamie from Coffee Semantics

4. A subliminal message

“Back in high school I was doing a Summer Internship in a corporate office. It was the holiday season and the office decided to give everyone a present. Exciting, right? Well, not exactly. 

When I opened the package, there was a nice greeting card and a SLEEPING EYE MASK! We were all so confused, I genuinely thought it was a sarcastic joke played on us suggesting that we are lazy employees!

Apparently, the office had no such intentions. Personally, I thought it was just plain terrible. A gift card would’ve been nice though!”

-David from The Upper Ranks

5. A redundant desk accessory

“I was a vice president of a major international bank. I think it was a fifth anniversary gift.

A small (2″X3″?) flat piece of clear plastic with small rubber feet, with the bank’s logo sticking up at the top.

I had to ask what it was.

A Post-It Note holder.

A thing to put a pack of Post-It notes on, on my desk. At work.

I mean, if it had been a small bowl to put paper clips in, that almost makes sense. But Post-It Notes don’t slide around. Worst case, you peel the back off the bottom and stick it to the desk. But they don’t slide around, they don’t scatter like paper clips.

I left that job to become a stand-up comedian, and it was the best deal I ever made.”

-Shaun, standup comedian

Read more: What Work From Home Survival Kits Look Like

6. A last-minute purchase

“I am a retired teacher, but many years ago many of us found in our mailboxes a holiday gift from an Administrator: pencils that looked like sticks (rough bark on outside, twisted, etc.)

We were a bit confused, but didn’t say anything, till one day I happened to be traveling and stopped at a country store restaurant. Next to the checkout was a jar of these very same stick pencils with a sign, “Makes a great teacher gift!”

I tried to explain to the store why they were OH, so wrong… we all would have preferred the couple of bucks for a free coffee.”

-Jim, retired teacher

7. A poorly-thought-out design

“I have a classic example for you! The corporation that I have my day job with awards you a Tiffany Jewelry box once you’ve completed fifteen years of service. I am a jewelry addict and I love Tiffany. Naturally, I was excited to receive mine. This is until I opened it.

Here was a stunning smoked glass Tiffany jewelry box that was stunning with one exception. The company had its logo engraved right across the top of the box. Now, don’t get me wrong – I love the company I work for. However, I do not want a Tiffany piece with a corporate logo on it. I was horrified and ultimately donated the piece to a charity shop!”

-Nikki from Brit on the Move

Yikes. When you’re ordering gifts for your office, clients or anyone else, let these stories serve as a reminder that the more thought and quality you invest in your project, the better the results will be!

We are more than happy to chat with you about whatever ideas you want to bring to life for great corporate gifts and swag! To speak with an expert swag representative, fill out the form below and someone will be in contact shortly!