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I met one of our equipment suppliers some time ago at a conference. I was asking them questions about their line and they, with great interest, started asking me lots of questions. It turned out they were developing a new product and wanted lots of feedback. After a few minutes of this they asked if they could send me a trial unit to test out.

A month later we got a trial unit in. I left it in the office and had a couple other engineers try it out. After we all had a go, I had a 30m conversation with them on the phone giving them rather detailed feedback. They asked if I would like a thank-you gift. I thought it would be something small, like a flashlight.

It turned out that they sent me a $700 camera from their product line. I would LOVE to take this thing home, but since pretty much all the time I spent giving them feedback was really company time (honestly the phone call went way longer than I thought it would, otherwise I might not have done it), and the camera is something we might use once in a while (though not need), I'm a bit conflicted.

The one example I can think of similar to this is frequent flyer miles. If the company pays for a ticket, I've never heard of anyone not getting the miles for the trip. Is this similar?

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    Country/industry or company specific, voting to close. Ask your HR rep, they should be able to guide you. Jun 28 '16 at 0:55
  • It's worth $700 if you buy it, it's worth a LOT less to them, it's their product, giving a few away as promotional tools repays their investment. Some sales teams actually have a quota to give away.
    – Kilisi
    Jun 28 '16 at 0:56
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    22 person company. We don't have an HR rep! And how is this region/industry specific? This is a moral question, not a legal one.
    – Dave
    Jun 28 '16 at 0:57
  • I get it retails for $700 but to them was like a coffee mug. Should you keep it maybe not. Would I keep it - yes. And I have heard of companies booking flight and keeping the frequent flier miles.
    – paparazzo
    Jun 28 '16 at 1:44
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    @Dave - For example if you were in financial services in the UK, there tend to be strict codes of conduct over accepting gifts (you usually have to do long dull online courses yearly). Accepting improper gifts can put you on the hook if the client turns out to be money laundering and you've innocently had dealings with them,. Jun 28 '16 at 9:45
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For small gifts I would just take them (eg. USB stick with a logo or t-shirt etc,.), in this case however I'd ask my manager. Chances are he/she would let you have it, because that is fairly normal in most places. But it's still best to ask if it's something significant. It just saves any doubts or accusations of something underhand.

"Hello Boss, XYX comany wants to give me a camera from their product range as a thank you (price not mentioned), is it ok to accept this?"

In one place we had a actual rule about booze that all gifted booze became the divisions property and quite often we'd have 20 bottles of whiskey by the time our party came around. Anything else that wasn't edible was yours to keep.

Just the fact that a client wants to make a gift reflects well on you, I've always been told to keep it. But that would depend on the particular manager I guess.

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    Guess we have worked for different companies. I work for large multinatiocal. We have to sign off on a stupid elearning every year with pretty much this exact scenario saying we won't take it or could get fired. I know in smaller businesses it is probably OK.
    – blankip
    Jun 28 '16 at 1:02
  • You're right, bigger companies are more likely to have a set protocol for these sorts of things, and they have good reason for it. Even then it depends on the industry though, for a supermarket chain for example, their sales office might be full of free vendor samples and products, these are just normal parts of doing their business.
    – Kilisi
    Jun 28 '16 at 1:18
  • Not trying to offend anyone but most of our elearnings with this example involve some guy named Hector in a South American country. Well there are like 10 obvious examples. I think that anything greater than $20 is considered a bribe at my place. The scenarios are so funny because they seem so obvious... A vendor wants Hector's group to buy 20 licenses and offers to fly Hector and his family to Disney World to meet. Is that a bribe?
    – blankip
    Jun 28 '16 at 1:22
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    Just saying at my place... both could get fired/blamed. Someone/their manager wouldn't get fired necessarily from a $700 camera - but if it happened HR would probably give them "that was your last bribe" and very possible it is a black mark on manager - unless they are in South America. :)
    – blankip
    Jun 28 '16 at 1:25
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    Well anyway I even like your answers that are opposite of mine.
    – blankip
    Jun 28 '16 at 1:26
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It's not yours and could be seen as a bribe. Simple facts. Maybe it is the most innocent thing ever but that is not how an outsider would perceive it. They sent you/your company a gift and would like to sell you something. It is pretty easy to do the math in your head.

This is not to be mistaken for a coffee mug, pen, notebook, or some other trivial promotional give away which I would say sure take it home. This thing is not promotional and it has real resale value. A boss being a jerk could accuse you have stealing company equipment or taking a bribe - a boss that wants the camera for their own or just doesn't like you.

Would most companies care? Probably not. But the line has clearly been crossed here and once you take it, you are the inappropriate one even if you return it. Just a no win situation.

Even asking the boss to take it home puts you in the same realm. If the boss says no... well you broaching the subject might have sent bad signals to some. If boss says yes they may think... what else would I say... but why is he taking a vendor bribe home?

Addendum: Just searched our HR site - tells us any gift(s) totaling over $20 must be OK'ed by both manager and local HR - meaning once you get that 3rd or 4th coffee mug you might have a declaration! Any travel must be be OK'ed by both is paid for or partially paid for by vendor, including coupons or group discounts. There are quite a few examples in the handbook but they would be a give away for who I work for.

So based on the info above I will slightly alter my answer - in some companies your group might be disregarding company guidelines on bribes by simply letting the camera sit within your group - before anyone even takes it home. Manager at my company should let HR at least know before it sitting at work.

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  • In this case the gift was worth $700 and what we are considering buying from them is worth $2-3000, so I wouldn't consider it a bribe.
    – Dave
    Jun 28 '16 at 0:54
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    They gift you $700 so you put in a good word to buy something that is 2k... To me that is text book bribe. Not that I wouldn't want/take the camera - just telling you what it looks like in an office environment. Week 3 of you taking it home... secretary whispers to somebody in another dept... Dave took that $700 camera home then we signed on for two licenses at company XYZ... Just sayin... I deal with vendors every day - its my job - on a scale of 1 to 10 that is a solid 7.5 bribe.
    – blankip
    Jun 28 '16 at 0:59
  • Also don't think that this "camera thank you" isn't a part of their selling cycle. The best sales departments make transitions like this seem natural. You are either dealing with a super nice company or a company with super great sales dept. But that doesn't change the answer to your question.
    – blankip
    Jun 28 '16 at 1:05

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