Christmas is now at an end, which will have come as a relief to many of you, trying to juggle the competing interests and wants of assorted family members, friends and colleagues.
So, as I throw away the turkey carcass, seemingly dozens of empty bottles and mounds of assorted wrapping paper, my thoughts turned to work and I was reminded of the collection of gifts that I’ve been given by clients over the years, some of which definitely fall into the unusual category,
Client Gifts: Standard fare
At MJ&Co during the December Advent period, we always have a couple of open tins of chocolates on the reception counter for clients to help themselves; and in the week before Christmas, we give every client that wanders in, a warmed minced pie and a glass of mulled wine to wash it down.
Whilst we do not expect anything in return, nevertheless every year we are inundated with assorted tins of biscuits, boxes of roses, celebrations etcetera and dozens and dozens of ‘luxury’ mince pies, not to mention assorted bottles of wine.
I always thank the client profusely for the gifts and then invite the staff to take their pick of them home. The vast majority of the gifts are well meant and intended as a thank you for our staff going ‘above and beyond’ but once in a while there is a sub-plot, as happened a year ago.
In early December 2022 a client came in to see me, who was almost in tears (I’ll call him Mr P). Mr P was at his wits end, because of a problem with paperwork for an importation of machine parts, with the parts being critical to repair a machine that had broken down at Mr P’s small factory. After a series of phonecalls and emails, I managed to sort out the problem with HM Customs & Excise and MrP got his parts.
The day before we closed for Christmas, Mr P delivered a half-case of very decent red wine, with a note saying how grateful he was for our help. In January however, upon being invoiced for my time, he asked for the six bottles back! I was severely tempted to return six empty bottles to him with a note saying, ‘Bottles returned as requested; the wine was lovely!’. However, my knee-jerk reaction, although fully justified (in my opinion) was not allowed to happen by my sensible and pragmatic office manager.
Client Gifts: It’s alive!!!
Arguably, the oddest gift I’ve received came many years ago when I’d only just started in accountancy. The individual concerned, Jack, a market trader dealing in poultry, was not a client when he came to see me a few days before Christmas but asked for my help on an urgent issue regarding a tax demand, which I was able to sort out via a phonecall.
Jack was very grateful and asked me how much he owed for my help, I said, no charge, but remember me when you want your accounts doing. Jack thanked me profusely and then said that he had one free range turkey left, but he didn’t want to take it home and would I accept it as a thankyou from him. I accepted gratefully and as it was snowing, Jack put the turkey in the boot of my car.
When I got home, I walked in through the kitchen door proudly holding the prize bird by the feet to show it off to my heavily pregnant wife, who rather than looking happy, instead just screamed. I then realised to my horror, that the turkey had started to beat its wings.
My protestations that I didn’t know it wasn’t dead, were to no avail and I was banished outside in the snow until the bird had been despatched and plucked, which was duly done, albeit with the critical help of my next door neighbour who’d been brought up on a farm. I will never forget that particular Christmas gift!
Client Gifts: Is it legal?
A few years ago, a client who had a 10-acre small holding, growing plants and pick-your-own Christmas trees called in the office to pay his bill and gave me a very attractive plant in a hand-painted pot. I thanked him and took it home and gave it to my wife. She thought it beautiful and gave it pride of place on the mantelpiece, and there it stayed until our son came round a day or two later and pointed out that the plant was a fine example of Cannabis Sativa, oops!
Client Gifts: Pornographic mugs!
Leyla, the very pretty 18-year-old daughter of a haulage client of ours, called into the office with a box of four mugs which she said had been specially commissioned to advertise her dad’s business that Christmas. Leyla told me that she was very proud of the result and asked me what I thought of the artwork?
When I looked at the mugs, there was a picture of Leyla wearing only a few strands of tinsel and a couple of strategically placed baubles posing suggestively in front of her dad’s new truck. I told Leyla that in my opinion, the artwork was wonderful and thanked her for the gift, The mugs were subsequently taken home by junior male members of staff.
Client Gifts: Sweet old lady
My final story concerns Elsie, a really lovely, elderly lady client, who is delightfully scatty. Elsie regularly brings in a small gift at Christmas, usual a very alcoholic Christmas cake that she makes at home. This year however, she apologised to me for not bringing in her usual brandy infused cake, explaining that her arthritis meant that she’d had to give up baking.
Elsie, who has never mentioned music to me, so clearly has absolutely no idea of my musical taste (mainly rock and blues), reached into her bag and pulled out what appeared to be a CD case in wrapping paper, gave it to me and said, “You’ll enjoy this on Christmas morning.” So, on the big day, I opened the package and there was a CD of a fifty minutes of classical choral music, clearly compiled by Elsie herself. Although it would not have been my first choice for a gift, I dutifully listened to it once (and only once!).
Tax Accountant’s comment
To any clients reading this Blog, please be assured that all gifts, even the weird, the wonderful and the odd-ball, are always appreciated, but given the times we live in, perhaps next year instead of bringing in a big box of chocolates or a bottle of wine, please consider spending the same on some groceries and donating them to your local food bank, where I know they will be very much welcomed.