Somehow, procurement is so often marked as a place where everyone is getting something “under the table”
Thus, we have to be very careful when it comes to any kind of gifts and hospitality financed by our suppliers. Saying “no” to everything is one way, but you may insult people and look strange.
So, what is the right way? As you may guess. the answer is: ‘it depends”. Let us try to establish some basic guidelines.
Be aware of what is “normal” in the culture you work in. Especially if you are an expat, working internationally. For example, I live in the Middle East. Not coming for Iftar, which is a traditional dinner during the fasting period in the year, is more-less an insult. If you are invited, do your best to come. In my home country refusing to go for a coffee with the supplier is strange, at least. You are expected to meet and discuss business in a coffee shop. However, you can pay the bill.
Type of gift
If it is an advertising type of gift, like a pen, notebook, calendar, it is always OK to accept it. Some companies even give away silk ties with their logo and quite expensive laptop bags. Remember to consult your corporate policy about the maximal value of the gift.
Many would argue that samples are as well a type of gift. Even worse, a one you have requested. Try to return them whenever reasonably possible. First of all, it will be easier to get new ones later. And secondly, you will not feel bad when asking for them again.
It is OK to receive food hampers around Christmas time or sweets on other occasions.
Under no circumstances take cash, cash vouchers or anything that can be converted into cash.
Almost all companies have a monetary value for an acceptable gift. Be aware of it well in advance. And if it is not there, add it to the procurement policy. It is usually below 100 USD, depending on the currency You use.
Connection to current events
In general, when I have a tender coming soon or going on, I would not even agree to meet the participating supplier. After the tender phase, we will get into the negotiation phase. Then there will be enough time to talk. Don’t allow yourself any badmouthing once the contract is awarded. Not everyone knows how your tender procedure is fair and transparent in the background. All they see is you and the supplier having a meeting or dinner.
Always consult your company policy and make sure you adhere 100% to it. After all, we do not want to get fired because we violated the policy. Some companies will allow their employees to go for paid weekend trips. Some companies are inviting suppliers to sponsor their internal events and trips. Some contracts have a clause that gives employees access to goods or services of the vendor free or at a very nominal price. As long as it is agreed on a corporate level and written in the policies, everything is fine. Companies are sometimes ready to do a lot to grab the contract. There is no reason not to use the purchasing power to get some extra benefit to the employees. As long as it is not for a selected couple from the procurement team.
Of course, you have to use common sense here. If there is any expectation connected to the gift, politely reject it. State company policies as the reason and do not discuss further. The important thing is to remember that the gift is given to the company, not you. And secondly, be transparent and open with your peers and the management.
In my career, I got a couple of quite high-value gifts, like:
- – 4 sets of Formula one tickets
- – A watch worth about 1,000 USD
- – Several Christmas hampers worth 150+ USD
Always the General Manager was made aware of it and allowed the gift. What have done with them? We shared the tickets among the management team. The watch was given to one of the long-term employees. And for the hampers, we shared the contents within our respective teams.