Friday, December 4, 2015

The holiday gift quandary!

If you interact in any model-mom circles, a big question this time of year is: “What do I get my agents for gifts?”  Holiday gifting is a nice gesture, and I would say it’s probably somewhat expected (but I don’t think any professional agent worth his/her salt in the business would deny you any work for not gifting).  I’ll give you some of my thoughts.

First, gift-giving of ANY sort should be based on your own personal resources.  No one should feel the need to gift more extravagantly than their budget allows. 

Some people work exclusively with one agent or manager (and maybe that person has a staff member).  You would probably choose to gift this person more extravagantly than if you work with four or five agents at a bigger firm.  You can set a total budget and work within it, which makes a lot of sense especially when you have two agencies and a few agents and support staff under each roof.

The IRS has work-related gift limits if you plan to deduct the cost of the gift on your child’s taxes.  It’s $25 per gift per person (so if you work with three agents in one firm, you can send 3 $25 gifts and be able to deduct all three).  If you spend more than that, great…but you cannot deduct more than that.  (Now is also a reminder to keep ANY AND ALL WORK-RELATED RECEIPTS.)  Here’s a link to the IRS page that explains this policy and even gives a handy example.

I know of people giving a whole range of gifts.  Anything from a $10 Starbucks card to a $250 gift card to a swanky store is cool – again, it depends on your relationship with the agent.  I would say that if your kid is a HUGE booker, you should probably err on the more generous side.  That’s a lot of agent/parent contact and you want to show your gratitude if you can.  And if kiddo is making $25,000 this year, it’s really not too much to think of a gift in the $100 range – in my humble little opinion.  On the flip side, giving an extravagant gift will NOT make your child a big booker.

I also like to steer people in the direction of practical gifts.  Maybe a little luxury (like a Nest candle or Simon Pearce hurricane) or a gift card to a great lunch spot near their office.  Bonus points for a restaurant that delivers.  I don’t think this is one of those situations when a gift card seems too impersonal – if you’re going more extravagant, why not one to Zappos – who doesn’t love shoes?  If you’re staying more modest, Starbucks or even Amazon are great choices.  These are not cards that will sit unused in the wallet.  If you know your agent’s tastes really well, you can head in that direction.  If you're self-conscious about a modest gift (NOT THAT YOU SHOULD BE) have your child hand-draw a card to go with it.

Food is a popular gift – what’s cuter than a rosy-cheeked child carrying in a beautifully wrapped box of homemade brownies?  And for some families, food is how they roll… BUT…I’m not sure it’s always tops on the list of agents’ favorite gifts.  Main reason: they get SO much.  It’s totally thoughtful, don’t get me wrong, but there’s so much…and a lot of agents I know are physique-conscious…so what ends up happening is that the Bizzy Mama in the office (read: chubby girl) eats all the goodies and ends up ten pounds heavier by December 20 (you know, before the family holiday stuff even happens and you gain the actual holiday weight).  If you really feel the push toward the food, why not have a nice bagel/lox/schmear/fruit assortment delivered for the office to share one morning (maybe check with the assistants first to see if there is a particularly good day).  Another option is a tray of healthy wraps for lunch.  That gets you the satisfaction of feeding your agents but stays away from the sweets.  If you are really inclined toward the sweets, you could do a couple of different things: maybe individually wrap the items (little cello bags) so the agents can grab some to take home to their family OR send a nice holiday card and promise a treat on a date in February, when everyone is sad and dreary and those Italian cookies would be really excellent at 3:00.  Don’t be afraid to switch it up a little – your gift will probably stand out, which is always a nice plus.

I’m going to add, and I’ve mentioned them already, but don’t forget the assistants.  They do a lot of legwork and they may actually be the ones you interact with the most.  If you interact with the assistants just as much or more than the agents, I think the assistants are worthy of the same value of gift.  Fielding multiple calls at a time and unjamming the copier while making sure a CD knows that a kiddo is running late for the 5:00 audition because of the tunnel…all of that merits a nice holiday shout-out.

And what do I give?  Booze.  Last but not least, the booze gift – it’s how I was raised (and all of those bottles my dad got came in really handy when I was, um, well…let’s just say there were so many you’d never miss one, or, er…) and it’s what I like to do.  We work with one agency for print and another for on-camera and last year I sent each a case of decent (read: affordable and drinkable) prosecco.  My aim was for anyone who wanted one to take a bottle…or two, whatever was left…and drink it or even re-gift it.  If someone’s working late and needs to run to have dinner with friends, he or she can grab a bottle out of the case and be all set with something to hand the host.  I have no problem with re-gifting.  If I give you something that makes your life easier – not having to stop at the liquor store on the way – great.  Mission accomplished.  I should also acknowledge the, what if someone doesn’t drink? question.  It’s just like the brownies or the lox – maybe those gifts aren’t for everyone and while someone may pass, I’m sure he/she appreciates the gesture.  Note that I am sending these bottles to agencies that have a few people on each team for kids – I would not send booze to an individual or two-person office unless I know confidently that those people drink.  Here’s the link to Sherry-Lehmann (free delivery in NYC if you get to it in time).

I've got one more bit of gift-giving advice.  Teacher gifts.  After 20 years in the classroom, I can confidently say what we teachers want.  Amazon or B&N gift cards OR gift cards to coffee places that have drive-thru on the way to school.  If you give us sweets, it never fails that my dog eats them...which is probably good for us, but bad for Tessie.

Hope these ideas help!  Anything I didn’t think of?  Questions?  Hit me up here, via email at or the Facebook page.  I’m also on Instagram and warning: it’s likely to be full of ballet pics the next couple of weeks.

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