Mouthy Gift Horse Shit

Way back on Dec. 1, 2011, I made a threat right here on this very blog:

Hyppo and Criter

This comic is just the teaser. A bit of foreshadowing, as it were. The actual post I estimate will be about 20,000 words. Or two-fifths of a novel. It’s “coming soon.”
–Tom B. Taker

The day has finally come to back up that threat. I’ve dumped the voluminous manuscript already in progress and will briefly freestyle the story just for you. For a bonus I’ll append a surprise recent twist.

You shouldn’t look a gift horse in the ass even if that’s the only face he ever presents. Or something like that.

What offends you? In my case there answer is, “A lot. Practically everything.” I did the calculus and come up with this result: “What offends me is that which you do to me that I would never do to you.”

If you enjoy that kind of folksy wisdom be sure to also pick up my hot bestselling book, An Accident Is Just Two Cars In The Same Place At The Same Time.

Prompted by recent events, yesterday I googled the phrase “gift giving etiquette.” This took me to a page on the official Emily Post website. Ah, yes. A site I know very well. That website said (my emphasis added):

Rule number one when you’re opening a gift in the presence of the giver: thank the person enthusiastically. Even if the present is the last thing you wanted, thank the giver for his thoughtfulness, drawing on the actor in you to mask your disappointment. Be pleasant but noncommittal: “It’s nice of you to think of me in this way!” or “What an imaginative choice!” That being said, there are instances in which you may want to regift or exchange a gift.

Source: Emily Post

When a boss is involved you had better bring Oscar-worthy acting chops. The play is the thing!

Perhaps “disappointment” is the wrong word, at least for me. My response is more akin to unbridled anger caused by acrimonious umbrage.

One November at work back in 2011 I was especially miserable because cow orker and myself were engaged in “conversation.” That’s where she speaks and I wish I was dead. We were talking about our television situations. In her case that meant a piece of hardware from the golden age when the likes of Dick Van Dyke and Lucy reigned supreme. It was a modest black and white affair from the days when televisions still came crafted in wooden cabinets.

My situation was that I had wisely invested my $2,500 inheritance on a state-of-the-art 42″ plasma which had died 366 days after purchase. Thank you for your participation in the consumption cycle. Estimated repair bill? $600. We told the repair store to keep the damn thing and switched to a 19″ color set loaned from a friend.

So it was that co-worker and I both had television needs. The boss bulldozed his way into the conversation. Not to worry, he said. Both of us would be getting new 42″ LCD televisions as our Christmas bonus. We took a little convincing because we both thought he was joking, but he was serious. He explained that the TV could play YouTube videos wirelessly from the internet, too.

Even I had to admit this was a thoughtful gesture. Maybe I’d misjudged this guy?

Once day the TV arrived. The first wrinkle was that there was only one. It turned out that the boss had gamed the ordering process to save on shipping costs. Rather than simply ordering two, he realized he could save three cents by placing two separate orders. They ran out so he only got one. Oops. His greed had left him in a position where he was unable to back up his promise.

Cow orker decided she’d rather have a laptop computer so her and the boss embarked on Plan B. Meanwhile, the first TV was mine.

The second wrinkle was that the package arrived at work. When it did, the so-called “busy” boss dropped everything, sprinted across the room, grabbed a box cutter, and ripped that thing open like a kid on Christmas morning. Nothing like being the first one in, eh? Ah, that new electronics smell! I imagined what it was like while I watched from across the room. This was supposed to be a gift for me? In seconds he had the thing unpacked and manhandled onto a table, treating it in a way that I never would. He plugged it in and played with it for the next eight hours. At this point I was pretty well overcome with the urge to vomit.

Thus, the third and fourth wrinkles came to light. The thing wasn’t quite working the way it was supposed to. It seems it couldn’t play YouTube videos and other internet-based features in the promised manner. “Uh, Tom,” he said. He possessed the staggering audacity to let a hint of embarrassment creep into his voice. “It won’t do what I said it would.” Long story short: He bought the thing on sale, closeout, clearance and it was refurbished. As such, it didn’t have the original remote. It had a more generic remote which didn’t have the needed buttons and there was no other way. “Too bad for you,” is how he summed things up.

And that’s the story of the “Christmas bonus.” At the end of the day, I packed up all the shit he had strewn about and lamely took that motherfucker home. It had been played with and manhandled and tossed around like a sack of potatoes. His smudgy fat fingerprints were on the LCD and the finish. I left them there ever since as a permanent reminder of his violation.

Merry Christmas to me.

Additional eloquent holiday thoughts I shared about the experience at the time:

A Christmas bonus is a nice gesture and is NOT expected. In fact, at my wife’s job they’ve already announced there will be no bonuses and they should also consider themselves lucky to have jobs. To celebrate holiday cheer, there will be a potluck dinner held during the work day.

Wow. Can you feel it? It’s almost as if Jesus himself was back in town.

However, if a boss does decide to do the bonus thing, I think a few basic rules of decorum should apply:

  • If it’s a fruitcake, don’t lick all over it and/or pick out your favorite bits
  • If it’s a bottle of liquor, don’t open it and swig about half from the bottle (the gift of backwash)
  • If it’s gum, do not pre-chew
  • If it’s sausage, do not test it to pleasure yourself
  • Can you believe it? I found this at the recycling center and it still works!

You know, a few basic rules. A gift is supposed to be about the “thought.” A gift from a boss to an employee is called a “bonus” and is supposed to denote appreciation for the work performed by the employee during the previous year.

Gifts like the above do not denote “appreciation.” They are actually grave insults and a form of total disrespect. They scream, “I want you to think I care but my wants and needs come first. You’re supposed to think I appreciate the work you do but actually I just want to reinforce your position on the food chain. You know, that’s the same reason why your office chair is located directly under my seat in the company outhouse. So you can feel appreciated all year long.”

Some people are so socially damaged they are incapable of understanding mundane and average mores and norms that most civilized persons follow as a matter of routine.

You want to give me a “refurbished” gift? Guess what? I actually hate you more now than before the so-called “bonus.” And your act of assholiness gives me a great idea. In the future, all the work I perform for you will also be “refurbished.” That will help keep things on an even keel. Enjoy what you’ve reaped, you motherfucking fucknut.

I guess the fifth wrinkle is the presumptiveness of a gift as a bonus at all. You could give the gift of cash and let the employee decide what’s best, or you can, in essence, take that decision-making ability away from them by deciding on their behalf. This was, perhaps, the most offensive bit of all. The boss acts like he’s “daddy” to every adult person he meets, so why not use that to wrap the “gift,” too?

That brings me to Present Day. (I do so love to bury the lede.) Out of the blue the boss let me know I’d be getting a bonus for $X amount in about two weeks. The gift was to say thank you for my work on a project and also represented some form of nebulous “profit sharing” (his words). The gift would be in the form of an AMEX gift card for $X amount less a $9 fee. My first thought? Why not cash? And why call it $X amount when it’s really $X – $9 amount?

He also stated it would not be reflected on my paycheck and so it would be tax fee to me. Even I had to admit that was thoughtful.

The wheels were turning as I waited two weeks to find out how the shit would go sideways. Why an AMEX gift card? The answer became clear to me. This was going to be a “freebie” that he picked up from someplace, most likely a company he did business with or one of his suppliers. He operates at a high enough level that gifts like this are rather routine for him. One time he gave me an iPod Touch as a “bonus” that he’d received from FedEx for reaching a certain threshold in business. An iPod that had since been laying around his desk gathering dust for nine months.

Trying to keep in mind my teachings from Emily Post, allow me to introduce Uncle Bob. He owned a tire store. For three decades everyone in his family received nothing but tires as gifts from Uncle Bob. Discontinued tires. Free samples of tires. Wholesale tires. Christmas? Tires. Birthday? Tires. Weddings? Tires. Bar mitzvahs? Tires. Funerals? Tires. At first, his family was appreciative. Everyone can always use new tires, right? At first. But then it happened again and again. And again. Soon it was, “Oh, shit. Not more tires.” Uncle Bob would be struck by lightning before he would ever give any gift that wasn’t a tire. He’d rather die. The act of giving became worse than having no meaning at all. Eventually it became patently offensive.

My AMEX card arrived the other day. As promised it was $9 less than the $X amount as originally described. And, here’s the final wrinkle: It was embossed with the wrong name. My last name was correct and even spelled properly, but the first name consisting of a whopping three letters is wrong. Unbelievable. The absolute slob can’t even get my first name right. Although he brags about being an “engineer” he’s the most undetail-oriented person I’ve ever seen, Croc-ensconced feet and all.

Now I’m packin’ an AMEX card with the name of a fictional person embossed right on it. Is it wrong to be offended by that? Since I’m The Help I’m thinking about making him a pie to express my undying gratitude. Hint: It’ll only be slightly refurbished.

9 responses

  1. Wow….so much of that post rang true. We used to receive fairly substantial Christmas bonuses and were told last February that there would be no more bonus… all. It was a quarter of the salary I had become accustomed to…..and it was gone, just like that. Too bad the sons of bitches that took over this company don’t know how to truly appreciate their employees like our past owner did. It does make it difficult to put in 100% effort if you are not receiving 100% appreciation.

    My work ethic may be slightly refurbished these days….and yes, I am currently surfing the net from the comfort of my hand-me-down office chair.


    1. Thanks! Was I appropriately honest and authentic? 🙂


    1. Horse apples!


      Sherman Tom Potter


  2. You’re silly. People who wear crocs can’t run a business.


    1. I misspoke. He doesn’t really run. More like a hulking mass shuffle loaf. And half the time he’s in his bare feet. I just threw up. In my mouth!


  3. So your boss is into recycling….gifts. Next, he’ll be demanding some kind of “green” award.


    1. That’s probably the color of one of his byproducts of existence.


Bringeth forth thy pith and vinegar

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: