Gift Baskets: Ideas and Alternatives?
November 25, 2007 2:14 AM   Subscribe

GiftBasketFilter: I've been tasked with prototyping a holiday-themed gift basket that a high-end car dealership will present to car buyers during the season. The contents of the baskets will be mostly wine and wine-related objects. I'm having difficulty coming up with a presentation that will be "classy" enough to satisfy the audience but easy enough to mass-produce.

Have you ever received a gift-basket-type thing you really liked? Whether basket, box, bowl or bag, I'd love and very much appreciate some suggestions on presentation for a wine-heavy gift assortment.

Anything that could be purchased in Alberta, Canada or online in relatively short order would be terrific; non-denominational "winter holiday" type themes would be best, but full-on Christmas stuff won't be ignored. Most of the gift content is already established, but if you have any ideas along those lines, I'd be glad to know them.

Thanks in advance for any tips!
posted by chudmonkey to Shopping (18 answers total)
I think many companies have concluded that wine gifts at the holidays are in bad form - many don't drink, don't want gifts of alcohol, may have drinking problems or be sensitive about the issue, etc. And it strikes me that not all car buyers have by necessity attained the drinking age? Also (though I drink when I'm not pregnant), I find it particularly trashy when CAR and DRIVING-related entities give away liquor. I know you're not encouraging drunk driving, but come on. Finding one-size-fits-all stuff for client holiday gifts is REALLY hard, but wine is a poor choice.

But, you know one thing all your customers have in common - they are buying a CAR in WINTERTIME. So give them nice car stuff that will be helpful, comfy and nice for winter. Way easier to make this "classy" than tossing cheap wine and crackers in a basket.
posted by bunnycup at 6:40 AM on November 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

bunnycup said:
"I find it particularly trashy when CAR and DRIVING-related entities give away liquor. I know you're not encouraging drunk driving, but come on. Finding one-size-fits-all stuff for client holiday gifts is REALLY hard, but wine is a poor choice."

This was also my first gut reaction upon reading your question/headline. (course, it may be a mute point since you say the bulk of content/items has already been determined) If I bought a new car and was given an alcohol themed gift.. I'd be slightly weirded out. I'm sorry I dont have better suggestions.. I dont think I've ever gotten a gift basket thats really impressed me. (although I like bunnycup's suggestion of winter themed items)
posted by jmnugent at 6:47 AM on November 25, 2007

Another vote against the wine - there are many people who don't drink for religious reasons, or because they have a drinking problem, or because they just don't like it. Even many people who do drink alcohol don't like wine at all. I personally like wine, but ONLY soft, dry reds, and I'd be willing to bet that the chances that whatever you put in your basket would appeal to me is pretty small. So the gift would be useless to a fairly big chunk of your potential market, and some people might even be offended by it (think strictly religious Muslims or Protestant Christians and people who have friends/relatives that were injured or killed by drunk drivers).

So, other ideas - a cozy blanket to keep passengers warm when starting off in cold winter weather, also to keep drivers and passengers from becoming hypothermic when waiting for help after a winter crash or breakdown. A good road atlas, a wind-up flashlight, nice spill-proof thermos mugs that fit in the cup holders with packets of gourmet coffee and hot chocolate. Ice scrapers for the windows - I like the kind that have a big mitten over the handle to keep your hand warm. Movie tickets are good too, in many families going to the movies in the afternoon of Christmas day is a tradition. And I would definitely include a note that says something along the lines of "Don't like wine? We're happy to replace it with a gift of equal value." and then have some gift certificates for local shops or restaurants to trade for the wine and wine accessories.
posted by cilantro at 7:21 AM on November 25, 2007

It's weird, but this is a high-end dealership which means the customers will be receiving a number of high-end gift baskets from their various vendors, and at the moment the trend in gift baskets is that wine is a more important basket than fruit/candy, which is what us little people get. I imagine these gift baskets will be sent to the customers' homes, not strapped into the passenger seats of their new Mercedes.

I would say search the web and see what other high-end wine gift baskets have in them, and steal ideas. Whoever your local swanky chocolate maker is, you might want to put in an order for truffle boxes or some other fancy confection to include. Given that you're in Canada, you might have to mail order any sort of fruit you want to include, or avoid it in favor of non-food items or shelf-stable things like really good crackers or nuts. I would avoid Christmas-specific items and stick with snowflake and other wintry themes for holiday items. Maybe crystal bottle-stoppers (I think those are still OK, wine charms are probably on the edge of too pedestrian).
posted by Lyn Never at 7:25 AM on November 25, 2007

I somehow missed that the dealership was high-end, so I guess that the basket recipients will have sat-nav (so no atlas) and heated windshield and seats and whatnot, so most of my ideas are pretty useless. I still think the wine is a mistake, but food isn't going to offend anyone - think super-high end, organic and locally sourced, if possible.
posted by cilantro at 7:40 AM on November 25, 2007

I used to work for a gift basket company. The best baskets were those filled with things that were either NOT readily available locally, or if they were, were things that people wouldn't buy for themselves (high end candies or coffee, standard items like maple syrup but in interesting packages). Also, please please please make sure your gift baskets have enough stuff for two to share.

We used to get complaints about gift baskets that were mostly stuffing (i.e. big mound of shredded paper carefully hidden by product. If you don't have a lot of product in the basket, use a small basket, don't make it look like there's more there than there is. People get pissed).

Have at least one (or two if it's something like travel mugs) thing that people can keep, and how about a gift card for car repair service (two free oil changes or a gift cert to the dealer accessories department or something like that. Make sure it's something people would use. Nothing more annoying than to get a gift certificate with restrictions that make it hard to use.)

Put a really beautiful bow on it. Value added for minimal investment.
posted by nax at 7:47 AM on November 25, 2007

Another thought-- except for the gift certificate, I don't think the stuff in it needs to be car-related. Also, no wine. Bad message from a car dealership I think.
posted by nax at 7:50 AM on November 25, 2007

Nthing that wine is weird in this scenario but since that isn't what you asked...

Green or red or blue gift boxes would be nice. The stuff inside can be cello'd up with a nice bow. Baskets will just get chucked, and are not recyclable.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:09 AM on November 25, 2007

Hey, let's keep it on topic, ok? Whatever your feeling about wine in gift baskets, the question was specifically about the presentation of the baskets. It's more than likely that the contents of the baskets are non-negotiable at this point (although maybe this thread can help planners of future baskets), and not what the asker was wanting in the first place.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:25 AM on November 25, 2007

I have actually put together a few high-end wine baskets for auctions and benefits. We're talking baskets that auctioned for several thousand dollars. I'd never use a basket or a cardboard box - always a beautiful wooden trunk or wine box of some sort, sometimes vintage, or for the smaller ones, some sort of copper wine cooler. You start by rolling up a few newspapers in the bottom of your container for a stable but soft base for the bottles to nestle on. The newspaper is covered with some sort of shredded excelsior or paper - I used crinkle cut shredded paper that was the color of paper bags...a nice neutral that gives texture. Lay in the wine bottles first and then fill in with the smaller items and accessories. Make sure you include a great opener, if nothing else. Don't overdo the stuffing part - the shredded paper is basically just to hide the newspaper, and the newspaper (or whatever paper you use on the bottom) is to soften the area where the bottles touch. I have more advice if you're the one actually making the baskets, but you haven't indicated that you are.

Here are a few photos of wines that are presented in a similar way to what I mean, although these aren't half as nice as the ones I've made, to be honest. link link link

If you have to have a bunch of containers all exactly the same or similar, these wine boxes are beautiful, and you can order a bunch the same. I used that type a few times for the gifts with 2/3 bottles, and people loved them. They hold quite a bit, and can be used afterwards as wine totes.

I agree that non-holiday, non-denominational is best. To suggest winter without suggesting holiday, you could tie the shrink wrap up with a luscious velvet bow, into which you tuck some fragrant sprigs of pine and balsam and holly with berries on it.
posted by iconomy at 9:51 AM on November 25, 2007

I like gift baskets that aren't baskets. Gift boxes are a bit more elegant, I think, and more convenient, easier to manage. I don't know if you're mailing these or handing them out in person, but a box is much easier to carry than an unwieldly basket. And it can be re-used.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:52 AM on November 25, 2007

Speaking as someone who has bought his first nice car this year, I'd be tremendously impressed if the dealership got me something for my specific car. You know what people have bought, so you can get them a factory first-aid kit, or car-cover, or some other accessory that is for that car (and therefore your relationship with them) as well as something that won't affect their gut (food), legal status (wine), or warranty (nitrous).

Aside from that, maybe one of those tins with the three flavors of popcorn.
posted by rhizome at 10:36 AM on November 25, 2007

I would do at least some car stuff - tire gauge, battery-free flashlight, anti-fog window wipes, and note on the card your wish for the recipient to stay safe on the road. Don't put in cheap filler. I've got cheeses in my fridge from last Christmas' gift basket. I'd rather have a couple of very nice items than a chock-ful basket of low-quality. Hard to wrong with nice chocolates.
posted by theora55 at 10:52 AM on November 25, 2007

I would do at least some car stuff - tire gauge, battery-free flashlight, anti-fog window wipes

I've owned three Lincolns in my lifetime, and while they're probably not considered as high-end as other vehicles (I have a feeling the OP may be talking Porches or Ferraris), they nevertheless were equipped with a tire gauge tucked inside the owner's manual (along with a silver Cross pen with the Lincoln logo). I'm just saying that most of the automotive geegaws folks are suggesting are either included with these pricey cars, or are superfluous (my former boss always drove a Mercedes, and the only use he would have for a flashlight in his car was to find his cell phone so that he could call the special Mercedes roadside service number.)
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:27 AM on November 25, 2007 has interesting different basket ideas.
posted by legotech at 12:05 PM on November 25, 2007

I like the car-related ideas best, but I used to work for a company that created wine-related gifts. We primarily did laser-etched wooden wine boxes that were plain boxes, maybe with a latch but not as finished as the ones linked above. More like these. The decoration was in the laser etching, and we could do foil or paint as necessary. I'd highly recommend using excelsior (thin shreds of cedar) as packaging material, it really boosts the perceived value. We often included coffees and teas or chocolates as well.

We had a number of high profile clients like major league football teams who'd give them as gifts to those who bought luxury boxes. People really held on to the boxes, especially if the were commemorative. Sometimes I think they liked the boxes better than the contents.
posted by cali at 1:56 PM on November 25, 2007

It seems like the new trend is to give towers of gifts rather than gift baskets. I've seen it at Harry and David and it seems to be spreading to other mail order retailers. The idea is to build a tall pyramid of boxes, and you'll find most of what you need at Papermart.
posted by Alison at 2:16 PM on November 25, 2007

Presentation can make a gift hamper look so much better than it really is. One thing I used to do at a former job was to take sheets of clear cellophane wrapping paper and run them through a strip shredder (not the security type that make confetti). You will end up with shiny masses of something that is vaguely like snow but easier to control. Use this to pad and stuff your items. Use colours if you like, but the clear stuff looks great, especially if you're using dark-coloured presents and/or dark-coloured containers. You might be able to buy this stuff pre-shredded. Check a party supplies shop.

Hampers will almost always means baskets to me - cardboard (no matter how nice) will always mean cheap. However, I've seen a few non-basket ones that I loved including wooden boxes similar to what cali refers to above, drink-coolers (these were large oval galvanised ones and were slightly french shabby-chic and had a waiters-friend attached by a nice length of chain - actually very nice, now that I think about it), and a variety of wine-tote bags.

Hand-tied bows are always better than the stick-on variety and you need to go for good-quality ribbon. I always liked broad, satin or organza ribbons that have wire set into the edges. They're easy to tie and you can fluff the bow into very artistic shapes. You can go as sombre or or as zany as you like and they're not too expensive. Alternatively, there will be firms available that will either print or weave a decorative ribbon to your specs - I used to use it for company logos. If you want subtle, get a clear print onto a plain satin ribbon - it gives a sort of damask/watermark effect.

Hope this helps!
posted by ninazer0 at 10:20 PM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

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