'Tis the season to reward your employees, but be mindful-a great set of steak knives given to a vegetarian will probably end up on eBay. We asked entrepreneurs and employees to tell us about the most memorable holiday bonuses they ever gave or received.
- Best Gift Card: In 1995, Chen Lee worked for a construction and engineering company in Diamond Bar, California, and was told by his employer to spend to the limit on his credit card, which tapped out at $5,000. Lee complied, and his employer settled the tab.
- Best Tickets: When you work for a rock 'n' roll clothing company, what could be more appropriate than taking your employees to see one of their favorite bands? Jonathan Hedden of Gilbert, Arizona-based FlyClothing said his boss did just that, taking him and his co-workers to see U2-in Ireland!
- Best Rebound: Darren Hill, founder of Philadelphia-based WebLinc, a web development business, rewards his employees each year with cash and a gift. In 2001, however, times were tough, and the gifts Hill rewarded his 30 employees with were dead frogs that he picked up at a scientific supply house. WebLinc's fortunes have since improved, and Hill has redeemed himself, offering his employees a variety of gifts, including iPods, TiVos (with lifetime subscriptions), flat-screen TVs, digital video cameras, surround-sound systems and more.
- Best Surprise: Erin Henninger and her co-workers received a series of e-mails last year from their bosses, Barb Brown and Margie Flynn, at BrownFlynn, a community relationship management firm in Highland Heights, Ohio. The e-mails taunted them with hints about the surprise (when to expect it, how to dress, etc.). What was it? A trip to Chicago for a shopping spree (cash included), followed by a gourmet meal.
- Simply the best: Many years ago, Arlene Beiner worked for a New York City doctor who gave all his employees a personal gift-hers was a Tiffany's necklace. As if that weren't enough, employees were also treated to a gourmet dinner, a limo ride and-are you ready for this?-a check equal to their full year's salary before income taxes.