On the flip side, companies with policies that set a ceiling on the price of gifts an employee may accept are likely to strictly enforce those rules this year, says Barbara Pachter, an etiquette expert in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. In the past, enforcement of these policies tended to be lax, but a by-the-book mentality prevails in 2002. As the giver, never try to push a company-designated limit upwards - it only embarrasses recipients. How to know what a given company's policy is? Again, just ask, either the recipient's administrative assistant or the human resources department.

Even if you're constrained by the budget, you can make a splash. Your gift will be kicked up a huge notch if you just do this: "Wrap it in pretty paper," says Riceberg. "That counts a lot. It's no fun to open a bag." Throw in ribbon and a bow, and a modestly priced gift seems classy.

The Payoff
Sounding like lots of work? Well, that's good. Often, "a gift recipient will care as much about the effort that went into selecting the right gift as they will the item itself," says Riceberg. Amid the arrival of the usual, lame corporate gifts - yet another pointless desk calendar, for instance - a gift that reflects the recipient's interests and respects all applicable policies is an immediate all-star.

A Final Note