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The $75,000 Gift Basket

Gift baskets are often about as exciting as grocery-store fruitcake. They're the all-purpose gifts for that client you're about to drop, or that aunt in Bolivia.

The few times I received one, the fruit rotted on my desk, I never cashed the gift certificate to a spa two hours from my house, and I tossed the lotion sample that smelled like my boss.

So how does Van's Gifts president Reva Colover get powerful executives to pay $75,000 for one of her Cadeau Collection baskets?

She simply includes all her favorite things: two first-class tickets to the House of Dom Perignon in France (flying into Paris), a year's supply of handmade Godiva truffles, an Illy Café espresso machine and other decadent goodies all wrapped in a set of vintage style trunks.

"It was a bit ridiculous to do," Colover admits, but she claims the price isn't ridiculously high for what's included.

An entertainment exec has expressed interest in purchasing three for business-related gifting, she says. Another customer from the technology industry purchased a basket sans the plane tickets -- they have their own trip planned. However, nobody has actually bought the full basket yet.

The 4-foot-tall, 22-foot-wide ensemble is shrink-wrapped by passing through a giant tunnel, and with postage paid -- at this price, it better be -- it is delivered to any U.S. address via special messenger.

Reva's Rationale

"I wanted the whole thing to be visually marvelous and bring together the experience of traveling," says Colover.

Lavish gifting is commonplace in Colover's line of work. One of her customers, a company executive, spent $40,000 sending each of his board members a magnum of Champagne wrapped in a blanket.

"We don't just include things to look pretty," says Colover, who avoids the word gift basket to describe her gift collections, which are packaged in trunks, coffee tables and even clarinet cases.

This year, customers are sending out the same number of gifts but spending more on each, says Colover. She suspects that executives are trying harder -- and paying more -- to make a lasting impression on corporate clients.

Money Better Spent?

Endless truffles and a trip to France are tempting, but look at what else $75,000 could score:

  • 2008 BMW 7 Series: $75,800
  • 37 Apple MacBook laptops at $2,000 each
  • 1,500 tanks of gas at about $50 each.
  • Swami Conversational Robot Head by Neiman Marcus: $75,000

So is the basket a worthy gift?

"Anything with 'basket' in the description should be avoided," says Adrian Wilson, a photography-company executive in New York. Catalog goods put together by someone else -- no matter how expensive -- just aren't personal enough for his gifting tastes.

Photo: Van's Gifts

But engineer Christina Manthos loves the "sexy chocolate" included in the humble office gift baskets she receives yearly. Yes, they're overdone, she says, but she still appreciates the tasty sentiment.

If $75,000 were pocket change to me, I'd go for the Swami Conversational Robot Head. But I'm considering Van's $100 L'Occitane spa basket for my mother. Thankfully, I don't need to drop $75,000 on her to leave a good impression.

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