Here's the most useless gesture of appreciation for five years of service (as a staffer, not faculty).
digital watch. Yippee, but hey, free stuff, so I perused the catalog and picked out a not-half-bad sterling silver link bracelet. The bracelet arrived at my home and I wore it several times, feeling optimistic about being valued by my employer, because it's better than a travel mug.
Then HR called me and explained that, because I spent my first two years working part-time for the university, I wasn't actually entitled to this five-year commerative gift, because when adding my two years of part-time service, I'd actually been working for the university for seven years. And they only give out these crappy gifts every five years, but the crappy gift-giving is a new policy, so I never got one at my actual five-year anniversary, and should have gotten nothing for this year as well. The HR rep asked me if I'd please mail the bracelet back to the vendor. I said okay, if they sent me postage, I certainly wasn't going to spend my own money.
I though they'd forget about it, but several days later, I got a postage-paid Fed Ex slip to mail the bracelet back. I called HR and made up a huge lie, that I gave the bracelet to a friend, and could I simply buy it from them? I was willing to pay the retail value - $38.00 - even though I know that the university probably paid more like $5 for the bracelet, since they paid the wholesale rate.
The HR woman told me, "No, because then other employees would try to buy the gifts and that wouldn't be fair." Like there'd be a mad scramble for cheap watches and beer cozies with the university logo. I then offered to send back another item listed on the site in completely new, unused condition - my department gives away travel mugs like they're going out of style, and they are the very same travel mugs listed in the online catalog. The HR woman said, "No, that's not acceptable either, because it's not a truly "new" gift so it can't be given to another employee." I then offered to forego my 10-year anniversary gift in three years' time, but again the HR woman said that wasn't necessary. The only way for me to fix the situation was to mail back the bracelet. I refused, so she grudgingly said, "Fine, be that way!"
Actually, she didn't say that, but she definitely meant it. The HR woman was really pissed of with me, she probably knew I was lying just to make a point - that giving crappy, cheap gifts to employees, then asking for them to be returned, is just plain shitty, considering that our salaries have been frozen for the last three years.
I am wearing the bracelet as I type this, and it looks very nice on my wrist, in fact, the whole HR debacle with me outwitting the university and being a stubborn bitch about it has really paid off. Every time I look at the bracelet, I think, ha, that's $38 I stole from you! Or probably more like $5 but still, I fooled the university into giving me something I didn't really deserve, or at least, something to which I was not entitled.