Gift Basket Articles

Is Something Bugging You?

By Shirley George Frazier

: Where do you find worms and snails?

Answer (choose one):
1. In yards, forests and woods
2. Smothered in sauce and grilled to perfection
3. In a gift basket
4. On a charm bracelet
5. All of the above
(Find the correct answer at the end of this article.)

Wherever there’s food, there are bugs vying for a taste of the tempting morsels you place between the shred and enhancements. How do they get there? You select prepackaged foods, never allowing the products to be exposed to your hands or the environment. Your enhancements were bought at floral stores or possibly shipped to you from craft manufacturers. No bug could ever penetrate your gift baskets, right? Wrong.

I never wanted to use foods in my baskets. In 1989, with no written guides or mentors to help me start my business, I decided to take the path of least resistance. Why worry about spoilage when a blend of gift items and cute containers could be my claim to fame? Two years and many clients later, I reconsidered the no-food option and decided to incorporate a few snack products. Business was good; I could experiment with satisfying my clients’ palates while continuing to provide them with custom gift baskets and great service.

"Popcorn is a good snack," I reasoned, especially because it was available in a multitude of flavors. My clients would embrace the change, and recipients would be overjoyed with the selection. I purchased a case of popcorn from a west coast company that allowed me to mix the case (four bags each of caramel, white cheddar and milk chocolate popcorn). My family would be the first to test taste the product before I placed the bags in baskets, so I opened a bag of each flavor and poured the popcorn into Dixie cups. I asked each family member for their opinion of the flavors and logged their answers on paper for future reference.

The experiment was fun and very valuable to me as a rookie entrepreneur. As we talked about the popcorn and my plans for the company, I began putting the unopened bags back into the box. A bag of caramel-flavored popcorn caught my attention. Did I see something move inside the bag?

I concentrated my gaze on one popped kernel, and it moved again! A small, thin worm wiggled slowly from side to side. It was barely visible because the worm was the same color as the caramel. I was shocked and had never imagined that a bug would be contained in a prepackaged bag. If I had used it in a gift basket, the situation would have resulted in embarrassment (for me to the client and recipient), frustration (between the manufacturer and me) and compensation (to the recipient and client).

The next morning, I called the manufacturer and told him about the "extra taste treat" inside the bag. He apologized and said he’d credit my account. I told him that I was returning all the unopened bags and expected an immediate refund. Other gift basket businesses might have had the same problem, and I wanted nothing to do with this firm after my findings.

Don’t take this as an indictment on the popcorn industry. I haven’t made a similar observation in another bag since that incident, and I’ve seen, tasted and endorsed plenty of popcorn since 1991. But this story makes a critical point: inspect your merchandise before placing it in gift baskets. When you receive a case of goods or buy products locally, look at the package and product thoroughly.

1. Is the package sealed properly? Are there nibble marks or unexplained holes on the bag or box?
2. Do products, sealed in clear packaging, appear uneaten and bug free?
3. Do you hear anything moving in the boxes, bags or other packaging?

You can’t go over everything with a microscope, but take a good look at what you’ve purchased. Don’t think that because the product came directly from the manufacturer that everything is all right. I was lucky. There’s no way I would have seen a caramel-colored worm under normal circumstances. The room’s lighting happened to be bright, and I was able to see the problem.

Bugs also hide in enhancements such as pine cones. After collecting cones from outside locations (yards, woods, etc.), microwave them for two minutes before spray painting or adding their natural beauty to your baskets. If you don’t, your gift basket will become a Cracker Jack box, and the recipient will find a "nice surprise inside" when he or she opens the gift. Check everything, then check it again.

1. The popcorn manufacturer I purchased from in 1991 is out of business.
2. Number 1 is the correct answer to the quiz, though Number 2 is also correct for escargot lovers. Bon appetit.

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About the Author:
Shirley George Frazier is known worldwide as "the gift basket expert." Her guidance helps thousands of individuals create the lifestyle of their dreams with gift baskets. Shirley conducts classes, speaks at conferences, and is author of How to Start a Home-Based Gift Basket Business and The Gift Basket Design Book, the industry's best-selling books. Sign up for Shirley's free weekly newsletter at

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