“There’s a problem,” said a restaurant owner. “How do I get the dignitaries to come to my restaurant’s grand opening? I don’t know them.”
“You don’t need to know the Seattle City Council members to invite them to your grand opening,” I replied. “Your restaurant is located in the City of Seattle. The City welcomes small businesses like yours.” Your business contributes to jobs and taxes to the City. It’s good news for the City.
He paused. Then he asked an interesting question. “How much do I need to pay them to do the ribbon-cutting?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I said. In fact, if you pay government officials to do something, it would be considered inappropriate, according to the Office of Ethics and Election of the City of Seattle. On its website, it states, “Unsolicited gifts with an aggregate value of less than fifty dollars from a single source in a calendar year or a single gift from multiple sources with a value of less than fifty dollars is against policy.” So you cannot give an expensive gift to government employees.
In Hong Kong, where I was raised, when you invite someone famous, you have to be ready to give them a pair of 24-carat gold scissors for the ribbon-cutting.
Most Asian immigrants have the misconception that if you want the government to do something, you need to buy them a gift. Perhaps, in many Asian countries, you are obliged to do so. This is not in America, especially in Seattle. Elected officials have to get out of their office to feel the pulse of the community. A grand opening provides them the opportunity to do so.
A thank you letter to the officials after the opening is good enough. However, be sure to have many people present. A special dinner with a few friends is not an appropriate event for a public official. The rule says that if you invite them, it should be a diverse group of guests (more than 20 people). A reception, not a dinner, is the appropriate thing to do, according to the Office of Ethics and Election. ♦