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Gift for LoR Writer/Close Mentor but is EXTREMELY Picky


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I've seen a number of threads regarding what to get for your LoR writers but I've been having an extremely hard time deciding what to get for my writer. I know what to get for my other 2 letter writers, but this last one has me pulling my hair. He's essentially been there for me since the day I joined his lab... he actually reached out to me and asked if I wanted to join his lab. Long story short, he's done a lot for me from letter writing, mentoring... in essence, being the role model that I needed throughout my undergraduate career.


ANYWAY why he's so picky. He's... very plain.

-Chocolates? Coffee? No can do - he has a heart condition is sensitive to caffeine (never really knew the exact details but he mentions it). 

-Alcohol? Not an alcohol drinker. 

-Dairy based products? Lactose intolerant. 

-Gift card? From the older students in his lab, he doesn't really use the gift cards other students have given him unless they're actually useful. They said that his favorite gift card was a gas gift card (which I really don't want to get unless that's the case). 

-Mug/something related to the school I go to? He kinda just sets them aside... literally. I nominated him as Honorary Member for an org and he got a gift bag. He couldn't attend, so I picked up the goodie bag he was supposed to receive and delivered it to his office (contained a mug, shirt, and other goodies). He's set the mug on his cabinet and left the other things in the bag (he did say it was a nice bag though -__-). Every time I visit his office now, I see the bag sitting there (it's been 10 months and counting from the time he's received the bag)


really want to get him a gift that he can use and not just set it aside (it would mean a lot more to me than to him considering how much he's done for me). The older students said to get him a bag of cashews (specifically cashews - he hates other kinds of nuts). Then one of my friends said to get him a fountain pen (which doesn't sound bad). I've been thinking of getting a movie/dinner combo for himself and his wife. (He's also kinda high end, if that helps any).



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What's the big deal with gifts? If you don't know what to get and it would be awkward for you to give them a gift, just skip it. I don't think it's necessary. Just show up to their office and tell them where you got in and thank them for their time/work. If they're not there, shoot them an email.

Would you be getting them a gift if they agreed to serve as a reference for job applications (where they just answer a few questions over the phone)? Would you give your boss a gift 10 years down the road if he agrees to serve as a reference for your next job? What they want to see is their students succeed.

This post isn't really directed at you specifically, but I see tons of threads around here with people stressing about gifts.

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Thank you for the suggestions/criticisms as directed toward this post. I know gifts are usually not necessary, but it's something to show my appreciation that they have gone above and beyond in terms my expected standards for them. I mean, why do we tip waitresses, delivery people, taxi drivers, etc etc tips - isn't in their job description to serve us when we ask, deliver an item within an expected time frame and bring us from point A to point B, respectively? While I may not be correct, I believe we tip them outside of what they're originally being paid because we feel they have gone above and beyond what was expected of them. Perhaps the waiter/waitress greeted you warmly when you going through a rough day. Maybe the delivery person got a package to you 2 days ahead of schedule. Or even the taxi driver managed to save you from being late for your meeting by getting you there with 10 minutes to spare when you know you left late. It's the extra effort these people have put in above their routine tasks that makes it worthwhile to give them something more than what is typically expected. 


In this case, I would apply it to my professor. It's expected my professor would receive a thanks for his efforts and for what he has done for me. However, because he's done so much more besides writing me that letter of recommendation for graduate school and helping me with my research, it's something I want to show my appreciation with a gift. 


Just my two cents as to why I believe a gift is necessary in this particular case. But again, you all have your opinions regarding gifts, and I'm more than happy to respect your opinions. 

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We tip waitresses because they make less than minimum wage and people think it's fine for customers to have to pay for the food and their salary instead of just increasing the menu prices and paying them minimum wage (or a little more). We tip other sorts of people because we live in a culture that guilts us into doing so when it's really not necessary.

When you're a TA in grad school, you'll probably be friendly when your students come to class or to your office hours (unless you really don't care about teaching), but they won't be tipping you. People should be putting in effort at whatever their job is. "Working hard and not getting much money" is not really a good reason to feel forced to tip someone (I'm talking about haircut people who make $25+ for a 20 minute haircut, not waitresses who make $2/hour).


I once had a student who gave me a gift (was some chocolate or candy or something like that) at the end of the semester. This was someone who came to office hours for extra help a fair amount. I thought it was a little strange, and I don't view it more favorably than when students emailed me or came to my office in person at the end of the semester and said thanks for making it a good class this semester or whatever.

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I totally get the desire to get LORs/mentors a gift. Maybe there's a book you think they'd appreciate? They can't have caffeine but maybe some really nice decaf/herbal tea would be appreciated? Sometimes, just a really nice thank you letter is enough. Other than that, I don't know! I hope that helps...

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