What's an appropriate thank you gift for an otherwise discarded but big-ticket item?
July 16, 2011 11:19 AM   Subscribe

What's an appropriate action in response to someone giving me their old car?

I've been living without a car for a while since I live close to work and amenities and have been able to get by with other means. I mentioned being carless to a friend that I see every couple of months who immediately suggested I take her old car (that was in her parent's name) that had been sitting for a year in her driveway. Apparently, her parents were planning on donating it to the National Kidney Foundation but never got around to it. After some hemming and hawing I decided to take her up on her offer and went to work on it. After quite a bit of labor and about a thousand dollars of parts/maintenance items, I have a car again.

Now that that's done with, I'd like to think of an appropriate thank you gesture. I was thinking at the very least a personally written thank you card, but I'd like to include a 25-100 dollar gift with it. Some gourmet item might be tricky, since they're first/second generation Indian immigrants and thus I'm not overly familiar with their tastes. I know her entertainment preferences, but I'm not sure of what DVDs she owns. I have personal vendettas against gift cards (I almost always forget about them and they get lost somehow), but maybe there is some kind of gift card that's not overly tacky? Would flowers be too small? How about a donation to the charity that they were planning on giving the car to? A bottle of wine's not on the table because I'm not sure if her parents drink.

If anyone has comments on those or anything I haven't thought of, let me know.
posted by ayerarcturus to Human Relations (12 answers total)
I think a donation to that charity would be a nice, appropriate thank you.
posted by jeather at 11:20 AM on July 16, 2011 [5 favorites]

Does your friend have another car that she drives? If she does then I think it would be really appropriate to get her a certificate for a mechanic that does maintenance like oil changes and tire rotations. Jiffy Lube or your own hometown mechanic. If it's something you know how to do you could offer your services for their next change too.

Another option could be an American Express gift card (disclosure: Mr. Shoes works for them.) It's nicer than cash and there is no expiration for the funds. If they did lose it in a drawer and find it years later they'd just have to call Amex to have a new card issued. Other "cash" cards have expiration dates where they start charging the holder of the gift card.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:28 AM on July 16, 2011

I would bake them a really nice dark chocolate cake filled with rum, but that's just me.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:34 AM on July 16, 2011

I second the charitable donation to the foundation they wanted to give it to originally! Plus, obviously, a nice note.
posted by pupstocks at 11:36 AM on July 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

Thirding the National Kidney Foundation donation, plus a nice thank-you note. Or a lot of commercial car wash places do booklets of 11-for-the-10 or whatever.

Maybe do the Natl. Kidney Foundation donation + thank-you note, and surprise them next winter: shovel their driveway & sidewalk clear of snow --- let them wake up to a magically cleared pavement and vehicle.
posted by easily confused at 12:02 PM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why not have them over for a thank you dinner? Just because you don't know their tastes doesn't mean you can't try and I think it would be much more appreciated than any gift you could get them. Just make sure to check with your friend for any dietary restrictions.

Bonus: you get to make new friends with your friend's family!
posted by Loto at 12:16 PM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with the Kidney Foundation donation...perhaps in her family's name?
posted by lobstah at 12:41 PM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

optional addition: "If you ever need a ride to the airport ..."
posted by coffeefilter at 12:50 PM on July 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

If she doesn't have a AAA membership for her own car, how about giving her one? Maybe even get yourself one, too, as AAA has some pretty good gift membership terms for members.
posted by paulsc at 2:08 PM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Drive them to a nice dinner in the car. They will experience the results of their generosity.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:11 PM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had an old car that I just scrapped through a charity program. If I had given it away to a friend, I would have been happy to know that they are getting some value out of it, and that it was not a financial burden to them. Old cars can be more of a liability than an asset and taking it off their hands is as much a favour to them as it is to you. In that sense I would have felt mildly uncomfortable receiving a monetary gift. I definitely would have enjoyed a nice simple thank you note, though.
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:11 PM on July 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Apparently, her parents were planning on donating it to the National Kidney Foundation but never got around to it.

I wouldn't take this to mean that they are especially keen on donating to that group -- some charities advertise that they take (and will pick up) donations of cars even if they don't run. The cars are then sold at auction, sometimes for their scrap value. This might simply be a charity that they knew of which would do this, rather than a group they specifically wanted to donate to.

I'd write them a nice letter about how you fixed it up and got it roadworthy again, and what having the car means to you and allows you to do.

You can get Amazon gift cards that are delivered via email, which makes them a bit harder to lose. Put the code with the paper letter you write as well.
posted by yohko at 8:36 PM on July 18, 2011

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