What's an appropriate gift for an agent that changes your life?
September 28, 2011 10:03 AM   Subscribe

I'd like some tips on appropriate gifts for an agent that got me a gig of a lifetime. A pile o' cash seems inappropriate, so what else are my options?

I work in a creative field with a large company that represents my interests. The company regularly assigns me an agent to represent me and I've gone through a dozen over the years that rarely did much of anything, until about a year ago when I got an agent that really got what I was doing and cared, and seemed to understand how to pitch me and my work to others.

Long story short, in recent months he scored me the gig of a lifetime, effectively doubling or tripling my income for what looks like a long term deal. This literally will change my life, I'll be able to pay off all debts, pad up a huge retirement, put my kids through any college they want. This will basically move me from middle class to upper class thanks in big part of the work of this person, and I can't overstate how life-changing this has already been for me.

I'd really like to get them something to thank them, but a pile of cash seems weird and inappropriate given they still report to a large company employer, but I don't know what else to get them. Any small electronics trinket seems pathetic compared to money they are helping me bring in. Any ideas of what I should consider for them as a gift?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Travel gift certificate? They gave you the gig of a lifetime, you help them attain the vacation of a lifetime?
posted by corn_bread at 10:05 AM on September 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

Along with any gift, a letter to his boss / the company president / whomever about how awesome he is at his job.
posted by Perplexity at 10:06 AM on September 28, 2011 [31 favorites]

A very nice bottle of wine, champagne, or Scotch is generally appropriate here. Accompany it with a sincere and grateful-but-not-overly-effusive handwritten card, and you're good to go.
posted by rhiannonstone at 10:08 AM on September 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

Refer new clients.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:10 AM on September 28, 2011 [25 favorites]

Second the letter to boss/company president/etc along w/whatever gift you choose.
posted by ACN09 at 10:10 AM on September 28, 2011

I think a big gift could be awkward and possibly even against company rules. a nice lunch, a note to their boss, and a small gift like cupcakes or chocolates or a bottle of wine would be appropriate. don't worry about it not being big enough - it is surprising how few clients actually give any token of appreciation, so yours will stand out.
posted by yarly at 10:11 AM on September 28, 2011

In this case, you can't match cash-for-cash or even try. What about going small and thoughtful? It may take some work, if you don't know much about this agent, to find something that will have meaningful weight. An out of print book, tickets to a hard-to-get-into performance, a (very) small art piece - ? Do you have any ideas of who they are outside the office? I would start there.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 10:15 AM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

A pile of cash is *always* appropriate. Best gift - do a fabulous job, so agent can book you in more fabulous gigs, and you both make a pile-o-cash. 2nd best - refer fabulous talent to the agency, so they will make tons-o-cash. Since you want to do more - write a letter of praise to agent, and cc: upper mgmt., and a very nice bottle of wine or booze.
posted by theora55 at 10:16 AM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

how about a very nice personalized fountain pen (ie mont black etc) or even something like a pocket watch with a personal inscription? its got a feeling of importance, and permanence.

congrats on the life upgrade, by the way.
posted by chasles at 10:18 AM on September 28, 2011

Isn't the agent paid for what they do? Don't they get a percentage of your earnings?

Either the agent works for you (as your quasi-employee) or you work for your agent (as their quasi-employee). If you look at it according to the former, money is the only appropriate gift. If you look at it according to the latter, it's not appropriate to give a gift at all.

What would almost always be appropriate is a testimonial on the agent's LinkedIn or other public profile, along with a letter to the agent's boss.
posted by tel3path at 10:19 AM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I can't say why, but you give me the impression that you are located in a large city.

Get them a reservation for two (so that they can bring a date/spouse) at the fanciest restaurant you can afford. Some place really exclusive. Give the restaurant your credit card number and instruct them to bill you for the meal. If the agent has kids offer to pay for the babysitting. If the agent doesn't have kids throw in tickets to a new play (or equivalent).

A fantastic dinner at a restaurant they might not ever go to themselves that they can share with a loved one will make for a wonderful memory and an entirely appropriate show of gratitude on your your part.

And yes a letter praising them to their boss, a letter of referral for their own files and sending business their way are all entirely appropriate things to do in addition to the more personal gift.
posted by oddman at 10:21 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

A nice bottle of wine, pen, book, cupcakes maybe take them out for a nice meal or something more personal if you know them well enough. Just being nice enough to send a thank you would be enough, I would make sure to send a letter to their bosses saying how great they have been as I suspect that would be more appreciated than anything else.
posted by wwax at 10:23 AM on September 28, 2011

Most people in show biz give their agents very expensive wine or some sort of thing they can display in their offices.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:29 AM on September 28, 2011

Flowers and a card assuring them that you owe them one.
posted by canoehead at 10:33 AM on September 28, 2011

Nthing wine (or scotch). He's getting his 15%, remember, so it's not like your present is the only gift he's going to get for this. But a very expensive bottle of booze is the classic gift.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 10:36 AM on September 28, 2011

Does your agent have children? A startup account in their name may not be out of bounds and of some value over time in reflection of the value over time you are receiving.
posted by infini at 10:43 AM on September 28, 2011

JohnnyGunn has the right, and most professional, answer here. Send him new (good) clients.
posted by rokusan at 10:45 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding a good bottle of booze and the best referrals you can find him.
posted by mhoye at 10:56 AM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Absolutely, new referrals. But not to be ignored is this: knock this assignment out of the park. The better you look, the better he looks. And, you know, the better you look, too. :)
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 1:38 PM on September 28, 2011

Sure, just get him a nice bottle of wine. Like, for example, this one. Or you can get him a whole case of this one for about the same price.

Seriously, if you want to make an incredibly generous gift there are plenty of ways to do it by buying "a bottle of booze".
posted by zipadee at 3:12 PM on September 28, 2011

How about creating something specifically for them? Not necessarily anything huge or complicated, or even directly connected to what you do, but something personally meaningful to you both.

(The inspiration for this suggestion is the story Frank Oz told at the Jim Henson memorial that l rewatched last week because of the hoopla about Henson's birthday. Henson was a creative who made a friend a meaningful gift that was very much part of himself and which obviously meant a huge amount to Oz, though the gift was not directly a product of the art that Henson was most famous for. Unless you know the agent as well as Henson knew Oz, you probably shouldn't include naked photos though!)
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 3:22 PM on September 28, 2011

A nice bottle of wine is the done thing (we use to get these when we won multi-million dollar cases). A letter to the boss is also a very nice thing to do.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:22 PM on September 28, 2011

Congratulations on your success! Perhaps the best thing you can give your agent (and yourself) is a functional long-term professional relationship. First, stun people senseless with your work quality and ethic and you'll buttress the reputation of your agent. At some point, connect with him over a nice lunch or dinner. Reports on how the gig is going will be good, and you probably also can find out this way whether you can steer others toward your agent. If the lunch goes well for both of you, suggest repeating it, then follow through.

If you have piles of cash, bottles of wine and scotch seem like holiday-type gifts, unless you learn of an unusual or shared taste. A very nice pen, or professional leather goods would probably work. Aim for something understated rather than flashy, and of the very highest quality. Something that your agent can or would use daily. If your agent has support staff, you might discreetly solicit tips from them.
posted by Hylas at 4:23 PM on September 28, 2011

You know, something now, a bottle of wine, the referrals, and the recommendation letter would be great. But if you came back again at say, Christmas (perfect timing this year) with a significant but not gauche gift, it'd really show him that you continue to be aware of what they've done and are still grateful.
posted by lemniskate at 4:25 PM on September 28, 2011

A bottle of wine, yeah, hey, it's great. But he just changed your life. Your kids in whatever school they want, your retirement set, recognized in your field, on and on. A bottle of wine for that?

No. No.

Cash. At the least fistfuls of dollars toward their dream trip, as someone upthread suggested, but if you give them the cash, well, hey, they can take that trip, should they decide, or stock the money away, or buy a bunch of hats, whatever they want. Which is what a gift is, right?

Really great that you're willing to take care of this person who has given you so much -- good show.
posted by dancestoblue at 8:21 PM on September 28, 2011

Unless you can fork over a really significant amount of cash--like multiples of $10K, don't even try. Find something meaningful, but remember--this is the agent's job--he/she gets a percentage of your income, right?
posted by Ideefixe at 7:59 PM on September 29, 2011

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