Giving a reward for a found item?
January 17, 2012 8:10 AM   Subscribe

Giving a reward to a fellow employee for finding a lost item?

I lost my Fitbit at the office on Friday, after only having it for about two weeks. I put up a sign on the door leading out of the office area, not hoping for much, but got an email today from another employee letting me know that he had found it and would keep it safe for me until I'm back in the office tomorrow!

Anyway, I thought about getting him a card to Starbucks or something as a thank you, because I was pretty upset about losing the Fitbit (tiny but pricey at $100).

Reasons I had against this plan were :

1. I don't actually know who he is - I only started there in November, and it's a huge company. He works on my floor, but there's a gazillion people there too.
2. Maybe he doesn't like Starbucks?

Would you give him a small reward if you were in my shoes, or would a sincere thank you be enough?
posted by HopperFan to Human Relations (20 answers total)
I think a gift card is sweet but totally not necessary. A sincere thank you is enough.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:11 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

A sincere thank you is fine -- if you want to offer him a coffee and a snack from Starbucks in and of itself, I'd do that. I work in a similar office with a gabillion people and just last week found something someone else had lost, and didn't expect any kind of reward myself. If he'd offered, I'd have been perfectly happy with just a donut or cookie or something.

Disclaimer: I am a tiny bit more "I return lost items because it's just the right thing to do" than most people, but only marginally so, and I doubt others would expect a reward.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:12 AM on January 17, 2012

I think it's polite to at least offer a reward, but be prepared to politely accept their refusal.
posted by muddgirl at 8:15 AM on January 17, 2012

That's really great of him. If there's a Target nearby, I'd do a $5 gift card at target. Thank him, hand him the card in one of those little sleeves, and that's it.
posted by cashman at 8:21 AM on January 17, 2012

Could you do a bit of snooping to find out if he likes Starbucks? Maybe he goes to the bagel shop on the corner every Friday for lunch - doing a bit of homework, you'd be able to give him a reward that he'd appreciate and use. Plus, you'd be going out of your way to find out what he likes - sort of payback for him going out of his way to find your lost Fitbit.

I found a set of car keys at the bus stop a few years ago. I did some research (asking the bus stop regulars, posting a sign at the bus stop), and found the person who lost the keys. He just snatched the keys out of my hand and mumbled "thanks" and left. Although I felt good about doing a good thing, I was kind of bummed out that the guy didn't seem to appreciate what I had done. Although I probably would have danced with delight at getting a gift card to Starbucks (I was a grad student at the time, fancy coffee was definitely a luxury), even a sincere thank you would have been nice.

If nothing else, the incident made me hyper-aware of thanking people that go out of their way to help a positive did come out of all of it. Still would have liked a fancy coffee, though. :)
posted by Elly Vortex at 8:29 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

A sincere thanks is certainly enough.

I sort of balk at the transactional nature of rewards like this; presumably he's returning it to you because he found it and it's the right thing to do. What else would he do with it? Keep it? So, are you paying him to get it back? Does this imply that you think he's not a good person and he wouldn't return it without a reward?

I understand that this train of thought is a pretty deep rabbit hole, but I think that's where some people's minds can go. Maybe you could offer to buy him coffee some time (and then actually follow up on it)? The social side of things tends to counteract the transactional nature, I think.
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:36 AM on January 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Could you offer to take him out to lunch as a thank you? He might not like starbucks but everybody needs to eat. I don't like gift cards in general, people use them in situations where they wouldn't give cash, except gift cards are exactly like cash, but way more limited.

No offence meant to cashman but if I were returning a $100 item, I'd be a little offended by a $5 voucher - way more than if all I got was a sincere thank you. If you just said thank you I probably wouldn't give it a second thought, it didn't cost me anything to returning it and of course its the right thing to do but a voucher or cash says this is how much it was worth it to me to get this item back.
posted by missmagenta at 9:00 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

A sincere thank-you and a polite handshake is all that is needed.

I think it's polite to at least offer a reward, but be prepared to politely accept their refusal.
Why is it polite to at least offer a reward? I don't get it. You are not being impolite by not offering a reward. Not at all.

Honestly, I would think it a bit weird if I got a five dollar gift card (or any amount) if I found something for a co-worker. Maybe I could understand if I found someone's winning lottery ticket or a treasured heirloom, but a gadget for a co-worker? No.
posted by Fairchild at 9:09 AM on January 17, 2012

Offer to take them to lunch. Nothing big. Subway would be fine. That way, you reward them, and get to know them.

Gift cards are kind of impersonal.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:11 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

You are not being impolite by not offering a reward. Not at all.

It's not black and white. It can be polite to offer a reward. That doesn't mean it's not polite to not offer a reward.

A reward can be offered rudely. As described above, a simple "thanks" can be offered rudely.
posted by muddgirl at 9:18 AM on January 17, 2012

Take him to lunch.
posted by Dolley at 9:54 AM on January 17, 2012

How about, "Hey, I was planning to stop in at Starbucks on the way into the office tomorrow. Can I pick something up for you?"? That way you would have something for him when you show up at his office and can express your thanks in a non gift-card (which screams Secret Santa-type obligations) form.
posted by AmandaA at 10:00 AM on January 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Finding something that's lost, and returning it to the owner who has made herself available for it to be returned is not an awardable performance. Its the right thing to do, but its also the thing that anyone would do (especially since it was so obvious who the owner was, that they wanted it back, and that it was easy to return.) This guy did something nice, but he also did something totally ordinary. Give him a sincere thanks - it's the equivalent "nice/right thing" to his "nice/right thing". Pretending he did something heroic is silly.
posted by Kololo at 10:13 AM on January 17, 2012

Seconding take him to lunch (or coffee/tea). Might as well use it as an opportunity for networking and to learn more about the company and how things work, since you mentioned you only started in November.
posted by jasonhong at 10:14 AM on January 17, 2012

A sincere thank-you is definitely enough, but a Starbucks gift card would probably be appreciated. If he doesn't drink coffee, they have about a million other things that people like, or he can always re-gift it.

A relevant anecdote: I returned a wallet that was lost by one of my colleagues. It had fallen out of his pocket in a crowded conference room, and he never noticed. I came across it on one of the conference room chairs a day or two later. Anyway, a week or so after I returned it to him he left a box of chocolates on my desk. It was definitely unnecessary and unexpected, but I appreciated the gesture nevertheless.
posted by booknerd at 10:42 AM on January 17, 2012

Bring him a small treat when you pick up the fitbit. A nice bar of chocolate, a bag of candy, or a jar of nuts with a ribbon tied around it would be nice.
posted by jrichards at 11:38 AM on January 17, 2012

Gift card to Starbucks or whatever coffee place is nearby your work. $10 or $15 would breed a lot of good will. One or two cups of coffee or tea or muffins or whatever is a very nice gift.
posted by custard heart at 2:27 PM on January 17, 2012

No offence meant to cashman but if I were returning a $100 item, I'd be a little offended by a $5 voucher

None taken. I find things people lose all the time and return them. I'd love it if someone took the time to get me a gift card I could use to buy almost anything, even for a small amount. Maybe for people who make tons of money, $5 is nothing, and something to be offended over. In my world it isn't. I guess if you work at some big accounting firm, go big. If it's a call center, I bet the person would appreciate the gesture.
posted by cashman at 2:31 PM on January 17, 2012

Here's a reward in the $5 range.
posted by cashman at 2:33 PM on January 17, 2012

You could pick up a dozen or so donuts and give it to him to share with his department.
posted by amicamentis at 5:45 AM on January 18, 2012

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