Thoughtful small gift for a good samaritan?
January 28, 2013 7:26 PM   Subscribe

My car ran out of gas this morning. I was running in the rain on the highway shoulder, eyes set on the ramp to the nearest gas station, when a very kind person pulled up to offer me a ride. I didn't even pause to assess his likelihood of being a serial killer - the guy just exuded mellow good neighborliness. I was so grateful that I jumped right in his car, figuring that he most likely was on his way in to work at the same giant company that I work for (which, happily, turned out to be true). He drove me to the gas station, and then backtracked on the highway to drop me back off at my car, where he waited to make sure all was well. Guessing he was late for work as a result, but he couldn't have been more pleasant and easygoing about this gesture (and so politely brushed off my embarrassment at running out of gas and needing to be rescued!). I found out from a colleague where he sits, and I'd love to drop off a thank-you note and an appropriate small, thoughtful gift on his desk tomorrow morning. Something to acknowledge this very personal gesture, while still remaining professional. You know, like a can of beans that says, "Here's hoping YOU never run out of gas!" Ack! Totally joking. That would be terrible. No joke gifts, just something classy and small. Would a bottle of wine be too personal for a business relationship? Thanks in advance for the help!
posted by red_rabbit to Human Relations (26 answers total)
Alcohol may not be a good choice, as there are lots of people that abstain. How about movie passes or a gift certificate to a local restaurant?
posted by otherwordlyglow at 7:35 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

A really good muffin.
posted by amanda at 7:36 PM on January 28, 2013 [8 favorites]

That's totally worth a small basket of coffee/tea/muffins or whatever. Gift card for coffee is also good if you know he drinks it. Sleuth it out; he deserves it!
posted by heyho at 7:37 PM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yay for Good Samaritans!! I would shy away from the bottle of wine because unless you know they drink alcohol for sure, it may be a tad awkward to receive. Is there a popular coffee shop or restaurant nearby that employees like to go to? Consider a gift certificate to that restaurant, enought to cover lunch for him perhaps. Or if he has a certain "decor" to his desk that you can see (so you aren't being too nosy) maybe something that fits in?

Another idea is a gas card for him, with a joke about neither one of you ever running out of gas again. :-)
posted by MultiFaceted at 7:37 PM on January 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

Is there a place that people in your building get lunch from regularly? Perhaps a cafe, diner, whatever?

If so, give him a thank you card and a gift certificate for those days where he's running late and doesn't have time to make lunch or wants to treat himself out for lunch.
posted by livinglearning at 7:39 PM on January 28, 2013

Or how about a muffin and a gift card to that gas station! I also love buying scratch-off tickets for people as silly fun cheap gifts (if your state has them). And maybe good karma will give him a winning ticket! So you could do all of the above for less than $20 total. That's what I would love if I were him.
posted by greta simone at 7:44 PM on January 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

Twenty-dollar gift card to the gas station.
posted by notsnot at 7:45 PM on January 28, 2013 [12 favorites]

Candy, chocolate or a small gift card.
posted by windykites at 7:48 PM on January 28, 2013

Starbucks card?
posted by Ideefixe at 7:52 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I like the idea of breakfast (coffee and a muffin or some donuts or something) and a gift card to the gas station.

Make sure in your thank you note that you say you intend to pay it forward. (And then do so.)
posted by phunniemee at 8:00 PM on January 28, 2013 [8 favorites]

I like the lottery ticket idea, with a little note about karma.
posted by Capri at 8:28 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

People who help do so because they get satisfaction from knowing they made a difference. A simple thank you note and an awareness to pay it forward would probably mean a lot to the knight who helped you.
posted by jennstra at 9:02 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is there somewhere nearby that sells fancy cupcakes or muffins? If someone left me a handwritten thank-you card and some kind of morning-tea treat that I'd never indulge in for myself, I'd love it.
posted by Salamander at 9:40 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

A bottle of wine sounds fine to me, unless you have a specific reason to believe he's a teetotaler. Don't think this is any more potentially offensive than gaming, caffeine or sweets.
posted by charlemangy at 10:48 PM on January 28, 2013

A bar of good quality chocolate? Fancy cookies?

A hand written note on a nice card or real stationary would probably be more than enough, though.
posted by Kololo at 10:56 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

For the same reasons folks would steer away from wine, I'd also steer away from anything sugary. I happen to work with a diabetic, so this pings my radar.

A note in a nice card and some sort of gift certificate seem ideal.

If you want to maybe get to know him socially (in a platonic, non-fawning kind of way, because he seems like a good guy), maybe an invitation to treat him to lunch at his choice of place. Maybe in the future he needs help moving a sofa or something.
posted by lilywing13 at 1:15 AM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't know if I want to sit at the 'not alcohol -- there're teetotalers...not sugar -- there're diabetics' table -- above-board re-gifting is a great thing and a gift I can't use is often a thrill because I get to give a present to somebody else, for no reason at all! But, uh, anyway, not everybody knows what on earth to do with lottery tickets. I would be baffled if presented with one. Do I need to do anything special with it? How do I find out if I won? And if it's blindingly obvious but a win of $5: oh god what a hassle to figure out how to collect the $5.

Thank you and a gas card and a lot of gossip about what a great guy?
posted by kmennie at 6:26 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Might be too late, but if you know where he sits do you know who sits near him? Perhaps his manager, if it's that kind of company? Send them an email:

"I'm red_rabbit from engineering. Today, Cool Dude did me a huge favour (explain, if you'd like), so I'd like to get him something small. Do you know where he gets coffee or lunch?"
posted by AmandaA at 6:29 AM on January 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

A gift card for gas at the gas station he dropped you off oat maybe in a nice card. Who can't use free petrol/gas and it ties in to the hoping he never runs out of gas idea.
posted by wwax at 6:47 AM on January 29, 2013

In a similar situation (I lost my wallet biking home from work, and another biker who Happened to work at the same place picked it up and brought it to my cubicle in the morning), I got him a nice hand-made mug for the office. It was still a little bit awkward dropping it off, as I hadn't known him previously, but I was glad to do it.
posted by ldthomps at 6:51 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you don't know the person well, any kind of food or beverage gift has the potential to be for something he does not indulge in, for health or even ethical or religious reasons. Food allergies, abstention, keeping kosher or halal, veganism, recovery from disordered eating--all make food or beverage gifts problematic. The same for lottery tickets, especially when presented in the spirit of karma--what if he is opposed to gambling? Or if the tickets are all losers what message does this give about karma? When dealing with gift-giving to strangers, useful but inoffensive trumps clever or specific.

Totally benign but also very useful is a gift card to the gas station or a general-interest store like Target, or to a local business he is known to frequent.
posted by QuakerMel at 7:19 AM on January 29, 2013

kmennie has it - just get something nice and don't over-think it. It sounds like he's the kind of person who will appreciate a nice gesture for what it is (a nice gesture) without taking offence if he does happen to be ______ .

Cool stuff.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 7:24 AM on January 29, 2013

Twenty-dollar gift card to the gas station.

How on earth did this get 8 favorites?

This guy did something nice, don't lower it by placing a dollar value on it.

Do something that is as equally nice as what he did to you. Spend some time on it.
posted by devnull at 7:49 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

How on earth did this get 8 favorites?

Because it's symbolic. "Hey, remember that time I ran out of GAS and you saved my life? Here's this GAS card to that particular GAS station so that you can put some GAS in your tank and hopefully not run into the same GASless state that befell me."

It's not that the gesture is worth $20. It's that it's a token of the event.
posted by phunniemee at 8:00 AM on January 29, 2013 [6 favorites]

I would do something more symbolic and not worry so much if it's something he can/will actually use. In this case, if I were in your shoes, I would buy the guy a hero sandwich, or a gyro, and take it to his desk with a note of thanks.
Maybe he can't eat it himself for whatever reason, but the folks in the cubes near him will enjoy the free lunch, and that makes him a hero twice over.
posted by Brody's chum at 10:01 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks so much for all the thoughtful responses! I picked up a freshly-baked muffin & chocolate croissant from a local bakery and a $20 gift card to the gas station he had driven me to, wrote a little thank-you note and delivered it all to his cube yesterday morning. His colleagues told me he had just gotten in but stepped away from his desk for a moment, so it was perfect timing for a surprise sneak-attack gift drop! Agree with HopStopDon'tShop and others that he probably would have appreciated anything (and expected nothing!), but I also was happy to hear the suggestions beyond wine. I'm sure he shared if he wasn't into the breakfast treats, and I know he'll use the gas card - he even told me that he often stops at that particular station since its prices are the best around. I didn't choose to mention this in the note, but I also appreciated the reminders to pay it forward - I will be on the lookout for opportunities to do this:-)
posted by red_rabbit at 10:00 AM on January 31, 2013

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