I need a "thoughtful" thank-you gift for a person that I don't know well
March 10, 2014 12:32 PM   Subscribe

Last week, a friend-of-a-friend let me crash on his couch after my late-night flight home got cancelled at the last minute. I don't know him very well, but I'd like to get him a small gift as a token of my gratitude. I'd like to get something that's a bit more unique (and less "corporate") than a fruit basket, and would rather avoid cash or cash-equivalents. Any suggestions?

Some more specific details:

I live in Washington, DC. He lives in Seattle. We're unlikely to cross paths again anytime soon.

From what I have surmised from our mutual friend and brief time together, he doesn't drink much, doesn't like coffee, enjoys PC gaming, Science Fiction, and is a Physics grad student.

Potential gifts should be in the ~$50 range, and don't necessarily need to involve any of the above things. In situations like these, I often go for something that is consumable or experiential (my typical go-to gift is a bottle of scotch).

Any suggestions?
posted by schmod to Shopping (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
All grad students are broke and hungry. So something food related. So perhaps a gift card for Tutta Bella (or any other pizza place.)

Whole Foods gift card, or Town and Country Market (if it's not too far flung).

I know, it's a cash equivalent, but sometimes that's the best.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:39 PM on March 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I sometimes give books as thank yous, and they are always well received. Of course, this requires some knowledge about the recipient's literary interests. A friend of mine often gives out pairs of movie tickets in circumstances like this, and I think they usually go over really well.

Another option might be to ask your mutual friend for some pointers.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 12:40 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Amazon gift card fits the bill here IMO.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:51 PM on March 10, 2014 [9 favorites]

This fruitcake, produce by rural Byzantine Catholic monks and soaked in brandy, is a pretty hardcore baked good. With shipping it runs something like $53.50.
posted by mr. digits at 12:52 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Since he's into PC gaming and sci-fi, a Think Geek gift card would be a nice touch.
posted by jbickers at 12:53 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Steam gift card. You can buy them at GameStop and Amazon.
posted by rhythm and booze at 12:55 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

For some reason, my mind went straight to apple pie. More unexpected than a fruit basket, but similarly can be appreciated by almost anyone.
posted by juliapangolin at 1:00 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Amazon or Target gift card seems just right for this. Possibly a Steam gift card (on preview I see the above comment has a link).

Chocolate can be nice, but people can be weird about it, too. For food I always like to suggest Zingerman's. For $50 you can get him a Pie Party, or lots of other options.
posted by Mizu at 1:02 PM on March 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Is there anything particularly unique to your area that you might be able to send him? Local gizmos, something ultra-cool from the Air and Space museum, cookies from an awesome local shop, and other things of that nature?

Personally, I'd be all about the weird ingredients or local-to-your-area specialties that your friend might not to able to find over in Seattle. I think that would be well thought-out, but still relatively generic and would work well as a thank you gift.
posted by PearlRose at 1:05 PM on March 10, 2014

Best answer: Did he seem to be the type who would enjoy severely verbal humor?

If so, send a collection of nice teas.

"from one Capitol Hill to another, Thank you, with a capitol T."

if he doesn't drink them the grad student lounge will appreciate it.
posted by batter_my_heart at 1:22 PM on March 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Board game? Settlers of Catan, Agricola, Puerto Rico, 7 Wonders or Dominion perhaps?
posted by backwards guitar at 1:34 PM on March 10, 2014

A bottle of nice wine is the standard "host gift" for a reason - he can easily regift it if he doesn't want to drink it.

You could add a small gift card, a local treat of some kind, or fancy chocolates if that doesn't seem big enough to you (although to me, 50$ seems pretty high for the favour involved, unless you caused him some major hassle you aren't mentioning).
posted by randomnity at 1:43 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you don't want to give a gift card, order something off Amazon, because he'll easily be able to return it for a gift card if he doesn't like it. Did you notice anything around the apartment that could use an upgrade?
posted by metasarah at 3:00 PM on March 10, 2014

As a fellow grad student, an Amazon gift card would be incredibly welcome. I'd either buy something I needed, or something I've wanted but haven't been able to afford.
posted by barnone at 3:17 PM on March 10, 2014

I'd go for Casts Cookies.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:35 PM on March 10, 2014

Something local - tea, chocolates, caramels. Your favorite local something.
posted by maryr at 6:14 PM on March 10, 2014

Response by poster: To clarify, avoiding cash-equivalents and alcohol means no gift cards, no wine, and nothing soaked in brandy.

Tea could work. Any suggestions for something fancy and tasty? I drink Lipton.
posted by schmod at 6:50 AM on March 11, 2014

> avoiding cash-equivalents and alcohol means no gift cards

Ah, darn it. I was going to suggest, yet again, an Amazon gift card. I'd have appreciated that as a grad student.

doesn't like coffee

And he's in Seattle?? Maybe you should get him an Aeropress anyway, because for a physics grad student, the day is not far off when he won't be able to survive without the coffee... :(

How current is he on his science fiction? Hannu Rajaniemi writes highly technical and highly acclaimed hardcore SF that would be a great fit for a physics grad student. The Quantum Thief and The Fractal Prince were great (the latter is quite recent by my laggardly standards), and I see that The Causal Angel is due out in July 2014...
posted by RedOrGreen at 10:54 AM on March 11, 2014

How about a variety set of tea from Stash?
posted by jbickers at 11:01 AM on March 11, 2014

Harney & Sons make nice tea and have some gift sets on their site.

David's Teas tea isn't quite a nice as Harney's, but their packaging is prettier. Their Thank You box sounds like a nice collection of teas, you could get a mug to go with it.
posted by maryr at 11:03 AM on March 11, 2014

Whenever I'm in DC I go to Le Pain Quotidien and pick up a few jars of their amazing apricot jam, as well as some Earl Grey dark chocolate bars (note: tiny). Their chai milk chocolate bars are pretty amazing too.

They're from Belgium, so not exactly *from* DC, but you can't find them on the west coast.
posted by homodachi at 11:55 AM on March 11, 2014

Dean and DeLuca make great baskets (Spanish sausage, fabulous cheese combinations, etc.), although some of them run a bit spendy. Still, worth a look for something novel and wonderful.
posted by acm at 1:35 PM on March 11, 2014

A soft soft throw blanket for their sofa.
A mug from think Geek.
Smart wool socks - everyone loves socks and not everyone buys good quality socks.
A delivery of a nice assortment of groceries.
posted by shazzam! at 8:07 AM on March 12, 2014

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