Is it too late to say I'm thankful?
September 21, 2016 6:32 PM   Subscribe

I recently interviewed two people, by phone, for about an hour and a half each. I verbally thanked them when the interview was over, but haven't sent them thank-you emails like I originally intended to. It's been slightly over two weeks. Should I still send the emails? If so, how do I word them in the most polite way possible- should I apologize for how long they took to send or avoid mentioning their tardiness?

My relationship to the interviewees, if it's relevant: one is a former classmate I had not otherwise talked to until the interview; the other was a stranger until the interview. I have not talked to or met either since the interviews. The interviews were oral histories, and they were not paid.

And, not that I intend on being so late to send thank-you emails again, but I'm curious about the etiquette of sending thank-you notes in general. Not the Emily Post perspective, just what normal people expect or consider nice. The advice I find online is mostly limited to job interviews or gifts. For example, I sometimes feel a bit awkward sending an additional thank you email if I've already thanked the person multiple times in the process of getting a favor- not sure if it's overkill, or expected. Or, is it awkward to ask someone you don't know very well for their address, with the intention of sending a thank-you gift/handwritten note? It would be nice to have a better understanding of how this particular social ritual is supposed to work!
posted by perplexion to Human Relations (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's never too late for a thank you.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:41 PM on September 21, 2016 [16 favorites]

Perhaps you could mention how the project is going, and how their material is contributing; that way it's not really a late thank-you so much as a brief update. I'm envisaging something like "Dear {name}, thanks again for agreeing to be interviewed for my project on {date}. I've been collating my material, including your contribution, and it's been an exciting and thought-provoking process. I expect to be doing this for another x weeks, then will begin work on the manuscript. {Add some other general interest details about the project} Thanks again, I hope all is well with you. Perplexion."
posted by nomis at 6:44 PM on September 21, 2016 [9 favorites]

The upside and downside to email is that it's quick and easy. That means it takes less thought to do, but also that it sticks out like a sore thumb when an email isn't sent in a timely manner.

Write them physical thank you notes.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 6:47 PM on September 21, 2016 [7 favorites]

Is there going to be a deliverable soon? Like posting the transcript or something? If so, I'd use that as an opportunity to reset the clock.
posted by politikitty at 6:51 PM on September 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would absolutely love to send a handwritten note- I was actually thinking of sending homemade cookies, too- but I don't have their addresses or a way to get their addresses and I figured it would be presumptuous to ask, especially considering that in one case I haven't so much as met the interviewee in person.

But I will at least email them. Thanks all for the responses!
posted by perplexion at 7:26 PM on September 21, 2016

I'm a journalist. An often deadline challenged journalist.
My solution was to add some information of value to late thank yous. Like, "thank you again, the article will be in the paper at x date."
Or "thank you again and I'm happy to report that it's shaping up great; we've managed to win x, y and z for an interview as well."
Or "thank you again and here's the pdf of yesterday's article."
posted by Omnomnom at 12:42 AM on September 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

I would send the thank you, and instead of apologizing, express that after you have had time to digest and process the interviews were, you appreciate them even more.
posted by shortyJBot at 3:25 AM on September 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

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