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econorama
02-11-2008, 09:13 AM
I'm thinking that I should probably get something for the people who wrote my recommendations. Actually, I'm thinking I should have done this a month or two ago, but I'm a procrastinator.

If you've done this, what did you get? I hate getting people gifts that they'll never use and will just sit around their house or office, so I lean towards not getting people physical items. Gift certificates and food are my most common gifts. Sometimes recipients even get gift certificates for food. I've occasionally given people donations to charities on their behalf, but that's always risky if you don't know what they care about. I know one of them is a big supporter of breast cancer related charities, but have no idea about the other two.

Anyway, I'm leaning towards food. Maybe making each of them a batch of cookies or something like that. Then I spent time on them, which is what they spent on me. Is that a reasonable idea?

iugi85
02-11-2008, 09:43 AM
I think that last year there was a thread exactly like this one! if you search you could easily find it!


...

found two :)

http://www.urch.com/forums/phd-economics/64809-gifts-letter-writers.html

http://www.urch.com/forums/phd-economics/63392-how-thank-letter-writer.html

mysherona
02-11-2008, 10:41 AM
I gave mine gift baskets with wine and assorted snooty snacks for Christmas.

Is there really no way to change my nickname? I'm getting tired of it, and I just learned that I've misspelled "Sharona".

Andronicus
02-11-2008, 11:50 AM
I was thinking about whether I should do something like this also. A problem, though, is that I am taking a class with one of my recommenders this semester and I don't think profs are allowed to accept gifts from current students. Maybe I should just wait until May.


Is there really no way to change my nickname? I'm getting tired of it, and I just learned that I've misspelled "Sharona".

I think you'd have to get a whole new profile. I doubt anyone else has noticed the mistake, though.

TruDog
02-11-2008, 12:30 PM
I think a thank-you card is pretty much all you need, at least in America. I don't know how it works elsewhere.

Fermat
02-11-2008, 12:38 PM
What I gave my recommenders:

-For my one professor that got her PhD in Poland, I gave her a nice piece of polish pottery (it wasn't expensive).

-For my analysis professor (I only knew from taking class and meeting with during office hours), I gave a bottle of wine (the standard gift for anyone you don't really know).

-For my advisor (I have a very casual relationship: golf, beers, sports, etc.), I gave a nice cross pen.

Gift cards a great idea, but I know my advisor really well and wanted a more personal gift that I know he would enjoy.

AstralTraveller
02-11-2008, 12:56 PM
I got an exclusively packaged bottle of wine for each, except for a recommender who does not drink alcohol, for whom I got an imported King Crimson Collector's double CD. I ended up paying roughly the same for each gift (yep, the CD was highly overpriced).

I called up the secretary of each professor I wasn't certain about, and asked them to keep the secret, just to make sure they liked wine at all. Then I played Santa the Saturday before Christmas, delivering the gifts house by house.

I have to say that I really appreciate on a personal level each of my recommenders, so it wasn't much of a compromise, but rather a sign of real appreciation. I learnt a lot from this people on all levels throughout these years, so this gift was the least they deserved. I really felt honored they wrote me a letter.

loudandclear
02-11-2008, 01:49 PM
I gave all of my recommenders gift certificates to Amazon.com. Given that they're all professors, I thought that books was a pretty safe guess.

polkaparty
02-11-2008, 01:55 PM
Wow, I'm surprised to see so much gift giving--pity, all of the deadweight loss. I think Antichron's post in one of those previous threads turned me off to gift giving.... Nonetheless I was planning on waiting until after this whole process is over to thank people.

econphilomath
02-11-2008, 02:06 PM
... I was planning on waiting until after this whole process is over to thank people.

Yea you never know what those LORs really say... ! Presents conditional on admits is probably the best way to go about it.:D

I still will not be giving my recommender's anything but I might invite them to lunch or something.

econorama
02-11-2008, 03:37 PM
Thanks for the responses. I've read through the two older threads, which were also helpful.

For reference, I am in the US but I still think I should give them something. I applied to a lot of schools, and even though it's the same letter over and over again, I know the process takes some time. I don't want to wait until I've heard from every school because then it seems I'm trying to reward them for me getting into the schools instead of just for taking the time to help me out. I was one of the early admits to Texas-Austin, so I know they couldn't have written anything too terrible, and that at this point anywhere I don't get in isn't their fault.

Food and/or beverage seems to be the most common gift, so I'm still leaning towards cookies. If I give it to them at their offices, they also have the option of giving some of them away to colleagues if they don't want all of them.

YoungEconomist
02-11-2008, 04:17 PM
I gave all of my recommenders gift certificates to Amazon.com. Given that they're all professors, I thought that books was a pretty safe guess.

Nice! I was thinking gift certificates would be a good idea, but I just wasn't sure where (the best thing I came up with was Starbucks). I think I will definitely do this. What do you think is an appropriate amount?

loudandclear
02-11-2008, 05:02 PM
What do you think is an appropriate amount?

Mine were $25. I figured they couldn't really buy much for anything less, but I also couldn't afford to do much more. (Actually, I missed the admissions deadline for one of the schools I had planned to apply to, so I used the money I saved on the application fee...)

buckykatt
02-11-2008, 05:09 PM
Just a random thought.. If one of your letter writers doesn't have tenure yet, a letter to the department head expressing your appreciation for their teaching and scholarship might not help, but I can't see how it could hurt. (Send them a copy for their files, so they can include it with teaching evaluations at tenure review time.) For another letter writer who is retiring soon, I wrote to the department head with information about a teaching award given by a relevant academic association and suggested that the department nominate him.

asianeconomist
02-11-2008, 05:10 PM
I gave my real analysis professor this:

Amazon.com: Remarkable Mathematicians: From Euler to von Neumann (The Spectrum Series): Books: Ioan James (http://www.amazon.com/Remarkable-Mathematicians-Euler-Neumann-Spectrum/dp/0521520940)

polkaparty
02-11-2008, 05:20 PM
sooo much deadweight loss. I am a real miser when it comes to gift giving....

If we can't just give cash as gifts between us economists, what hope is there for the rest of the world!?

Andronicus
02-11-2008, 05:27 PM
sooo much deadweight loss. I am a real miser when it comes to gift giving....

If we can't just give cash as gifts between us economists, what hope is there for the rest of the world!?

I think for most people there is some extra utility derived from knowing the giver put some thought and effort into selecting a gift. There might still be a deadweight loss, but possibly not as much as it would seem if you ignore sentimental value.

08Applicant
02-11-2008, 05:31 PM
I gave my real analysis professor this:

Amazon.com: Remarkable Mathematicians: From Euler to von Neumann (The Spectrum Series): Books: Ioan James (http://www.amazon.com/Remarkable-Mathematicians-Euler-Neumann-Spectrum/dp/0521520940)

I really like that idea. Especially since we used Amazon.com: Analysis by Its History (Undergraduate Texts in Mathematics / Readings in Mathematics): Books: E. Hairer,G. Wanner (http://www.amazon.com/Analysis-History-Undergraduate-Mathematics-Readings/dp/0387945512) as a supplemental text in our honors meetings. He really likes the history approach. The book was an interesting historical read. But it would make an absolutely awful textbook.

polkaparty
02-11-2008, 05:40 PM
I think for most people there is some extra utility derived from knowing the giver put some thought and effort into selecting a gift. There might still be a deadweight loss, but possibly not as much as it would seem if you ignore sentimental value.

MR had a good post a while ago refuting the common arguments against cash gifts.

If you want to signal thought and effort, give them cash with a list of suggested uses [things they could buy, places they could eat at...]. If you want them to have an object which they value purely because you gave it to them (sentimental value), give them a self-made thank you card.

Just think about it from your own perspective. I suppose I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I have many books and other gifts which I have received, which just lay around all day. I value these items at probably 1/20th the purchase price. Actually, their value is probably much closer to zero. Do you really want to do this to someone else? Especially someone you respect and value?

I realize that I cannot even convince my own family to give cash gifts (although everyone knows not to give me anything of their own selection--that's what Amazon's wish list is for), so I realize I cannot convince the world of my radical views.

As an acceptable alternative, I heartily welcome the growth of the gift card market as an alternative to cash. There was a paper in the JEP last winter on deadweight loss from various gift cards. The lowest loss was on cards for home improvement places (e.g. Home Depot). I suspect that an Amazon gift card would have an even lower deadweight loss, especially if we're exchanging gifts among intellectuals. With that said, it'd be pretty funny if someone gave a prof a home depot gift card with a copy of that JEP paper.

I also think giving a specific book to a professor is a bad idea. You should give an Amazon gift certificate (or better, cash), and a list of suggested books which they might enjoy. Let them make the final decision.

buckykatt
02-11-2008, 06:58 PM
I honestly think that professors would derive as much utility from a handwritten thank-you card with a thoughtful message as from a gift that had even more of your labor embedded in it. Of course, you can do both. But the personal message is the point, not the tangible gift.

YoungEconomist
02-11-2008, 07:11 PM
I honestly think that professors would derive as much utility from a handwritten thank-you card with a thoughtful message as from a gift that had even more of your labor embedded in it. Of course, you can do both. But the personal message is the point, not the tangible gift.

I'm going to do both.

crazaa
02-11-2008, 09:01 PM
I ended up writing a recommendation letter for one of my recommenders for his tenure application (which was then delivered to the head of the tenure committee, another one of my recommenders). He got tenure, I got accepted, we called it even.

Sammy6
02-11-2008, 10:26 PM
I baked cookies for my recommenders and was told it was incredibly good idea by one. Most of these people know how much I earn in a year and know its not too much. I was told by one of the profs I am closest to it would make them feel awkward if I spent any considerable amount. I think something that shows you spent some time and effort works better than anything with particular monetary value.

desimba
02-12-2008, 04:50 AM
I am a big follower of Ayn Rand so I remember having bought 6-7 copies of her book: "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal" and giving one copy to each of my recommenders during the Fall 2006 admissions cycle. This year I will probably end up giving a different book (maybe "The World is Flat") to each of my recommenders.