I know it has been asked several times on here whether giving a professor a gift is appropriate or not. The general consensus seems to be that it is unethical to both give and receive the gift   . However, I have a bit of a nuance that I would like to inquire about.
This past fall semester I requested to meet with a professor who I both enjoyed and respected and ask them for advice about the graduate admissions process.
I asked, out of curiosity, if letter writers minded submitting ~8 letters or if the work would bother them. They answered (roughly), "No. We enjoy helping students. If you want to be nice, you can get them a starbucks gift card or something after they've submitted the letters."
At the time I had no intention of asking this professor for a letter of recommendation. However, it ended up that they were one of my 3 letter writers. I want to write each of my letter writers a thank you note, but now I am faced with the predicament of whether to follow their advice or not.
I have been thinking of reasons for either getting or not getting the gift.
Reasons to get gift:
- I will never have this professor again for classes, so there would not be any thoughts of favoritism.
- Buying a $10 gift card would not be a significant financial burden on me.
- I would be going along with their advice.
Reasons to not get gift:
- There is a slight chance I may ask this professor for another letter, so giving them something of monetary value could call into question any future letters they write for me.
- It could still be seen in a negative light given some stigma around giving faculty gifts as a student.
I understand I am probably overthinking this. I would like to show my gratitude to this professor in an ethical and professional manner without burning any bridges in my young career at the same time. Should I still refrain from giving gifts to professors? If so, should I address their previous suggestion, or just ignore it?