To give more context, I've been invited by my financial advisor to a birthday "bash" at an upscale bar and I would like to get him a gift (or/in addition to maybe buying him a couple of drinks). I wanted to know what would be appropriate to gift, as I'd like to get on friendlier terms (not that we aren't already, we're actually pretty casual and friendly; I just like him as a person and would like to know him more and/or become friends with him). I'm a 25 year old male and he will be too by then, so I can't see age/gender really playing too much of a role regarding appropriateness.

My concern is that I don't want it to affect my client/service provider relationship negatively, so should I even go and if I go, should I even buy him a gift/drinks? It wasn't specifically made clear what kind of expectations there were on the invite, it just sounds like we're all going to casually drink (getting drunk is unlikely to happen). I want to note that it does seem like friends and family were also invited (going off of context clues on the invite thread), in addition to clients if there are other clients.

To rephrase the question in a way: if a vendor were to invite me to a birthday social event and I'm interested in building that relationship with the vendor as a client, what are the best practices for maintaining professionalism while also nurturing the relationship positively?

This is in the Southern United States, but for the area I'm in there isn't a lot of cultural stigma on drinking/excessive drinking. I live in a bit of a party city.

I plan to just buy a birthday card with a gift card in it for Starbucks, since he seems to like coffee.

Please let me know if this question is out of scope or inappropriate. Thanks!

  • 3
    This isn't really a workplace question I think. Perhaps if it was the other way around this would be on-topic but this seems like it's out of scope. But I can see an argument being made for considering this on the edge of being part of our topics. – Lilienthal Mar 20 '17 at 21:33
  • I am the client in the situation. Would it be more appropriate to rescope the question to focus on the client/service provider aspect of the question? While the specific context it's in isn't particularly workplace and while I'm not a big fan of hypotheticals, the question could be extended to managing the vendor/client relationship appropriately in any given situation that needs a conflict of interest consideration. – Josh L. Mar 21 '17 at 13:43

A gift should be fine, and you don't want to be the only guest without one. You also don't want to show up with a gift when nobody else does. Discretion is key. Something that will fit in a pocket is best, meaning that the Starbucks card has advantages. While a gift card isn't too personal, that may be advantageous at an early stage in the business/personal relationship.


In addition to what @TravisKindred has said about any gift you bring being something discrete enough to be kept hidden if you end up not giving it, planning to buy him a few drinks as a gift is a bad idea. I'm assuming that it's a work related event; which means he'll presumably want to remain at least relatively sober the entire night. I also assume that he'll have a number of other clients in addition to you; at which point even a minority of you wanting to gift him just one drink would be enough to get him drunk.

  • @JoeStrazzere there's a difference between having a few drinks and getting a buzz and having a lot of drinks and getting stupid drunk. Unless It's a very small group everyone buying the guest of honor multiple drinks will result in the latter. – Dan is Fiddling by Firelight Mar 21 '17 at 1:25
  • I do agree that buying drinks may not be a good idea; I just thought I'd throw that out as a possible option. I'm not exactly concrete on what the social norms are for situations like this since I'm not a drinker myself (maybe a couple of beers every week). I definitely don't think the plan was for people to get drunk; I think it was more of a social catalyst. I'll edit the question to clarify that. – Josh L. Mar 21 '17 at 13:48
  • Those norms can vary. As a Texan in my twenties who drinks, I've been to upscale, prim social gatherings where few were conscious at the end of the night and testosterone-fueled fratlike events that ended up being a beer each and some board games. The safe bet is to go in, have a single beverage (or a soda since you're not a drinker) until you have the lay of the land. If you see him buying himself a drink, it would probably be okay to offer to pay for it. Offering out of the blue could possibly be seen as awkward or as a sexual advance. – Travis Don Kindred Mar 22 '17 at 4:18

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