Could something along the lines of "Thanks a lot!" (I suggested this via the report function, but am not sure about it) or "Thank you very much!" also work or would you say that differently in Dutch? Because, if I'm not mistaken, "Dank je!" on its own would already mean "Thank you!" and the "wel" puts some further emphasis on it, correct?
Yes, both are acceptable according to het genootschap "Onze Taal". Some treat it as a set phrase that has turned into one entity and others treat it as the phrase "ik dank je wel".
If you use it as a noun, it is one word "een dankjewel" (a thank you, a token of your gratitude). "Dank je" and "dank u" are written separately.
It can mean a number of things. 1 A way to empasize a verb: "ik zie het wél" (I DO see it), "zie je wel?" (you SEE? as in I told you so), "Wel! Niet! (it IS! it ISN'T!) 2 good: "weldoener" (benefactor), "welterusten" (sleep well), "onwel" (not feeling well), "wel, wel wel" (well, well, well), "welgemanierd" (well-mannered) 3 yes: "wel of niet?" (yes or no?) "weleens" (every now and then)
Take a look at this grammar explanation of Dutch personal pronouns:
It explains that "u" is the formal "you", while "je" and "jij" are the unstressed respectively stressed informal second person singular "you" (corresponding to "thou" in Early Modern English). If you have only ever seen "dank u wel" before that was probably just a coincidence.
Dank je is informal, for friends and peers. Dank u is polite and formal. Dank je wel is emphasised appreciation. So you're still saying thank you but it's the equivalent of saying thank you very much. Dankjewel, saying it fast as one word with a hint of disgust, can be used like the sarcastic 'thanks a lot'. Like saying thanks for nothing. Bedankt = Thanks. Rather than thank you. Again, said with the right tone in the right context, can be used as sarcasm.
It is a cognate to English "well" and in this case comparable (regarding sentence structure) to the "well" in "fare thee well" (or "farewell"). A very literal translation into English would be "Thank thee (Modern English: you) well!" As you can read above, it doesn't really change the meaning (i.e. "Dank je wel!" and "Dank je!" mean the same thing).
However, in general "wel" is used a bit differently, e.g. after a negative statement it might be used to state that the statement is true after all (as in "Ik ben geen kind." - "Bent je wel!"). (Dear native speakers: If my explanation isn't correct, please correct me.)
When in Eindhoven, I heard people use 'dank je wel' and it's variations, but in Rotterdam people (and one person in Eindhoven with a noticeably different accent) seemed to say 'alsjeblieft/alstublieft' instead. Can anyone confirm for me that they did mean 'thankyou' when they said that? And if so, where in the country am I supposed to use each option?