Around the holidays, this etiquette question comes up time and again: “Do I have to tip?”
Well, you don’t have to do anything, but tipping is a kind way to show gratitude to those that provide you loyal service throughout the year. And a thank-you in the form of a monetary gift is always appreciated, especially during the holiday season.
So, the real question is, who should you tip, and how much should you give? While there’s some general etiquette to follow, there’s also no one-size-fits-all approach. As you’re planning, ask yourself: What sort of relationship do you have with the person? How often do you require his or her service? And what level of service or care does he or she provide—about average or above and beyond?
Most importantly, consider and be realistic about your budget. The guidelines out there are just that—a guide, and ultimately you have to decide what’s most comfortable and appropriate for you. My recommendation: be generous with those who give you great service—but don’t go broke doing so. And, if cash is not an option, homemade cards and gifts are a welcome alternative in most situations.
Here’s a rundown of who you should consider tipping this holiday season:
Office Assistant: Don’t give a monetary tip unless you’re in the position to give a true bonus. A gift card would be a welcome and appropriate alternative—just stay away from anything that could be perceived as too personal.
Landlord or Building Manger: If you have a great one, $50-100 annually is typical. But if you haven’t seen your landlord since you signed your lease, save the cash for someone else.
Doorman: $50 (or more), depending on the level of service he or she provides throughout the year—if you have the friendliest guy on the block or if he regularly helps you with your groceries, be generous. A gift, instead of cash, is welcome, too.
Elevator Operator: Check to see if your building has a tenant tip pool (or organize one yourself!). Otherwise, $20-50 per attendant is the norm.
Building Handyman: Between $20 and $50 is typical, depending on the services he’s provided throughout the year (and how many times he’s had to unclog your drain).
Garage Attendant: Since attendant duties can range from standing around to washing your car, tips vary from building to building. Consider the extent of service and tip accordingly—generally $30-75.
For Those Who Take Care of You
Hair Stylist, Manicurist, or Massage Therapist: Assuming you go to the same person regularly, an appropriate holiday gesture is to tip the cost of one service. If this is too much to swing, a gift can be appropriate, especially if you tip well all year long or have a personal relationship with your stylist.
Housekeeper, Gardener, or Pool Cleaner: If you have someone regular, it’s typical to give him or her a holiday card with one week’s pay enclosed. Depending on the relationship, you may consider also a thoughtful gift.
Dog Walker: For the person who takes care of your furry friends, an appropriate tip is the cash equivalent of one day of service.
For Those Who Deliver
U.S. Postal Service: Government regulations do not allow U.S. postal carriers to accept cash gifts of any kind, so only a small, non-monetary gift worth less than $20 can be accepted.
FedEx and UPS: FedEx doesn't restrict gifts or tips under $75 value, and UPS doesn’t have an official protocol. But the gift should be determined based on the relationship between you and the driver—if you get a package every now and then, skip it; if your home office gets deliveries every day, a tip is a well-deserved gesture.
Newspaper Delivery: It’s typical to leave a card with $10-30 for your delivery person (unless he’s always late or throws your paper in a mud puddle on a regular basis!).
Trash Collector: Check your local regulations for public service employees. If there are no restrictions, and your neighborhood sanitation worker is pleasant, helpful, and goes beyond his duty to pick up your rubbish, $10–15 would be thoughtful.
Above all, remember that tipping isn’t really about money—it’s about gratitude. So, when you tip someone, also give a heartfelt holiday card saying thanks for the year of service. Yes, the cash will probably make their day, but they’ll likely remember the warm sentiment all year long.
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Wesolowski.