12/7/2012 4:15 PM ET|
The new rules of holiday tipping
For the holiday season, you face a long list of service providers who deserve a token of your appreciation. Here’s how much to tip -- and when not to.
Regular, everyday tipping etiquette apparently wasn't baffling and awkward enough. So holiday tips have been added to the fray.
OK, maybe year-end tipping rules weren't invented just to confuse you. But that can be the result when you're not sure whom to tip and how much.
Holiday tips are cash bonuses or other presents customarily handed out in December. They're a way of saying "thank you" to the people who provide you with services year-round. But the rules for holiday tipping aren't set in stone, and they’re changing as society changes, said Peter Post, the managing director of the Emily Post Institute and the author of "Essential Manners for Men 2nd Edition: What to Do, When to Do It, and Why."
Here's what is important to know this year:
Holiday tips should fit within your budget. "You shouldn't put yourself in debt," cautions Post, the great-grandson of the legendary etiquette expert. If you can't come up with the recommended amount of cash for each person on your list, you can tip less, give a gift instead or, if your budget's really tight, consider something homemade, such as a plate of cookies.
Set your priorities. As you're making a list of people who might deserve a holiday tip, "identify the people who have really done something special for you" above and beyond the usual level of service, Post recommends. Those are the folks who should be at the top of your holiday tip list. Further down the list, add the people you tip generously (20% or more) throughout the year. If you can't scratch up the recommended cash for these service providers, you can leave a larger-than-usual tip in December, or give a card, small present or both. People who needn't be on your holiday tip list at all include schoolteachers (gifts or gift cards are more appropriate) and U.S. Postal Service workers, who are forbidden by USPS ethics rules from accepting cash (although a gift worth less than $20 is OK).
Consider pooling tips. Post especially likes this approach when dealing with holiday tips for building superintendents, doormen and building staff where unequal tips could lead to unequal service. "Is the person who gives $75 going to get faster attention than the person who gives $25?" Post wondered. If that might be the case, then a gift pool would allow each person to give what he or she can afford without fear of reprisal. (Pooling resources also can work well when buying holiday gifts for teachers or tipping daycare workers.)
Ask around. Holiday tipping customs can vary by region and by type of establishment. Bigger tips may be the norm in larger cities or deluxe buildings, for example. Ask other people what they give, or call the establishment to find out what the range of holiday tips generally is.
Don't forget the card. The tip or gift should be accompanied by a card with a handwritten note expressing your gratitude. A couple of sentences is all you need to squeak out.
More from Liz Weston:
The word "tip" is not an acronym. I throw in this fun fact for those who want to argue that tips shouldn't be expected. "Tip" does not stand for "to insure promptness," "to insure performance," "to insure prompt service" or any other combination of words. The word “tip” dates back several hundred years, long before acronyms became popular.
Holiday tip amounts typically reflect the frequency and duration of the service, along with your relationship to the service provider. Those who provide regular but brief service, for instance, often get $10 to $30. Examples include:
- Newspaper deliverers.
- Parking or garage attendants.
- Trash collectors (if they still load your cans by hand; if they use a mechanized arm, no tip is expected).
- Any regular delivery person, such as food, laundry, messages, etc. (Some package delivery services limit or forbid tips, so ask first.)
The range is wider for building supers ($20 to $80) and doormen ($15 to $80; if there are multiple doormen, $15 or more each is appropriate, according to the Emily Post Institute). For buildings that still employ elevator operators, a $15 to $40 tip is customary.
Holiday tips for people who provide more extended services normally equal the cost of one visit or session. If your visits are sporadic, you can tip less. If you've used the same people for years, going above the usual limit is a nice gesture, or you can consider adding a gift to the tip (since you probably know the service provider well enough to select an appropriate present). If a team of people provides the service, such as a lawn-care crew or beauty salon staff, the cash equivalent of one visit customarily is divided among them. Service providers include:
- Hairdresser or barber
- Personal trainer
- Massage therapist
- Regular after-hours babysitter (not your nanny or daycare worker)
- Private tutor
- Part-time house cleaner
- The lawn-care crew
- Pool cleaner
- Pet groomer
- Dog walker
People who provide intensive personal services deserve special consideration. These folks include nannies, live-in or full-time help, nursing home employees, private nurses and home health workers. But tipping can be tricky.
Cash tips often aren't appropriate, and may even be forbidden, in many health care positions, the Emily Post Institute warns. A thoughtful gift may be a better fit for a private nurse; a present that can be shared, such as fruit or flowers, might be suitable for nursing home employees. If home health workers are employed by an agency, check there to find out if tips or gifts are allowed.
With other service providers, a generous tip is customary. Nannies and others employed more than a couple of days a week are usually tipped the equivalent of one week's pay, although the amount can grow larger the longer the employee's tenure. Nannies and baby sitters also typically receive a small gift from their charges.
If your children are tended by a daycare center, ask the director about appropriate tips; accepted amounts can range from $25 to $70, plus a small gift from each child.
Navigating the holidays without cratering your budget isn't easy. But acknowledging the people who make our lives function more smoothly is a worthy task. If you can't be as generous as you'd like to be with cash or gifts, you can still be generous with your praise and thanks.
More from Liz Weston:
Liz Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy" (find it on Bing). Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. Join the conversation and send in your financial questions on Liz Weston's Facebook fan page.
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Give me tips, give me tips.....People want tips for everything today. I understand the barber, waiter, a good bartender kind of thing, but garbage man, maintenance man, mail carrier????
How about this, do your job that you agreed to do on a non-tip format. I am willing to tip when worth it, I've left restaurants and left 25-30% for exceptional service, I've also left 1 penny for horrible service in the past, you don't automatically get a tip just for doing what is the standard of your job. I work on million dollar equipment for hospitals that save patient lives.....never do I get tips from docs, nurses, patients....I do it because it's my job, not because I expect a reward. Now I ask you, if somebody is saving (EMT's, Doc's, Nurses, etc) or helping to save lives by keeping their high end systems running, and they don't get tips, why should I tip a person who puts envelopes into a box for me, pulls bags out of a can, fixes a leaky pipe, or a doorman who simply pulls a handle back???
It’s here, the dreaded Christmas shopping season. This year why not blow off exchanging gifts and take the stress out of the holidays. Ok if you have a kid, get him a couple of presents, but that’s it. Just have family over and a nice dinner. If you’re religious, is this commercial frenzy really what Jesus would want? I think he’d rather you just say a prayer or two.
The new rules of tipping are the old rules of tipping for me - the only people that get tipped are waiters and wait staff, and then only because they depend on tips to supplement their income up to minimum wage levels. Everyone else gets paid a fair wage and if they don't do their job well, I damn well won't pay them! Who is the moron that came up with the notion of needing to give a good tip to get good service? Did you know that if your building superintendent doesn't do his/her job, you are within your rights to withold rent for a period of time? That'll straighten their as.s out a lot faster than a tip will. That applies to every other service as well. Garbage man skip a pickup? Skip a payment. It's not rocket science.
Tipping everyone else is for suckers.
I read many people in this post complaining about tipping, mostly focused on waiters and stuff and I do agree with many of them in regards to only tipping when deserved and so on. However I think this article refers to holiday tipping specifically, so no, on a regular basis one does not expect to tip the mail carrier or the garbage collector, but I think for Christmas time it's a nice thing to do, to show appreciation for the work they do. I personally do not have a lot of money, but for Christmas time I make several kinds of Christmas cookies and arrange them in tins and give them to people that have provided service one way or another to me or my family. I suppose in these times in particular cash would probably be more welcome but that is what I can do and they seem to really appreciate it.
I was in a diner last year and asked the manager what the waitresses that worked there were paid per hour. He replied $2.25 plus there tips. He told me not to feel sorry for them because they were milking the system. He said that they made excellent tips, of which for the most part they did not claim as income. They were all signed up for heating assistance, free medical care, food stamps, and even had there rent paid by the government, because based on the $2.25 per hour, it looked like they were low income. The waitress's topics of conversation were their expensive piercings, tattoos and how they were all out partying all the time. So don't feel that all waitress's and waiters have it bad.
Personally I tip for good service and don't tip for bad service.
And as far as fair wage, a good waitress can do well over minimum wage. its a service job, if they want to be lazy and make $7.25, go to mcdonalds.
My mailman gets a card and chocolates. he goes out of his way to deliver boxes to the door and actually hand them to someone, not throw them from the curb like the UPS guy.
My "New Rule for Tipping" is that the standard restaurant tip is back down to 15%. My car insurance has gone up recently, my electric utility has asked for a rate increase, food is up, property tax is up (even as the property value goes down - which means it will explode upward when the housing market turns around), train fare went up recently, etc., etc. The excuse for all these is that "the cost of doing business has gone up". So be it. The Cost of Being Me has gone up.
I do tip my haircut place a little more than 15% ($3 on $18) because they rinse me, which is great because I go there at lunchtime, and I don't itch all afternoon. Not may haircut places will do that any more.
hey liberal leftist writer of this story!, taxes are going up!! tipping will go down and so will charitable giving. money will run out . it is that simple. besides who in the hell made up the new rules??????!!! I have a new rule. DONT LISTEN TO LIBERAL WRITERS WHO GIVE OUT THEIR ADVICE. simply just read it and ignore their rules and mock and laugh at it.. lol lol lol
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