Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Last week the topic of "holiday tipping" was suggested by a reader (Thanks Janice, I love suggestions!). My first reaction was - is holiday tipping different than everyday tipping? As I got to doing my research I quickly learned that holiday tipping is a big deal. Hmmm. Where have I been?? I personally believe you should tip because someone exceeded your expectations and provided outstanding service, no matter what time of the year.

Some believe that during the holidays you should absolutely, no question about it, tip more. I do agree that the holidays are a time to say an extra special thank you to those that worked hard for you throughout the year. Where I have a problem is when those service providers begin to expect it. Tipping should come from your heart. Something you want to do, not something you feel pressured to do. I was raised to shower the people who provide year round service with gifts - not money - during the holiday season hence my naivety on "holiday tipping." I did learn however that gifts qualify as tips although I still think of tipping as a monetary thing.

I am not going to rant and rave about why you should or shouldn't tip. It's personal. Depending on where you live, it could be culturally unacceptable. Or maybe your budget just doesn't allow. But if you do believe in giving thanks for all their hard work, whether it's in the form of money or a gift, and are wondering what is proper holiday tipping etiquette, below is a breakdown by profession according to gifts.com and MSN Money Watch --

Budget: One to two nights pay.
What to Gift: You can get away with a tip, but try a gift card instead — it's like giving cash, yet it's more personal. If you know her favorite interests, you can give a movie lover a Fandango gift certificate, a music lover an iTunes card, or a college-bound sitter a certificate to Target. Still not sure? A girl of any age loves to shop at Sephora. You can also add a special homemade gift from your child, like a drawing or craft project.
Hint: You don't need to give an occasional sitter a holiday tip. But if she's really gone above and beyond the call of duty or if you use the same babysitter often during the year, you should reward her for her hard work.

FULL TIME NANNY (live-in or out)
Budget: One week to one month's pay (based on tenure) for both a personal gift and tip.
What to Gift: Buy something your nanny wouldn't get for herself like a designer handbag — it should be something that's a special indulgence.
Hint: Avoid kid-oriented presents like a new baby carrier or diaper bag. You want to reward your nanny for her hard work, not add to it!

Budget: $25-$70 for each staff member plus a small gift from your child.
What to Gift: Cash and gift cards are the best (and easiest) choices. But you should take the extra time to personalize your present with a card or a holiday token that your child picks out.
Hint: If only one person takes care of your child, you should give more generously, but if there's an entire staff of people, spread the wealth. In this case, it's okay to give less to each.

Budget: Less than $25
What to Gift: Remember that these are their jobs, not necessarily their only interests. Try something personal from your child, like a book or a drawing of the entire team.
Hint: If you're not up for giving a gift, a simple handwritten thank-you note from you and your child is a great way to show your appreciation.

Budget: $25-$100
What to Gift: A unique house plant is always welcome. But, you could also get the class to chip in for one big gift that's more personal — like a cooking class or a Kindle.
Hint: Check your school's policy because gift giving might be against the rules. Gifts are usually given when your child has one teacher all day. Don't feel obligated to buy presents for everyone.

Budget: Non-cash gifts with value up to $20 — civil servants are not allowed to receive cash tips. What to Gift: If you want to reward for delivery through snow, sleet and rain, buy a gift card for a coffee shop near your carrier's route or a cold weather accessory for those tough winter days.
Hint: An added non-cash token of your appreciation could be a glowing letter or email to a supervisor — it might even mean more than a present.

Budget: $50 or more; take into account your position in the company and how long the assistant has been with you.
What to Gift: Ask around for advice on your assistant's interests like a certificate to dine at a fine restaurant or tickets to a big event. A stylish home accent is nice too.
Hint: Avoid gifts that are too personal like clothes or perfume, and avoid anything too practical. They're practical for you all year round, this gift should give them a break!

For the people below, you can forget the pretty wrapping and bows. You can show your appreciation with cold hard cash.

Apartment Doorman
Budget: $10-$100 each
Hint: You don't have to spread the tips equally - those who serve you more should get a bigger tip.

Building Superintendent
Budget: $10-$100 each
Hint: The IRS considers tips income, but most supers don't want to declare their Christmas gifts so consider tipping in cash. You can also tip less if you tip throughout the year.

Country Club Staff
Budget: $50 for your regular servers, locker-room personnel, front-desk employees and golf professionals; $100 for head servers or special service.
Hint: Cash tips during the holidays are appropriate regardless of the club's tipping policy.

Dog Walker
Budget: One to two week's pay
Hint: A great way to show your walker that you feel her pain? Also include a gift certificate for a pedicure to cure her tired feet.

Garbage Collector
Budget: $15-$30
Hint: Pay attention to who collects your trash. If your garbage man is really a truck driver who operates a mechanical arm that does all the work, there is no need to tip.

Budget: $20-$50
Hint: If you use a service that sends a different gardener each week, don't worry about tipping.

Budget: Cost of one haircut
Hint: If the same person that cuts your hair, styles, and colors it too, you may want to give more.

Budget: Up to one week's pay
Hint: If you use a cleaning service and never know who shows up, don't tip at all. But if the same housekeeper comes every week and does a great job, tell her with a holiday tip.

Budget: Cost of one session
Hint: If the person who does your nails is the shop's owner, they might refuse your cash tip. Either way the gesture will be appreciated.

Newspaper Carrier
Budget: $10-$30
Hint: If you tip your deliverer throughout the year, give a smaller gift at the holidays. Usually they'll leave an envelope at your door. If they don't, ask the company to add a tip to your bill.

Package Delivery (UPS/FedEx)
Budget: Less than $75
Hint: Each delivery company has their own rules: FedEx doesn't allow cash or gifts worth more than $75, but UPS doesn't have a policy. Don't get them in trouble, do your homework first!

Personal Trainer
Budget: $60-$100 upon reaching goal, or cost of one session.
Hint: If you're going to add a gift to your tip, stay away from chocolates, candy or anything that's not health-conscious.

Etiquette author Peter Post of the Emily Post Institute suggests these TIPS FOR HOLIDAY TIPPING:

1) Prioritize your most important service providers. If someone's work makes your life dramatically better, that person should be at the top of your holiday tipping list. The trusted housecleaner, the hairdresser who fits you in at the last minute and the baby sitter who always does a great job tending your kids should get more of your holiday tipping resources than service providers you use infrequently.
2) Don't skimp on your employees. If you have household workers, such as a nanny, a housekeeper or a caretaker for an elderly relative, Post cautions against forgoing holiday bonuses if at all possible. The holiday bonus is often considered part of the employee's compensation. It all depends on your past practices, what's customary in your area and what you promised when you hired the person, of course, but withholding or shortchanging the bonus could be considered a cut in pay and you could wind up losing a valued worker because of it.
3) Tip strategically. If you live in a building with a doorman, superintendent or both, failing to tip can lead - unfortunately - to bad service. The higher the customary tip, the less likely a plate of cookies will cut it. Talk to your neighbors to see what the going rate is and try to come close to that figure to make sure your packages still get delivered and your friends can get into the building.
4) Consider need. The lower-paid the worker, the more holiday tips are likely to be appreciated and the bigger impact your gift can have. Your tip to a manicurist or gardener may be a bigger deal than the same sized token to a package delivery person.
5) If you tip generously all year, you can skimp a bit. A smaller tip or a modest gift at the holidays is fine.
6) A note should accompany any tip. Your message doesn't have to be elaborate, but should include a couple of sentences thanking the person for his or her good work and wishing a happy holiday.

If you want to give but are too strapped to afford it, Post recommends one of the following:

A holiday card with a handwritten note: A warm thanks is appropriate, and you can touch on why your tip is smaller or nonexistent. "You don't want them to think the lack of a tip is a reflection on their service," Post says. You can say something like - 'Thank you so much for all you've done. It's been a terribly difficult year financially but we appreciate all your hard work."

Handmade gifts or treats: A plate full of holiday cookies or candy is a low-cost way to express your appreciation. One evening of baking can produce a dozen or a dozen and a half cookies for each (recipient).

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