Monday, December 10, 2007

Holiday Tips

Patty here…

On Saturday, as I decorated the house for Christmas, my mind turned to thoughts of holiday tipping. I know how much to tip at restaurants, because I worked as a waitress at the Burien Black Angus when the uniform was still a circular brown skirt that barely covered my ass. Beyond that, the etiquette waters turn murky. For example, how much does one tip the maid and the gardener? I'll admit that my tipping education is sorely lacking. My family didn’t have maids or gardeners. When our house got cleaned, my mother did it. When the grass got ankle deep, my father mowed it…or not.

Some people go on a tipping frenzy during the holidays. I know because I see them running into the street at o’dark thirty to slip the garbage man an Andrew Jackson or two. In the past, I wouldn't have considered doing such a thing for many reasons, the first of which is this: I’ve never met my garbage guy. He arrives when I’m still in bed, dreaming up murder plots. So, how would I know if the person accepting my twenty-dollar bills is MY rubbish picker-upper or just somebody filling in for the day? I do give Christmas money to the British lad who cleans my house once a week, but I have never given holiday greenbacks to my hairdresser, because I tip him generously all during the year.

I began to worry that I was just ignorant of social norms, or even worse, a total cheapskate. To assuage my anxiety, I went looking for answers at the Emily Post Institute, where I found a guide to holiday tipping for 2007:

The holiday season is the traditional time to say “thank you” and “I appreciate the work you do” to those who have provided service to you throughout the year. Don’t forget that one of the best ways to express your appreciation is a hand-written note, which should accompany any holiday tip.

Whether and how much to tip varies widely, depending on:

* the quality and frequency of the service
* your relationship with the service provider
* where you live (amounts are usually higher in large cities)
* the frequency of the service or how long you have worked together
* your budget
* regional customs
* the type of establishment: deluxe vs. moderate

If you regularly tip at the time of service, you may forgo or give a more modest holiday tip. Try to include your child in gift decisions for teachers, day care providers, nannies, and babysitters.

Every situation is different, so let common sense, specific circumstances, and holiday spirit be your guides. The tip amounts in this chart are merely guidelines. What to give is always an individual decision.

Au pair: A gift from your family (or one-week’s pay), plus a small gift from your child

Babysitter, regular: One evening’s pay, plus a small gift from your child

Barber: Cost of one haircut or a gift

Beauty salon staff: The cost of one salon visit, split among the staff

Child’s teacher: Check your school’s policy first, as gift giving may be prohibited. If allowed, then give a gift that is a token of appreciation from your child, not cash. Possibilities: a homemade gift made by your child, a book or a picture frame. Or, consider participating in a joint gift from the class as a whole. Possibilities: a gift certificate to a restaurant or bookstore.

Day care providers: $25 to $70 each, plus a small gift from your child for the providers who give direct care to your child(ren)

Dog walker: One week’s pay or a gift

Fitness trainer, personal: Up to the cost of one session

Garage attendants: $10 to $30 each

Home health employees: A gift, but check with the agency first, as most agencies have a no gifts or no tips policy. If this is the case, consider giving a donation to the agency.

Housekeeper/cleaner: Up to one week’s pay or a gift

Letter carriers: U.S. government regulations permit carriers to accept gifts worth up to $20 per occasion, not cash

Live-in help (Nanny, Housekeeper, Cook, Butler): One week’s to one month’s salary based on tenure and customs in your area, plus a personal gift

Massage therapist: Up to one session’s fee or a gift

Newspaper deliverer: $10 to $30

Nurse, private: A gift, not cash

Nursing home employees: A gift, not cash, but check the company policy first. Consider giving a gift that could be enjoyed by or shared among the floor staff: flowers, chocolates or food items.

Package deliverer: A small gift if you receive deliveries regularly; most delivery companies discourage or prohibit cash gifts

Personal caregiver: Up to one week’s salary or a small gift

Pet Groomer: If the same person grooms your pet all year, up to one session’s fee or a gift

Pool cleaner: Cost of one cleaning, to be split among crew

Residential building personnel: Check with your building association first to see if there is a holiday fund that is shared among all the building personnel

Superintendent: $20 to $80

Doorman: $15 to $80; $15 or more each, for multiple doormen

Elevator operator: $15 to $40

Handyman: $15 to $40

Trash/recycling collectors: $10 to $30 each (for private service); for municipal service, check local regulations

Yard and garden worker: $20 to $50

Tipping all those people takes a lot of bread. I needed a flip side, so I consulted Miss Manners. Judith Martin, author of Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Freshly Updated, maintains that tipping in general is a "silly system." I sort of agree with her. Still, the to-tip-or-not-to-tip question has put me in a state of holiday ennui. Maybe I'll just pour myself some eggnog and check the balance in my savings account.

Happy Holiday Tipping to You and Yours!


  1. Thanks, Patty.

    I intend to chase down the garbage men on Thursday. My postal carrier changes every day so I might skip this year.


  2. Favorite movie line from one of my favorite movies, The Palm Beach Story:

    "Tipping is un-American."

    Do with that what you will.

  3. One Christmas season the UPS guy knocked on my door to ask if the box of chocolates he'd found in his truck came from me. It was the first hint that maybe I should have been giving him a gift, too. Sheesh! Who knew?

  4. Go-Lo, what is an appropriate tip for someone who, every Monday, writes a blog which draws you in like a Siren's song?

    And now, the tip of the day:
    Since the UPS guy "didn't know," you should have said, "Well of course I left them in your truck; you like chocolate don't you?"

  5. Oh, Jon, you wise and witty sage. If only I had known. My honesty defeats me...

    Siren's song, siren's song. I'll hum the tune all day long.

  6. Thanks, Patty - I've just started wrangling with the issue of what to give to whom. My husband thinks I overtip people - well, once a waitress, always a good tipper. When I was a kid, my mother would leave a bottle of beer for each of the dustmen (trash collectors), because people didn't leave money-tips then. You gave food - a packet of biscuits for the postman, a candy bar for the paper-boy. The only time my brother didn't bail out of his paper route on a Sunday morning, leaving it to the big sister to protect the family's good name, was at Christmas.

    Oh, and Jon - tips and other seasonal gratuities can be sent to the Naked Authors Retirement and Benevolent Fund, c/o Patty (Hon. Treasurer).

  7. A very useful post today.

    Scott, the UPS man, always has a treat for my intellectually challenged mutt, Nikki. So how could I not tip the fellow?

    As for hints, the water delivery man said this the other day after dropping off the bottles: "Well, I guess I won't be seeing you until next year..."

    Still standing there, not moving a muscle.

    Oh! I hastily open the wallet.

  8. I'll have to get with my tax advisor and CPA, to see how a gift to the Naked Authors Retirement and Benevolent Fund would fit into my bottom line.....that Fund is a recognized non-profit charity?

    In the mean time here are my offerings/ tips to the Naked Authors:

    Go-Lo, My tip for you is this idea: Let's approach Mattel and offer them a PR coupe with a new "Get the Lead Out" campaign. We give them a 12 inch action figure named Go-Lo: the Writer Woman, dressed in a smart but sexy suit and holding a #2 lead pencil.....she keeps the Internet literary world safe from dangling participles and split infinitives. Demand a $250k advance, 2% of gross sales, 5% of all licensing deals with crossover advertizers, creative license and 20% royalties on all future media works using your likeness as Writer Woman.

    Paul: my tip is to counterbalance your inner Camus with Frankl's, Man Search for Meaning.....also, recall those famous words from Santa Anna:"tome el Aggies y los puntos."

    Cornelia: my tip to you would be a bag of peyote buttons to make your already eclectic and coulourful blogs, TECHNICOLOR.

    Jim,your tip is: .......they are opening a new Waffle House in Delray Beach.....some talk about a new addition to the the menu: a Born {Bourne?] plate------ if you can identify what's in it and the total number of points your cholesterol will spike after you eat it, then "lunch is on the House!"

    And for Our Dear J, Kuan Yu has ponied up a "come to class whenever you want" pass.....which was notarized by Visnu, and approved by those of the inner sanctum at Valhalla. ....I also have it on good authority that the best Depth Psychology can be found OUTSIDE the Church of Scientology in classes necessary.


  9. Beer? How brilliant, Our J. Paulie, I guess I won't see you until next year..., like we're writers. Of course it's a charity. Youz a funny and creative guy.

  10. Aw, Jon, THANK YOU!!! I want to take them with Tony Soprano in the desert outside Vegas...

    I am terrible at tipping. I want to tip everyone else my entire paycheck, when I have one. Yes, I am an ex-waitress. And of course an ex-chamber maid at the Tickle Pink Hotel, to make my guilt even huger.

    Thank you for this, Patty!

  11. Jon,
    The Aggies will fall at the Alamo.

    By....oh, I don't know....5 1/2 points.

  12. The Tickle Pink Hotel, Miss C? I am so TOTALLY envious. Are they still accepting applications? Sounds like the perfect place for a board meeting of the NAR&BF.

  13. I prefer Holiday Tippling to Holiday Tipping. But your post today will be a fine guide to the latter of those, Patty.

    Louise Ure

  14. As a one-time pizza delivery dude, I used to wonder at how much some people would tip me for coming out in a blizzard--as much as I did at those who didn't.

    As an occasional waiter, I also always wondered why people didn't grasp that they were tipping not only for the service during their visit--but for cleaning up the mess afterwards. Of course, some of my waitpersons have dountless wondered why I didn't tip them more, as well.

    I do have to suspect that at many places today, holiday tipping has replaced the tradition of an actual Christmas bonus from the boss...

    Er, Patty, do you happen to still have still have any pics from those Burien Black Angus days? Just for the sake of accurately illustrating today's blog, of course.

  15. Louise, I agree. Tippling beats tipping any day. Jeff, I'm off to look through my photo albums in search of cow skirts. Stay tuned.

  16. Umm, I believe I can speak with some authority that chocolate and it's various byproducts - cookies, brownies, etc. - are always good tip items for certain independent booksellers. At least they certainly are at Seattle Mystery...

    But thank you for the tip guide, Patty!

    *going back into lurker mode*

  17. Fran, if we Nakeds had only known that brownies were the key to your heart, you'd be up to your ears in them by now.