Your Guide – Tips for Holiday Tipping (and My Story Working for Tips)


This week, I’m reviewing all of the people who provide me with services, and figuring out how much to tip them.  The following are my tips for holiday tipping.

At holiday time, it’s appropriate to tip service providers that you see on a regular basis.  And avoiding services in December in order to weasel out of tipping someone who provides you with services throughout the year is frowned upon.

Read on and see my story on working for tips and who I think you should give a little extra to for the holidays.

Tips for tipping this holiday season

My Story Working for Tips

As a college student, I worked as a waitress at a chain restaurant billed as a great place for families.  I busted my hump for $2.13 an hour and the hope of tips.

I felt lucky to get a 10% tip (the minimum at the time), because I lived in Southern Utah and most visitors to the restaurant just left $2, no matter the size of the bill, how many kids I had to clean up after at the end of the meal, or how fast the food came out.  I gave prompt service with a smile, and most of the time it didn’t matter.  I was tipped the same whether I was grumpy and the food was slow, or whether I was happy and the food was great.

But that was a low-end restaurant.

Later, when I worked at a high-class establishment, the tips were much, much better.  However, I had to tip out to everyone: The hostess, the busboys, the bartender.  By the time I was done doing that, I didn’t do much better than the chain restaurant.  Mainly because no one ever came to the high-end restaurant.  At the time, no one wanted to pay those prices for restaurant food in Southeast Idaho (the restaurant only lasted a year).

My experiences as a waitress make the current debate over tipping interesting to me.

Some restaurants are moving away from tipping, and instead adding a “service charge” to bills, or raising food prices, and paying their servers a higher wage.

But what does that mean for restaurant-goers. Is this depriving them of their right to express their opinions of service through financial means?

Tipping as a Reflection of Service

The argument for tipping is that it encourages good service.

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Servers will work harder to ensure a pleasant dining experience if they know a good tip is coming.  In some ways, I can see that.  When a tour bus pulled up to the restaurant in Southern Utah, I got excited and took my service up a notch.  After all, I knew that these would be folks willing to leave a decent tip.  Even those from countries that don’t normally tip were great because the tour operators told them what’s acceptable in American culture, and they were quite enthusiastic about the practice.

On the other hand, when local parents brought in their four kids, I didn’t get too fussed about providing great service because I knew the tip wouldn’t be very high.

But, I was only paid $2.13 an hour, and it was a calculation.  Which table is going to provide the best tipping opportunity?  That’s the table I would focus on; I treated diners differently.  If I was being paid a higher wage, and not relying on tips, I like to think that I would have treated everyone the same, and been reasonably cheerful for each customer.  After all, when I was paid a flat hourly rate as a cashier, I treated everyone similarly when they came through the line.

I think there are ample arguments for and against tipping as a way to encourage better service.

It really depends on the person, I think.  Although there is something to be said for the thought experiment that involves tipping professionals like doctors and lawyers for doing a “better” job.

So, Who Should You Tip?

The general rule is that you tip anyone who provides you with regular services throughout the year.

This includes newspaper carriers, hair stylists, the school bus driver, elevator operators in your apartment building, babysitters and nannies, the UPS guy that regularly picks up packages from your business, and maybe even your postal carrier.

Some of the people on my tipping list include:

  • Woman who does my monthly mani/pedi
  • Milk delivery driver
  • Schwan guy
  • Regular babysitter
  • Postal carrier
  • Newspaper carrier

Consider your relationship with the person in question.

I have yet to visit the same hairstylist — and I only have my hair trimmed once or twice a year.  As a result, holiday tipping isn’t something required by etiquette, although I might tip a little more than normal (in the name of holiday cheer) if I decide to have my hair done in December.

Remember that holiday tipping is a way of showing your appreciation for services rendered — and an indication that you hope to continue the relationship.

How Much Should You Tip?

holiday tipping

What are your tips for holiday tipping?

The next issue, of course, is that of how much to tip.

How much you tip depends on the types of service rendered, as well as how often they are provided.  Remember that your holiday tip should be on top of the regular appointment cost plus regular tip.

The Protocol School of Texas, as well as the Emily Post Institute, can provide you with insight into holiday tipping.

Here are a few guidelines to help you as you get ready to spread a little love around this holiday season:

Hairstylist, Manicurist/Pedicurist, Massage Therapist:

Your extra holiday tip should amount to the cost of one appointment.

House Cleaner:

Regular house cleaners should receive what amounts to one week of pay as a tip.

Nanny:

Same rule as house cleaners: One week of pay — minimum.  Also, it’s a nice touch to have your child give a thoughtful gift.

Babysitter:

We don’t have a nanny, but we have a neighborhood girl who comes over once or twice a month to babysit our son while we go out.  With a regular babysitter, you can pay twice as much as usual, or consider giving a gift card of between $25 and $50, depending the sitter’s age, and frequency he or she works for you.

Dog Walker:

When someone walks your dog regularly (or takes care of some other pet) tip one week’s pay.

Newspaper Carrier:

It depends on whether you tip throughout the year.  If you don’t tip throughout the year, a bigger tip at the holidays is good idea.  In any case, a holiday tip of between $20 and $40 is warranted.

Delivery Drivers:

Regular delivery drivers, such as milk delivery, UPS/FedEx, Schwan’s (and other food delivery) should be tipped between $25 and $50.  Consider how often these drivers stop by, and how much they do.  If you take a lot of packages from UPS, or send out a lot of packages, you should tip more.  Our milk delivery driver comes twice a week, and sometimes has to drop off other items, such as cheese, bread or jam, so $25 doesn’t exactly cut it.

Building Staff:

If you live in a building that features attendants, porters and other service providers, you need to hand the tips around.  Consider who helps you most often, and your relationship with that person.  Average tipping for the resident manager/super is between $75 and $175; tips for the concierge/doorman should be $50 and $150; the porter should be tipped between $20 and $50; and consider tipping the garage attendant between $25 and $75.

Many people also like to tip a little extra for good service at bars and restaurants, as part of the holidays.  Especially if you are a “regular” at an establishment, it doesn’t hurt to be a little more generous.

What About Tipping Public Sector Workers?

Many people like to tip garbage collectors as well.  Before you do this, though, you need to find out what the city policy is on this.  In some cities, it’s acceptable to tip the garbage collectors (usually when a non-government company is in charge); in other places it’s illegal.  Find out what the policy is by calling the entity responsible for garbage pick-up and get ideas of what’s acceptable — and how it can be delivered.

Realize that it’s illegal to give postal workers money.  USPS carriers can receive gifts valued at less than $20, however.  There are a number of thoughtful gifts priced at less than $20.  And, of course, you can always give baked goods.

Usually, tipping a teacher is not encouraged.  You can go in with other parents in the class and purchase a big gift card from everyone, or you can provide a small gift from the child.  (Check with your local district as they are the ones that will set the limits on teacher gifts.)

Last year we gave my son’s teachers (his school teacher and his piano teacher) a small collection of locally-made gourmet preserves.  It was unique, and the teachers appreciated them.

Final Word on Holiday Tipping

It can feel like you’re inundated with a ton of extra people you need to tip and get gifts for come the holidays.  Try to think of how hard they work to make your day a little easier and show them some appreciation.

What do you think about holiday tipping?

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Published or updated December 21, 2014.

Comments

  1. I never tip, under any circumstances. Why should I? I am already paying good money for the service, so why should the person providing the service EXPECT anything more?

    Tipping is wrong, for so many reasons. It encourages mediocracy. It makes people accept a low-life career path, instead of pushing them to go further and work harder.

    Readers, ask yourself, do YOU get tipped for doing your JOB? I certainly don’t. I am educated, I work hard, I make great money, and would never expect (or accept) anything more.

    The only “tip” I would give someone who accepts working in a job where tipping is common is to go back to school, get educated, and go find a real meaningful, fulfilling, career…not just a “job”. Work hard, EARN your income, and don’t expect me, or anyone else, to give you anything extra.

    • Don’t listen to Dave. He obviously is a bitter person without proper etiquette. Tipping for people who provide services for you, work hard and are loyal are deserving of tips and/or holiday bonuses. A housekeeper for example works extremely hard, doing work that is hard on their bodies and if self employed work most often don’t receive sick or vacation pay. This is a luxury service and if you can afford one you certainly should show your appreciation for their hard work that makes your life so much easier.

      • Dave is so miserly cheap! People who never tip are so rude and ignorant. I always tip those who provide a personal service for me. For example, the people who do my hair and nails, food delivery service person & the newspaper delivery man. As a former waitress, I always tip the wait staff. They work very hard for their money. Those who don’t tip should be embarrassed to go into that establishment again after after being so ill mannered that they can’t even leave a tip. What an embarrassment that type of person would be on a date, or going out with friends.

    • Laura Bowman says:

      Dave,
      Something got lost in your “education”. You appear to be so full of yourself that you don’t even realize how many people in “lesser jobs” make your life easier – the person who fixes your car, the person who fixes your toilet, the person who cuts your hair, the people who make and serve your food, and the people who clean your office, just to name a few.

      Many, MANY real meaningful, fulfilling careers do not require a college education – and they are just as critical to keeping our lives running smoothly.

      For example, every year, I present our plumber with a big tin of homemade chocolate chip cookies. These are his absolute favorites. And, he comes to our house to fix problems on short notice – and on evenings and weekends. Do we pay him a fair wage? Sure. BUT – we also appreciate him and respect his knowledge of plumbing, and he knows we care.

      By the way, I don’t believe for one moment that if your employer offered you a Christmas bonus, that you would turn it down as “unearned income”.
      As a result, you just sound like you’re full of hot air.

  2. David Leonhardt says:

    I do tip, but I feel much like Dave above. Why do we tip some people for doing their job and not others. It is easy yo say, “Yeah, but they make so little without tips, waiters and bellhops,” but if we didn’t tip, their employers would be forced to pay them more — or they simply would not have any employees.

  3. Dave, if you don’t want to tip then don’t. It’s not required. Some of us enjoy doing it. I don’t feel a need to judge others based on their career or job choices, and I feel sorry for you that you do apparently feel a need to criticize others based on the way they earn an honest dollar. I very much appreciate the guys who work for the company that I contract with to collect my trash every week and generously tip them to show that appreciation. The same goes for my milkman and various other service providers. They are all providing needed services and are a valuable part of our work force and of my daily life. I don’t consider any of them beneath me, but I kinda feel that you may be beneath them and me based on the tone of your comments.

  4. I just switched hair stylists a few months ago, so I gave him about a third of an appointment.

  5. I tip on food and stuff, but never really on hair. My fiancee barely tips on hair either–but she goes to the owner of the place. I cannot imagine tipping DOUBLE the amount. That would be over $100 total for some places. That is ludicrous.

  6. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says:

    I’m not sure I even know who my postal person is. I think it’s fair to tip those who you interact with face to face. Or a nice card would be nice.

  7. Kevin Mzansi says:

    I used to find it strange that people were being given a tip for doing their job, until I worked in the service industry myself. You have no idea what a difference a couple of $s make, especially in December and January. Think of it, rather, as “paying it forward” or “spreading the holiday cheer”. It’s all about how you frame it!

  8. Wow, I would never tip a postal service person- they are always different people, I find.

    I think they might be freaked out if I open the door as they are stuffing my mailbox with mail and give them money.

    Or maybe not? LOL

  9. I love these posts that show up every year at this time and tell us how much to tip our “doormen”. You know, for the six people west of the Hudson River who have doormen.

  10. The exuberant prices that some restaurants charge have the tip included in them. You don’t have to tip if you don’t want to. It’s basically a social thing and not necessarily a financial one.

  11. I do not normally give money tips to garbage collectors and postal workers during Christmas season. Instead, we give them cookies, cakes, truffles, or fudges and put them in colorful containers. We do the same thing for my children’s teachers.

  12. Amy Beckner says:

    Wow! I’m always surprised and disappointed in my fellow humans when I read the comments.

    I always tip.

    Yes, I am a value shopper and yes, I pride myself on not being wasteful.

    Yet, I find that treating others the way I would want to be treated or the way I would want my offspring to be treated works best for me. It always seems to come back around in my favor.

    What you sow you shall reap.

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