A Guide for Holiday Tipping

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Peter Post, a director of The Emily Post Institute and author of Essential Manners for Men and The Etiquette Advantage in Business: Personal Skills for Professional Success, among other books; and Jodi R. R. Smith, president and owner of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting and author of From Clueless to Class Act: Manners for the Modern Man and From Clueless to Class Act: Manners for the Modern Woman, discuss the etiquette of holiday tipping and explain who we should tip and how much—from hairdressers to doormen to babysitters to bartenders.


Peter Post and Jodi R. R. Smith

Comments [61]

dana from forest hills

leonard, should we tip you, and also brian lehrer, for all the great work you've done this year?

Dec. 17 2010 12:42 AM

i found this out when on my buildings co-op board. The board of directors many times gives the super and the managing agent a ti, maybe more employees. You will not know this as a share holder unless you make sure you get the incidental expense sheet, which you are entitled too. i was against the managing agent getting a tip, especially when he sent a memo to the BOD explaining that a tip was customary tor the managing agent and how much he expected. i brought up this memo out at the next BOD meeting, his old school boss was in attendance, he was not happy with his employee.
The super if he does work for the building above and beyond his contractual duties (union shop) i had no problem tipping.
i also tipped him personally since he was very helpful and offered to help me with anything.

Dec. 16 2010 01:06 PM
JD Gershon from Manhattan

I am a waitress in NYC. You would be surprised how many people in this city don't understand that service is (usually) not included in restaurant bills and that tips are how servers make money (along with the very limited -- 1/2 the minimum wage -- $4.65/hr waiter wage). It's one thing for a customer to tip low because of bad service. It is totally different (unethical?) for a customer to tip low because they are looking to save money or just uninformed. Please do a story focusing on this. Best after the holidays when people are tightening the belt even more and business slows down for the season. Cheers.

Dec. 16 2010 12:55 PM
Leeann lavin

This was an interesting segment, thank you. However, I was hoping that your guests would have provided some real advice -- a dollar range for tipping doorman, super, hair stylists vs. just give what you can. It's all a stretch. Wanted to know what was the norm/average and what is expected.

Dec. 16 2010 12:48 PM
Inquisigal from Brookyn

Re. Tipping wedding vendors; it's one thing to tip the waitstaff and bartenders, but the florist and DJ? I was offended when our wedding DJ told us what his suggested tip was. I'm a photographer, and when I estimate jobs, I estimate what my rate is, with no expectation of a tip. A hearty "thank you, I love the shots" is plenty of thanks. Any vendor who thinks they deserve a tip for a job they themselves budgeted should simply raise their rate. And people should not feel bullied into tipping a florist who billed you $5000 for a one-time job.

Dec. 16 2010 12:43 PM

Today's show on tips has raised my hackles. I think you have really exposed emotional CLASS ISSUES. Many of the people you are assuming should be tipped earn far more than I do these days. I would rather give some additional money to a charity.

Dec. 16 2010 12:41 PM

What if you don't celebrate Xmas? Or is this more about being grateful and less about celebrating the holiday?

Dec. 16 2010 12:41 PM
Jim from NJ

I work in catering. Caterers as business owners should not get tipped, waitstaff often are stiffed by the caterer who 'collect' on their behalf and pocket the extra procedes

Dec. 16 2010 12:41 PM
Den from Manhattan

Tipping should be based on the quality of service. Just listening to everyone, it seems people are afraid of getting a worse service if they didn't tip. Holidays are just one more excuse. If someone does a good job, I have no problem with tipping but in general most of service we get are very low.

Dec. 16 2010 12:40 PM
Amy from Manhattan

If I regularly go to an apt. bldg. for an app't., should I tip the doorman? I often have short, friendly conversations w/him, but I don't know if it's a "tipping" kind of relationship.

Dec. 16 2010 12:38 PM
Lynne Harriton from mid-town Manhattan

I have lived in same building for 35 years. Many people are young & don't tip; many older are poor & give small tips. We get a list of who is full-time and the # of days others work. I gave $100 to each full-time person (including lowest level job; he works just as hard) & $120 to doorman. I know I am one of higher tippers. Problem: this year. I've had no full-time roommate. But, I've been renting out apt through airbnb.com (have made about 1/3 of my rent this way). This is not strictly legal as I rent my apartment. Must I give even more this year, as every single person has helped my part-time tenants in one way or another; i.e., I tried to keep it secret but of course that didn't work. So, money made is less, but "favor" is more... what should I do?

Dec. 16 2010 12:37 PM

gee, leonard, i live in a horrible building with an absent, alcoholic landlord. what to do, what to do??

Dec. 16 2010 12:36 PM

The issue is relatively straightforward . How you are treated will most likely reflect the tip you give. I worked in an apartment building for almost 5 years will going to art school. I thought generally when I received 20-30 dollars I was satisfied as a doorman/porter. My boss, the super was usually satisfied with a 50 dollar tip.

Dec. 16 2010 12:36 PM
Cupcake from Brooklyn

Thank you for the response. I have a new perspective on tipping as a way for me to be thankful and appreciative of what people have done for me.

Dec. 16 2010 12:36 PM
Mauricio from 11105

I think this is a rather ridiculous conversation. Gifts are gifts for a reason. Tips should be made year-round, especially for waiters. Having worked in the food/hospitality business on and off for years I can tell you that there are certain jobs, such as servers in restaurants, where in income is solely based on tip money. Many others, such as cabs, have salary jobs. Salaries don't need tips. Waiters need tips. Never forget the waiter!

Dec. 16 2010 12:35 PM
Larry from Brooklyn

This segment suggests we tip everyone we come into contact with. More important question: who do we NOT tip?

Dec. 16 2010 12:35 PM
Amy from Manhattan

If manners are still so different for women & for men that there are separate books for them, just how "modern" are they really?

Dec. 16 2010 12:35 PM
Beth from Manhattan

I live in a big Manhattan building. We have to tip an army of doormen, concierges, maintenance, security. Maybe a dozen total. But we have had no interaction with the superintendant for two years, and what little interaction I have had has not been great. He's a bit surly. I would rather tip the rest of the crew, especially the ones who give us stellar service, not the manager. Is this a mistake?

Dec. 16 2010 12:31 PM

This is not realistic. I live in a big building and there are multiple porters, handymen, etc. They don't do anything for me, and the door is automatic. Why tip? They are often surly, and hold grudges.

I don't want to be bullied into this.

Dec. 16 2010 12:31 PM
sasha from New York

I get a card every year from my building with a list of all the workers in the building. Do I need to give them cash or is is ok to write checks and give it to the super to hand out? I am concerned that if I need to give cash I would need to hand it out to each person individually and that is always a difficult task.

Dec. 16 2010 12:30 PM
Cupcake from Brooklyn

Why is it that we have to make up people's salaries? Why aren't businesses and corporations paying people enough and giving them bonuses at the end of the year rather than relying on us to do that?

Dec. 16 2010 12:30 PM

The workers in my building send out holiday cards with a list of the people in the building.

There are 15 people on the list! Fifty dollars for each adds up to $750!

That's more than I'll give to my own family.

Dec. 16 2010 12:29 PM
lauren from ditmas park

i just moved into a new apt on dec 1. do i tip my new super, even though i have only been here for a month?

Dec. 16 2010 12:28 PM
sal from brooklyn

NYC Sanitation trash collectors - Should we? it feels like it's expected if you don't want poor service, pails damaged. etc?

Dec. 16 2010 12:27 PM
Steph from Brooklyn

Should I tip the group of 3-6 woman who wash and fold my dropped off laundry every week? I give them a tip every week for their services when I pick up my laundry. And I if I do tip for the holidays how do I make sure the money is given to all the women when I don't know who the supervisor is? Should I just tip one of them and ask them to distribute to the other ladies?

Dec. 16 2010 12:26 PM
Kevin K from Staten Island

The person who delivers your paper does so 365 days a year. The are acually subcontracters who have to buy the paper for alittle less then what it actually costs. They make $1 or $2 a week and don't get paid by the newspaper company. They depend on the tips for most of their money.
The also get a Tax form from the Newspaper and most declare the income.

Dec. 16 2010 12:26 PM
judy from manhattan

Judy again about the parking garage-they have an envelope to share tips. Your guests said $20- Should I multiply the $20 x the number of guys who work there?
(PS: car is a 2002 Subaru)

Dec. 16 2010 12:26 PM
Mia from Manhattan

We have the same cleaning person on our floor in my office all year - are we expected to tip her too?

If so, how much?

Dec. 16 2010 12:26 PM
Mike from Tribeca

In lieu of $$, each of the many people who work in our large apartment building is given a tin of my wife's delicious home-made sugar cookies (her grandmother's recipe). After 17 years, no complaints yet!

Dec. 16 2010 12:25 PM
Paula B from new york

What if you live in a large building and there are 18 people on staff? My building gives a list of all the doormen, the super, the super's assistant, handyman, porters etc.
How much am I expected to give?

Dec. 16 2010 12:25 PM
joelle from NYC

How much free time do these people have?

I haven't had time to shop for my children yet and now I'm supposed to buy all these other gifts? Bake cookies? Not to mention the expense.

I might get the people that I work with that I really like a small gift, but the idea that everyone who hands you your car keys should be expecting $10.00 from me is really too much.

Dec. 16 2010 12:25 PM
tricia from Brooklyn

Please no gifts !!!!!!!!!! Your school bus driver etc needs to pay his or her bills and does not need aftershave or gloves. It's a great thought though.

Dec. 16 2010 12:24 PM

Had your guests read: David Sedaris and His Book Tour Tip Jar ?http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/david-sedaris-and-his-book-tour-tip-jar_b19252
Sedaris stopped the practice when he '...started hating people who didn’t tip me.' Better to tip then not!

Dec. 16 2010 12:23 PM
B.A. Schoen from Baldwin

My school district has a policy, which I helped craft as a member of the Board of Education, prohibits gifts to teachers of more than nominal ($5.00) value.
I know this rule is often ignored but we spent time coming up with it, heard comments, asked questions and expressed our individual values before we codified it.
People should understand: if they ignore the rule they put unintended pressure on their child's teacher.
We considered the expense and pressure on parents of lesser means and the perception that some child might get special consideration when we set that limit.
Public Education underpins the American Dream that we aspire to a meritocracy where family is not destiny.
If one must, a gift to a school or a charity in a teacher's name might be a better alternative.

Dec. 16 2010 12:23 PM
barbara from New Jersey

Elementary School bus drivers: We share a bus stop with another school and each group of parents has their own solution. One contributes ten dollars per family and a card signed by each child. The other contributes five dollars per child and buys a coffee gift card.

Dec. 16 2010 12:22 PM

It's unfortunate but you don't tip a super for what he does for you but what he doesn't do to you.

Dec. 16 2010 12:22 PM
ellen from Park slope

Should I tip my postman, who does a great job?

Dec. 16 2010 12:21 PM
Susan from Bushwick

We have a pretty good super in a terrible building -- an illegal loft in Bushwick, in fact. We were thinking $50. Is the tip a down payment on future service?

Dec. 16 2010 12:21 PM
Paul from Manhattan

Do we need to tip our building employees who do the basics of their job (super, concierge, etc) but do not go above and beyond in helping us? For example, my concierge will see me struggling toward the door loaded with packages, but won't move to help with the door. Its not really his job (he isn't a doorman) but then again, it would be so helpful.

Dec. 16 2010 12:20 PM
Michael from Brooklyn

What about car services (gypsy cab) drivers?

I never know whether to tip these people or not. I always tip yellow cabs, but am never sure whether I should do so with car services or if it's included in the rate?

Dec. 16 2010 12:20 PM
elaine from chappaqua ny

I don't believe that anyone who "deserves" a tip would be happy with a box of cookies, homemade or not, in lieu of cash!
My refuse collectors certainly wouldn't!

Dec. 16 2010 12:20 PM
Melissa Feldman from Upper West Side

How about gifting doctors, especially if they've been attentive throughout the year
during various treatments? These are doctors
who know you well through weekly/monthly

Dec. 16 2010 12:20 PM
Paul from Manhattan

Do we need to tip our building employees who do the basics of their job (super, concierge, etc) but do not go above and beyond in helping us? For example, my concierge will see me struggling toward the door loaded with packages, but won't move to help with the door. Its not really his job (he isn't a doorman) but then again, it would be so helpful.

Dec. 16 2010 12:19 PM
Jane from Jersey City

We've got a maintenance and cleaning staff here at my apartment complex. I believe the apartment complex solicits tips which are then pooled.

However, there are certain guys who work in my building, and I've known them for several years. I'd like to give those individuals something, but I'm not sure if it's appropriate -- or even how to make sure they get the tip.

Is it okay to give a Target gift card, and if so, how much? I don't tip each time they come to perform work.

Dec. 16 2010 12:19 PM
Bruce from Kensington

I live in a large building with five handymen, four doormen and a super. I have a fixed income, so am thinking I should give $40 each. Is this appropriate?

Dec. 16 2010 12:18 PM

Talk about bad timing! My NYT weekend delivery person enclosed a holiday card with his address this past weekend when he forgot the Sunday sections on Saturday and delivered a wet paper on Sunday. Overall, it was a series of bad deliveries for 2010 that made us consider stopping delivery. We just had this discussion yesterday. Should we tip him?

Dec. 16 2010 12:18 PM
David from Manhattan

If you have a regular lunch spot, consider giving a few bucks to people you always see whose entire job is bussing tables. Sure, they often get a cut of all servers' tips, but that doesn't amount to much. A few bucks once at the end of the year is certainly manageable, and those people work hard for very little money.

Dec. 16 2010 12:18 PM
Brian from New York

We live in a building with a huge staff - 30-40 people. Some we know, some we don't. The building does not have a pooling policy. Can we pool a tip anyway (i.e., an amount for the porters, the custodians, etc.)? Also, we moved in a few months ago - can we pro rate?

Dec. 16 2010 12:17 PM
hardworker from manhattan

great segment, leonard. thank you. i work in my client's homes and am self-employed in this field. only one of my clients has become a dear friend, and i give small, but meaningful gifts to them and their children. my other clients are not as dear (or generous) and i wonder if it is necessary to gift these other clients. of course, i always give christmas and thank you cards, but i not inclined to give gifts to EVERY client. please advise, thank you!

Dec. 16 2010 12:17 PM

Should we tip our garbage men? - I've been having a 2 year problem that they haven't regularly been picking up the trash. I had stopped tipping them and my pick ups have been worse! My neighbors tell me that some of them do tip and most don't.
Secondly, I hate the tip containers at convenience stores, 7 Elevens, StarBucks, etc. I don't tip.

Dec. 16 2010 12:17 PM

I park in a garage and use the car once or twice a week. There are ~15 guys on the holiday card they gave us. Do I tip everyone or just the ones I know? How much?

Dec. 16 2010 12:17 PM
hardworker from manhattan

great segment, leonard. thank you. i work in my client's homes and am self-employed in this field. only one of my clients has become a dear friend, and i give small, but meaningful gifts to them and their children. my other clients are not as dear (or generous) and i wonder if it is necessary to gift these other clients. of course, i always give christmas and thank you cards, but i not inclined to give gifts to EVERY client. please advise, thank you!

Dec. 16 2010 12:17 PM
freestuffffff from downtown manhattan

Tips. Enough already. Wait staff in restaurants are the only people whose salary is comprised mostly of tips. Everybody else is being paid commensurate with the job they perform. Mail carriers are particularly well-compensated, with benefits, holidays, vacations, and pension better than most they are paid to serve. Their holding their hands out at the end of the year is nothing but a veiled threat that your mail will be "lost" in the coming year if you don't pay up.

Dec. 16 2010 12:16 PM
Jannette from West Park, NY

How about the tipping the drivers of the kids' school bus? How much is appropriate?
Or home contractors - a general contractor who does a bunch of home improvement projects for us over the year?


Dec. 16 2010 12:13 PM

Wow. The thought of tipping our mail delivery person in Williamsburg is absurd; postal service in 11211 is atrocious.

Dec. 16 2010 12:13 PM
Nancy from Manhattan

A super who doesn't live in the building, who you contact one or fewer times a year, and who often sends other people to handle any minor requests?

Dec. 16 2010 12:13 PM
judy from manhattan

I keep my car in a garage in East Harlem- it's a fairly cheap one. I only use the car on wknds. I don't tip each time I drop off or pick up- but do tip at XMAS. I am never sure what's the right amount. 7 guys work there.

My folks used to give a gift to the postman-usually baileys or something. I figure liquor is inappropriate- I haven't done that.should I? I live in a walk up with mailboxes...

Dec. 16 2010 12:13 PM
Blaine from Prospect Heights, BK

my girlfriend and moved into our building on November 15. Our building has a doorman til midnights everyday. How much should we tip each of the two doormen? We have a live in super who has never returned our calls. I don't feel he deserves a tip. His 20 year old son has been helpful and changed our locks for us. Should I tip him since he has actually been available and helpful? Are we laying the groundwork for our relationships over the next year? our building has 96 units.


Dec. 16 2010 12:12 PM
Lois from West Milford

Our garbage and recycling is picked up by a private company contracted by the town. Is it legal to give a cash tip to them, since they are not municipal employees?

Dec. 16 2010 12:11 PM
Andrea from Philadelphia

Is there a standard for the newspaper delivery person? I only get the Sunday Times which means two deliveries (Sat &Sun).

Dec. 16 2010 12:10 PM
Jake W from Manhattan

I'm not sure if this comments page works the same as Brian's (i.e., you read them during the show) but here goes:

I moved into a new doorman building this past Thursday and received the "Happy holidays from the staff" card in my mailbox the next day. I hardly know anyone on the staff yet. Am I expected to tip the entire staff when I literally just moved in? Maybe give them $20 each as a show of good will?

Dec. 16 2010 11:17 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.