Monday, December 21, 2009

To tip, or not to tip?

Awww….the holidays…the time of mulled cider, bedazzled trees, and…tipping? I am posting this out of purely neurotic selfishness. I never know who, and how much, to tip. There are the basics: I understand you tip extra for your hairdresser, and from reading on Emily Post it seems only the truly Grinch-like don’t get a small gift for their young children’s teachers, but what about the mail carrier? The garbage collectors? And everyone in between?

Last year we did not tip our mailman. I took an informal poll at work, and it seemed maybe two-thirds of my department did tip, and I guess the rest of us were just heartless. I don’t know our mailman (we are never home when the mail is delivered), but we did receive a card in the mail right before the holidays from him wishing us a merry Christmas. Since I am raggedy old cynic I quipped that he must be digging for a tip. Matt, my angelic other half, said he was just wishing us a nice holiday. I told him to “shut it” and said he is now most certainly not getting a tip, citing things like 1) the card (obviously), 2) the fact he probably makes more than me anyway (who knows, but checking the USPS rates – yes, which my sick self did – it’s possible), and 3) we were poor (we are not really poor, and it’s an insult to those who are, but I say it anyway in order to snatch free food from my mom’s pantry).

Now a year has passed, and my cold heart has melted a bit. Maybe it’s finally wanting kids, or just another year with Matt, who won’t say a mean word about anybody (except about the Guidos and Guidettes on “Jersey Shore”, which I make him watch, and you betchya he enjoys it, and for the actress Katherine Heigel which he has an odd fuming distaste for), so I’m re-evaluating my coal-in-the-stocking ways.

Then there’s the trash collectors. They have a truly awful job, but we pay an arm and a leg for trash pick-up (although I’m sure that never sees their pockets), and we only put our trash out every OTHER week since we don’t have a lot. I’m also puzzled at the logistics of tipping the trash collectors. Do you tape an envelope to the can? What if they don’t see it, or worse, it goes in the truck with the rest of the garbage? I’m also rationalizing not giving them a tip because we only put our trash out every other week, giving them a “gift” on weeks off. Don’t say it, I know: I’m awful.

And it’s not about the measly 20 bucks, or anything, and when Matt and I eat out we always, always tip 20%, but I guess it runs on principal. There has to be a cut-off: for a hair dresser, a personal trainer (which I think I will purchase a small gift for), or a newspaper delivery person, they are providing a service for you that is extra, right? It’s right to acknowledge them during the holidays, but where does it end? Looking online, it doesn’t. Also, that Emily Post MUST be a multi-millionaire.

So please let me know what you do to acknowledge the mail carrier and any other folks in your tipping/gifting arena. I put a snazzy poll on the side of the blog (well, it’s snazzy for me, anyway). And please leave a comment if you have good gift ideas. I’m thinking a gift card to Wawa or Dunkin’ Donuts may be nice. Oh, and Happy Holidays (isn't that what it's all about?!)!


  1. Hi Kathryn!
    This is a question I have asked MANY people this year!!! I MIGHT give both my mail man and trash guys a little something....but haven't decided yet. Tough decision, and fabulous BLOG post!

    Leigh Ann

  2. I started tipping my mail carrier about 10 years ago because (in the olden days) I did a lot of mail orders, hence many catalogues and packages. So I started with $10 and worked my way up to $20, I often see him during the day or around town and he is very friendly. In past years Dave has given the garbage collectors a 6 pack of beer, not sure if he still does. But I know what you mean, where does it stop? I also keep my UPS man very busy and may tip him this year. But I was surprised when the AAA guy came out to install a new battery and was clearly miffed when I didn't tip. Going on the internet, turns out many would have tipped him. But I must admit to stiffing my hairdresser--I purposely don't get my haircut during the holidays!


  3. I never tip unless its like a delivery or at a resturant. I've never tipped my mail person because its usually 3 or 4 different people and for a while they never got our addresses correct. My trash people, well, they're messy and randonly toss the can wherever. So no, no money for them. I do tip my hairdresser, but I really hate the hair cut I just got, but I still tipped her.

  4. I tip our paper carrier, always have. In the past it was a teenager, then for many years a retiree, and now I don't know who. These people are obviously working to supplement their family income. I mean, who in their right mind is out and about in freezing weather at 6 a.m.? I also tipped the AAA guy when I needed a flat tire changed a couple times. I gave the woman who colors my hair a $20 gift card--she owns the shop and I don't tip otherwise. I'm happy with the new young woman who cuts my hair and added and extra $5 to my usual tip. As to the mailman, a definite "NO". They receive excellent wages, benefits, and retirement, and I believe there's a limit on the monetary value of what they can accept. All he does is stuff the mail in the mailbox, from his truck. I would feel differently if he walked the route, and especially if I were elderly and he kind of kept an "eye out" for my welfare. I took an informal poll at work on tipping the mailman, and here in the Easton area no one does. As far as teachers go, they are also compensated well, but I gave gifts to your teacher up to fifth grade, but stopped when you got to the middle school and had several teachers. The room mother organized a joint gift when your sister was in elementary school, and I think that's the way to go. People around here (from my poll) also don't tip trash collectors routinely, but do tip when they put out a lot of garbage due to moveing or remodeling.


  5. Loving the responses so far; thank you! And so far the poll results are about even. Although I wouldn't say the mailman's salary is "excellent", it is decent (and I have to admit, I'm slightly envious....maybe there's a career change in there?). Maybe that's a pet peeve of mine: there are a lot of us in the private sector who make less and receive no pension, etc. Regardless, that's not really the point. I think if we knew the mailman we may tip, but I don't even recall his name (which I only knew for a short while because it was written on his holiday card). I mean, I would have to write "mailman" on the card, which says a lot in and of itself. That, coupled with the fact he has a FT job not employed by me (so he's not providing an extra service to me) and may indeed be making more than me (however insensitive or classless you may think I am for saying that), is probably going to prevent me from tipping. I think holiday tips were originally established to help those who have service-oriented job during the holidays, or to say thanks for a terrific job.

    Especially in a year when personally I've experienced financial cuts, I think I'll pass and perhaps re-evaluate in the future. Thank you all!!!

  6. I know back in the day my mom would bake cookies for the mailman. But I have never tipped them. Though thinking about it, our mail person always takes the trouble to drive up to our house when there is a package, which is very nice of them since it is quite a trip!
    David and I actually cut out our garbage collection--I will not comment further on a public blog.
    At this point I go to one of those places where a different person cuts my hair every time. I do tip whenever I get it cut, but I don't do anything special at Christmas.
    I think MONG makes a good point about the paper carriers--everyone I know who does it works very hard, at crazy hours, and needs the money.
    I know that David always tips the tow truck guy when we need his services, which is, unfortunately, a couple times a year.

  7. Of course I tip my hairdresser and colorist extra over the holidays. I also tip the newspaper boy and give a $20 gift card to my daughter's teacher. But my rule with others is as follows. Unless you go above the call of duty for me during the year, I don't tip. For example, my daughter was seeing a lot of the school nurse this past fall and I had also spoken to her a few times. Hence, I gave her a $25 gift card. But I did not tip her bus driver, and I was one of the very few who did not. I felt the bus driver takes her to school every day but she is just one of the masses who gets no extra treatment. Two years ago, she had a very friendly bus driver who even dressed up as Santa. He got a tip.

    As far as restaurants go, I usually tip 20%. If surface is exceptionally good, I may round up the bill so it could even be higher. However, if surface is bad, which it was just yesterday at a luncheon, my friend and I tipped just 10%. Our waitress kept forgetting about us.

  8. This is terrific: it seems there's really a mix of tipping procedures. We were baking cookies and ended up giving Barry (our mailman - and yes, we got the annual holiday card, obviously) some cookies. I don't know if how he feels about eating cookies from strangers, but I hope he enjoys them! I feel much better about that than tipping, per se.

    Although I pay pretty darn handsomely to have a trainer, only 1/2 of that sees her pocketbook and she's terrific: she got a gift.

    We don't get the paper, but I would certainly tip if I did, and yes, absolutely 20% at restaurants: I was a waitress for a couple years while in college (at a diner, and doing the 10 pm to 5 am shift) and I don't think there's a much harder job, at times.

    And of course I tip my hair dresser, etc.

    Anonymous, thank you for inputting. Agreed: if someone goes above and beyond, or their service relies on tips, etc, a tip is in order, and that's how I'd like to approach it (and not just blindly tipping everyone during the holidays b/c it's the cultural norm). Sometimes I think we've gone tip crazy.