Holiday Tipping: Yay or Nay?

by Michael on Dec 21, 2012 · 3 comments

Image of Gift with Happy Holidays

With Christmas just days away, I thought it would be timely to talk a bit about the practice of holiday tipping.

According to the etiquette gurus, you should be tipping a whole bevy of people. In fact, Emily Post lists 26 different categories of tip-ees.

Of course, many of these categories are far from universal. For example, we don’t have a pool cleaner, doorman, day care provider, elevator operator (what year is this, anyway?), dog walker, etc.

But we do have a woman that cleans our house every two weeks, a lawn service, trash collectors, a mailman, and a number of teachers.

So how do we handle it?

Well… We give Christmas gifts to our kids’ teachers — usually a small(ish) gift card and some chocolates, or something like that. But aside from that, we do very little holiday tipping.

This isn’t to say that I’m against tipping in general. I do recognize the importance tipping in (for example) restaurants where the waitstaff is paid a pittance and tips in return for good service round out their income.

But for people who are working a regular job? I have to admit that I don’t really get it. I don’t get tipped for doing my job (nor do I expect to be) so why am I expected to arbitrarily tip others at the holidays when they’re just doing their job?

The most common argument that I’ve heard is that holiday tips are a way of showing gratitude. Fine. But gratitude is (or at least should be) a two-way street.

Consider the case of our cleaning lady. We pay her a (more than) fair rate for cleaning our house every two weeks. We appreciate the service she provides, sure. But we also pay her a good bit more than a commercial cleaning service would cost.

I would hope that she appreciates the fact that she’s rewarded for doing a good job on an ongoing basis vs. getting nickel and dimed on her rate and then rewarded with a holiday tip once a year. If not, that’s unfortunate, but not really my concern.

As for our lawn service, the crew that does the work changes from time to time so it seems odd to be handing out tips to guys that showed up this time but weren’t here last time and might not be here next time.

The same goes for our trash service. As far as I can tell, the guys that cover our route change periodically, so tipping whoever happens to show up close to Christmas seems rather arbitrary, doesn’t it? And again, they’re just doing their job.

As for our mail carrier…

For starters, postal workers aren’t allowed to accept monetary tips, though they can accept non-monetary tips worth ≤$20. But even if they could accept tips, they’re paid quite well, so… Why exactly should we be tipping them for doing their job?

Okay, enough Grinch-iness from me. Are you a holiday tipper?

1 TTMK December 22, 2012 at 3:31 pm

I try to offer a holiday tip where warranted. I did that with day care, and have done this with teachers in the last few years – in the form a gift with the latter. They do such great work, Though, as I type this, I just now realize that I forgot to do with my oldest’s homeroom teacher this year. Now I feel bad about it. 🙂

2 Hank December 24, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Every year this debate rages. I try to limit the amount of tipping that I do to people whose primary means of earning income is derived from tips such as waiters, etc. I also like to tip people that I’ve expressly hired such as a music instructor, housekeeper, and the like. I’m not a fan of tipping the mail carrier or the garbage men as a general rule of thumb.

3 eemusings January 1, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Not being American, I really don’t understand tipping at all! Tipping somebody like a teacher over the holidays seems especially bizarre.

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