Are You Cutting Back On Tips This Season?

The end of the year is usually when you tip service providers, but if you’re on a reduced budget then you’re probably going to want to scale back this year. Here are some suggestions from etiquette experts contacted by Reuters.

  • If you’ve got the money, it’s pretty rotten to scale back your tips simply because times are tough. Etiquette author Mary Mitchell says, “Don’t use it as an excuse to save money then buy some Prada boots.”
  • Mitchell also says to focus first on those you don’t regularly tip, like housekeepers, personal trainers, babysitters, tutors, and doormen.
  • If you’re not sure, try to find out whether the person can accept cash; some teachers can’t, for example, and postal workers can accept gift cards of $20 or less. In cases where cash is a bad idea, try something hand made or a gift of some sort.
  • Don’t go into debt to tip; set aside your total tipping amount before hand, then divide it up as necessary.
  • Try tipping earlier in the season, since your recipients may also be worrying about who to tip.
  • Try to pool your resources with others. For example, if you and your neighbors pitch in, you can give your doorman or building super a nicer tip.

“Cutting holiday tips seen as chance to really say thank you” [Reuters]
(Photo: caseywest)

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  1. jeffjohnvol says:

    Not me. The wife and I have decent jobs, and I’m sure everyone’s tips are down this year, so I give 20% unless the service is crappy which goes to 10-15 %

  2. Megalomania says:

    I by default tip 15%+ to make the total an even multiple of $5 (e.g., 25% on a $16 bill) on most things. That said, I have no qualms about tipping 0 (or to make a point, up to the nearest dollar) when something ridiculous happens.

  3. MostlyHarmless says:

    I have never tipped service providers in the season. May be I should.

    But then I do not use a lot of services either where some person has to interact with me personally or indirectly.

    I should leave a gift card for the mail man. Add a gift of appreciation for the apartment office guys.

    Do not use services of teachers, tutors, housekeepers, personal trainers or doormen.

    Which other rather obvious tip deservee I am missing? (The apartment handyman guy I tip generously every time he shows up).

    • FatLynn says:

      @MostlyHarmless: I was going to leave a gift card for the mailman, but I am very certain that I have up to three different mail carriers each week, so it’s hardly fair to do so.

    • redskull says:

      @MostlyHarmless: These days I’m more likely to BE a housekeeper than to have one.

      I’m in the same boat as MostlyHarmless. I apparently live a very Spartan life, as I don’t interact with anyone on the tip list, other than the mailman. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the same mailman come to my house twice, and to be brutally honest they probably make twice as much as I do, so I feel no obligation to tip whatsoever. I have enough people gouging me for handouts these days.

  4. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Is some of this associated with age? I’m in my 20s, and I don’t reeally have any services to tip for, nor have I actually ever tipped at the end of the year for services of any kind. I tip whenever I get my nails done or when I go to the salon, but I have never seen my mailman, I don’t have babysitters, doormen, or anything else. We have a concierge in our apartment complex, but do we tip all of the concierges? And for what?

    • kalaratri says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: On the whole I don’t tip/seasonal gift people who are salaried or who are paid a reasonable hourly wage unless they regularly go over and above.

      The mail carrier who actually rings my doorbell and waits for me to answer even when the package doesn’t need a signature will get a small gift card. The sanitation workers who can’t even manage to come on time or put the lid back on my can so it doesn’t fill with rain, not so much.

    • Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: I’m not sure. I heard of this last year around Christmas time. It’s really not done in my area. My husband is a private piano teacher (falls under these kinds of lists) and he doesn’t get cash tips from people. Sometimes his students will bring him a present, but very very rarely would it be cash.

      The first year or so that Mr. Aroo was teaching he ended up getting tons of Starbucks gift cards.. It must have been a freak occurance because it hasn’t happened since then. We were up to our eyeballs in lattes. (I did not mind! LOL)

      At my old job (receptionist for the music school Mr. Aroo taught at) I only ever got one cash gift from a dad that would chat with me while his son was taking his lessons. The only other thing close was a very sweet mom that knew I got a Nintendo DS for my birthday and she got me a gift card for Walmart in an ammount equal to the price of a game for it. (I miss talking to her. *Sigh*)

      Other than those rare instances, gifts are usually some kind of food (Candy or something) or maybe something small like a coffee mug. But it depends on the level of relationship that you have with the person you are dealing with.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        @Kimaroo – Fortified with Kittydus Purrularis: You know, now that I think about it, I should probably just suck up my awkwardness and make cookies for everyone. Who doesn’t love cookies? Time to get Christmas-themed cookie cutters!

        • Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

          @pecan 3.14159265: I can tell you that last year I made cookies for most of the gifts we gave out (Co-workers and the like) and everyone LOVED them simply because no one really takes the time to make homemade cookies anymore. I’m planning it again this year. It was a hit.

          I just made the regular tollhouse chocolate chip cookies.

    • coffeeculture says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: I’m young (20′s) too and am just now starting to figure out tipping. It really is an age thing and about utilization of services.

      Anyone think there’s a geographic aspect to it? I moved from the west coast to the east and was surprised that people tip their building staff. I mean, I lived in apartments in CA and never so much as interacted with any building staff save for my lease signing, much less tipped them (I did once as someone came and fixed my stove).

      All other services were tipped the same (dog walkers, sitters, etc…)

    • eshort says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: As someone in my 20s, I do not feel the same way.
      There is a particular concierge in our building who, if he sees us walk in the building and knows we have a package will go to the back and get it before we ask OR if he sees us coming down the elevator to get a package will go to the back and have it at the desk when we get there. This, in my opinion, is the sort of concierge response that should be tipped. The above and beyond! Yes, it is their job to sign for and retrieve your packages, but they absolutely do not have to be standing there with it at the ready when you show up!
      The mailman: will he bring and sell you stamps? Does he take extra care of your packages? Maybe you should tip. Is he extra rude and careless with your packages? Maybe you should tip with hopes of better service next year.

    • subtlefrog says:

      I feel like you’re right – this must be age-associated. No one I know my generation or younger tips service people at the holidays. Every now and then I wonder if I should be doing something for my mailman or something (then I realize my mailman can’t find my building, so, no). But this is something that seems to get talked about a lot.

      Or maybe it’s just that your friends and my friends are tightwads…

  5. Jabberkaty says:

    If I can afford to go out, I can afford to tip. I’ll drop the dinners altogether before I stop tipping.

    The only thing that MIGHT keep me from tipping would be exceptionally bad service, but I haven’t experienced it yet. I know, I know – you’re supposed to tip for exceptional service, but I don’t buy into that.

  6. wcnghj says:

    I only tip to waitstaff and taxi drivers when they know where they are going(funny story about a Philla cabbie who couldn’t find broad street).

    Sorry mailman, you are doing your job. Sorry trash collector, you’re included in my taxes.

  7. ArcanaJ says:

    Cut back on tips? Nope. I only eat out if I know I have enough for the meal and the tip.

  8. Erwos says:

    For those of you going, “WTF, who tips like that?”, I’m pretty sure this is a New York phenomenon.

    • ktetch says:

      @Erwos: We did it in Liverpool as well, but it wasn’t so much a ‘tip’ (British don’t tip) more of a ‘christmas present’. We’d tip the milkman (we’d had the same one for 20 years, delivering every monday, wednesday friday & saturday morning), the binmen (only a quid or two), the postman (ditto a quid or two) but that’s about it.

  9. bhr says:

    I tip my dry cleaner/Tailor (hes awesomesauce)for the holidays, and buy a gift card for the neighbor who takes in packages during the day. I can’t see cutting back on that.

    My mailman jams things in willynilly, so no tip for him.

    Barber gets tipped well all year.

    Thats about it for me. Our handyman sucks, I do most work myself so he gets nothing as well

  10. fuzzycuffs says:

    I’m truly happy to have moved to a country with no tipping. AND the service is better.

  11. lannister80 says:

    Mary Mitchell says, “Don’t use it as an excuse to save money then buy some Prada boots.”
    ********************
    Why? It’ll teach the staff a valuable lesson: Get a job with guaranteed compensation.

  12. HIV 2 Elway says:

    I have the best mailman in the state of Missoura. He comes back to the house a second time if I’m not there to sign for something. He puts up with my endless ebay deliveries and my angry dog so he’ll be getting a bigger tip this year than last. Joe, you’re the best.

  13. Trai_Dep says:

    I’m actually tipping more, since I figure some cheapies are tipping less.
    That said, I go out less, cooking at home more. My Ma raised me, If you can’t afford the tip, you can’t afford to go out.

    • hotdogsunrise says:

      @Trai_Dep: Me too. I don’t go out to dinner very often, but when I get my hair cut, I always tip a little extra. She’s a wonderful person with little kids, so I don’t feel bad giving her a bit more.

  14. JollyJumjuck says:

    I tip full serve gas station attendants, because they seem to be one of the few services that don’t get tipped, and when I was a teenager I worked as one and no one was ever tipped, except around Christmas, and then only by a few people. People think nothing of tipping a server 15-20%, tipping the stylist, the nail salon person, even the barrista at the coffee shop, but the guy who makes minimum wage getting his hands dirty (so you don’t have to) pumping your gas and cleaning your windshield/checking your oil & tires gets nothing. It’s shameful.

    • magic8ball says:

      @JollyJumjuck: Would you still tip the gas station attendant in a state like Oregon, where I’d be perfectly happy to pump my own gas but am not allowed to? Just curious.

    • lilyHaze says:

      I usually throw in a dollar or two. But I only encounter full-service stations when I visit NJ (where there are no other choices).

  15. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I’m not going out as much, so of course I am tipping less at restaurants (in total). In fact, I stopped going out as much before the recession, in part because I really resented the ever-increasing tip percentage shakedown.

    When I travel on business, I am required to tip the hotel maids and waiters, even if I’m in places where tipping is not customary. Jesus, was I ever popular in Germany. :) Part of the reason is that I pay with a company credit card, and how I tip is associated with the name of the company. But they’re not having me (or anyone else) do so much business travel these days.

    Instead of giving gift certificates to the apartment staffers this year, I’m making little gifts (I think mugs filled with prettily wrapped candy and wrapped with red cello tied with ribbon bows). The gal who cleans every week and my stylist are getting the same as usual, because they are terrific and I want them to know I think so in a tangible way.

  16. That's Consumer007 to you says:

    I try to be generous where I can when waitstaff even halfway try, but if (and only if) I get a rude ass waitperson, give them a dime and say “That’s what happens when your employer raises food prices, and lowers service quality, everyone suffers, sorry.”

    Of course you can be more proactive and say at the beginning of the meal “Hello, we are here with the recession today, and in order to afford your tip, we will be ordering one entree and splitting it four ways, thanks.”

    Then they don’t expect a much of a tip at all, but will be grateful when you give them one.

  17. pb5000 says:

    We always give the mail carrier a small gift card to panera or starbucks, yeah, we understand that mail is a federal thing, we’re stuck getting it, but I live in norther Ohio and it gets cold this time of year. This year they’ll be a teacher gift for our kindergartner’s teacher and I’ll also leave something out for the newspaper carrier, our total for all of this will only be around $30 to $40.

  18. kaceetheconsumer says:

    I lived in the US for awhile before I even realized that you were actually supposed to tip your mailman. I thought that was just a Simpsons joke.

    We never have. This is our first house with individual delivery, so we almost never saw carriers at the apartment or at the previous house that had superboxes two streets over.

    That being said, when the guy at the apartment did something above and beyond for us (I can’t remember what, it was a decade ago), I took the time to go to the USPS website and sing his praises, and not long later he was replaced…hopefully via advancement and not being fired for doing something good.

    Likewise when the mostly-regular lady at our last house found that we’d left the key in our box one day (had a three-week old infant, brain was gone), she drove over to our house to give it to us, so I went online and sang her praises. She didn’t get replaced, but then again, she was one of several we saw around so I don’t know if they were on rotation or what.

    Here in Austin, there seems to be one fairly common guy but then at least six other folks coming by from time to time. So if I left a tip in the mailbox for them, how can I be sure the right person is getting it anyway?

    And can it be a baked good? Or would they just chuck that in this age of paranoia about razors in candy and such things?

  19. madanthony says:

    focus first on those you don’t regularly tip, housekeepers, personal trainers, babysitters, tutors, and doormen.

    Evidently, I save money twice, first of all by not having any of these people, and secondly by not having to tip them.

  20. Edacious says:

    Hmm as a nurse and a service provider, I am wondering where my tips are? After all my job can be very crappy and pissy at times. And then there is nagging about how this hurts, I need more pain meds so I can keep my high going, and those disgusting dressing changes. It just makes me want to strap a tip jar to myself. Give me, Give me, Give me!!

  21. supergaijin74 says:

    My girlfriend is a teacher and appreciates the idea of gifts, but has more “#1 Teacher” mugs than she can stomach. Baked goods are a nice thought but there is a limit to how many plates of fatty carbs people want to have lingering around the house.

    The nicest thing you can do is have your child write a thank you note.

  22. vk2tds says:

    When I visit the USA I don’t mind making up the wage a bit, but why should I have to pay 18% or whatever? The waitress is maybe earning $6/hour and should be earning $20/hour I am guessing. Living in Australia I don’t know the local rates.

    Therefore the tips should only need to average $14 per hour. Or am I missing something here?

    • She_Goes_to_Eleven says:

      In the US, it’s standard for waitstaff to earn about $2.50 an hour (back in the day when I waited tables, the rate was $2.13.)

  23. dasunst3r says:

    The only places I tip at are restaurants. I’ll continue to use the 15% standard / 20% good service deal.

  24. John Stracke says:

    This is all pretty bizarre to me. I don’t have a doorman, a tutor, a personal trainer, anything. Babysitter, yeah, sort of; but we use her maybe 3 times a year.

    This all sounds like a NYC phenomenon, really.

  25. El_Fez says:

    Wait – we’re suppose to tip teachers and mail men now? What the hell?

    (More importantly, how do I get a piece of that sweet, sweet action?)

  26. abucsfan says:

    My Postal Carrier cut back on his services this year so I thought I’d cut back in his annual Christmas tip. He didn’t get his normal tip when I returned from vacation and found my mail not being held as requested. He shrugged when I showed him my “receipt” I printed when I set up the hold mail on-line. Like big deal.

  27. stlbud says:

    No, I’m not cutting back on tips. However, many restaurants in the St Louis, Missouri area have lowered prices and, I suppose, tips will go accordingly.

    Bill B

  28. Meteor62 says:

    I tip but it’s not high. My husband is the worse He goes, “Ehh. I ain’t never gonna see that broad again.”

  29. elroyerni says:

    Whats the standard tip for my day care provider? I pay her $1000 a month to watch my daughter. Suggestions?

  30. Keep talking...I'm listening says:

    I’ve been cutting back on activities which require tipping, but haven’t been cutting back on the tip amounts.

  31. dijo10 says:

    This must be a New York thing, the rest of us don’t have doormen, etc.

  32. JoblessGenevieve says:

    I think it is interesting that people who can still afford luxuries like housekeepers and personal trainers during a recession would worry about tipping.

    http://joblessgenevieve.blogspot.com/

  33. She_Goes_to_Eleven says:

    I work at an apartment complex and we have several residents who give us small gifts each year around the holidays. Our company rules don’t allow any of us to take cash, so residents give us gift cards, baked goods, etc. If we receive anything that can’t be divided between us equally, we have to draw names or send it back. That’s how I got a lovely bottle of Crown Royal last year :) I imagine this year, we’ll get mostly homemade treats, but those are almost always the best, anyway!

    We’re all well paid and don’t depend on tips in any way, but it’s certainly a lovely gesture to say thank you to those who serve you all year long. We pride ourselves on taking care of our residents, so it’s really nice for them to recognize that at the end of the year. FWIW, I’d take a nice letter to my boss over gift cards, cookies, etc. any day of the year!

  34. dorianh49 says:

    @jeffjohnvol: someone didn’t read the article, or even the summary…

  35. Chris Walters says:

    @floraposte: You should hear about the wild “tips” my friend, who is a New York City public school teacher, gets from wealthier parents who will do anything to stay on teacher’s good side. It’s weird, and totally feels unethical to me (for the parents to do this).

    Otherwise, yeah I imagine it’s more of a city thing. I never even really knew much about building supers or doormen before I moved to a large city.

  36. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    @floraposte: Teachers are incredibly underpaid, and the school system doesn’t do them any favors by making them pay for additional supplies out of pocket. I would not mind at all rewarding my hypothetical child’s teachers for being part of my hypothetical child’s life, if that teacher had done a good job.

    I don’t think it’s really a city thing, since plenty of people in the suburbs utilize personal trainers, tutors, babysitters, etc. I think it’s more of an older person thing. When you get of a certain age bracket, you’re just probably more likely to utilize certain services like landscapers. Even though younger people can utilize babysitting services, chances are, they’ll be older individuals.

  37. eelmonger says:

    @floraposte: I had the same issue last year. Like most of you I don’t usually tip for these type of services, by my UPS guy really went above and beyond and I wanted to give him a gift card. However, because it was the holidays and the routes get all crazy, my regular UPS guy didn’t show up at all in December. I eventually got it to him in January though, but it was a little awkward.

  38. subtlefrog says:

    I did ponder this idea, too, of being city-associated. In LA, not many people have doormen…so i tend to associate this tipping thing (aside from restaurants etc., duh) – with New York. I’ve never lived in NYC, but i still realize that loads of people there lack doormen, so I’m not sure why I have this association.

  39. FaustianSlip says:

    I was thinking the same thing re: tipping teachers. My mother is a fourth grade teacher, and I’m pretty sure she’d be horrified if someone tried to hand her a twenty dollar tip. I used to give my teachers Christmas presents when I was in elementary school, but it was usually something small and consumable- chocolate or something. Definitely not cash or anything like that. That’s just crazy to me, and I’m someone who thinks that teachers generally don’t get enough respect/recognition/pay. If you want to give a teacher something for the holidays, make sure your kid does their homework, don’t yank them out of school early to go on a holiday trip to Disney or something (thus forcing the teacher to find a way to schedule make-up tests, quizzes and other work) and read to them every night. Or offer to grade some math or spelling papers- most teachers I know would appreciate that more than money or a wind chime or something, anyway.

  40. humphrmi says:

    @Chris Walters: We have our kids make their teachers little hand-made, personalized gifts during the holidays. They seem to appreciate them more than cash or even store-bought gifts. Of course, we’re in suburbia, public schools, etc.

  41. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @speedwell, new and improved: (sigh) I can’t tell a story for nothing. The kid paid for the ice cream, and the dime was the tip.

  42. Hobz says:

    @pecan 3.14159265: I would disagree with you there. Our teachers make on average $40k a year. Factor in a 3 month paid vacation and excellent benefits through the teachers union and the PTO paying for any needed supplies. Not to mention a yearly 3% cost of living increase. They do as good as me and better than my wife as far as compensation.

    Don’t get me wrong, I truly appreciate the work that teachers do. But the days of being an under paid job are gone.

  43. Alys Brangwin has a huge talent says:

    @speedwell, new and improved: I’ve found that restaurant service in every other country is never up to the level of solicitousness of the USA. I’m okay with that, and I always found it hilarious when I’d have to yell “Girl! Oh girl!” to get my food in Kazakhstan.

  44. merely_a_muse says:

    @Hobz: That is entirely up to where you teach geographically. But for the most part, teachers do not get paid well nor is their 3 month vacation paid. They get a salary for the 9 months they teach & if they’re lucky the school district will ration out their checks so that they still receive them on a regular basis throughout the summer.

    My mom teaches elementary school in a very affluent area & has gotten some outrageous gift baskets before (Tiffany’s jewelry, Christopher Radko ornaments, up to $1000 in various gift cards). If it weren’t for those end of the year/christmas gifts I don’t think we would have ever eaten out.

  45. treimel says:

    Well, if “Best of British sapanko-rama 6, The Stableboy’s lesson” is any indicator, yes, yes they do.

  46. lilyHaze says:

    Public schools, at least, probably have rules about teachers accepting gifts. They may forbid them or limit the amount to like $10-$20.

    Definitely different in other countries. South Korea, for example, has an active bribery system in place for teachers. Parents are forced to bribe teachers with money, gifts, etc so their child could stay ahead. While it’s actually forbidden, parents are supposed to hide money in cakes, etc.

  47. BytheSea says:

    It’s usually something small, under $10, and preferrably home made by your child or at least by him with your help. But iknow a lot of teachers are sick of all the cookies they can’t eat along with all the other holiday richfoods, so a candle or something from Bath and Body is fine too.