Who to Tip in Your Building this Holiday Season

By Mary BooneZillow

The holidays are the perfect time to show your appreciation for others: your children, your spouse — and the guy who cleans your pool.

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That’s right, year-end tipping is a great way to thank those who provide services to you, your family and your home. But whom should you tip and how much? Even the most confident individual can be befuddled by tipping etiquette. No one wants to appear foolish or cheap by tipping incorrectly.

Cindy Post Senning, Emily Post’s great-granddaughter and a director of  The Emily Post Institute, says much of the stress that goes along with tipping can be lessened by simply asking others what’s appropriate.

“If you’ve just moved to a city or a particular building, it makes sense to talk to your neighbors — and by neighbors I mean more than one — about how much they tip various service providers,” said Senning, who adds that tipping tends to be higher in regions with a higher cost of living. “If you hire a lawn care or housekeeping service instead of individuals, call the business owner and ask about tipping policies. Is the company willing to split your tip between the three or four workers who service your home, or do they have a record of who has provided your service?”

Basic guidelines

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For those who provide a regular service, such as your housekeeper or dog walker, their year-end tip should be equal to the amount you’d pay for a unit of service. If, for example, you pay the landscaper $80 every other week, you should tip approximately $80. If a team of workers comes to mow and trim, you can divide that amount among the crew members.

“That guideline works for many regular service providers, but you need to remember, it’s still just a guideline,” Senning said.

If you live in a building with a doorman or on-call handyman, you’ll want to tip them as well. Again, she suggests talking to neighbors about what’s standard for your city or building. Depending upon where they live, many people tip doormen $10 to $80.

“And that’s every doorman from every shift,” she said. “Tipping can be very expensive, so it’s important to take the time to consider what fits into your budget. You want to show your gratitude, but you don’t want to go broke doing it.”

If you’ve been personally affected by the recent economic downturn and worry that you can’t tip as much as you have in the past, Senning suggests including a note with your tip that says something to the effect of: This year has been financially challenging for many, myself included, but that doesn’t in any way diminish my appreciation for what you do. Here’s to a better year ahead.

Senning also points out that tips don’t necessarily have to be cash. A tin of cookies or a box of candy may sometimes be a more appropriate thank you. Regardless of who you’re tipping, she suggests including a card with a hand-signed note of gratitude.

Specific service providers

Need more tips on tipping those who provide services around your home? These guidelines may get you started down the right road:

Building handyman: $15 to $40.

Building elevator operators: $10 to $40 each.

Dog sitter/Dog walker: Tip equivalent to the cost of a unit of service.

Doorman: $10 to $80 for each doorman.

Garbage collector: $15 to $30 each, unless they’re really truck drivers who operate an arm that does all the work; then there’s no need to tip.

Housekeeper: Tip equivalent to the cost of a unit of service.

Landscaper: Tip equivalent to the cost of a unit of service.

Mail carrier: Civil servants are not allowed to receive cash tips. If you wish to recognize your carrier, the U.S. Postal Service asks that gratuities not exceed $20 in cash value.

Milkman: $20 to $30 for weekly in-home delivery.

Newspaper carrier: $25 to $50 for daily delivery, $10 for weekend only.

Pool cleaner: Tip equivalent to the cost of a unit of service.