When you’re out during the holiday season—enjoying dinner, shopping, or a show— should you tip the workers you encounter? When you tip for the holidays, what are you truly saying?
While a commonly recognized definition of tipping is to ensure prompt service, the holidays are different. Tipping during the holiday season is really a way to give a present or gesture of gratitude to someone for a job well-done this past year. But the stresses of financial and social pressure begin to rear their ugly heads this time of year—and they complicate the issue of tipping.
Why do we tip?
We tip in December because we want to acknowledge others that have helped make our lives easy all year. At the end of the year, we also want to recognize others (Christmas tree cutters, gift wrappers, etc.) that we’ve encountered during the busy holiday season who deserve a little something extra.
Who should we tip?
Throughout the year, the list of people who are happy to accept a tip gets longer and longer every day. Fairly recent additions to the list are hotel maids, gas station attendants, bus drivers, tattoo artists, deli workers, and takeout cashiers. A screen now prompts you to choose your tip amount when picking up at Domino’s Pizza or Panera Bread! But hey, they provide a service too, so we’ll accept it.
Ironically, almost no one in retail receives a tip. I would personally have to say that the geniuses at the Apple Store deserve it the most!
How much should we tip?
I have been researching and asking the very same question. The answer, in short, is that there is no one correct answer. Really, it depends on who you ask.
If you were to ask someone that commonly receives tips, the answer is typically, “Yes, the more the merrier! For all that I do. Don’t be a Scrooge. We have bills to pay, too…”
However, this is not true across the board. While nearly everyone enjoys getting something extra, there are still some who consistently aren’t required to tip. For example, the very young, the very old, and the financially unable are not expected to fork over holiday cash.
So, if you don’t fall into these categories and are able to hand out some green appreciation, how much is enough? Presents, cash, or gift cards? Presents seem to be the most thoughtful, but cash or gift cards are often the most welcomed.
What seems to matter most is when patrons are kind and appreciative towards others year-round. Treating tipped-oriented and service workers as people, not as hustlers out to ramp up the dollars, is the best policy. Most people end up in the service industry because they genuinely like to please others; tip or no tip.
The list of tippable people keeps growing, so you might have to re-think your strategy for how you say “thank you.” The amounts vary with each relationship, proximity to the holidays, region, and social setting. A general holiday tip rule is to tip the amount that you would normally pay for the job or for the week. So, if you normally pay $30 for a dog grooming, a holiday tip would be an extra $30. If your bill varies, or that amount would be too much, then $10 to $20 is a general rounded figure.
If you are unable to afford this, small tokens of your appreciation are very thoughtful. You don’t have to give stick with a fruit basket or a fruitcake, there are many other interesting and appreciated gifts that cost very little:
- Themed coffee mugs, glassware, wine charms
- Food (nuts, candy, cookies, cocoa mix, tea, popcorn, snacks, bottled water, health bars)
- Tools or items directly applicable to their job (heat packs, duct tape, rope, pocket knife, earbuds, USB devices)
- Apparel (socks, scarf, hat, earrings)
- A funny item that relates to their job (ibuprofen, caffeine, sunscreen, bug repellent, energy drinks, antacid)
- Wine or specialty liquor to round out their cocktail bar
Of course, be sure to personalize these with a special card specifically intended for them. The best tipping policy is to show appreciation all year and maybe a little more around the holidays.
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