A holiday tip is a way to express gratitude for the past year of loyalty and service. As the pandemic grinds on, personal circumstances continue to evolve, and it is important to avoid overextending yourself financially to tip others. During the holidays, if you can be a little more generous, it is kind and considerate. Holiday tips can bestow an encouraging lift in spirits and financial status. Hard and fast rules on who and how much to tip don’t exist – however, an extra bonus will be appreciated by the loyal person who provides quality, dependable, regular service.
We wanted to know more so we interviewed service providers and received a variety of responses about holiday tipping as the pandemic continues. One salon owner advised “I’d say an amazing tip for the holiday is either 100% of the service or an extra hundred or two. I’ve even had a client pay double for their service…whatever a client can offer is amazing. It’s just nice because it’s never expected.” Our professional dog walkers advised that receiving a holiday bonus for extra duties such as carefully walking older dogs downtown or administering doggie eye drops is greatly appreciated.
So, based on feedback, we learned that the holiday tip depends on the length of service, the extra duties, and nature of the relationship. Is this a new or well-established relationship? Based our interviews and research, these are the time-tested guidelines that remain in place along with the changes as the pandemic grinds on:
- Budget: Calculate how much you’re willing and able to spend. Remember, holiday tipping is not an obligation. Below, we list alternatives to big spending to soften that January blow to the bank balance.
- Priority List: Make a list of those you wish to tip, placing those who help most frequently at the top. Keep in mind local and regional customs, service quality and frequency, and relationship length.
- Cash or Cashless? A cashless society may be in our future; however, it hasn’t arrived just yet. If you’re giving cash, obtain clean crisp banknotes from your financial institution. Otherwise, consider contactless apps Cash App, Google Pay, Venmo, or Zelle.
- Monetary Alternatives: Consider a heartfelt card, retail or pre-packaged holiday delivery, or a gift card with a value of at least two specialty coffees.
- Handwritten Note: A handwritten thank-you note is a genuine way to demonstrate gratitude and express your appreciation for loyalty.
- Local Artisan Pieces: Consider essential oils, embroidered face coverings, votive candles, tea towels, organic soap, and pre-packaged coffee or tea blends.
- Stimulate Childhood Imagination: Children enjoy drawing unique cards and papers for au pairs, babysitters, coaches, nannies, and teachers. Pair this with a contactless gift, gift card or monetary bonus.
- Homemade Food: The CDC and medical experts advise when food safety considerations are followed, gifting homemade goods is very likely low risk.
Who & What to Tip?
Business & Organizations (Check Corporate Policy):
- Assistant: Bonus based on relationship length. Avoid anything too personal.
- Colleagues: Discreetly give a dining or gift card.
- Clients: Business gift baskets of chocolate, fruit, nuts, cheese, wine, artisan baked treats (investigate food allergies), and non-logo items.
- CEO/Boss: Group gift to their favorite charity or non-profit organization.
- Package & Mail Delivery: The United States Postal Service (USPS) provides the public with an employee tipping and gift-receiving policy on their website.
- United States Postal Service (USPS): USPS employees may accept gift cards from customers for use at specific stores for merchandise or services, or restaurants, that are valued up to $20 per occasion. Gift cards for each employee cannot exceed $50 per calendar year. Giving food, homemade goods or refreshments as gifts to USPS employees is prohibited. Gifting cash, VISA, MasterCard, or any gift cards that may be used as cash is prohibited per the Employee Tipping and Gift-Receiving Policy.
- FedEx: Company policies discourage cash gifts or gift cards. FedEx drivers are prohibited from accepting payments from customers. The FedEx driver will politely decline the holiday gratuity. If the customer insists, gifts up to $75 may be accepted.
- UPS: All gifts and entertainment, other than infrequent items of nominal value, must be disclosed and approved by the appropriate manager. The difference between an appropriate and an inappropriate gift is not always easy to determine. The UPS Code of Business Conduct includes a section on Gifts and Entertainment on page 23. This section also directs customers to the UPS Guidelines for Gifts and Gratuities on the Corporate Compliance and Ethics website to determine whether a gift is appropriate. If in doubt, UPS employees are advised to decline the gift.
- Amazon Delivery: Amazon Customer Service advises us that the carriers making deliveries are third party contractors. For this reason, there is not an official Amazon policy regarding holiday tipping. These gratuities are determined by the customer.
- Meal Delivery: GrubHub, DoorDash, PostMates, UberEats, Seamless: Holiday tipping guidelines are unavailable. Consider 25-30% for food deliveries.
- Personal Shoppers: Instacart, Shipt, Favor, goPuff, Delivery.com: Depending on the platform, a gratuity may be included. Adding a holiday tip of 25-30% reflects gratitude.
Education (Check School District Policies and include handwritten note):
- University Professor: Holiday card, no gift
- Principal: Holiday card and retail goods
- School Teacher: Group gift with pooled funds along with child’s handwritten note
- Multiple Teachers: Group gift with pooled funds
- Assistant /Aide: Group gift card and possibly pooled funds
- School Secretary: Café gift card or small gift
- School Nurse: Café gift card or small gift
- Tutor or Private Music Instructor: Café gift card and handwritten thank-you
Child Care Services (Check Policies and include handwritten note)
- Live-in nanny or au pair: Depends on relationship and service length
- Babysitter: Depends on relationship and service length
- Day Care Center Staff: Depends on relationship and service length
Personal Services (Check Policy and include handwritten note of appreciation):
- Hair Stylist, Manicurist, Pedicurist: Depends on relationship and service length
- Barber: Depends on relationship and service length
- Massage Therapist: Depends on relationship and service length
- Personal Trainer, Yoga, or Pilates Instructor: Depends on relationship and service length – some personal trainers may be offended by a monetary holiday tip. Review their fees, and determine if you want to offer a bonus, a handwritten card, or a verbal thanks. Avoid unhealthy food gifts such as candy, cheese, or wine.
- Salon/Spas: Depends on relationship and service length. At an all-inclusive salon such as Jackson Ruiz, tipping may be prohibited because it is against salon policy.
- Lifeguards/Swim Coaches: Some aquatic facilities prohibit tips because saving lives doesn’t allow for gratuities. Other institutions include guidelines; for example, a lifeguard may be required to decline a bonus three times before accepting.
- Golf or Tennis Pro: Depending on the club or facility policies and organizational culture, cash or monetary gratuities may be prohibited. Salaried employees don’t expect a tip. Club members tend to disregard these guidelines and discreetly provide club employees and caddies with tips and holiday bonuses.
Home or Building Personnel: (Include a handwritten note of appreciation)
- Housekeeper: Depends on relationship and service length
- Gardener: Depends on relationship and service length
- Landscaping crew: Depends on relationship and service length
- Pool cleaning crew: Depends on relationship and service length
- Garage attendant: Depends on relationship and service length
- Garbage/recycling: If regulations permit, cash for each for extra holiday effort
- Doorman: Depends on extra duties, relationship and service length
- Elevator Operator and Handyman: Depends on relationship and service length
- Newspaper delivery: Depends on relationship and service length
- Live-in help (cook or butler): Depends on extra duties, relationship, and service length
Pet care: (Include a paw print note from your pet)
- Groomer: Depends on extra duties, relationship, and service length
- Walker: Depends on relationship, extra duties, and service length
- Sitter: Depends on relationship, extra duties, and service length
Healthcare & Medical Providers (Check Policy and include handwritten note):
- Private Health Care Nurse: Depends on relationship, extra duties, and service length.
- Home Health Employee: Depends on relationship, extra duties, and service length. Maybe a generous gift basket of holiday treats (follow policy)
- Nursing Home Staff: Depends on relationship, extra duties, and service length. Maybe a gift basket of holiday treats for all (follow policy).
There are numerous reasons, including financial restrictions, medical ethics, and legal ethics that prohibit and prevent tipping certain people such as auditors, government employees, police officers. A partial list is included below. To express your gratitude, consider sending e-cards from Paperless Post, or Jacquie Lawson.
- Civil Servants
- Disaster relief worker or volunteer
- Executive Coach
- Financial Advisor
- Government Employee
- Members, Board of Directors or Trustees
- Physical Therapist
- Police Officer
- Realtor/ Real Estate Agent
- Red Cross volunteer or worker
- Security Guard
- Sheriff/Deputy Sheriff
Our U.S. federal law also prevents all U.S. persons from giving payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business.
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a diversity and inclusion consultant, cross-cultural trainer, etiquette expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre, she is an attorney and mediator. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia, won a coveted Kirkus Star, and was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books. She’s a winner of numerous awards, including the British Airways International Trade Award at the Greater Austin Business Awards.
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