Holiday Tips: Don't be a Scrooge

Posted November 26, 2007 5:25 p.m. EST
Updated November 27, 2007 1:39 a.m. EST

Laurie Kaswiner's list of people to tip during the holidays is longer than some people's regular gift list.

There's the garbage men, the recycling crew, the "pet cleaner-upper," dry cleaners, personal trainers, newspaper delivery people, hairdressers, mail carriers, manicurists and hair colorists.

Also included are masseuses, makeup consultants, shrinks and chiropractors, along with the crew at her occupational therapy office in New Jersey and its various delivery and maintenance people. Each cash bonus includes a nice note of appreciation.

"There are no written rules, but tradition speaks about thanking certain people around the holidays," said Kaswiner, 53, of Morris Township, New Jersey "Selfishly, I also feel that I will get - and do get - better service by giving a thank you gratuity around the holidays."

Think your holiday tip bill is getting bigger? It probably is.

According to the December issue of Consumer Reports, the list of those receiving tips at the holidays is growing. And survey of 1,800 Americans by the magazine shows tips are likely to be up about $5 a piece in many cases this year.

"Most people in the world are shocked by how much we spend on tips," said Anna Post of the Emily Post Institute, the nation's "barometer on civility" founded by the famous etiquette guru. "When I lived in Italy, people were always shocked at the tips I'd leave, telling me it was way too much!"

Of course, the apparent increase in tipping is a welcome development for some.

"Yes, people tend to give you a little something extra going into the holidays, especially the ladies who know me well," said Pat Wiseman, a hair stylist at Escape Salon in Traverse City, Michigan "They'll slip you a fifty or a twenty, depending on their own financial situation.

"But I don't bank on getting anything," she said.

No tip is too small; Post says giving something is always better than nothing.

"Even if it's just one dollar, I'd say, 'I'm so sorry, it's all I've got, but I wanted to show you I appreciate what you do for me.'"

Whom to tip and how much depends on where you live. The Consumer Reports survey revealed that Northeastern Americans are the most generous, while Southerners tip the least.

Post says that's probably because people in big cities generally have more money and require more services, and residents in "small towns have a personal connection with each other and are able to show their appreciation personally."

All kinds of guides exist to proper tipping. Still, not everyone buys into the tradition.

"It's my belief that we all perform a function that we get paid to do, and I know I don't get tips!" said Lisa Wollney, a 40-year-old accountant from Northbrook, Illinois

Adds Angie Braithwaite, a 39-year-old billing clerk from Salt Lake City: "My tipping habits don't really change too much during the holidays, but then again I really don't have that many people in my life that I need to tip.

In fact, "I have never even heard of tipping the mailman," she said, "and our newspaper system is such that I would never even know who to tip."

And then there's Arlene Cope, a 39-year-old executive with a banking and securities firm who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y

She goes out of her way to avoid excessive tipping during the holidays, not visiting her hair dresser as often, for example.

She does, however, tip her doorman and building super handsomely. "I can count on the doorman to open my door when my hands are full, to hold my dry-cleaning and accept packages," said Cope, 39. "They unlock my door when I forget my keys. They come up to my apartment when I hear strange noises

"Gosh, I should be giving them more money!"