How Much To Give The Doorman, And Other Great Mysteries Of Holiday Tipping
Originally published on Thu December 16, 2010 10:01 pm
On Friday's Morning Edition, Don Gonyea talks about holiday tipping with self-styled tipping expert Steve Dublanica. Dublanica is a longtime food server who wrote the book Waiter Rant, based on his blog of the same name, as well as this year's Keep The Change: A Clueless Tipper's Quest To Become The Guru Of The Gratuity.
Keep The Change chronicles Dublanica's visits with tipped service workers from baristas to prostitutes to cab drivers, and based on his discussions with them, he winds up giving advice that can be summed up fairly simply: you should tip as generously as you can, because, as he says, it builds "relationships" between you and people like your barber and your doorman, who will then remember you and treat you better. He also points out, unsurprisingly, that many of these people work very hard and don't make a lot of money, so they're counting on you to tip adequately.
It's some of those more familiar folks you see and rely upon regularly who are the focus of Dublanica's thoughts about holiday tipping. In addition to the importance of those "relationships," those are the people who, as he says of doormen, sometimes count on large holiday tips to make up a significant part of their money. (In a recent blog entry, Dublanica cites a discussion with a New York doorman who reports making $9000 in holiday tips -- almost 20 percent of his annual income.)
In his talk with Don Gonyea, Dublanica covers the nuts-and-bolts basics -- he suggests the price of a haircut to your hairdresser and hints that $100 might be about right for a doorman -- but he also stresses that it's important to treat people well all year, not just to cough up the holiday tip. And under no circumstances should you regift anything in lieu of a gratuity, he cautions, citing the example of a woman who was busted giving her hairdresser a hand-me-down tray of cookies. "That is going to get her a bad haircut," he says.
So we put the question to you: Do you tip your hairdresser at the end of the year? Who else is on your list of people who get tipped during the holidays, and do you worry that you're doing it wrong?
DON GONYEA, host:
'Tis the season to give, so we reached out to writer Steve Dublanica. He's written a book on gratuities and he says during the holidays tipping causes people to go haywire.
Mr. STEVE DUBLANICA (Author, "Keep the Change: A Clueless Tipper's Quest to Become the Guru of Gratuity"): Holiday tipping is when you tip people you haven't tipped all year. They provide you all those little services, like doormen or housekeepers and you have not given them a gratuity at any time, and it all comes home during the holidays. So instead of paying little tips, you're paying one big tip.
GONYEA: So let's start with the who. How do you start sorting that out?
Mr. DUBLANICA: I think the first thing we have to think of are all the people who make a regular appearance at your home. So let's just say for the sake of argument, you know, you have a housekeeper, I certainly need one. I wish I had one to tip, you would tip them one week's pay. If you have a gardener you would tip them, if they come in every week or two, you'd tip them one week's pay. Then we break it down to people you see often outside of your home for services, and the most obvious one is your hairstylist or your barber. And usually the guideline for tipping them is to tip them the price of the service. So if your haircut is $30, you tip the hairstylist $30, so it's a total of 60 bucks. And the same thing can go with a personal trainer, a masseuse, a manicurist, pedicurist, but you don't have to tip your shrink.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GONYEA: Okay. And these are people, generally speaking, that perhaps you have given a tip to each time you got your haircut, or whatever the question here.
Mr. DUBLANICA: That's true. So there is a difference there. That's what makes it all confusing is you tip these people regularly during the year. But when you get to say doormen in a residential building, this is what really freaks people out is they normally don't get to it during the year and they are expecting that big payoff. It can be a considerable 10 to 15 percent of their yearly income.
GONYEA: Some of the anxiety comes, again, from not knowing how much to give. You feel like you should get something. You have in your head that $20 or $40 might be what you can afford, an appropriate amount...
Mr. DUBLANICA: Mm-hmm.
GONYEA: ...maybe a generous amount, but then youre worry that they might look at you like your tightwad.
Mr. DUBLANICA: A couple of things on that. One, I was talking to some New York doormen. They are well aware that we are in a recession and they told me yeah, I would like to get $100 from every apartment but if they can't swing it, I'll take $50, you know, something is better than nothing. So people in the service profession are pretty understanding.
One thing you should never do is re-gift, however. I had a hairstylist who had someone bring in a tray of cookies for the salon. She said oh, I was in the mood to bake, so I thought I'd whip this up for you. So they ate the cookies. But when they put the tray over, they saw the note from the woman's boss. It was cookies that were given at a Christmas party. So not only did the woman lie, she re-gifted cookies. So that is going to get her a bad haircut.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. DUBLANICA: So don't do that.
GONYEA: And if there's one thing you want to leave people with as the holidays roll around here on this topic?
Mr. DUBLANICA: Give what you can afford. But also remember to treat all these people with respect throughout the entire year.
GONYEA: Well, thank you for joining us.
Mr. DUBLANICA: Thank you, Don.
GONYEA: Steve Dublanica is the author of "Keep the Change: A Clueless Tipper's Quest to Become the Guru of Gratuity." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.