If you don’t show your appreciation in some way this season, service providers will probably return the favor by not going above and beyond for you, either.
You’d better watch out if you don’t plan to give holiday tips.
Most people (87%) give a December bonus to the men and women who provide them year-round services, according to Care.com’s 2017 survey — but almost 1 in 10 (9%) admit their generosity is really rooted in the fear that if they don’t tip now, they’ll pay for it in the new year.
And they may have reason to be afraid. New York City writer Lisa Marsh once had a building superintendent whom she said, “definitely calculated your tip into his response time.”
She had one elderly neighbor who could only afford to tip below $20 each year — the standard in NYC runs $75 to $175, according to Brick Underground’s annual survey — and as a result, Marsh said her neighbor’s calls for repairs went ignored.
“Her living room radiator sprung a leak and was ruining a really nice rug she had. She called the super, and her aide called the super, to no response,” she told Moneyish.
Marsh said the super just “shrugged” when she also told him about her neighbor’s leak. “He knew, but wasn’t rushing to her help,” she said. They’ve since replaced him.
Of course, most workers will still serve Scrooges, since they either take too much pride in their jobs not to, or they could lose their gigs if they don’t. But they have other ways of showing their dissatisfaction.
One Long Islander who long bagged and delivered newspapers admitted to Moneyish that the customers who didn’t subscribe to a little seasonal generosity would have to start fishing their papers out of the bushes instead of finding them on the driveway or front step.
And as for those he knew would call and complain if their periodicals weren’t perfectly placed, “Sometimes I would blow my stinky cigar smoke into the bag with their papers,” he said, wishing to remain anonymous.
Brick Underground surveyed building workers for its annual tipping guide, and senior editor Nathan Tempey told Moneyish that, “some do acknowledge giving worse service … or doing fewer favors for people who tip poorly.”
For example, “if you want to store something in the basement for a few days, the super might be less likely to sign off on that,” he said. “The doorman might not want to bend the delivery rules for you, and the porter might not want to help you put up a shelf.”
The same rules apply on a day-to-day basis. A Starbucks barista, who wished to withhold his name, dished that when holiday shoppers are rude to him or cut in line, he slips them decaffeinated coffee. “Does it kill you to say ‘hello’ or ‘please’ or ‘thank you?’” he asked.
Holiday tipping is a means of saying thank you to those who’ve made your life easier. But it can be costly: 1 in 4 people expect to dole out more than $250 in holiday tips, according to Care.com. Can’t afford to tip? “Give someone a note or a heartfelt card that lets them know, ‘I am not able to give what I did in years past, but I want you to know that it’s not a reflection of your service, and I’m so grateful for your smiling face and our chit-chats everyday,” etiquette expert Lizzie Post told Moneyish. Baked goods are also always appreciated.
But the fact is, the more you go above and beyond for your building staff, maintenance workers and caregivers, the more they will go above and beyond for you. It’s tip for tat.
Josh Juneau, a real estate salesperson who interviewed doormen for Triplemint.com’s Holiday Doorman Tip-O-Meter, told Moneyish, “No one is going to slight you by not opening the door or hiding packages … But the more you show gratitude, the more they are going to do for you.”
For example, a doorman or porter might hold your dog on its leash while you run back up stairs for your forgotten keys, or bring packages to you after hours.
Lawyer Simona Shipp noticed that after she treated her Philadelphia building concierge Phillies tickets, “he was extra nice and helpful after that, and gave me extra parking passes,” she said.
So what if you realize you’ve offended a service worker by not tipping, and you want to get back in their good graces? You have until late January or even early February to deliver a holiday tip.
“It’s fine to give a tip with note in January that says something like, ‘Cheers to a wonderful New Year, and thank you for all of your service and effort in 2017,’ and still be in good stead,” said Post. “If we’re talking February, write something like, ‘I apologize for coming a couple of months late, but I’m getting everything out now.’”
Plus, there’s always next year. “Staff tend to track tips from year to year,” said Tempey. “So if you didn’t tip so well this year, and you tip better next year, that will get noted.”
This story was originally published on Dec. 14, 2017.
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