It's that time of week when we answer the questions you're too drunk or shy to ask...This one came from Marie:
I stress out this time of year because I don't know who to tip. I know I tip my mailman, but how much? We're on a very tight budget, and I want to do what's right. What is the proper etiquette?
I really like the Quentin Crisp approach to manners. The legendary British ex-pat and bon vivant decried that manners were our way of coming together, being social and open. He saw etiquette as a thing of exclusivity. The difference as I see it: The rules of etiquette make someone uncomfortable for not knowing which fork to use. The concept of manners means making sure someone has a goddamn fork.
In that spirit, let's agree that this has been an incredibly difficult year for everyone. I won't waste time bringing up how they tip on the East Coast or what's the proper amount to tip the mail worker or doorman. The whole point to this holiday tipping practice is to acknowledge those who enhance your life throughout the year. And tip the mailman because you just do.So this holiday season, consider the overture, not the amount. Think of those who help make your day or brighten your week. Some of the people common to most of our lives who should customarily receive a holiday gratuity or gift: Mailman, building manager, hairdresser (and nails, aesthetician, etc.), teachers, childcare or wellness providers, and baristas.
You don't have to tip all of these people. When in doubt, ask yourself a few questions. Has this person enriched your life in some way? Do they add to or make possible your daily routine? Do you benefit throughout the year by this person's service? For instance, did you learn a ton about cheese this year because that one nice gentleman behind the counter always took the time to help you and turn you on to new things? Then show your appreciation with some cookies. Surely you've found out a little something about this person. Does the funny, surly cook who makes your sandwich three times a week brighten your day? Get the kid a good bottle of beer.
Here are just a few ideas, none of which costs over $20 per person: Bake. Give a small bag of candy or box of chocolates. Put together some hot cocoa mix, herbed salt, or a spice rub for something with a more personal touch. Buy a case of wine or really good bottles of beer to hand out. Get gift certificates to movie theaters or specifically to the café near a person's place of work.
And, of course, you could always write thank you cards.
Take the time, especially this time of year, to show your appreciation in whatever way you can, and never apologize for not being able to give more. Just make the gesture.