The ultimate holiday tipping guide
Wondering how much to tip your mail carrier, dog walker or hairdresser for the holidays? Here's some help.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Christmas has become synonymous with spending in America. And spending in America goes hand-in-hand with tipping. Put the two together and you have the unique institution of holiday tipping.
For some, the holiday tip is given in the form of a gift, like the cookies received by St. Louis-based letter carrier William Lister. Lister saw them as appreciation "that you serve all year long."
For others, the cash tip is more than a gesture of kindness. "A lot of our Christmas bonuses are what allow us to make our ends meet," New York doorman Gil Santiago said. "Whatever we get, we deserve."
Santiago said doormen are aware of who can afford to tip and who can't. No matter what the tenant's likelihood of tipping, everyone gets the same service, he says. "There have been times I've paid for things out of my own pocket" for elderly or cash-strapped tenants who requested something, he says.
It's those who can afford to tip but don't that irritate him. "Certain [tenants] come around and say, 'We'll see you later on.' That means they know we deserve a tip. But that 'later' never comes," he said.
"Doormen are like elephants," Santiago said. "We never forget."
"Tipping is never required," according to Cindy Streit, president of Etiquette Training Services. "It may be expected in many situations... [but] should be thought of as a reward for excellent service."
Streit counsels tippers to "follow your own heart and what your pocketbook dictates." She says generous holiday tips are mainly for "those who serve you all year long and with whom you have a personal relationship."
"Delivery should occur in an appropriate time in advance for the particular holiday," she said.
And the final word on what kind of holiday tip to give should always come down to whatever the local tipping or gift custom is, Streit says.
Of course, questions of how much and to whom create a lot of angst for holiday tippers seeking to show their appreciation. They don't want to offend their recipients with too little money. But like anyone else, holiday tippers don't want to needlessly over give, either.
*Civil servants are not allowed to receive cash tips. But if you wish to recognize your mail carrier, the U.S. Postal Service asks that your gratuity not exceed $20 in cash value.