Don’t be a Scrooge

I’m sitting in my cigar shop puffing on a Maduro when Philo, a doorman who works in an exclusive Upper West Side building, walks in.

“Hey Philo,” I say. “How are the Christmas tips going?”

“Jesus Christ,” he says. “The tenants are already starting to bitch about it.”


“I’ve got this woman,” Philo says. “All year she’s like ‘Philo can you do this for me? Philo can you do that for me?’ But the day after Thanksgiving she’s already saying, ‘Oh the economy is bad this year, you know? Things are tight for us right now.”

“She’s already hinting she’s not giving a Christmas tip.”

“Damn straight,” Philo says. “This happens every year. Somebody wants you to wait on you hand and foot all the time but when Christmas hits they start avoiding you, dodging you in the hallways. They’ll go off to St. Tropez or something for the holidays. Then when they get back in January they forget all about tipping you. Pukes.”

Philo has a right to be angry because holiday tips are very important to doormen. Most of the guys I interviewed for my book made between $42,000 – $45,000 a year with benefits. That’s not a lot of money in the New York Metropolitan area. So the holiday tip is huge.

“So how much did you make in tips last year Philo?” I ask.

“About $9000,” Philo says.

That’s an almost an extra 20 percent of income! And it wasn’t for the cheap holdouts in his building Philo might have made $11,000 or 25 percent on top of his annual salary. But there are many, many lowballers inhabiting doorman buildings. “We had sixty-six people give out of two hundred units,” Mickey, a Brooklyn born East Side super said. “Only sixty six. That’s disgusting.”

That blows my mind. If you live in a big city you know doormen in residential buildings get holiday tips. When you move into these buildings to enjoy those amenities the workers provide you have to factor that holiday cash into your budget. But now that Christmas will soon be upon us residents are starting their annual bitch and moan fest. Well if you can’t tip the doorman during the holidays maybe you ought to rethink living in a doorman building.

I know, I know. People on the Upper East side will send me hate mail and tell me I’m being a bit absolutist. But tip evasion during the holidays isn’t limited to doormen. Lots of women will let their “hair grow long” and skip their mani/pedis this month so when they return to the salon in February they won’t have to leave a big gratuity. Now the usual holiday tip for a beauty professional is the price of the service. Whenever I visit my barber Spiro I leave him 5 bucks on a 25 dollar cut. At Christmas I give him fifty. Now I can sympathize with women whose coifs can cost much more than mine, but to avoid the stylist to get out of leaving a holiday tip? Really? The cynical part of me knows some people will decide now’s the time to switch hairstylists. If you’re getting $300 highlights every month and can’t leave a holiday tip maybe its time to go to Supercuts.

Now Spiro would disagree with me on this point. “If you don’t got it you don’t got it. I’d rather you come in all year and give me work and a regular tip.” I see his point and maybe he’s right. But there’s a breed of people out there who treat themselves very well but get skinflinty when it comes to taking care of others. We all know people like this. They indulge in takeout five days a week and never tip the delivery boy. They buy themselves expensive gizmos all year but avoid the Salvation Army Santa. They’ll let you buy them dinner but never offer to pick up the tab. In my book I have a word for these people – schnorers. These are the people who always think they deserve the good things in life but never want to tip workers for the privilege. They take but never give. In my personal lexicon the synonyms for schnorer are Scrooge, Grinch and asshole.

“I’ve got a guy in my building,” Philo once told me. “He lives in a two million dollar apartment and just spent a million renovating it. Then he had the nerve to tell us he couldn’t afford to give us our holiday money. That’s bullshit.” You see? Good to themselves, not so good to others. Sigh.

Now many people have been hit hard by the recession. Like Spiro said, “If you don’t got it, you don’t got it.” But that’s not an excuse to forgo making an effort to thank the people who’ve faithfully served you all year. You didn’t get your bonus and can’t give the doorman that hundred? Maybe you can give fifty bucks or a nice gift. Can’t afford to leave a big tip at the uber salon because your husband just got laid off? Buy the workers lunch. Can’t tip the nanny? Give her a week’s paid vacation when you can afford it. The same goes with every tipped profession during the holidays. Make an effort. It’ll be appreciated.

Of course nothing says Merry Christmas like cold hard cash, but if you’re a good tipper all year and treat workers with respect they’re less likely to freak when you come up short at Christmas. But if you’re a jerk 365 a year and then stiff workers on the holiday tip you’re setting yourself up for trouble. A doorman told me that if he has such a person running an illegal sublet in his building he’ll rat them out to the co-op board in a second. Another super told me he lost the paperwork for a miserly tenant trying to get permits to have work done on his expensive duplex. Ouch. You might suddenly discover the hairstylist can never pencil you in, the car lot attendant always buries your car in the bowels of the garage and your personal trainer will only see you at 6:00 AM. If you’re not nice you may end up on the naughty list.

Now I don’t have a doorman, nanny, landscaper, personal trainer (Though God knows I need one.) housekeeper or masseuse on call. Most of us don’t have to worry about tipping these kinds of workers because we can’t afford them. But if you have a paperboy, postal carrier, favorite waiter, barista, shoeshine guy or dog groomer you see all the time then yes, you should tip them. If you don’t give them something you’re going to feel awkward all year. And if you can’t give what Emily Post or I recommend – give them something. Because everyone likes to get something at Christmas don’t they? And don’t use the recession as an excuse. We are all in this together.

And if you bought yourself something as superfluous as an iPad this year you better give the Salvation Army something or you’ll burn in hell. Don’t be a schnorer. Don’t be a Scrooge.

Merry Christmas.

62 thoughts on “Don’t be a Scrooge”

  1. guru says:

    Yes. I own an iPad. Yes I gave something to Kris Kringle. Don’t call me a hypocrite.

  2. Kim says:

    I think I spent more on gift cards and gifts for the people who taking care of us than on friends and family. I got In n Out Burger gift cards for my son’s swim teacher (who is doing a road trip for the holidays), our postal carrier and the two school crossing guards. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I try during the year to tip my stylist well since I see her only every couple of months and though you aren’t a fan of Yelp, I’ve written her up positively there which she appreciated a lot. Take care of those that take care of you.

  3. Eric TF Bat says:

    I’m really glad Australia has the concept of a minimum wage and people here don’t absolutely rely on tips to survive. The USian system seems like a terrible pain, even though it’s certainly given you plenty to write about…

  4. monogodo says:

    Just an FYI, Postal Carriers are not supposed to accept cash tips. They can accept non-monetary gifts, however.

    The Guru speaketh: Mail carriers cannot accept cash or any gift that exceeds a $20 value during the course of the year. I suggest a bottle of booze or a nice gift certificate. That way your plain brown paper wrapped goodies will make if to your door. You know what I’m talking about – you pervs.

  5. Heidi Lou says:

    Do I really need to tip my trash pickup guy? He always leaves us a holiday card containing a special envelope with instructions to tape it to the lid of our trash can. We live in a 55 plus community where many are on a fixed income and our trash pickup is included in our HOA fee. And, oh BTW, our trash can is untouched by human hands. Our trash company has a fancy truck that has arms that come out and picks up our can and dumps it. The guy never gets out of the truck until he’s looking for envelopes taped to the can.

    No, I’m not on a fixed income yet. I’m still working, and I did buy myself an iPod this year. Thanks for reminding me what I should tip my hair and mani/pedi

    The Guru prognosticates: The envelope thing’s pretty ballsy. I’d give them twenty bucks or a bottle of booze. But in the grand scheme of things that’s an optional one. But if you use your garbageman to haul stuff off your property that he’s legally not supposed to – then tip. Yep, tipping can be a bribe.

  6. Heidi Lou says:

    Damn iPad keyboard! It sent before I was ready. Anyway, I will tip my salon ladies generously. But the trash guy?? Really? Must I?

  7. Heidi Lou says:

    Thank you, Guru. Yes, ballsy is exactly what I was thinking, which makes me want to throw the damn envelope in the trash empty. No, we never ask him to haul away anything special.

  8. Sixycat says:

    Well said… seems the more people have, the less they give……sad

    Verry Merry everybody!

  9. Mike says:

    Thanks for this post / reminder. I guess sometimes we all forget the importance of taking care of the people (around the holidays) that take care of us (all year round).

  10. Waiterrant Fan says:

    Steve – I am normally a big fan but…
    Holy crap this is ridiculous.
    That very sense of entitlement that this post is dripping with is precisely why someone might not get a GRATUITY. It is pushing for it or acting as though it is your due that I find really offensive.
    And as for a 100% tip for beauty-type services – what a flipping joke!
    Do I get a Christmas bonus for dealing with my client’s problems 365 days a year! No.

  11. Philip says:

    I didn’t realise the whole tipping thing extended so much beyond restaurant waiters in the US. Pay your people properly (like the vast majority of the rest of the world does) and you wouldn’t have this sort of ridiculousness!

  12. &rw says:

    It’s “Schnorrer”, actually – German and translates simply as scrounge.

  13. Bagpuss says:

    OK, if there is someone who doesn’t get tipped through the year (does the building doorman come into this category?) I can see the logic of a tip or gift at Christmas, but if you tip through the year (say, to a hairdresser / beautician) why would you suddenly be expected to give extra?

    I mean, fine if you’ve built up afriendship and want to give them a gift, but other wise, why would anyone think they are entitled to be paid twice?

    I am so glad we don’t have this system in the UK – I much prefer our system where you pay a real price and any tip is extra, to reward good service.

  14. Christina says:

    I’m very unclear on why anyone would tip at the end of the year in addition to the point of service. And why do some professions expect a holiday tip, but not others?

    Why garbage men, but not meter-readers? For that matter, why residential garbage collectors, but not commercial ones? Why postal carriers, but not UPS/FedEx delivery people? Why baristas, but not the used-bookstore clerk, or librarian who make recommendations? Am I supposed to tip my landlord for keeping up the apartment building I live in? The commercial gardening service he hires? The cop who patrols my neighborhood?

    In other words, why not just tip *everybody*?

  15. Jim Carver says:

    I think this is getting ridiculous now. If I tip during the year then why should I tip double just because its Christmas? The paragraph about things not happening becuase a tip wasn’t forthcoming sounds like bribery to me and if someone is like that, then maybe they shouldn’t be in the service industry.

  16. Mominom says:

    How about the opposite problem? In my previous building, the super did absolutely nothing (no cleaning, wouldn’t even show up to put the trash out half the time, never fixed anything), right up until the 2 weeks before Christmas when suddenly things magically started to get clean and fixed and he was always around asking if we needed anything. The first 2 years I lived there I tipped him. After that, he got nothing from me. He never had the balls to ask me but if he did I would have let him HAVE it. I tip people who deserve it. Don’t expect to cram 12 months of work into 2 weeks and get any sort of tip.

  17. Andrea says:

    I’m not completely sold that you must always tip a hair stylist you see regularly the price of a service at Christmas. I did have one person I saw for several years that I did that for, but I just moved. the new stylist just got a little extra in his tip at this months appointment.

    Guru proclaims: If you’ve just started with someone at a salon I wouldn’t give them a big time. But if you stick with them all year? Then I’d tip. But some people change stylists before Christmas to dodge the tip. That’s like breaking up with your girlfriend before the 25th so you don’t have to give her a present!

  18. Scott Lewis says:

    The problem with having a sense of entitlement towards receiving a tip, is that it leads to exactly the practice you discuss above. Withholding service. Faking busy schedules. “Losing” paperwork. Ratting out only the cheap guys.

    I wouldn’t say this merely being “cheap”, to use your hair “stylist” example, I tip $5 on my cuts. Now I do go to supercuts, and further it’s for a #2 buzz, square back. If I’m there 10 minutes, it’s a miracle. My daughter makes us go to this salad buffet place, where you pretty much do everything yourself but bus the tables. I tipped a guy $10, because he was clearing dishes quickly (they rarely do), and had a nice conversation with him. There are times I’ve left NOTHING, because I’ve got NOTHING. Sorry, sometimes tips need to be earned. If you can’t clear our plates until you see us getting up to leave, you didn’t want MY tip.

    Case in point: The cruise industry. Now I KNOW these guys live on tips. Waiters work long hours for low pay… but it’s nothing compared to your cabin steward or waiter on a cruise ship. When I started cruising, everything was assigned seating at dinner, and they gave you envelopes at the end of the cruise in case you wanted to tip, and I think most people I ran into tipped fairly well.

    Once this “freestyle” dining came around, a lot of cruisers had a different waiter every night, so they started with “suggested tip amounts”, automatically deducted from your cabin account. I started gravitating towards Royal Caribbean which had no free style option at the time… because I noticed the waiter service went to crap on two cruises in a row. Funny how different they were when they thought they’d get the money anyway.

    I just got off a European line (MSC), which has no open seating, but MANDATORY automatic tipping for European passengers, and a pretty well hidden from view policy that allows American and Canadian passengers to adjust the tip amount. We had a horrendous cabin steward (in our mini suite no less), who couldn’t bother to vacuum, and was generally not cleaning very well at all. Why should our room’s 16 euro per day “suggested” forced tipping go to her in the same amount that it would have in another deck, with a better housekeeper?

    Sorry, we dinged the tips for that, took the money we saved, plus a FEW MORE euros, and rewarded our excellent nightly waiter with a cash gift that he wasn’t supposed to take, but we palmed to him when nobody was looking.

    I’m all for tipping, but it’s only supposed to be your “entitlement” assuming excellent service. And service in this country… has gone down.

  19. calbear says:

    This is the first I’ve heard of giving a hair stylist a “holiday tip.” That seems a bit odd to expect, although I suppose if you go to one on a weekly basis, a gift – perhaps cash – might be reasonable. Still, what are the rules for the “holiday tip”? Why the hairstylist I see every few months but not a waitress whom I see every couple of weeks?

    Then again, I’m not one to be a “regular” at a restaurant or cafe, to get my haircut regularly, or to see the mailman deliver my mail. Heck, for all I know, she’s a mailwoman. But “losing the paperwork” if someone doesn’t tip? That’s graft, not karma.

  20. Dan says:

    I think I’m getting jaded in my old age, I’m starting to avoid any place where tips are “encouraged”. I’m just getting sick of people with their hand out. I do tip when I use a service, and normally quite well, but I also resent the fact that I’m more or less obligated to do so.

    Every weekend when I go to the supermarket there’s some kids’ sports team hanging around the entrance soliciting donations. Roads have roadblocks setup where people have buckets so you can donate to another cause. It used to be occasional and I didn’t mind giving but now it’s every week and everywhere you go.

    Same with tips, when I was younger you tipped your waitstaff. Now it seems every year there’s a new group of workers that need additional compensation. I think you’ve mentioned something along the lines of “if you can’t afford to tip then don’t eat out” and it’s exactly what I’ve been doing and not just restaurants but as many service industries as I can avoid.

  21. perpetuity says:

    And many CEOs are compensated 10s, upon 10s of millions per year.

  22. Svish says:

    I have never understood the point of tipping. I find it to be a silly idea. If someone needs/wants more for their service, why can’t they just set the price to what they actually want?

    If a haircut costs X, why not set it to X instead of X-Y and hope that the customers tips Y on average?

    If the doorman has such a low pay that he needs these christmas tips to survive, why not just up his pay and make it more expensive to live in those buildings?

  23. Peter Smit says:

    It’s for me, a person living in Finland but originally Dutch, just fun to see how you feel obligatory to tip anything. Here in Finland nobody tips, ever… When I have to pay €28,00 for a taxi and I leave the change from €30, you see the taxi driver looking surprised.

    Good service here is awarded with coming back to that company/restaurant/hairdresser. And I guess waiter salaries are just a bit higher.

    It is maybe even the other way around. Loyal customers (with customer cards, which you have here everywere) are rewarded with free things, especially around Christmas.

  24. Tim says:

    Like Peter, I come from a country where tipping is not so common, Australia.

    I’m so glad this is the case but it is an increasing occurrence as the influence of America slowly takes hold.

    Its up to the employers to pay a fair & adequate wage IMO. A tipping culture is capitalism gone wrong.

  25. MHA says:

    You can probably help me out here, Steve.

    I’ve asked the owner of my landscaping service if I can add a tip for his crew to my payments, but he says no. They’re not doing much lawn-mowing in December. Should I try sending him money as a holiday tip to pass out, or leave it?

    I almost never see my letter carrier, but once in a while I do see him and wave to him in the truck. Don’t think he’s waved back once. Do I leave him something?

    How about the snowplow service? Send them something?

    Leave something taped to the garbage can? Recycling bin?

  26. Kiru says:

    As someone who used to work as a waiter, and has since moved to other things, there is something these sanctimonious Euros are forgetting about the tipping system.

    If you were good, you could rake in significantly more money per night than you could on a flat wage. It’s a system that is designed to directly reward performance/friendliness, and generally does a pretty good job of it. I’ve often been stunned at the lack of care european service people extend to their customers (a rather jarring contrast to french or scandanavian culture in general).

  27. Kelly says:

    Every year I make sure to tip all the people you listed, maybe not as much as you suggest, but as much as I can afford. And yes, I tip my garbage men (we have one set for garbage and another for recycling). Nobody else on my street does this. After they have come by my cans are always lined up neatly and on really windy days they put them up my driveway so the lids don’t blow down the street. Only my cans get this kind of care…if you ask me its a small price to pay.

  28. DomainDiva says:

    Oh My!! I am SO glad you wrote this post. I keep ‘tips’ as a part of my monthly budget for my hairdresser and dog groomer and then part of the holiday budget as well. Times have been really tight for the last two years but remembering other peoples’ contributions to my quality of life is just as important.

  29. Julia says:

    If I’m doubling the recommended tip for the massage therapist every time, do I still need to do an extra holiday tip? (The last massage I had was Dec. 1 and I haven’t scheduled the next one yet, partly because schedules were up in the air for after the 14th or so….)

  30. Scott Lewis says:

    Someone comments: “Its up to the employers to pay a fair & adequate wage IMO.”

    Let’s make a list:

    1) It’s up the customer to tip.
    2) It’s up to the employer to pay a fair wage.
    3) It’s up to the union to negotiate fair benefits and salaries.
    4) It’s up to the government to be a watchdog for my rights.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with those four statements… but people tend to forget #5, which is arguably THE most important:

    5) It’s incumbent upon the WORKER to take jobs he or she is satisfied with, and switch jobs to the extent he or she can if she’s unsatisfied and to not take less than he or she is willing to work on.

    Look, I’m not saying NO TIPPING… but we are living in a society where everybody ELSE is accountable for our actions. We need to get back to personal accountability too.

    If you don’t like the people in your building, and you aren’t paid enough to live without their tips and they aren’t forthcoming, either try harder to give great service, or try harder to find a better thing to do with your life.

    I just finished a HUGE project at work. The person who had originally been asked to do it (and hasn’t had a promotion in a number of years, incidently) asked me why I bothered, it’s “not really our job”. My answer was simple: the boss needed it done, it was important to the company, it wasn’t optional, and I had the know-how to do it, the blessing of the boss, and enough time to squeeze it in. I’m a contractor, and on a gentleman’s agreement, I limit my hours to 40 per week, so there’s no overtime pay, and no looming bonus. Neither of those were good reasons to to something, however.

  31. Camilla says:

    For several years running, I haven’t spotted my usual UPS delivery guy between early December and mid January; the holiday rush gets handled by a selection of people I rarely see more than once.

    It makes him pretty tough to tip. Next time I get a chance, I’ll actually ask him, and figure out what’s up – I do wonder if UPS does some deliberate route re-assigning at the holidays to reduce tip cadging.

  32. Neel says:

    It’s interesting that this post came up now — my family and I decided that this would be the first year in memory that we won’t be tipping the mail carrier. We got a new carrier this year, and it’s at least once a week that we get mail for the address down the road or have to call around to find our mail. This new carrier is absolutely incompetent, and has yet to acknowledge any of the times we have tried to say hello to her.

  33. LT says:

    I’m a hairdresser and while I do not expect a tip, it is greatly appreciated.
    I have a regular client, a millionaire, who never tips and has been a regular customer for nearly 10 years. I appreciate his loyalty and always give him great service. But. If he wants me to come in on my day off because he has to leave town, I don’t feel inclined to go the extra mile for him. On the other hand, for someone who always tips well and shows her appreciation, I will come in early, stay late, cut her toddler’s hair for free. Because I feel like she really values my time and effort.

  34. Tim says:

    Ouch, sanctimonious Euro’s!

    Nail on the head .5 if you don’t like it stfu & get a real/well paid job.

  35. I Can't Find A Job says:


    You are usually spot on with your commentaries but I must say that this post is a little ridiculous. I’m all for the working man and being generous to those that help you out, especially those in professions that typically don’t pay well. I worked those very same jobs (retail) and was sometimes given a tip for going above and beyond (a couple of bucks). However, most of the time, I busted my ass and all I received was a “thank you.” It would have been nice to receive a tip on these occasions, but I was doing my job.

    I have a post-grad degree and bust my ass on a salary to make what a doorman in NYC makes sans tips. To suggest that these guys deserve more for opening doors and receiving packages when that is their only responsibility is ridiculous. It’s a nice, generous offering and if I lived in a doorman building, I’d offer a tip during the holidays and whenever the doorman assisted me. But to expect a tip for merely doing one’s job all year long (and quite frankly, getting paid handsomely to open doors or receive dry cleaning) is over the top.

  36. SF says:

    I need guidance on tipping two individuals I admit I haven’t been tipping.

    1. My hairstylist. I get my hair cut by a friend at his house. He has a chair there but no sink, so I just wash my hair before I get over there. I get 2-3 haircuts per year, with his blessing. Each time he asks for $60 and I give him $80. I’m not planning to get another haircut for a while. Do I need to send him a Christmas card with a tip inside, or am I good?

    2. I don’t live in a “doorman building” but we have an onsite manager, which I think is city ordinance here in SF if the building has 15 units or more. (We have 18.) Our manager is a nice guy but I virtually don’t see or talk to him all year. We don’t even take our (rare) maintenance problems to him, we alert the landlords directly (and they send their maintenance crew — not the manger out), because the manager just doesn’t do anything about it. I’ve never tipped him, and I don’t know if there’s a difference between a doorman who does little things for you constantly and a manager who I guess is there for emergencies only.

    I could afford to tip these people, so I probably should, right?

  37. HighOnPoker says:

    I’m with you for the most part, but I don’t include the Salvation Army under people deserving a tip. It’s one thing to say that you should give out appropriate holiday gifts to those offering you services. It’s another thing to say that you should not buy yourself a gift unless you also donate to charity.

  38. Aje says:

    YES tip the trash guy! My cousin worked on a trash truck while he was waiting for his leaving date to join the Navy. Do you know what it’s like to ride a trash truck in the winter? You get off the truck, then on the truck. It’s hard on the knees, not to mention that most of the time the guy in the truck doesn’t even fully stop, which means that the kid on the back has to run and dump everything in, avoid ice if it’s winter, try not to slip on said ice and get run over, then run and jump on the truck and hold on until the next stop. It’s hard and exhasting work, and Christmas was a big deal, because it made up for picking up everyone’s disgusting crap ALL YEAR LONG!

  39. Sarah says:

    I live in a doorman building in a large city, but I’m a graduate student sharing a small apartment with three other women. We chose the building because of the location near our school and for the added safety value. I can tell you that even with student loans I make a lot less than $45,000, and will have just barely enough to buy gifts for friends and family this year. I don’t ever make demands on the doorman at all and can’t believe I’m supposed to tip him $100 or more or else move to another building.

    On the rare occasions I go out to eat or go to a salon for a haircut, I tip well. If I can’t afford to tip, I don’t use the service. But really, it seems a bit unreasonable to expect me to suddenly come up with the money to tip these individuals extra just because it is Christmas. The idea of them thinking this is just because of stinginess and/or withholding service because of it makes me queasy. Sometimes when people complain about not having the extra money it’s legit.

    Guru replies.

    Sarah if you’re broke you’re broke. But you did decide to live in a doorman building in part for the added security, well who adds to that security? The doorman!

    So you do this, if you take up 1/4 of the apartment you can give 1/4 of the tip -$25 per guy. And you get a student discount so you can do twenty! Just make sure you stuff that cash into a personalized card.

  40. colman says:

    Have any of you tipped your congressman this Christmas?
    How long before it comes to that?

    Guru replies. Congressmen don’t need tips from us lowly constituents! Just like hotel concierges, they make their the majority of their money from the arrangements they’ve made with outside vendors. Oh and we’ve been bribing politicians for years,

  41. Fenn says:

    Jesus Christ, Steve, you need to get yourself out of this horrid culture and experience something else. This post is ridiculous. Try a different job, or a different country, because this can’t be normal.

  42. LT says:

    It’s interesting to note that many tipped jobs are the more intimate services which in different times were done by family or friends. Feeding, grooming, massaging. Does the tip somehow compensate for this unnatural intimacy? One of my clients (I’m a hairdresser) once remarked that “We’re friends, but we’re not really friends. You know all my deepest secrets, but we don’t hang out.”Do we offer tips so that servers will keep our secrets? The mailman won’t tell what kind of magazines we receive. The hairdresser won’t tell about our facelift. The waiter won’t tell about having to have our meal made special without allergens or gluten. We are vulnerable in some way to servers. And yet, most tipping is social convention. Why don’t we tip retail? The sales person who measures me for a bra is certainly privy to some intimate parts of my life. I don’t tip the nurse who injects my Botox. Why?

  43. I Can't Find A Job says:


    I’m sure lobbyists put in a little extra lobbying (re: bribes and payoffs) this time of the year.

    “Senator, Merry Christmas from the interests of Pfizer!”

  44. Verne says:

    I predict a huge back-lash against tipping due largely to an inside look at what complete assholes some service people are.

  45. Caitlin says:

    Now you’re just getting over the top.

  46. JB says:

    I live in a doorman building in Chicago and have no plans to tip. I pay their salary out of my rent and assessment fees. Maybe if they weren’t rude to me and my guests or maybe if I ever used them for anything at all I would consider giving a tip, but seriously, if I don’t use the service, why should I top? And if they are rude, why should I tip them for their attitude? I believe in tipping minimum 20% for dining out and for haircuts so it’s not that I’m stingy, I just don’t see the need to tip someone who is paid a SALARY. Tips are for people that don’t make a salary.

  47. Bob Dobbs says:

    Rich people are weird. Some strange entitlement that screws up some of them. Maybe it’s some strange uncertainty

    I knew a guy who do specialty landscaping work for wealthy clients — stuff your average landscaper wouldn’t even try. Big jobs. He’s working on one house and realizes that the owner has just ripped out all the (nearly new) carpeting in the place and has put it in the dumpster for the garbage men to take. So he starts to help himself, and she comes tearing out the door screaming “MINE! MINE! MINE!” She was going to throw it away, but he couldn’t have it.

  48. tallmanj says:

    How much do you tip your IRS agent? If you don’t know his name, I’m sure your written request would bring a reply.

  49. Dan says:

    A small point: The Salvation Army, as a Catholic charity, will shut their doors in areas where required to provide benefits to same-sex partners of their employees. They’ve also refused to feed and shelter people who won’t renounce their sexual orientation. They destroy donated toys with Harry Potter and Twilight themes because they ‘promote witchcraft’.

    Please recommend a more enlightened charity, if you’re going to recommend one at all.

    Guru replies: The Salvation Army is NOT a Catholic institution. It is a Evangelical (Protestant) Church. Do your homework.
    And while I don’t subscribe to either church’s theological views on homosexuality, that does not obviate the good works they do. Sure there’s screwy stuff going on with religion. Did you miss that class?

  50. Anonymous says:

    I do not tip my hair stylist at Christmas. I have been giving her a 20% tip every time she does my hair all year. Now I might bake her some cookies

  51. James says:

    Gotta love the self-entitled bullshit attitude of Americans.

    How about threatening your customers with a bat if they refused to tip, Steve?

  52. Christine says:

    This post really surprised me! Maybe we just do things differently here (here being Vancouver, Canada) but I’ve never heard of anyone giving special Christmas tips. Of course I only see my hairdresser once ever 3 months (and tip nicely every time I do), but if I got a haircut near Christmastime it wouldn’t occur to me to tip extra because of that fact. Is this purely an American thing?

  53. eric says:

    I am confused as to why some hard working folks are supposed to be tipped while other equally hardworking folks are not slated for tips. I strip and refinish floors and clean carpets. I have also worked as a janitor. In neither of those jobs, where I have personal interaction with the individuals I am doing the work for have I been given a tip. Actually, one time a home owner added a tip when I finished cleaning their carpet. The work we do in refinishing floors is every bit as physically demanding as my garbage man but I’ve never even thought I should get a tip. What gives?

    Also, imho, tipping is supposed to be my way of saying, “I really appreciate all that you do and I want to let you know that.” Not, you don’t get paid enough for doing your job, so I will add a little extra to what I already am paying.

    For me, tip the folks you want to tip.

  54. Grace says:

    That’s an almost an extra 20 percent of income! And it wasn’t for the cheap holdouts in his building Philo might have made $11,000 or 25 percent on top of his annual salary.

    I really hope this is a fuckin’ joke, I bought your book today and now I’m really regretting it. You come off as a total douchebag. BOOHOO, I didnt get an xmas bonus of 11k either!

    When you move into these buildings to enjoy those amenities the workers provide you

    What, opening the door?

  55. joe says:

    I tip for a “happy ending” massage.

  56. RJ says:

    I don’t HAVE to tip – I view anyone who says I owe them money without clearly giving me the price of their services bforehand a thief. Waiters get 18%, because that’s a given. Hairdressers get 15% – that’s also a given. Doormen – go for the highest salary you can negotiate, and don’t say I owe you money after. When I get a present, even a small one, I say thank you, not why did you give me only $10?

  57. Transplant says:

    I know I’m late to the party here, and another comment has addressed this, but I’m flat out not going to donate to a charity that does so much that runs completely counter to my values – no matter what other good they do. Instead, I do some research and find ones that I think does a lot of good in the world, one that aligns with my interests, empathies, and values, and one that I can be involved with to some degree aside from my financial donation (through volunteering or letter-writing, for example, or at least getting a newsletter with updates). The Salvation Army isn’t a group I would go to if I were in need – in fact, they might refuse to help me (I’m not saying that’s a strict qualification for donating, though – I donate to a group that provides solar-powered lights to replace kerosene in third-world countries, which obviously isn’t something I could benefit from).

    The fact that they do in fact do some good doesn’t mean I should donate to them in preference to a charity that’s a better fit to my values – and that I feel might do more good for more people. And then when I do my taxes, I also calculate how much I can afford based on my income & expenses (neither of which are hight), and send a couple of checks.

    Maybe I’m putting a lot more thought than strictly necessary into something that could be taken care of by tossing some coins in a red bucket once a year, but, well, that’s something I value, too. And yes, I put slightly less thought into my tipping – I just hand over some extra cash, smile, and say “Thank You”.

  58. rose says:

    I don’t know why you’re ripping on the women who skip the hairstylist around Christmas. This seems to me to be in line with your usual statements of (paraphrasing) “if you can’t tip, don’t go”. They pay the normal tips throughout the year, but can’t pay the (extravagant and unreasonable, imo) Christmas tip, so they skip the service, then go again in the new year when they again have the money to cover the cost appropriately. Where’s the problem here?

  59. Nichole says:

    Thank you so much steve, for this post! When I became a server I thought i would make so much money because my parents have always been ridiculous tippers. my dad will tip 100 on a 250 tab! anyways, my mom is a postal worker and she told me half her clients tip. she even got a card saying thanks for the great service all year but because of the reccesion I cant leave u anything. My mom told me this lady gets heavy packages twice a week for her home business. a 5 dollar gift card to dunken donuts would of been nice! I was like well, welcome to my world..u do so much and break your ass and you get zip! at least you get 60 grand a year…just got my w2, w/out tips i made 3000 bucks for the year! sad!!!

  60. Heather says:

    I am a junior stylist, so I don’t expect the exorbitant gifts that the senior stylists at the rather upscale salon where I work receive at Christmas. These folks spent a ton of money to learn their craft (I personally spent 18 grand on my basic education and spend another 500-600 for additional classes to stay on top of things, and a lot of times come in on their days of to do client’s hair for big events. I have driven hours to do hair for weddings and proms. I give five minute scalp massages with each service. This is what separates me from the girl at Supercuts, and what should encourage you to leave a better tip. Believe me, once a stylist gets a full book at Christmas, she’ll squeeze in the clients who tip well and be WAAAY too busy for someone who doesn’t. If you don’t want to tip, go to the fucking barber shop.

  61. u richies says:

    Jesus you people are all richies, give a week’s paid vacation to the nanny? Who even has a nanny? Richies, that’s who!

  62. Joe says:

    Holiday tipping is not customary in the United States, however, it’s quite common in New York City, especially in Manhattan. I lived in Manhattan for about 3 years and people in the service industry generally expect a holiday tip. The level of self-entitlement is astounding in this post though. You are essentially saying a holiday tip is expected and required because:
    1. People who buy your services are richer than you
    2. You provided some services to these people throughout the year

    Whether you deserve a tip should have nothing to do with your relative financial standing compared to the person you are serving. If being poorer entitles you to tips, then the people who really deserve the money are homeless people and those living far below poverty line in the third world countries. As for the services you provided, that’s part of your job and you get paid for it. If you are unhappy with your job and its pay, INVEST in yourself – go to school, go learn a skill, and find a better job. Most people who are richer than you today are people who had invested in themselves in the past. During this investment period, often times, they didn’t get paid for those efforts. It’s really arrogant to say richer people should give you their money just because you are poorer or because you refuse to invest in yourself.

    For those who are curious – a doorman in NYC does make a living wage; as a matter of fact, doorman jobs in high-end manhattan condos are HIGHLY desirable and rarely have openings. Out of the occupations discussed, the only people who don’t make a living wage are food servers. It is legal to pay food servers BELOW minimum wage because tips are expected, so you should absolutely tip your waiters and waitresses.

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