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Tips on tipping for the holidays

No doubt about it. People are more generous at Christmastime. They give bigger tips. They remember the people who provide services during the year. But who to remember and how well to remember them is the question. Oh sure, you can read all about...

No doubt about it. People are more generous at Christmastime. They give bigger tips. They remember the people who provide services during the year.

But who to remember and how well to remember them is the question. Oh sure, you can read all about the etiquette of tipping in magazines or by going online. That doesn't tell you what real people right here in Grand Forks are giving this December to the people who help them all year long.

So, I have been asking casually at Christmas gatherings and around bridge tables what other people do.

Most of them remember their cleaning help, their hair stylists and the newspaper carrier at Christmastime. And others in line for gifts include those who help out as handymen, snow removers and delivery people.

Some people give their cleaning help an extra $5 or $10. One woman gives $20. Others give them half of what they are paid after a regular cleaning day. And some give them the full amount extra for the day or half day of work. It just depends.


Most people remember their hair stylists this time of year. They give $5 or $10 or more. Several women said they take a gift to their regular stylist. One businessman gives the regular tip of $2 for a $13 haircut. Men who usually give a $1 tip for a haircut are likely to leave a little more right before Christmas.

The newspaper carrier usually gets a tip at Christmastime. Some people give $5 or $10, but many say they give more. Usually, they put it in a card in an envelope. One woman said she gives about $18 to her carrier in the summer and another $18 before Christmas. She says, "I am willing to give a big tip if they will just get my paper here and up to the door every morning." Another said she doesn't tip the newspaper carrier because she has to walk out to get her paper.

A longtime waitress in Grand Forks told me quietly that tips subsidize her income, and this is the season when some regular customERs make extra gifts. The tips, she says, depend much on the rapport with customers and how they see the service they get.

"There was a time," she said, "when 10 percent was fair."

Now, 10 percent hardly does it. A restaurant owner said customers who leave 10 percent tips are a dying breed. He said 15 to 20 percent seems to be the going tip rate now. Still, another operator of a family-style restaurant grinned and said his waitresses were picking up a lot of dollar bills when they clear the tables.

Tipping is an individual affair. And as the waitress says, it depends on how the customer regards the service during the year.

A local waitress had a conversation with Canadian customers recently, and they were not aware of the minimum wages paid to servers here. She said the Canadians, who used to be light on tips, are tipping more lately. And she says, "they are fun."

People around here are tipping fairly well for pizza delivery. That's a given. But they are no longer into tipping their letter carriers as they did in years gone by. No longer do they get to know the carriers because they rotate. As a matter of fact, gifts of cash might be at the risk of violating federal law. There are limits to the amount of gifts Postal Service employees may accept. And they may not accept gifts of cash.


Gifts to teachers generally are discouraged because some children aren't able to bring anything. Yet, when you talk to longtime teachers, they will tell you that the gifts have come in over the years. They usually are little gifts, such as Christmas tree ornaments or note cards. And you see children going into Sunday School with little gifts for their teachers this time of year.

In some cities, generous folks might tip the bag boys (or girls) who work at grocery markets and sometimes help carry bags to cars. The Hugo's supermarkets here long have had a policy against tipping.

One local cab company says some people tip, some don't. And it doesn't matter to the company. Around here, people usually would round out an $18 fare to $20. And, they would give more for a driver handling bags.

Slipping some bills in a Christmas card and handing it to people who provide services during the year is a nice thing to do this time of year. Who you tip and why you tip are personal decisions. One woman told me her handyman gives her a gift and cookies. Another woman said her husband is more generous than she is.

How you tip is another thing. When traveling, it's wise to have some $5 and $1 bills handy for tips to people who check your baggage outside the airport. If you use an electric cart, you need $2 or $3 per person for the driver. A tipping guide at FindaLink.net says you don't need to tip an auto dealership shuttle driver at the airport.

The advice you find in the media for tipping goes on and on. But when it comes to tanning butlers, ski valets, personal shoppers and spa technicians, it leaves me out in left field. Anyone who can afford all of that doesn't need any advice on how to tip.

Reach Hagerty at mhagerty@gra.midco.net or (701) 772-1055.

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