It’s that time of year again and if you’re feeling lost in the holiday shuffle, you’re not alone. Those living in a doorman building will be gearing up to gift the staff. Stuck on how much to give and to whom? Fret not. We spoke with Matthew Melinger of Brown Harris Stevens for his holiday tipping guidance and best practices.
Melinger says this holiday ritual for New Yorkers is especially important this year. “Not only are we dealing with people who help you on a daily basis, but they are essential workers,” says Melinger. “They’ve been pulling overtime to make sure that the building is clean and safe. Their jobs have become more intense. This year more than most it is absolutely required to show gratitude.”
How much should you tip your doorman, super and other building staff?
It’s impossible to to come to an exact number as each building is different and the amount of tip you give largely depends on the size of the building’s staff. As a general rule, the larger the building staff, the lower the amount for individual tips.
Melinger uses a combination of various online polls along with specific input from his clients to come up with his holiday tipping ranges. Check out the breakdown of the tipping averages below.
- Super or resident manager: $75-$175
- Doorman or concierge: $50-$150
- Porters, handymen, or maintenance staff: $30-$50
- Garage attendant: $50-$75
Melinger notes these ranges are broad as there are a number of factors that determine tip amount such as the number of staff, their scope of responsibilities, and how much you interact with staff members. For example, garage attendant holiday tips tend to be lower as most are tipped throughout the year.
The average total amount tipped also varies depending on whether you own or rent your home. Owners tip more than renters, and whether or not you live in a doorman building makes a substantial difference.
Holiday Tipping Etiquette
Now that you have a ballpark number for dollar amounts, what is the best way to disperse tips? Melinger recommends to give them out individually, even if that means people make less. If your building has a tipping pool instead, contribute and consider giving an extra tip individually to the staff you feel go above and beyond.
“A tip is really a thank you,” Melinger says. “It should have the person’s name on the envelope with a short note. You don’t have to go crazy, but the act of handing something to someone solidifies your relationship with them.”
Even if there are staff you don’t like or that provide lackluster service, you should still give them something. It can be on the lower end of the tipping scale and not as high as those that provide superior service.
For other auxiliary workers like nannies, dog walkers, or housekeepers, Melinger says the general rule is one week’s pay as their holiday tip. He also recommends logging your tips in a spreadsheet so you can refer to it the following year.
What about staff I rarely see?
While it’s best to hand out tips in person, sometimes that simply isn’t possible. Ask the resident manager or another staff member you trust to hand out the envelopes for you.
In this case you may want to go with checks instead of cash inside the envelopes. It reduces the possibility of theft and it ensures that they will get the tip. Always include a note.
When it comes to holiday tipping, cash is king
Baked goods are nice, but tips really should be cash and not alternatives like gift cards.
“Would you pay your housekeeper, personal trainer, or dog walker with gift cards?” Melinger asks. “Probably not. The building staff may love treats but if you have the means to give money, don’t skimp out.”
Don’t panic if money is tight or you’re experiencing financial hardship
This has been a tough year for everyone, so there’s no need to overextend yourself if you can’t afford to tip as much as previous years.
“Most doormen will appreciate a small amount, particularly from someone who normally tips just fine,” explains Melinger. “When they receive that they’ll automatically attribute it to financial trouble. You don’t need to explain yourself past that.”
Melinger explains that it’s really about the gesture, not the amount. “It’s so appreciated – even if it’s $20 per person,” Melinger says. “The worst thing you can really do is not tip at all.”
That said if your tips are light, make sure your doorman doesn’t see you jetting off to the Berkshires for the weekend or receiving tons of packages from retail stores.
Should you tip if you just moved in or are subletting?
The short answer is yes, however if you’re new to the building, it is fine to prorate your holiday tip. Include a note with your tip introducing yourself as new to the building which will imply that your tip is prorated. Feel free to add a photo so staff can recognize who you are.
If you are subletting, it might be helpful to chat with the person you are subletting from to see if they are planning to tip the staff. You might be able to split the cost or have the owner pick up the full tab. Just don’t assume that the owner is taking care of it without speaking to them first. Plan to give the tip, so you’re prepared in the event the owner does not.
If you have the means, tip extra
Tipping extra is also a kind gesture if you have the means to do so.
“It’s very possible that your bump in holiday tip is going to impact them more this year because people have experienced a lot more struggle,” Melinger says. “If you have the means to do so, this really is the year to step up.”
If you’re worried that tipping extra will set a precedent for upcoming years, Melinger has a solution. Include a note with your tip that acknowledges how challenging the year has been and express your appreciation. “It implies that this year is different so I’m going to give you a little bit more.”
If there was ever a time to show your appreciation, Melinger says this year is it. “Packages, dry cleaning, groceries, minor repairs, checking on something for you while you’re out of town – those deserve a token of thanks.”
In addition to their regular job duties, building staff have become invaluable essential workers during the pandemic. “This year especially it’s really important to acknowledge the people who kept the lights on when everyone else was running for the hills.”
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