Getting a Little Tipsy A Guide to Holiday Tipping Etiquette

Whether you live in a suburb or in the heart of New York City, life is expensive. Sometimes it can feel as though everybody from the barista at your favorite coffee shop to the kid who sacks your groceries is trying to nickel-and-dime you half to death. Tip jars are everywhere, sometimes decorated with winsome appeals for change, and sometimes just sitting there expectantly, waiting for you to pony up.

The holiday season compounds the issue: there are gifts to be bought, travel to be booked, parties to attend, inclement weather to worry about … and the anxiety that many of us feel when we try to figure out what kind of tip to give the people who (hopefully) make our everyday life a little easier: our building and HOA staff.

Clearly, a reward for work well done is a welcome gift, especially at this time of year. Building superintendents, chief engineers, maintenance persons, porters and handymen often find themselves under sinks or in dank basements at odd hours, patching leaky pipes or coaxing temperamental boilers back to life.

In colder climates they shovel snow, scatter salt, and do a score of other tasks made that much harder by winter weather. Doormen and lobby attendants wait patiently in drafty lobbies and vestibules, ready to help you with your shopping bags or call you a cab. At this time of year, it's not only customary to show your appreciation for the work your building or association staff does for you and your neighbors—it’s just plain good manners.

Tipping Through the Ages

“But,” you may ask, “why tip at all? Opening the door and helping residents out is the doorman’s job—he or she gets a salary already.” A good point, and one that bears closer examination.


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  • This article -- with the same numbers -- has been posted for several years, which makes me somewhat skeptical about the recommendations. Information we could really use: What do Manhattan condo and coop owners pay in tips? Presumably the answer is different if it's a huge building with many owners and many staff vs. a small building with a smaller number of works. Where odes one find information on what's average?