Holiday Tipping


It’s that time of year again when Manhattanites anxiously ask each other, “How much did you tip your super?”  No doubt, if you live in a suburban environment, this question may appear intrusive and downright rude. In reality, we are merely trying to survive the implied threat of the tipping process. If we don’t give the correct amount, how will the doormen, porters, dog walkers, hair colorists, trainers, garage attendants and the Moroccans at the corner coffee cart react when we show up January 1st?

Ironically, New Yorkers will rarely tell the truth about what they give. Instead, we dance around the issue so as to avoid looking cheap or excessively generous. To answer the super question, the range is enormous—$50 to $250—depending on the size of the building and naturally, the quality and frequency of service provided.

A friend of mine, Charlie Cushing—a naval engineer and a two-home-owner—claims he has to give out 50-60 envelops each Christmas. Another running buddy, banking executive Matt Schneider, said he hated the task so much that he refused to do it anymore. His wife—understanding the potential outcome of neglected services and surly attitudes—reluctantly took over the process to protect her family.

Eleanor Sigona, a foodie friend, said everyone in her building highly resented having to give money to everyone indiscriminate of whether or not they provided good service.  “We are all pissed out of our minds,” she barked when asked. “But we all give in and tip our building staff anyway.”

Kimberly Charles, a bi-coastal publicist, has a more egalitarian approach.  "I still tip in NYC and I do believe that some are more equal than others.   There are doormen who are constantly hard working and helpful and there are those who all of a sudden kick in to high gear around holiday times, being extra solicitous for that bigger tip.   I take a look at year round actions and I tip according to merit, not seniority.    Just because a guy handles the garbage vs. opening doors doesn’t mean he gets less, it is the opposite actually. "  

Deborah Mintcheff, cookbook editor and life coach, says that tipping during the holidays is almost as much fun as a slow recovery from a bad cold.  I would add that tipping is about as much fun—and almost as expensive—as having a tooth implant.

The net result is we all give in and hope our expression of gratitude is appreciated and sufficient to carry us through the coming year.