Tipping Your Mailman For The Holidays and Christmas Is Crazy

by Hank Coleman

Every year, Consumer Reports polls U.S. residents and finds what people are tipping the people in their lives for the holidays.  When I look at the list, I cannot but think how ridiculous this list is.  There are very few people in my life that I tip.  It actually took me years to start tipping my barber.  And, I refuse to tip my mailman.  I can’t stand the quality of service I receive from the U.S. Postal Service anyway.  I have never hoped for a business to go out of business like I have the USPS (but, that’s a different story altogether).  Twenty-nine percent of Americans said that they were going to give a Christmas gift to their mail carrier.

I do not agree with Consumer Reports’ survey findings at all, and I do not think that people should receive a tip or a Christmas gift just because I do business with them.  One of the biggest holiday gift requirements that drives me crazy is giving a gift to my children’s teachers.  Why should a preschool teacher get a gift certificate to Best Buy during the holiday season?  What happened to a good old fashion apple?

Consumer Reports polled 1,900 U.S. residents, and here is where the average gifts that the respondents were planning on giving.

Who gets tipped during the holidays:  

Person                       Average Gift Amount

Cleaning person                  $50
Child’s teacher                     $20
Hairdresser                           $20
Child care provider             $38
Manicurist                             $20
Newspaper carrier               $20
Barber                                    $15
Building superintendent    $25
Pet care provider                  $25
Mail carrier                            $20
Lawn care worker                $25
School bus driver                 $15
Fitness instructor                 $25
Garbage Person                   $20

Etiquette experts say that holiday tipping can depend on a number of factors such as: the quality of the service, frequency of the service, how long you’ve used the service, regional custom, and your budget.  But, for me, there are very few people who receive tips or gift cards just because I use their services.  If it is customary to give a tip at the time of service, that is fine with me.  But, I draw the line at give extra during the holidays. 

What do you think?  Am I out to lunch?  Do you give a gift to your garbage person or mail man?

Note: Government workers do not usually accept cash gifts.  Many are allowed to accept small  in kind gifts such as gift certificates, etc.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Making Me A Millionaire November 10, 2009 at 11:28 am

I completely agree with you. I don’t believe in tipping everyone and their mothers just because it’s the holidays. I will consider tipping someone if they frequently offer services to me (like on a weekly basis or something) and I have developed a relationship with them. I think having to get a teacher a gift is a necessary evil. You know other parents are doing it and you don’t want to stand out to the teacher as the parents who did not get a gift because you never know how that might affect your kids and their grades.

Right now I’m not tipping anyone extra. Instead, what I do is give my change to the salvation army stands outside the malls or buy food for those in need.

Meg December 1, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Ever think you are the reason why your mail service sucks? I don’t tip the mailman-I bake him cookies. We are on a first name basis. He is friendly and thoughtful and a little gift to say “thanks for always having a smile and hello for me” just seems polite.

Hank December 4, 2009 at 4:53 pm

@ Meg – Thanks for your idea about the cookies. I don’t have as much gripes about my mailman as I do about the counter service in the actual Post Office. I wonder how much money or cookies it would cost me to get good mail service out of them?

shelby December 12, 2009 at 10:24 pm

I am a 7th grade teacher. We do not receive as many gifts as you might think. Last year I only received about 5 gifts out of my 102 students. Most were homebaked items. Its a nice gesture but teachers do not expect gifts nor do we treat students differently or give them lower grades because we did not receive a Christmas gift. Moreover, students earn grades…teachers do not give them to them. Teachers are professionals that choose this career for the love of children and learning. They work harder than anyone can wrap their mind around or than anyone gives them credit for. There is no dicussion amoung teachers at my school about which child gave a gift and which child did not. So please do us all a favor and only give your child’s teacher a gift out of the spirt of christmas and not because it is a necessary evil.

Jeremy December 15, 2009 at 12:15 pm

“Ever think you are the reason why your mail service sucks?”

I didn’t realize EXTRA tips, outside of their salary that’s already payed by our taxes, are required to do a job correctly. Why doesn’t anybody tip me for using their services? Everybody gets a tip just for being themselves!!!!!

www.DealPI.Com December 15, 2009 at 1:21 pm

I do not tip the mailman, though I’ve never heard of anyone doing it before

. I do not even have a choice which mailman I can have deliver my mail!

At least when I go to the barber I can choose who and tip based on the service.

There should be no quality of service difference in one mailman to the other. It’s not like a waiter or other standard tip person.

Do Mailmen expect a tip?

alice December 21, 2009 at 11:53 pm

It IS crazy to tip a mail delivery person because a) it is again the USPS regulations to give them cash and b) because they get paid a LOT more than you think when you look at their salaries and compare them to salaries of people doing similar kind of work in the private sector. A home-baked treat would be nice for lots of people including the mail person and who can afford a lot of cash in this economy. I have worked hard as a legal secretary for many years and worked for ONE attorney who used to give me $25 or so to type a deed because I wasn’t really his secretary and he needed the deeds typed right away.

j. j. December 29, 2009 at 10:49 am

It is inappropriate and uncessary for public school teachers to receive any gifts from the parents.

CHARLIE November 27, 2010 at 7:37 pm

1. I agree, maybe the reason your service is so bad is you, not your carrier. How many times have you received your mail, daily, and thanked them instead of telling them it is about time.
2. Your taxes DO NOT pay any part of the Postal Service and hasn’t since 1970. Obviously history is not your strong suit.
3. True, Postal employee’s are not allowed to accept any monetary gift, by regulation, but will accept a small gift like cookies or home baked items, which will be very much welcomed and is often shared back at the office with others.

parker November 29, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Hank what’s the truth you actually can’t stand your mailman or you don’t have as much (sic) gripes about your mailman? Me thinks you’re just a pot stirrer looking for reactions.

zippy December 1, 2010 at 7:59 pm

We are not supposed to accept cash. Gifts are appreciated and shared with fellow workers when we return to the PO. As a rural carrier I do my best for my customers (most could care less about me) and I am human too (which many people forget). I cannot control some of the things the postal service does on a daily basis, like the flow of mail or the volume of mail from day to day. Last week I was able to get home by 5pm, this week it’s been 7pm. I just have to get the mail delivered they make me take out on a daily basis. I am sorry I can not get your mail to you at the same minute every day. I don’t even get to eat lunch every day. By the way, taxes don’t pay our salaries, the sale of stamps and services do. Yes, much needs to be improved, but have you checked the price of stamps in Japan?

Benny December 17, 2010 at 5:12 pm

These are just suggested tips, which I appreciate. Thanks for the help. As for mail carriers, the work can be pretty hardcore here in Minnesota, where the high can stay below zero and the blizzards can get nasty. The mail carriers also have a lot of extra volume during the holiday season, and so have to work even harder. I personally appreciate their efforts quite a bit, and our regular carrier is very friendly, and would even give my dog treats before the USPS put the kibosh on that. And as for teachers, they are one of the most underpaid, undervalued, and yet highly educated professionals out there, so they deserve tips, but I doubt they get many.

Casey December 20, 2010 at 4:04 am

Not tipping someone because you don’t like the company they work for is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard. Would you not tip your waitress who did a good job just because you didn’t like your food or felt that the prices were too high? What an ignorant way of thinking.

I am not a big fan of the post office either but these carriers are working their butts off with little to no respect. They only time they ever hear about their service is when something went wrong. 95% of the time they get things right. People just expect perfection and they definitely show no graciousness to a job well done. What ever happened to tact?

I have no issue with you feeling the a postman is not worth a tip. I do however have a problem with your reasoning.

drs1969 December 24, 2010 at 1:55 pm

You’ll be happy to know our mail carrier gave our $15.00 back. She’s a “contract” mail carrier, not the government kind. First time we ever had tip returned.
Personally, I’m with you about the USPS going out of business, but “contract” mail carriers have to use their own cars. If she had been one of the “$25.00 an hour plus benefits” carriers, she wouldn’t have been offered anything in the first place. Turns she must already be rich!!!

Alice January 13, 2011 at 9:49 pm

The mail person who delivers mail most days to our small office wears a bluetooth all of the time and walks in while chatting with someone and walks out after, most days, only a nod to me. Nice job to be paid very well and to be able to talk with friends a lot of your workday. Almost every day we get mail not addressed to our office, and often the small businesses in the same building have to deliver the misdirected mail to other offices in the building! I wonder why!

Subie December 19, 2012 at 7:38 pm

As a letter carrier of the US Postal Service , I have to endure bad weather, dogs let loose by homeowners, traffic… etc. To even think that I am doing this job just for the TIPS?? and not provide decent service for the customers on my route is utterly ridiculous!! I am paid not by taxpayers money but by the products the Postal Service sells. The way things being run by how we do our jobs have changed dramatically. We have to work 9 to 10 hour- days for 8 hours pay! This is called UNDERTIME. What job in this country does that?!? You have to realize what my job is like before you pass judgment on how and what I do everyday. If you receive poor service sometimes, stop and think what I have to deal with day in and day out. I have management telling us how to do our job and be back on time and not take overtime unless AUTHORIZED. I have to deal with the job when out delivering the mail in all types of weather conditions. So, it would be appreciated to receive a gift during the holiday season but not to be expected. I hope you can understand the reason why we are sometimes grumpy and not too happy at times. In conclusion, have a happy holiday season and not knock the mailman too much!

Basil December 25, 2012 at 8:30 am

I am a retired teacher. When I taught elem. school, I sometimes had students who hinted to me that they (uh…their parents) wanted to get me something for Xmas. As tactfully as I could I suggested that I already had too many things and that I hoped parents would spend money only on their children. Result: I rarely got a gift and when I did it was something very inexpensive. I only tip my barber extra at Christmas/New Year’s if I happen to get a haircut close to either of those holidays. Once I tipped the mailman and never got a thank-you. My understanding is that as federal employees (almost), they are not to be tipped. At this point, they probably should just be thankful they still have a job.

Tyler December 11, 2015 at 9:40 am

I have never tipped my mailman, I never thought it necessary to tip him for doing his job. However, we do order a lot of packages to save the running around, and my landlord orders a lot of LARGE packages, and has never tipped the mailman. I have not been very pleased with his service in the years I’ve lived here, and after many complaints to the post master, he still sucks. As a result, our garbage cans get moved, mail gets left on the garbage can lid, or all the apartments mail gets rubberbanded together and place in one box for us to sort, or it gets left on the steps to get wet and blown around, or he just skips us for a day. So my approach this year is to bake him some cookies, a small amount on a gift card, a christmas card and a small thank you note. If I butter him up maybe he’ll start being nice to my mail.

I’ll let you know if it makes a difference!

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