Why I Cannot Stand Giving A Holiday Tip To My Mailman

by Hank Coleman

USPS mail trucks lined up with holiday packagesEvery year Money Magazine and Consumer Reports conduct surveys on how much people will tip the service professionals in their lives during the holidays. People reported that they would tip people such as their mailman, newspaper carrier, housekeeper, gardener, garbage collector, and others. Call me Scrooge if you like, but I’m not giving a tip to my garbage collector or my mailman this Christmas. I might give some to my housekeeper and my gardener because I really like them, but I actually cannot stand my mailman and newspaper carrier.

How Much People Said They Would Tip

  1. Mail Carrier – $20
  2. Hair Dresser – $20
  3. Garbage Collector – $20
  4. Gardener – $50
  5. Housekeeper – $65

One thing that the Money survey did note was that gift giving has stayed the same for most professions despite the recession. People have continued to give tips at the same level for most service professionals for the past several years despite the economic downturn of the past few years.

Why I Do Not Tip

There are very few people in my life that I tip to start with. I tip the guy who cuts my lawn for me, but I don’t tip the lady who cleans my kitchen. But, why would I start tipping the others all of a sudden? How do you even give a tip to your garbage man anyway? Do I tape the envelope to my garbage can? Or, do I mail an extra check to the big corporation that he works for?

I Can’t Stand The Mailman

I refuse to tip my mailman. I cannot stand the quality of service I receive from the U.S. Postal Service, and the price of stamps keeps going up every year. While I know that that is not my mail carrier’s fault, he loses out by default because he works for a horrible branch of the government. But, 39% of Americans in the Consumer Reports surveyed said that they would give their mail carrier a tip. I do not think that people should receive a tip or a Christmas gift just because I do business with them.

Many 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 have used the service, regional customs, and of course your budget. Instead of tipping my mail carrier and garbage collector this year, I think that I will just save my money and write nice thank you note. I’m sure my garbage man will really appreciate that.

What do you think? Do you agree with me? Do you give a gift to your garbage person or mail man? How much? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

Note: Government workers do not usually accept cash gifts. Many are allowed to accept small gifts though.

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

marie November 27, 2010 at 11:38 am

Hello, Hank. I am a former letter carrier and I agree with you, believe it or not. I don’t tip my letter carrier either. It’s our job. I do love a little gift from the heart of people I’ve become aquainted with, maybe something homemade, or once I received a five dollar gift card for coffee from a family’s dog because I always gave him treats. It meant the world to me, more than a twenty dollar tip. However, I will say that some carriers who deliver to people with very heavy amounts of mail and parcels, or people with specific needs or requests, may feel obligated to tip, mostly to make themselves feel good. Thanks ,Hank, and Happy Holidays.

Northclerk November 27, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Your carrier will not tell you, but- They are not allowed to EVER accept a cash gift, and can only accept other gifts worth less than $20.

Pete Countryman November 27, 2010 at 3:12 pm

I am a retired postal clerk with thirty years of service. When I began my career as a window clerk in Louisville in March of 1978 the cost of a stamp was thirteen cents and the letter bearing it was delivered within six hundred miles the next day.

Postage rates do not increase each year as the author claims , it has been almost two years since the last increase, and considering the cost of a stamp being thirteen cents when I began my postal career and forty two cents when I retired thirty years later, that’s still quite a bargain.

No other entity is as prepared to offer universal service , no private company will deliver a letter from my hometown in central Kentucky to the author’s freelancing, writer , entreprenuer, ” professional in the government sector ” address for forty four cents.
As one of my co workers , a retired crew chief from the air force , would often say ” Beware of those with numerous talents yet one true skill ”

So spluge this Christmas season, leave a gift card or an Andrew Jackson for your letter carrier, it’s the least you can do for all they do~

mark November 27, 2010 at 9:03 pm

As a mailman I do not recieve many christmas gifts from customers. What I recieve I am greatful for. But what I am more greatful for are those customers who in the heat of summer give me a cold soda or a drink of water, I try to do this for my garbage collectors.
We get paid very well and do not expect anything extra at Christmas but like any one who serves us daily or on a regular basis some sort of “thank you” is nice.

George November 27, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Hank,
I appreciate your point of view. You should know that not all letter carriers are actual employees of the USPS. Many are contractors who work six days a week to deliver your mail, have NO benefits from the USPS and MUST provide their own vehicles, insurance, fuel and employees. I know this because I am one.
I have been a contractor for 15 years and have NEVER expected a tip.
I have no control over my business other than making sure that my customers receive all of their mail on a daily basis. The USPS controls EVERY aspect of my business and the only hope of making it a little more profitable is by speeding up the time it takes to deliver all the mail each day and receiving an occasional tip at Christmas.
If you take the time to give your carrier a small tip as a token of your appreciation, it will be reciprocal! Merry Christmas!

Pops November 27, 2010 at 9:51 pm

I might give some to my housekeeper and my gardener because I really like them, Forget
about leaving you mailman a tip, But Don’t forget to pay payroll taxes on you house keeper and gardner, and I hpe that you provide health care insurance for you employees so the tax payers don’t have to pay for their medical care

Biscuit November 27, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Hank, methinks you are a bit on the touchy, crabby side! 🙂
I am a mailman, and while I don’t expect “tips”, it is certainly nice to think someone actually appreciates what you do, regardless of whom you work for, or the general impression the “company” as a whole may give.
We really have so few people that touch our lives on a DAILY basis and one is the mailman …ok, six days a week.
Who else does that? I can think of no one. Yes, policemen and firemen, and preachers 🙂 are THERE for us, and provide a service 24/7/365 for us, but they don’t handle something of ours that we receive daily, or walk daily in our yard, or stop daily at our little mailbox on the street.
We do other things, too, (I do) like take in your garbage can when you left on vacation before that garbage man came; toss your newspapers in a hidden spot when they add up to two or more to prevent burglary; help you unload that big ole thing you need help with; notice if your mail piles up with your car in the drive, and knock to make sure you have not had a stroke or something; listen to your complaints about the economy and the government, etc.; keep an eye out for your “lost” dog or cat while we make our rounds; call your daughter (whom we remember lives over on Oak Lane), if something seems amiss at your house; and the list could go on.
I also will go see you in the hospital, and visit you or your spouse in the funeral home when that time comes. (have been to dozens and dozens, for a fact…have been on my route for over 25 years).
I don’t expect you to give me a bag of homemade goodies, or a gift card to McDonald’s, or even a crisp 5 dollar bill, but we are grateful (and I even send thank you cards).
By the way, I LOVE fruitcake, the real ones, that is.
MERRY CHRISTMAS you old Grinch, 🙂 . Really, have a great Holiday Season!

Snowshoe November 28, 2010 at 12:38 am

I’m a rural letter carrier. I believe we are paid enough that we don’t need tips. It’s not like we are delivering pizzas or waiting tables. I order pizza every Monday night after my 10 or 11 day at work and I tip the pizza delivery person since they are not reimbursed for use of their personal vehicles. I never expect tips or anything from my customers. A “thank you” is tip enough for me. Just knowing I’m appreciated is what keeps me going. During the summer, I have customers who give me water or soda and there have been days where I couldn’t have made it without it! It is my job to give my customers the best service possible. I believe they are entitled to it. I sell stamps and mail packages for them and they never have to set foot in the post office! The postal service may be a horrible quasi-government agency, but that doesn’t make me as a rural carrier a horrible person. I also fix mailboxes on my route and offer to help customers with their mailboxes if they need it.

Philip Taylor November 28, 2010 at 1:38 am

Wow. You have a lot of letter carriers who follow your blog!

My thoughts: I don’t tip anyone who can’t provide extra service. My mailman just puts my mail in the mailbox. There is no way to physically do that “better” to be worthy of extra compensation from me. I do tip my hairdresser, but not more during Christmas.

I guess I’m a scrooge, but I just don’t really believe in tipping. Except at restaurants where they are paid based on the expectation of a tip.

Frank November 28, 2010 at 10:39 am

Bottom line, Hank, is that you’re cheap.
Have you ever actually seen a garbageman on a cold, rainy winter morning, running around your neighborhood, lugging your heavy trash into the garbage truck? These guys don’t get paid much and work their butts off. Same with the mailman – rain, sleet,walking on the sidewalk you were too lazy to shovel.
I doubt that you’ll change your ways – your neighbors who appreciate service and do tip will compensate for your ‘frugality’.
Take a look at the book “Keep the Change: A Clueless Tipper’s Quest to Become the Guru of the Gratuity “.
Oh, yes: Happy Holidays, cheapskate!

robert November 28, 2010 at 9:41 pm

I was a mail carrier for 30 years and retired 2009. Tipping is a choice from my customer I served. When my customer tip me during christmas, was because they appreciated how I served them, I never asked them for tip and if I refused what they give me I believed it is an insult. When you know and served the people for so manyyears, it is just like a family, you know them and they know you. Also, mail carriers are not allowed to solicit gifts or tip from customer. People tip and give gifts because they love to do it and appreciate how you served them. Remember that even God give tip ” His Son Jesus” for us because He believed we are worthy, even when we are bastard, stupid, and sinful human people.

Pete Countryman / Postal Pete in Kentucky November 29, 2010 at 9:23 am

One Christmas I recieved a bottle of Dom Perignon , a five pound box of chocolates and a $100.00 check as tips from my p o box customers.

They made for a great Valentine’s Day celebration in New Orleans ~

Mack November 29, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Hank, It sounds like you need to go see the doctor and have that stick up your butt surgically removed. What a grouch!

Mik November 29, 2010 at 4:53 pm

I don’t expect tips but like biscuit said above we do a lot of extra things. I have put out 2 fires with a garden hose, found several elderly people who had been lying on the floor unable to move, helped people find a lost dog or lost child, moved peoples garbage cans out of the street, knocked on peoples doors to tell them they left their lights on, returned keys, money etc to people that I found on their front lawn etc. You would be surprised how may elderly people count on seeing the mailman everyday. If you don’t want to tip the mailman, shovel your walk, empty your mailbox on a regular basis and keep your dogs away from us and most of us will be quite happy.

Biscuit November 29, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Mik, you remind me of so many other things: hiding newspapers while people are on vacation, yes, pulling an old lady up out of her head down position when she fell off the porch, returning the sixty dollars I found to a lady that was sooo needy, (and quite a few other money incidents), telling the Alzheimer’s victims they left their car doors open, or their keys in the door, or their groceries on the porch, etc.; have attended literally dozens and dozens of wakes and funerals, visited in the hospitals, visited them in nursing homes, many times; started an old lady’s lawnmower, oh it is just too long to list.
I had one senior who would go out on the sidewalk, looking for me, bless his memory.

I do hope, Mr. Hank, that during this Christmas season, your heart, like the Grinch’s, will grow a size or two 🙂 . When you need someone, that someone might be a mailman or garbage man, or someone who passes regularly, and sorta “knows” when something might be amiss at your house, and takes action! Every month, our union magazine is loaded with stories of carriers who have saved lives, homes, children, etc, by being on the spot, alert, and caring enough to set aside one duty for a duty more important.
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Kim November 30, 2010 at 12:34 am

A belated happy Thanksgiving to you. Thanks for continuing your work on this enjoyable blog.

Hank Coleman November 30, 2010 at 7:52 am

Wow! I think Phil hit the nail on the head. I had no idea that there were so many mail carriers that read the blog. Here are a few things to think of…

@Pete Countryman – You are right. The postage rate does not increase every year, but the USPS certainly tries to increase the rate. In fact, since 1963 when a stamp cost just 5 cent to now, the annualize rate of increases has outpaced inflation by almost 2%. There is also a reason that no private business is can deliver a letter for 44 cents door to door, it isn’t profitable or even breaking even for that matter. The government has propped up the USPS for decades. The service continues to run in the red year after year. In fact, it is estimated that there will be a $238 billion cumulative shortfall by the year 2020 thanks to falling revenue.

While the taxpayers do not directly pay a tax to the USPS for its operations as so many of the readers are so quick to point out, taxpayers DO pay for the USPS and its Unions’ lack of business skills in running itself. If the USPS was a real business, it would have gone bankrupt years ago.

All of the mail carriers who made comments bring out great points about how they go above and beyond the call of duty to help people on their routes. Others have pointed out that there is a reason for the seaon, and of course they are right. Tipping and giving is about what is in your heart and what you feel.

Also, I had no idea about the contracted carriers that George mentioned and their plight. So, that was definitely an interesting twist. Thanks for the insight.

Parker makes a great point that maybe I deep down do not hate my mailman but just wanted to generate some discussion on the blog. Thank you all for making this one of the most active or hated entries in a very long time. I appreciate your comments and you taking the time to add to the discussion.

Jimmy November 30, 2010 at 2:33 pm

USPS has become the biggest junkmailer to my mailbox this season. I prefer not to get any junk mail so it would be tough to justify tipping the deliverer.

Mik November 30, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Well Hank the reason so many postal carriers read your blog is because of this article, anytime you write an article that says anything about the post office it gets linked to postalreporter.com. I also disagree with your comment about the goverment propping up the post office, it may be doing so right now, but the goverment has been using USPS as a cash cow for years. The goverment forces usps to run as a nonprofit and claim we don’t get taxed, but there have been several instances over the years where the goverment has decided usps should give them 500 million or so. The goverment also overcharged usps $50 billion for postal retirement benefits, here is a link to the article http://www.postalreporternews.net/2010/06/30/prc-report-finds-50-billion-discrepancy-in-usps-payment-of-retirement-benefits/
The post office also made a 283 million profit for the first 2 months of this fiscal yr (Oct and Nov) so things might be turning around.
The part about 29% of the people tipping mail carries has proven to be false in my area at least, it has been 5-7% in the 20 yrs I have been doing this. The ironic thing is that the nice people who don’t cause you any problems are the ones who tip, the ones who don’t ever shovel their walks and cause you all sorts of problems and extra work never tip. I am sorry that your mail service is bad but many carriers are well loved by their customers and their is a reason for that.

Paul November 30, 2010 at 9:59 pm

“While the taxpayers do not directly pay a tax to the USPS for its operations as so many of the readers are so quick to point out, taxpayers DO pay for the USPS and its Unions’ lack of business skills in running itself. If the USPS was a real business, it would have gone bankrupt years ago.”

Strange, I always thought that management ran the company, not the unions. If unions ran the post office, filing a grievance against itself for violating a contract would seem kind of strange. Anyway, a friend of mine thinks that unions are like the mafia, but I don’t think taxpayers pay the union–nor the post office’s operational costs. I’m surprised no one (except for Mik, albeit indirectly) attempted to correct you: for one, postage–not taxes–pays for wages (i.e., labor costs), which includes the supervisors’ and postmasters’ salaries, as well. Therefore, if stamps are going up, it might have more to do with prices at the gas pumps going up than anything else.

Also, sometimes management’s once-brilliant idea to save money–as well as their continuous attempt to violate the contract and other fair labor practices–end up backfiring and ending up costing the company more money than it would have saved.

Saying “Taxpayers DO pay for the USPS and its Unions’ lack of business skills in running itself” is like saying taxpayers DO pay for the movie theater’s lack of business skills in running itself. Every person in America (with very rare exceptions) is considered to be a customer, and therefore every taxpayer is a customer, but not every customer is a taxpayer, and only those customers who send mail pay for postal operational costs. The customers who receive mail are being serviced because those who paid to send the mail paid for postage. The customer can refuse, but either way the transaction is complete.

Except for blind and deaf materials and oversea voting material that’s mandated (and therefore subsidized) by Congress and a recent bailout, the post office has been operating as an independent entity, but while the USPS has been losing money lately, it is due to a decline in mail volume, primarily due to the emergence of cell phones, text messages, email and people paying bills online. The Post Office is there to provide a service. If it costs more to provide that service, then postage goes up accordingly. The War on Terror has been costing taxpayers billions upon billions of dollars each week. The Department of Defense will argue that their existence is justified because they are providing a service (namely safety and homeland security) and I’m pretty sure they are a monopoly, too, but that’s what they are supposed to do, without making a profit. If the price of an armor or even a bullet goes up, then the President/Commander-In-Chief will request a supplemental, which Congress frequently and unquestionably approves. This is called “universal service,” for the military’s success provides safety for everyone and everything within the American borders, not just those who have paid taxes.

And while contractors and militia can (and often do) supplement and complement the US Armed Forces, they do not and are not required to fulfill the duties that every single enlisted men and women are obligated to perform, and do not answer to the American people. They are only required to perform the services stated within their contracts and answer to their own bosses (not the American people, e.g., taxpayers, but rather supervisors and stockholders). They can charge different prices and quit when the job is done, or get fired or have their contracts terminated when something goes wrong. Then another company steps in, starts over and takes their place. This is not efficient nor desired, at least in a grand scale.

But I digress. Sorry about the rant, but I thought it was important to clear up a few misconceptions. Back to the topic at hand: No, I’m not saying that the post office’s duties are comparable in importance to that of the military (even though many employees are current or former members of the Armed Forces), but someone needs to do the job that’s been around longer than the United States itself, and in the post office’s case, the “quasi” in “quasi-federal” means that we are not taxpayer-funded (as opposed to Amtrak: also quasi-federal but actually taxpayer-funded).

Also, it is true that the post office is a monopoly, but it was not allowed to be run as a business–it was not allowed to make a profit, only break even. (This was only changed the last few years.) And it had to answer to Congress through a Postal Commission. I don’t think Chevron, Exxon-Mobil and Shell has to ask Congress for permission to change prices. And one that can’t take effect for at least six months, at that. Plus, by law, the workers can’t go on strike. UPS and FedEx can go on strike, though.

So bottom line is, postal wages are not paid by taxpayers, directly or indirectly, but rather by customers: the mailers and individuals who are SENDING, not RECEIVING the mail. Those customers just happen to be taxpayers (or at least sometimes, since they might not file taxes due to low or no income, legally and temporarily shielding their income in an investment account, or legally hiding it in an offshore account). Either way, just like soldiers, regular male and female letter carriers make enough in salary and wages that they don’t need tips, and you should not feel obligated to tip one.
When was the last time you tipped a soldier? They are just doing their job. Theirs is just nobler than the mail carriers’ and garbage collectors’, but just as necessary. Not to belabor the point, but as of 2010, the post office is not taxpayer-funded—and hasn’t been since the early 1980’s.

Sorry for the essay.

Chris November 30, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Paul and Mik hit the nail on the head. I wish that you guys had blogs. Very educated and precise in all of your stated facts.

The letter carrier becomes a fabric of the community to his/her route. As stated earlier, we help people out when needed. Be it finding lost pets. Stopping kids from running into the street. Clearing a burning house. Helping the elderly. Keeping watch of the neighborhood and calling the police when necessary. We don’t ask or need any tips. But when we get one, especially from someone you know, really can’t afford to give you one, it is something very special. Even if it is just a warm “Happy Holidays”. It just makes your day to feel appreciated.

In closing, I will not wish you a happy holiday season because I don’t believe YOU deserve one. I do wish a Happy Holiday season to all of the hardworking letter carriers, clerks, and mailhandlers.(The people that actually handle the mail.) By the way, I give these people a percentage of my tips EVERY year.

Proud union steward,
Chris

buety13 December 1, 2010 at 12:23 am

I belive in any profesion the tip should be equal to the service. I have not met all of my customers in person. I have however hid the newspaper, moved the garbage can, placed the mail on hold even though the customer forgot to fill out the slip ( and I knew to do so becuase they visit their Daughter the same time every year) One of my favorite customers, I would knock and wait for her to yell “come in” before I opened the back door, then after giving her a hug I would put her insolin in the fridge, not the mailbox so it wouldnt spoil. Her nurse came later in the day. Some people come to depend on you. The same person the same time 6 days a week. I would NEVER expect a tip. I am always curtiose, helpful and kind, I offer any information I can, and when I don’t know I find out. I tip my mail lady, my garbage man the recycle guy, and even my childrens teachers, for the simple fact I appriciate them .

Paul December 1, 2010 at 12:48 am

Hank wrote: “@Pete: You are right. The postage rate does not increase every year, but the USPS certainly tries to increase the rate. In fact, since 1963 when a stamp cost just 5 cent to now, the annualize rate of increases has outpaced inflation by almost 2%. There is also a reason that no private business is can deliver a letter for 44 cents door to door, it isn’t profitable or even breaking even for that matter.”

Let me tackle the second part first: if it isn’t profitable, then it makes no sense when members of Congress suggest that the post office should be privatized. Having said that, it WASN’T profitable because the USPS was not allowed to be profitable; however, it WAS projected to break even at $0.44/first ounce, which is why the postage was set at that amount. Since that is no longer the case, they request increase in postage, which gets turned down sometimes even though it was needed–perhaps due to cost-overruns but also bad, short-sighted business decisions. Either way, the post office’s monopoly is granted by the US Constitution (like the Bill of Rights) and I’d like to think that every American has the right to affordable means of communication. Universal communication.

Many people have asked if it costs 44 cents to mail a letter from NY to Hawai’i, why shouldn’t it cost less to mail something from NY to NY? To them I say, it costs you 44 cents to mail from a letter from NY to NY, but the USPS doesn’t charge you extra if you were to mail it to Hawai’i instead. Try asking UPS to do that for you. (Actually, I take that back. Sometimes, UPS and FedEx would mail packages for you, except they end up using USPS as their last-mile partner to deliver it anyway because it ends up being cheaper for them, so why not bypass the middleman?)

Back to the first point. I’m not sure about the indexing against inflation, but there are many gauges that economists use, not necessarily for accuracy, to compare prices of popular products against other prices of the same era. For instance, the price of Coca-Cola in 1972 vs. 2010, or the price of a Big Mac, gasoline, newspapers or the cost of going to the movies. There’s another “index” used that I didn’t know about, and that is the “Hershey Bar index.” http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodfaq5.html#candybar

In 1963, a 7/8-oz bar of Hershey’s chocolate costs 5 cents, which is what you said the cost of a stamp was for the same year. Now, the price of a 1.55-oz Hershey’s Bar in 2010 spotted in New Jersey was 95 cents. I don’t know if they still sell 7/8-oz bars, so I’ll use the price for the 1.55-oz bar and calculate the price as if it were a 7/8-oz bar:
7/8-oz = 0.875-oz
so if 1.55-oz = 95 cents
1-oz = 95 cents/1.55
and therefore 0.875-oz = 0.875 x 95 cents / 1.55, or roughly 53.6-cents.

So, to sum it up:
Hershey index
1963 = 5 cents
2010 = 53 cents

And in comparison:
USPS postage
1963 = 5 cents
2010 = 44 cents.

Note, this isn’t at all scientific, but it is based on actual, factual prices, so interpret it however you wish. I just thought it was an interesting comparison, much like the charts and graphs found on USA Today newspapers.

Just be glad the USPS hasn’t been sold to Big Oil, or else you won’t be able to buy a “Forever Stamp” since prices would likely change several times daily.

Nobody’s forcing anyone to tip anybody, not even to restaurant waiters (unless you have a party of over 8 people or something, and even then it might end up going to the owners instead of your server for all you know). If you don’t hate your mailman (or mail-lady), then just thank them and/or shake his/her hand. Or just avoid them and hide at home if you don’t want to tip them but feel uncomfortable, guilty, or, for whatever reason, embarrassed. You shouldn’t, and they’re probably on vacation anyway. Besides, if you live at an apartment complex, they might not even know who you are or what you look like anyway.

Paul December 1, 2010 at 12:54 am

Hank wrote: “@Pete: You are right. The postage rate does not increase every year, but the USPS certainly tries to increase the rate. In fact, since 1963 when a stamp cost just 5 cent to now, the annualize rate of increases has outpaced inflation by almost 2%. There is also a reason that no private business is can deliver a letter for 44 cents door to door, it isn’t profitable or even breaking even for that matter.”

Let me tackle the second part first: if it isn’t profitable, then it makes no sense when members of Congress suggest that the post office should be privatized. Having said that, it WASN’T profitable because the USPS was not allowed to be profitable; however, it WAS projected to break even at $0.44/first ounce, which is why the postage was set at that amount. Since that is no longer the case, they request increase in postage, which gets turned down sometimes even though it was needed–perhaps due to cost-overruns but also bad, short-sighted business decisions. Either way, the post office’s monopoly is granted by the US Constitution (like the Bill of Rights) and I’d like to think that every American has the right to affordable means of communication. Universal communication.

Many people have asked if it costs 44 cents to mail a letter from NY to Hawai’i, why shouldn’t it cost less to mail something from NY to NY? To them I say, it costs you 44 cents to mail from a letter from NY to NY, but the USPS doesn’t charge you extra if you were to mail it to Hawai’i instead. Try asking UPS to do that for you. (Actually, I take that back. Sometimes, UPS and FedEx would mail packages for you, except they end up using USPS as their last-mile partner to deliver it anyway because it ends up being cheaper for them, so why not bypass the middleman?)

Back to the first point. I’m not sure about the indexing against inflation, but there are many gauges that economists use, not necessarily for accuracy, to compare prices of popular products against other prices of the same era. For instance, the price of Coca-Cola in 1972 vs. 2010, or the price of a Big Mac, gasoline, newspapers or the cost of going to the movies. There’s another “index” used that I didn’t know about, and that is the “Hershey Bar index.” http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodfaq5.html#candybar

In 1963, a 7/8-oz bar of Hershey’s chocolate costs 5 cents, which is what you said the cost of a stamp was for the same year. Now, the price of a 1.55-oz Hershey’s Bar in 2010 spotted in New Jersey was 95 cents. I don’t know if they still sell 7/8-oz bars, so I’ll use the price for the 1.55-oz bar and calculate the price as if it were a 7/8-oz bar:
7/8-oz = 0.875-oz
so if 1.55-oz = 95 cents
1-oz = 95 cents/1.55
and therefore 0.875-oz = 0.875 x 95 cents / 1.55, or roughly 53.6-cents.

So, to sum it up:
Hershey index
1963 = 5 cents
2010 = 53 cents

And in comparison:
USPS postage
1963 = 5 cents
2010 = 44 cents.

Note, this isn’t at all scientific, but it is based on actual, factual prices, so interpret it however you wish. I just thought it was an interesting comparison, much like the charts and graphs found on USA Today newspapers.

Just be glad the USPS hasn’t been sold to Big Oil, or else you won’t be able to buy a “Forever Stamp” since prices would likely change several times daily.

Nobody’s forcing anyone to tip anybody, not even to restaurant waiters (unless you have a party of over 8 people or something, and even then it might end up going to the owners instead of your server for all you know). If you don’t hate your mailman (or mail-lady), then just thank them and/or shake his/her hand. Or just avoid them and hide at home if you don’t want to tip them but feel uncomfortable, guilty, or, for whatever reason, embarrassed. You shouldn’t, and they’re probably on vacation anyway. Besides, if you live at a huge New York apartment complex, they might not even know who you are or what you look like–or, sadly, if you even lived there.

JimmyDaGeek December 1, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Why should anyone be tipped? Isn’t that part of their job? Just because there is a custom or understanding. Tipping guides are pure BS. If I tip, it’s for exceptional service, not for someone doing their job. All the people mentioned are hired to do a job. Mail carriers and garbage people are also paid very well.

Chris December 1, 2010 at 10:01 pm

I can’t believe the amount of people that bitch about the price of a stamp. Then they go spend $8.00 on a Vente Latte Diarreah, served by some art major at your local university that can’t wait to go tell you about their new project. Oh yeah, make sure you don’t tip them either.

carmen December 3, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Im assuming that tipping your mail carrier is an example of all people you wouldnt tip. Where i too would not tip a mail carrier and i do not, i wanted to point out that i would however, tip my newspaper carrier. First of all, they dont get paid well at all. They get about $0.15 per paper. Most routes are an average of 150 papers. Thats only $22.50 per night and there are NO days off. Not even holidays. So even on Christmas morning when your sleeping, your carrier is working to get you your paper so its on your porch, or in your box or drive, etc. At $157.50 a week minus bags, the required additional insurance and taxes and the occasional complaint that cost the carrier 20 times in a fee….minus fuel, mileage, and vehicle maintenance. The route is almost not paying off. But that carrier does this job anyway cause obviously its a job that pays. I know this cause i am a carrier. I work hard to please my customers and i go beyond what is required to do so. Im simply trying to make my mortgage and feed my kids. If im fortunate to receive tips, my children will benefit this Christmas. Especially since there is NEVER money left over.

Mik December 3, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Well Carmen, tipping is for exceptional service and the bottom line is if the customer decides someone gives exceptional service and deserves a tip it’s nobody else’s bussiness. Does anyone really believe people read a consumers report article and then tip somebody who does a bad job?
You should probably try and get a bigger route, the paper carrier 2 doors down from me told me she works about 4hrs a day and 6 on Sunday and makes 50k a yr. I am thinking 150 houses is maybe an hr to an hr and a halfs work.

Corina December 6, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Thank You notes may be a sweet and thoughtful gesture but I feel you can’t ignore that the mail carrier and garbage man jobs are lower paying. Esp. during the holiday season I can imagine the amount of trouble the mail carrier has to go through with trying to deliver the excessive amount of mail/gifts to people. I personally feel despite your dissatisfaction with U.S postal service the mail man shouldn’t be the one to suffer. If i ate at a restaurant and the food was terrible should I not pay the waitress tip? Clearly its not the waitresses fault that the restaurant doesn’t serve high quality food. So why should the waitress who lives on tips have to suffer?

Those were just my two cents. Thanks for sharing this article, loved hearing your thoughts.

The Penny Hoarder December 15, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I’m with you on this one. My mailman isn’t particularly friendly so I feel no need to tip him. However, I do like to tip our apartment maintenance guy at the Holidays. Somehow I feel like he deserves it for all the times he has made a trip to fix my plumbing instead of spending the evening with his family.

Sharron Clemons December 21, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Well Carmen, tipping is for exceptional service and the bottom line is if the customer decides someone gives exceptional service and deserves a tip it’s nobody else’s bussiness. Does anyone really believe people read a consumers report article and then tip somebody who does a bad job? You should probably try and get a bigger route, the paper carrier 2 doors down from me told me she works about 4hrs a day and 6 on Sunday and makes 50k a yr. I am thinking 150 houses is maybe an hr to an hr and a halfs work.

Marisol Perry December 21, 2010 at 7:26 pm

I belive in any profesion the tip should be equal to the service. I have not met all of my customers in person. I have however hid the newspaper, moved the garbage can, placed the mail on hold even though the customer forgot to fill out the slip ( and I knew to do so becuase they visit their Daughter the same time every year) One of my favorite customers, I would knock and wait for her to yell “come in” before I opened the back door, then after giving her a hug I would put her insolin in the fridge, not the mailbox so it wouldnt spoil. Her nurse came later in the day. Some people come to depend on you. The same person the same time 6 days a week. I would NEVER expect a tip. I am always curtiose, helpful and kind, I offer any information I can, and when I don’t know I find out. I tip my mail lady, my garbage man the recycle guy, and even my childrens teachers, for the simple fact I appriciate them .

Nona Mills December 22, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Paul and Mik hit the nail on the head. I wish that you guys had blogs. Very educated and precise in all of your stated facts.The letter carrier becomes a fabric of the community to his/her route. As stated earlier, we help people out when needed. Be it finding lost pets. Stopping kids from running into the street. Clearing a burning house. Helping the elderly. Keeping watch of the neighborhood and calling the police when necessary. We don’t ask or need any tips. But when we get one, especially from someone you know, really can’t afford to give you one, it is something very special. Even if it is just a warm “Happy Holidays”. It just makes your day to feel appreciated.In closing, I will not wish you a happy holiday season because I don’t believe YOU deserve one. I do wish a Happy Holiday season to all of the hardworking letter carriers, clerks, and mailhandlers.(The people that actually handle the mail.) By the way, I give these people a percentage of my tips EVERY year.Proud union steward, Chris

chantel January 21, 2011 at 10:28 am

I’m very curious as to why everyone assumes postal carriers and garbage workers are “not paid very well” / “low paying jobs” . My friend’s husband is a postal carrier and they live comfortably with his $50K + salary… Not bad for no college, infact $15K more than I, a college graduate in the health field, make. And garbage collectors, my friend actually dated a guy who was her “sugar daddy” and drove her around in his brand new Cadillac and supported his family (kids, not married) and he was a garbage collector. I believe at one point, she told me he made around $20 hourly.
I live in a good sized city just outside of Orlando, Florida and these are pay amounts that anyone can easily afford to live off of around here (considering the theme parks like Disney and Universal pay less than $9.00 an hour!)

Rebekah October 10, 2011 at 2:31 am

@Pete. Seriously? We should tip well paid postal workers for doing their job? Well then, I guess I should ask every customer who calls me on a daily basis to send me a tip? This is really crazy…I’ll tip a waiter or waitress, the pizza guy because tips are part of their salary. I should in no way be compelled to tip my postal worker because he puts my mail in the mailbox. His/her salary pays for that.

Rob January 11, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Mr. Hank, I have been a letter carrier for 25 years now. Of course, it is everyone’s choice who they decide to tip in life. I never tipped the mailman before I was employed by the postal service. I was always taught the mailman makes good wages. Which is quite true. I don’t treat anyone any different on my mail route who either tip or choose not to tip. But, the ignorance in America that they’re are sick of the price of the stamp going up every couple of years is outrageous. Let me ask you this Mr. Hank…the price of a gallon of gasoline is around $3.50. Next week it might easily be $3.60 per gallon. Do you walk inside the gas station and complain about it? Why not? The price of a gallon of milk rises several times a year. Do you walk into the market and complain about it? Why not? So why do you complain about a simple postage stamp? There are other options today that can save you money on postage. Paying your bills on the Internet. Purchase forever stamps now at today’s rates. In fact, if you buy plenty now, you will have enough that will last you until you are dead and gone. Then, you can have a smile on your face at the wake knowing you got back at the postal service.

Paul September 10, 2015 at 9:17 am

I am a Letter Carrier. People don’t see how hard our job is. I have been a Carrier for 26 and 1/2 years, over 17 years with half the route I deliver. I go way beyond what is expected of me by my employer to take care of my customers, who are more my neighbors then my own neighbors. I have had three dog bites, Two knee surgeries, one shoulder surgery, have carpel tunnel in both wrist, and see a Chiropractor once a month to fix my spine. I walk 6 and 1/2 hours a day with a load on my arm and back. I go up and down about two thousand stairs and I do this in all types of weather. The last two days were 90+degrees and 90+ humidity. Our trucks have no A/C and get over 10o degrees. In the winter I walk through snow and ice. Extreme cold. Why? To get you your Mail. A little Thanks is appreciated, even if it is just a card.

A Different Paul September 10, 2015 at 7:58 pm

@Paul: everything you say is true, and a thanks is welcomed and cards are appreciated, but just like our vets, it’s rare that they get thanked, and just a “thank you” is enough for me. As much as they’re taking away our freedom (scanners with trackers), benefits and pay increases (COLA, raises) and taking money away from all future hires (CCAs won’t make the same amount as a pre-2012 hire until 15 years later), we do make way more than minimum wage earners after all the said and done (matching TSP contributions, pension, discounted health benefits, union discounts for wireless phone plans, etc.) so I don’t need to get anything from my customers. That’s why I quit Pizza Hut, so I wouldn’t have to rely on tips, and half of the customers don’t even tip anyway.

You have my gratitude as a fellow carrier. Bravo, Brother Paul. Carry on!

But truthfully, in my opinion, coal miners really have it tough–black lungs, cave-ins, explosions, union-busting management, and they essentially deliver electricity to you (via coal) every day. So, indirectly, coal miners deliver your email since they help provide electricity. Nobody stopped to tell them thanks. Yeah, I’m more for clean energy (wind, solar, geothermal, etc.), but those workers are literally dying for our energy needs. Out of sight, out of mind? (I hope we get A/C in our new trucks.)

Injuries suck, but psychological trauma is just as bad if you’re dealing with bad managers. I’m glad I don’t have to work through ice and snow, but 100-degree weather is starting to become the norm here in California. If not now, then definitely by the time I retire. Until then, lather up in sunblock because UV radiation is a deadly killer.

BRUNO November 16, 2015 at 9:01 pm

Dear Hank, I’m a letter carrier and I agree with you. You don’t have to tip your letter carrier. I do, but that is my perogative. Now as for the price of stamps. I don’t know where you live, but for now let’s assume you live in California. If I were to give you .49 cents and a letter would you personally deliver to a friend of yours in, let’s say, New York?

Tara O'Sullivan March 12, 2016 at 8:03 pm

Came across this post while searching for an appropriate card to give to someone on my route for a serious illness…Yes, I’m a rural carrier.
I just wanted to clear a few things up…
According to my handbook, we’re not allowed to accept cash gifts or gifts valued at $50 or more. (NOT $20 as someone stated.)

As for the government….We’re actually an independently operating agency umbrella’d under the executive branch of the government. We’ve been this way since 1971.
Which basically means that federal law dictates what we can and cannot do, and people like me are civil service Federal Employees. However, we receive NO taxpayer aid and we are totally self-funded. The services we provide are pretty much operating on the sales of postage. Which, naturally, would increase over time as mail increases over time. (My office, for instance, had 70% more mail to deliver this season than last year and everyone got familiar with the concept of overtime.)

Another thing to understand about your mail carriers….If the route that you’re on suddenly has an influx of junk mail, packages or anything like that, and it makes us work a ten hour day to deliver your mail. But we are only paid on evaluated time for that route. So let’s call the average route a 5 hour route. It takes us 8 hours to deliver to you fine folk, we go home being paid for…yup, you guessed it. Five hours. This has its good and bad moments, but it’s certainly something to take into account if your mail carrier is always late….they’re not doing it to milk a clock, because we don’t have one to milk.

Now me….I’m just a sub. I take up all the hours whenever anyone in the office calls in or takes a vacation. And it’s rough. It’s mentally and physically exhausting, more so than any other career I’ve ever had (and I’ve had some doozies) Last Christmas was my first and it was incredibly difficult. Some folk who knew me from delivering their packages all year left me notes, children’s drawings, Dunkin Donuts gift cards and baked goods over a few weeks time.
I have to say, when I went to someone’s box and saw that, it made me feel like all of my efforts were noticed and appreciated. And it made my day go so much better. And those customers I’ll always remember for their kindness. My favourite was a little crayon doodle of me an 8 year old boy did. So cute!

I really don’t think it’s a matter of getting or giving money, or even tipping. Saying it’s a tip and assuming it’s just that takes away from the actions of generosity. It’s just a way to say thank you to someone who isn’t family, isn’t quite a neighbour, but still makes a significant impact on your day to day life. I’ve always done something special for my carriers, even now…and my mailman is now my coworker. 🙂

Tara O'Sullivan March 12, 2016 at 8:08 pm

(Side note, and somewhat funny now that I think about it….I wrongfully assumed a year ago when I began this job that since I was now a federal employee that I would obviously get all the federal holidays off.

Silly me.

As it turns out, the post office has exceptions to the federal holiday rule, and we have a very small list of holidays we actually don’t work. Working Christmas Eve and others was a complete shock to my family.

And let me be one to point out that holidays at the post office royally suck. I’ve often said at work that I’d rather come in and work on, say, Memorial Day, than deal with three days of accumulated mail the following business day. It’s always an absolute nightmare!)

Kim July 17, 2016 at 10:38 pm

Really people??? Tipping is a courtesy but come on! Your mailman provides a FREE Service to you daily….that right…the only FREE Service you receive.now days!!! Believe me…they work long hard day’s..and during Christmas they personally make sure all the gifts are delivered before they go home to their families! Be grateful and courteous..tip your mailcarrier!

Cher December 15, 2016 at 7:24 pm

Thank you Kim! I also think the same way. Delivery of mail to your house is free 6 days a week. Garbage pick up is once a week and you also get a bill every month or every 3 months..however it’s set up.

As a rural carrier I don’t expect aka… tips around Christmas. I am grateful when i do and it shows that they appreciate me as their mail carrier.

I stumbled across this blog while searching for thank quotes to write in my thank you notes to my customers. After reading I don’t like my mail carrier and all he does is stick mail in the mailbox I was offended. It’s obvious to me that you did something to piss your mail carrier off or your just a dick! You also don’t have a clue on the process or what we go through 6 days a week to provide you with free mail delivery to your house. I bet you could tell me how to do my job though! I would also like you or anyone else to drive half way across the country on .47 cents to give your grandchild a birthday card!

I try to provide the best service to my customers as possible. The ones that are ungrateful and jerks will get just service and nothing more!!! ?

Joy December 19, 2016 at 9:30 pm

I am a retired postal employee. I know how hard postal employees work since I worked in several different capacities during my career. I worked 6 days a week and always went the extra mile. Would I tip my mail carrier? Absolutely not. I am a generous tipper, when I get good service. Maybe it is not all her fault, but when the service improves, I will consider the tip, but with postal restructuring, don’t hold your breathe. The quality of new employees only gets worse. Restructuring means : cut in pay, less benefits, inadequate trainings=poor attitudes
The mismanagement (including huge bonuses for management that forces employees to lie) has caused the service issues of today. I believe in just doing your job right, tip or no tip. And by the way, I do not think postage rates are too high.

Alan November 1, 2017 at 9:13 pm

Hank, You are a dumbass! The postal service is NOT a governmental agency! I’ve had my route for over 30 years and I get tipped at around 3000.00 per year! Guess I don’t suck. Glad I don’t work in the restaurant industry anymore! I’d spit on your entree! Also, as an FYI, the USPS is the most efficient, cost effective postal service in the world! I guess you voted for the Hii-d-beast, loser!

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