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A Life Well Lived - Having Style 

Here's a tip: Small Gift way to thank service personnel


Of The Post and Courier Staff

Call it a Christmas conundrum, but most people struggle to decide at year-end whether to tip the folks who help them maintain their lives and lifestyles year-round.

Philosophies vary on whether you should spread holiday cheer to your barber, hairdresser, garbage collector, baby sitters, landscapers and other service personnel.

There is no accepted norm or formula for holiday tipping, no magic numbers that serve as handily as 15 and 20 percent do when a restaurant bill arrives. Most people who make a living dispensing etiquette advice say that a small level of gratitude -- the $5 to $50 version -- is good taste for those who provide direct and personal service.

"It's just a gift, a way to say thank you," said Cindy Grosso, founder of the Charleston School of Protocol and Etiquette Inc. "It doesn't have anything to do with how much they're paid. ... And it shouldn't be intended to get a better level of service."

Grosso suggests up to $50 for hair stylists, $10 to $20 for postmen, $10 for trash collectors and newspaper deliverers, and a week's wages for housekeepers and nannies. Cash gifts are a definite no-no for school teachers, although she suggests some token of appreciation. And Grosso discourages alcohol as a gift in almost all situations.

That said, the common argument against holiday tipping is that these workers are already paid for their services. According to recent studies, a lot of Americans subscribe to that way of thinking.

A just-released survey found that 42 percent of people refrain from giving year-end tips. Many of the 3,100 people polled said they were confused about how much to give and to whom. Some 86 percent of people who responded to a recent poll said tipping in general is "out of control."

In other words, if you don't grease the palms of your garbage collectors or mailmen this season, you probably won't be dubbed a Scrooge.

Julia Santen, who owns a vintage-poster art gallery downtown, falls on the giving side of the tipping debate. She doles out small cash gifts to her mail carrier. Because her business involves a lot of shipping and receiving, Santen also puts her regular UPS and FedEx drivers on her list.

"I don't think it's necessary, but they deserve it," she said.

Marena Malizia, a hair stylist at Allure Color Specialist salon on King Street, said almost all of her regular customers give an extra 15 to 20 percent in December. That works out to $10 to $25 based on what they are having done.

"It's not required or standard, but it's definitely nice," Malizia said. "It's more or less like a bonus."

Holiday tipping is more of a mixed bag for mail carriers, who are forbidden from accepting more than $20 by the U.S. Postal Service.

A mailman in downtown Charleston who declined to share his name said some of his co-workers pocket a couple of thousand dollars every December. On the most generous routes, more than half of the households tip, he said.

"My route is all college kids, so I hardly get anything," he said. "But go check out the guy on East Bay. He looks like Santa Claus this time of year."

A UPS deliveryman, who also asked to remain anonymous, said a lot of businesses offer cash and non-cash gifts this time of year. He said UPS takes a don't-ask, don't-tell approach toward its drivers getting holiday tips.

"I have tried to refuse tips, but people will say, 'No, this is for you and I want you to have it,'" he said. "Going above and beyond is the best way to do this job, and people recognize that."

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Author: Kyle Stock

Source: Article Published in the Post and Courier

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