At holiday time, Midlothian homeowners can count on being flooded with decisions. For everything from the extent of front yard decorations to the menu decisions for family gatherings, more than anything, ‘tis the season for organization and planning. Homeowners have done their best to minimize the likelihood of travel-related scheduling emergencies—never mind the weird weather patterns that make that a coin-toss. They’ve either succeeded or failed in syncing their gift-shopping to take advantage of sales—although this year, 1-day sale announcements seem to be popping up and disappearing as fast as Whack-a-Moles. 2014’s calendar also reduced the number of days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so there’s been less time to get everything done…
Given all that, Midlothian homeowners can scarcely be faulted if they haven’t given a lot of thought to holiday tip giving: who, how much…the usual conundrum. I thought I would do some current research and offer everyone some guidance, but I should warn you: I didn’t find much.
I thought the answer would lie with Dr. Wm. Michael Lynn, the tipping universe’s reigning academic expert. In case you never suspected there was such a field, you should know that Dr. Lynn is the Burton M. Sack Professor at Cornell University. Although, technically, Dr. Lynn’s professorship is in “Food & Beverage Management” (and before the holidays are over, some Midlothian homeowners may wish they’d paid more heed to their own personal beverage management), his most important work has been on the subject of tipping.
Unfortunately, when I delved into some of his thoughts so I could share them with Midlothian homeowners, what I found turned out to be a little more technical than expected. I’d hoped to find something like “hairdresser: cost of a session” or “babysitter: hourly rate x 4” — some cut-and-dried guidance like that. Instead, I found research papers on topics like the relationship of tips to waiters’ and waitresses’ shirt colors (wearing a black and white shirt gets better tips than red); whether religious people are poor tippers compared with less religious people (not really, unless the service is really bad); and how the desire for social approval motivates tipping of car guards in South Africa (I’m still not sure what a ‘car guard’ is).
Undoubtedly these insights are valid, but don’t provide Midlothian homeowners with much useful guidance. With time running out, I turned for help elsewhere, and did eventually emerge with some vague but welcome suggestions, mostly from Emily Post and the Chicago Tribune:
- Grade school teacher: holiday gift (something thoughtful; a nice card will do)
- Doctor, lawyer, accountant: skip entirely
- Newspaper deliverer: $15-$30 (remember, this comes from the Trib)
- Housekeeper/Cleaner: Up to amount of one week’s pay and/or small gift
- Gardeners, Trash collectors, all the rest: advice varies from $10-$50!
- Babysitter: One evening’s pay and a small gift from the child/ren
- Butler: pay close attention to reruns of Downton Abbey
But finally there was truly useful advice offered by a psychologist in the Midwest. She pointed out that holiday gratuities are never mandatory; they’re appropriate when you find them to be so, and gift or cash, the size is what makes you (and the recipient) feel comfortable.
I like that advice…and what a great time of year for us to hear it! In the same spirit, I hope you and your family find in 2014 the warmest, most wonderful holiday season ever!