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From the Doorman to the Cleaner, 'Tis the Season to Tip

By Elizabeth Wolff | December 20, 2012 12:24pm

NEW YORK — Tipping can be a confusing and stressful end-of-year duty for most New Yorkers.

Shelling out cash when the holiday budget has already been stretched buying gifts for family and friends often feels more like a burden than an act of holiday cheer.

From doormen to superintendents, to nannies and garage attendants, it's hard to know just how much gratitude you should show to the people you rely on regularly throughout the year.

DNAinfo.com New York has compiled a list based on advice from experts including The Emily Post Institute and The Etiquette School of New York to help you navigate who to tip and how much to give.

Building superintendent: anywhere from $20 to $200

This is highly subjective to your building situation. Live-in superintendents always get more than those who don't live in the building, but everyone should get something. They're your first line of defense when you lose your keys, have a leak or need more heat. As for all apartment personnel, if you've lived there or hired them for just a part of the year, pro-rate your tip.

Doormen: $25-$100

"You help them when they need it and are discreet and have a good attitude, they'll give you more. It's a loyalty," explains Marian Sandu, a Brooklyn Heights doorman of 17 years.

"The old ones, the longer you know them, it goes up and up to $200 or more."

But the tip should be in keeping with the daily rent or maintenance costs — so that staff in a more affordable neighborhood get in the $50-a-piece range.

You may considering giving the doormen you see the most $20 to $30 more than the others, but it's important to give something to everyone. And note, if you're hosting a Christmas or New Years Eve party, always make a plate of food for the guys downstairs. It's their holiday too.

Elevator operator: $25-$75

Back-elevator operators are often the guys who bag your garbage and put it out on trash days. If you're giving the doormen $80, give the elevator operator $60.

Full time or live-in housekeeper/nanny/cook: One week to one month of their wage and a gift

Gift should be semi-personal and valued at more than $80, if you can afford it. A handbag or a sweater could work, or even a case of wine.

Part-time Babysitter: One evening’s pay and a small gift

Something impersonal but of good quality, valued between $20 and $60, is recommended. A well-made umbrella, a scarf, food or a gift card. For teenage babysitters, give them an Amazon gift card in lieu of a cash tip.

Part-time house cleaner: Cash in the amount of one visit

If your cleaning lady has come consistently one or more times a week for a long time, you should also give a small gift. It should be useful but not too personal.

Day care provider: $25-$75 and a small gift from your child

Nurse or home-health worker: A gift valued between $40 and $80

It should be useful but not too personal. If the nurse/home-health aide has been taking care of a family member, you should also be tipping them in cash at the one-year-mark of their employment. If you don't do this and the nurse has been with your family for a while and has become invaluable to you, I would also give a cash amount of one day of work.

 Marian Sandu has been a doorman at the same building in Brooklyn Heights for 17 years.
Marian Sandu has been a doorman at the same building in Brooklyn Heights for 17 years.
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Elizabeth Wolff

Dog walker: Their usual week's pay, or a gift.

Parking garage attendants: $25-$75

If you're in and out all the time, tip every attendant. Some garages have many employees, so $10 to $15 per person is fine.

Newspaper delivery person: $10 to $30 or a small gift.

Only feel the need to tip if they deliver the paper to your front door or get it there extra early.

Mail carrier: The U.S. Postal Service has rules for what carriers may accept. Cash and gift cards are not permitted. Snacks, small gifts with little intrinsic value, worth less than $20, are allowed.

Teachers: A small gift or note from you and a small gift from your child.

Different schools have different attitudes about gifts for teachers. Some parents raise money for a large gift,  in which case the New York City Department of Education states families "may not be asked to contribute more than a small amount of money." Teachers are not supposed to accept a class gift unless all students — including those who's families did not contribute — sign the card.

If you're forgoing group gifting, make or buy a tasteful food product and have your child wrap it nicely with a card made by hand. If you're buying food, avoid cheesy items like chocolate and go for good olive oil.

Barber or hairdresser: Cash in the amount of one visit, or a gift near that value

The experts at the Emily Post website say: "If you tip at the time of service, you may forgo an end of the year tip."

Personal trainer: Cash in the amount of one session, or a gift near that value

Frequent Problems — Solved

Food or Folly?

Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick, founder of The Etiquette School of New York, is careful to note that you should avoid mass-produced, low-end food gifts.

"If you buy chocolate, buy up-market," she said. "When you're giving, you have to consider what the person likes and could use. You wouldn't give a gift unless you know them well enough to know what they'd want."

Napier-Fitzpatrick notes that fancy cupcakes and macaroons are OK but in general, avoid candies and sweets and go for easily packaged luxuries such as exotic coffee.


Buy a set of holiday cards and stuff the cash in the card with a quick note. When possible mention something personal —  "Thanks for being so attentive." Then hand them the card. They'll wait to open it until you've left.

Family vs. Single

When you have five people coming in and out of the building, give on the high end of the list. As a young adult starting out, first and foremost give cash to your building staff but you can give homemade gifts of food to everyone else.