Personal finance

A Tipping Guide for the Holidays

Rob Whiting
Boom Team

Everything You Need to Know About Tipping your building staff for the Holidays

Worried about how much to give your building staff this holiday season? Don't worry, we've got you covered!

Now that the holidays are here and it’s the season of giving, you’re probably in a pretty generous mood when it comes to your friends and family. In fact, you might have already created a Nice/Naughty list in your head and what you’re going to get (or not get) for the people in your life.

While you’re busy with all your holiday planning, you might have overlooked one group of people that you see every day: the personnel in your apartment. From the doormen to the janitors to the maintenance crew, and even the building superintendent, they are the people who are working every day to make sure that your apartment is clean, comfortable, and working properly. In all the holiday hullabaloo, you might have overlooked them!

Not to worry though, this handy holiday tipping guide will help you decide how much to tip your building staff.

Are Apartment Personnel Considered “Essential Workers” During this Pandemic?

In one word: yes, building staff are considered essential workers. They not only stayed in their jobs in cleaning, maintaining, and providing security for your building, but many of them even added Covid-related protocols such as additional sanitation and contact tracing for building guests. Doormen, especially, have been indispensable during the pandemic because they would often serve as the drop-off point for food deliveries and packages.

For large cities such as New York City or Boston, apartment buildings won't be able to function at all without building staff. From the handyman and maintenance staff to the doorman and/or concierge, most New Yorkers will agree that it's impossible to live in an apartment building if the personnel won't perform their jobs.

As a Renter, Should I Tip the Building Staff?

Here’s the thing: you don’t have to tip your apartment personnel. Tipping is more of a custom than a requirement, even during the holiday season. Yes, even in NYC, it's not a requirement to tip!

If you don’t tip, you shouldn’t be worried that your building staff will treat you any less professionally compared to tippers. If they are professionals who are committed to their job, they will give you the same level of respect and good service regardless of whether they receive a tip or not.

However, here are two points that you might want to consider when it comes to tipping your apartment personnel.

Appreciation for Their Service

As mentioned above, building staff are essential workers during this pandemic because they have kept your apartment building clean, safe, and comfortable. Even though it is their job to do so, there is something to be said about acknowledging the extraordinary circumstances brought about by the pandemic. Giving them a tip shows them that you appreciate their efforts.

A Helping Hand during These Tough Times

While most people have been hit by the pandemic one way or another, apartment personnel are among those who are hit the hardest largely due to the nature of their jobs. They have to clean common areas and regularly interact with many people, both of which increase their risk of getting ill. What’s more, many of these workers have faced salary reductions due to budget cuts. Even a small tip can go a long way in helping them with their bills and other expenses.

Factors to Consider When Tipping

Calculating how much to tip your building staff can be difficult; is $5 enough if your doorman regularly helps you by bringing up your packages? How much you need to give during the holidays if you regularly tip throughout the year? Do you need to give a tip if you’ve only been living in the building for a few weeks?

Here are some factors to consider that can help you decide how much to tip the personnel in your apartment building:

Length of Time You’ve Lived in the Building

The easiest factor to consider is how long you’ve stayed in your current apartment. The longer you’ve stayed, the more it will feel like “home”. If this is the case for you, you can consider giving tips to the apartment personnel since they’re the ones taking care of your home.

Your Relationship with the Staff

Another thing that you should consider is your relationship with the personnel. If you’ve been living in your apartment building for a while, chances are you’ve already built a personal relationship with the personnel. The doorman knows you by name or the superintendent knows your birthday. Given this special relationship, you might want to give these people a little extra during the holidays.

Building Demographics

In larger buildings with more tenants, individuals typically give smaller tips because of the sheer number of renters that will give holiday tips to the building staff. Some buildings even have a tipping pool during the holidays that are split among the staff according to seniority. If you are unsure of how to give tips directly to individuals, you can ask your building manager if they have a tipping pool.

Your Budget

Yes, you also need to consider your budget when it comes to tipping. While it feels great to be able to give out sizable tips and receive grateful smiles in return, your tips should always fall within your financial means. If money is tight, there is no shame in prioritizing who to top and how much to give them.

How Much to Tip for the Holidays at a Glance

If you’re still having trouble with how much to tip your doorman and other building staff, don’t worry! BrickUnderground did the hard work and polled over 3,000 New Yorkers to see how much they tipped their building staff.

Here is a quick breakdown of the results:

  • Doorman and/or concierge: $25 to $150
  • Maintenance staff: $20 to $30
  • Superintendents and building managers: $75 to $175
  • Parking attendants: $25 to $75

Take note that these are average figures.

Can I Give Gifts Instead of Cash?

There’s no denying that most apartment personnel would prefer cold, hard cash when it comes to tips, but there are times when your finances just can’t accommodate giving out extra money. This is particularly true during this pandemic.

So, can you give gifts instead of cash?

Yes! Keep in mind that the key to giving during this holiday season, whether it’s in cash or in gifts, is sincerity. Even if all you can give is a gift card, some homemade baked goods, or even a handwritten thank you note, the fact that you are giving something from your heart will always come through. You’d be surprised how much these small gifts will be appreciated, so never let the thought of “not being enough” keep you from doing a genuine gesture.

The Bottomline

As a renter, you are under no obligation to tip your apartment personnel even during the holidays. However, in the spirit of the season, you can consider giving them a little holiday tip[ if you can afford it, or at least a small gift to show that you appreciate your service. All things considered, your apartment’s personnel would have probably had a tough year, and any heartfelt gift from you will make their day.

Trivia: The Origin of Tip

While there are many theories as to the origin of the word “tip”, the most widely accepted one traces the origin of the word back to Europe. It is an acronym for “To Insure Promptitude”, and it was a practice commonly found in British coffeehouses. A small bowl with the word “tip” printed on the side was used as a way for patrons to show their gratitude for exceptional service.

The practice of tipping is popular in the United States as a way to show appreciation for workers.

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