Holiday Tipping Dos and Don’ts

We all get stymied about how much to tip people we see throughout the year. Because going over-board is just as bad as not tipping enough, here’s some advice from Pamela Eyring, president and director of The Protocol School of Washington:

1. Hair stylist. Your stylist makes you look good every day and your tip should reflect it!  Holiday tipping (or gifting) is appreciated, but not required. If you do tip, give the cost of your cut, or, at least twice your regular tip (15-20% of the bill).  Gift ideas include: homemade candy or cookies; wine (check beforehand if red vs. white is best); a personal item, like a toy for your stylist’s beloved dog; or you can’t go wrong with a gift card from a national online retailer, like A lot depends on how long you’ve been with your stylist – a 20-year relationship trumps someone new. If the economy’s got you down, a festive holiday card or hand-written note with fond meaning is appreciated.

2. Housekeeper. This is the one area you don’t want to mess up! You have a special relationship with a service provider who comes to your home and cleans your bedroom and takes care of your personal items. Gift bags and gift cards, are nice but if you know your housekeeper can use the money, the standard tip is the amount you pay per visit.

3. Doorman. A doorman who greets you kindly throughout the year, assists you with getting a cab, accepts your dry cleaning and carries your groceries counts on holiday tipping to supplement his income. There is usually a standard amount to tip depending on your building, city, location, whether you live in a rental vs. co-op, etc. If you’re not sure how much to tip, check with some neighbors and give cash or a gift card of equal value.

4. Newspaper carrier. Review your service for the year first. Was the paper delivered on time and wrapped in plastic if it was raining?  Was it in the newspaper box or thrown in the middle of the lawn?  Was it delivered to your apartment door or your neighbor’s? For consist delivery service give a $20-$50 tip, but if you live in a rural area requiring delivery to the front door, definitely tip more.

5. Your child’s teacher
. First, ask yourself: is your child high-maintenance in school? If the teacher has been extremely helpful and has been successfully communicating with you throughout the year to improve grades or behavior, show your appreciation!  A handwritten note and a stress-relief gift basket or spa treatment will go a long way (even men like massages!). Remember, children like to make and give homemade gifts and cards to their elementary and early-middle-school teachers so get your child involved as well.  The biggest faux pas? Going overboard by giving cash or a high-priced item – it will make them feel uncomfortable instead of appreciated.

Pamela Eyring is the president and director of The Protocol School of Washington (, which provides certified professional etiquette and protocol training. Founded in 1988, PSOW is the only school of its kind in the U.S. to become accredited.

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