Many question how much gratuity is appropriate

MARIETTA – Jan Martin of Waterford has been a newspaper carrier for 30 years, and currently delivers around 400 papers a day on her motor route from Marietta to Waterford. She said tips and small gifts she and other carriers receive from customers during the holidays are a blessing.

“It makes us feel appreciated,” she said. “People may not see us every day, but we stop at their homes six days a week delivering their newspapers. And after 30 years on my route many of these people are like an extended family to me.”

Newspaper carriers are just one service provider that people often tip during the holidays, but how much to tip can come into question.

While there are common standards, local workers say they appreciate the thought as much as any cash.

Martin said customers will often give cards with money enclosed, but she also receives other gifts during the holidays.

“I’ve had boxes of candy, homemade cookies, a scarf-one lady even knitted me a pair of slippers,” she said.

For those who choose to show their appreciation by giving a news carrier money, a gift of $10 to $25 is the basic standard, although customers certainly may give more or less depending on the service received.

Mail carriers are also commonly compensated with an extra gift during the holidays. But under official Postal Service policy, postal workers cannot receive cash or cash cards in any amount, although other gifts or cards that can be used for specific non-cash gifts, valued at $20 or less, are allowed.

Hairstylists are also among those who receive additional tips or other gifts during the holidays.

“We don’t receive many cards, but we do get a lot of candy, cookies, and peanut brittle from many of our regular customers,” said Michelle Potts, manager of the Smartstyle Family Hair Salon just inside the Marietta Walmart building on Pike Street.

Mark Bineger, owner of the Guyz and Galz Family Hair Care on Third Street in Marietta, agreed.

“A lot of people bring in cookies and candy as gifts for all of our hairdressers,” he said. “One lady knitted Christmas stockings for all six of the hairdressers here.”

But Binegar said customers also give tips of cash throughout the year.

“And the majority give an extra tip at Christmas time,” he said. “It really depends on the client. Some are regulars who have been customers for up to 40 years. And when any of our clients give extra tips or gifts at this time of year it really makes you feel appreciated.”

A good extra tip for a hairstylist and similar personal service provider could be equal to the price of a regular visit.

One service that may easily be overlooked by customers is the local trash hauler who takes away the family garbage week after week. A tip of at least $20 is a recommended standard to show appreciation for those workers.

Jonathan Kissell, communications director for Rumpke haulers that provide trash service for the Marietta area, said employees don’t expect tips or gifts during the holidays, but if customers want to express thanks for especially good service a cash or gift card is best.

He said gifts in boxes can take up a lot of room in the cab of a truck which impacts the company’s safety regulations.

“And for those who want to give gifts, remember it’s often dark when the trash is picked up, so a driver may not see an envelope if it’s placed on top of the trash receptacle,” Kissell said, adding that it’s better to simply hand the gift to the driver.

He noted Rumpke employees are also strictly forbidden from receiving gifts of alcohol.

Charlotte Keim, executive director of the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce, said holiday tipping is just an expression of gratitude.

“It’s a way of saying thank you for all you do. These tips and gifts are for the people who provide us a variety of services year round,” she said, adding that the amount given may vary according to the type of service.

“For a hair cutter or stylist, you could give an additional amount that’s the same as what you’d pay for a normal visit,” Keim said. “If you have a favorite waiter or waitress at a local restaurant you may want to give them an additional tip during the holidays. Many only make minimum wage, or less if they receive regular tips for their service.”

Other service-providers could include babysitters, dog-walkers or someone who keeps an eye on the house when you’re away, she said. And the giving doesn’t have to be over the top.

“The important thing to remember is to give whatever you’re comfortable with,” Keim said, adding that a box of chocolates, cookies, or a bottle of wine also show appreciation for services rendered.

“It’s all about saying thank you,” she said.