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Posts Tagged ‘tipping’

Tipping Point

Enough with the politics. ‘Tis the season and all that. I’ve been intermittently watching morning shows while engaged in the difficult task of book rewrites and have all sorts of ideas about what to bring to a holiday party, what to wear, what to make, what to gift, where to find bargains and how to survive without gaining weight, losing your mind or forsaking family and friends. This year seems especially stressful, what with the economy so low, our hopes so high and our expectations veering from high to low and back again. Then again, unless you were once the recipient of lavish year-end bonuses punctuated by over-the-top holiday parties, this year is pretty much like last year only tighter.

People who in any way depend upon the services of others expect to tip and are expected to tip. That’s not supposed to change in challenging years.  Being hard up is relative. The “Social Q’s” etiquette columnist in the Times Sunday Styles section responded to a letter from an apartment dweller asking whether she could cut her tips by asking if her being “pretty broke” meant “only buying two chinchilla coats this season or…contemplating a tin of Meow Mix for dinner tonight?” In other words, we all have it rough, lady; tip the doorman.

Out here in the ‘burbs, we also have holiday tipping to attend to. To acknowledge the teacher who helped Sadie with her math or put up with little Johnny, that scamp, money is a no-no, of course. Instead, I’d try gifting baked goods or better yet, a small contribution in the teacher’s name to a favorite children’s charity. Or, given education budget cuts, buy classroom supplies which would otherwise come out of Teacher’s pocket.  Your cleaning lady, if you’re lucky enough to have one, will look for extra cash, which I suppose is thanks for simply doing her job. Since it’s a job you don’t want to, don’t have time to, or can’t do, she deserves it.  The postman also awaits your tip although I’m not clear why; isn’t he supposed to deliver the mail? My guy has yet to change the name inside my mailbox so I don’t get mail from the residents who lived here eighteen years ago. On the other hand, Willy and I went through the anthrax scare together and still joke about handling the mail while wearing gloves, so I feel a certain kinship. Ah, the things that bind us.

The woman who throws the paper more or less in the vicinity of my doorstep seems to expect money as well; I suppose I’d better if I want to avoid walking across the street in the pouring rain. While that’s another job I don’t want, the expectation of money simply for the execution of the job begins to feel a little oppressive. I have a new paper delivery person since last Christmas who actually might be the mother of the young man who began the year delivering the paper.  Come to think of it, her life can’t be too easy. Anyway, her resourcefulness impressed me; she included a stamped, self-addressed envelope along with her holiday card stuck in my paper.  

This year I received a new surprise: a blank envelope left at my front door with a holiday card that read: “Seasons Greetings from Tony, your recycler.” Our development hires a service to pick up the recyclables we put out every other week. Some truck comes along and dumps the containers, which we then go out and retrieve from the stoop. I don’t know who these guys are; I can’t even remember who they work for. For sure I don’t know what the tipping  etiquette is in this situation  – do I tape money to a plastic water bottle and leave it in the recycle bin? All I know is, if “Tony” is expecting something, I don’t want to disappoint him. But I wonder: what’s next? “Happy Holidays from Uncle Junior, your scrap metal specialist?” This is New Jersey, after all.

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