Modern Etiquette: Tips for holiday tipping and gifts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The holidays are a time for sharing goodwill and expressing gratitude.

Jaclyn Michalos takes an order at her family's restaurant Toast of the Town in Randolph, Massachusetts November 9, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

One of the most appreciated expressions of gratitude to those who support and assist you in your life all year long is the holiday tip.

Whether it’s your doorman, a favorite server at a restaurant, or the person who shovels or plows your drive so you can get to work every day, a holiday tip is the perfect way to say thank you.

Given in the form of cash or a gift card, the amount of your tip should be based on several factors including:

The quality of the service received.

The length and nature of your relationship with the individual.

The value you place on the service (think nanny versus newspaper boy)

The following is meant to guide you in determining who to tip and how much.

* Doorman - A doorman who greets you kindly throughout the year, assists with getting a cab, accepts your dry cleaning and carries your groceries and other heavy items counts on holiday tipping as a way to supplement income. There is usually a standard amount (depending on your building, city, location, rental vs. coop). If you’re unsure how much to tip check with your neighbors and give cash or a gift card of equal value. If your building has more than one doorman, you don’t need to tip equally. Reward each for their individual level of service and your dependence upon them in the past year.

* Superintendent/Custodian: Assuming they have been responsive to your cries for help during the year a tip of $30 - $100 is considered appropriate. If you relied heavily on them, you may want to aim for the $100 mark.

* Newspaper Carrier - If your paper was consistently delivered to your door and not the neighbors and wrapped when it was raining, a tip of $20-$50 is appropriate.

* Mail Carrier — Since government employees are not allowed to accept cash, consider giving a gift card to a local store or restaurant in an amount up to $20.

* UPS or FedEx - If you depend upon regular deliveries to keep your business or life running, consider a tip in the neighborhood of $20.

* Parking Attendant - If you are happy to entrust your car to this individual (or individuals) on a daily basis, a tip of $10-$40 each is appropriate.

* Housekeeper - This is one area you don’t want to mess up! You have a special relationship with a service provider who cleans your home or office. Gift bags and gift cards are always nice but if you know your housekeeper can use the money, the standard is tipping what you pay per visit.

* Gardener - If you have a lawn service team that tends your property on a regular basis you can write their company a letter of appreciation (especially if you do not know their names). If you have a personal gardener, a monetary gift is appropriate and can range from $20 to $100 depending on what you pay weekly or monthly.

* Waiters - The regular 15-20% of the check is always expected for good service. If you have a waiter you see regularly at a favorite restaurant or when entertaining clients, an additional holiday tip of $20 to $50 is always appreciated.

* 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, a personal item like a toy for your stylist’s beloved dog, or, a gift card from a national on-line retailer like Remember: A lot depends on how long you’ve been with your stylist - a 20-year relationship trumps someone new

And remember, if you’re not in a position to tip everyone on your list, a simple but sincere thank you note is always appreciated. If you’re comfortable, note that the lack of an enclosure speaks to your current circumstances and not a lack of satisfaction with the service. You can always extend a tip later when your situation turns around.

(Pamela Eyring is the president of The Protocol School of Washington (PSOW), which provides professional business etiquette and international protocol training. Founded in 1988, PSOW is the only school of its kind in the U.S. to become accredited. Any opinions expressed are her own. PSOW’s website is:

Editing by Paul Casciato