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Holiday tipping etiquette – what's different due to COVID-19

Posted at 4:57 PM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-11 17:14:06-05

It's that time of year again, not only for gift-getting but also for gift-giving. And this year, some holiday tipping protocol is changing due to the pandemic.

An appropriate holiday tip amount will vary based on who is receiving the tip and also how much you can afford to give, and this year that might have changed for many compared to last.

Co-president of The Emily Post Institute and etiquette expert, Lizzie Post, suggests considering the following:

"Who’s on your list, who is really important to you, what is your budget, and how can you use your words if you can’t do a gift or tip," she said.

For many of us, delivery drivers or people who work curbside pick-up at grocery stores likely played a bigger role in 2020 than ever before. If you're looking for a way to say thank you, consider a contact-less gift in the $20 range.

"I’ve heard of people handing over a few bucks or sometimes even taping it in the trunk, then you pop the trunk and the money’s there," said Industry Analyst at Creditcards.com Ted Rossman, who's gathered data on holiday tipping trends and practices.
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Especially now, metro Detroit servers like Patrick Foody say an extra gesture really goes a long way. He works at Basement Burger Bar in Detroit, which doesn't have outdoor dining and due to an epidemic health order from MDHHS, cannot offer dine-in service until Dec. 20.

Foody says he often doesn't get any tip at all when working take-out, and after tipping out cooks and dishwashers, he sometimes loses money on orders.

“We take care of you all year long. Around the holidays especially this year when we’re not working dine-in, just to throw a little bit more care our way if you can," he said.

You can also buy gift cards to restaurants in lieu of giving extra cash tips for the holiday; some venues like Basement Burger Car offer discounts or deals. At Basement Burger Bar, every $25 in gift cards you spend gives you $5 bonus bucks to spend at the restaurant, Foody says.

“There are some industries, some places where they cannot accept gifts or cash, Post said. Like certain long-term care facilities or mail carriers. USPS workers cannot accept cash or gifts more than a $20 value.

In cases like that, Post suggests snacks, refreshments, or baked goods with a handwritten note. It's important to make sure there's enough to be shared with co-workers or other members of an office or branch; always leave a note and a visible list of ingredients, Post advises. And this year due to the pandemic, pre-packaged or individually wrapped items are best.

“A minority of people are tipping their trash or recycling collectors, only about 40 percent of people typically do that," Rossman said.

  • Cash tips for garbage or recycling collectors should generally be in the $10-$30 range according to The Emily Post Institute
  • For personal service providers like stylists, barbers, personal trainers, dog walkers, and the like, a holiday tip should be the value of one session or service
  • For regular babysitters, an appropriate holiday bonus would be equivalent to one day or night's pay
  • Live-in care providers or house cleaners should be given one week's pay as a sign of holiday appreciation

Post said for those who cannot afford to give a monetary thanks this holiday season, handwritten notes that explain the difficult circumstances and offer appreciation for service go a long way.

Click here for more holiday tipping protocols to remember this year.

This story originally reported by Jenn Schanz on WXYZ.com.