Holiday Tipping in Tough Economic Times

This is a rush transcript from "America's News HQ," December 22, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BILL HEMMER, HOST: In the meantime, on the economy, can you skip that holiday tip?

It's the season of giving. Tough economic times, causing many people to cut back and for good reason. But before you close your wallet, you might want to think about these people who make your life a bit easier. Who should you tip and how much should you give, and what to do if you can't tip this year?

In New York City there is no issue more important. Otherwise, you get no service — I mean, zero. Ask the etiquette expert Jodi Smith about that. Jodi, good evening.


Video: Watch Bill Hemmer's interview

HEMMER: You know, I live in a building. We have doormen. I'm lucky enough to live in that building. I give him a little money every year. You know, this time of year and I went down to give my guy some money — oh, dark — 5:30 in the morning. And guess what? He gave me a gift!

SMITH: Very nice.

HEMMER: First time ever.

SMITH: Very nice. Obviously, you're a very good tipper if the person who is receiving the tip is also giving you a gift.

HEMMER: I just think he is a good guy. I don't it's that I'm giving him any more money than anyone else. I just think he is a good man. Anyway, it gave me a smile, helped me start my day off in a really good way. OK, so your tips for tipping are what, Jodi?

SMITH: My tip for tipping is you need to sit down, if you haven't already and write down a list of everyone who has made your life a little bit easier during the course of the year. Don't forget if you happen to be somewhere where it has winter and summer, your lawn care people, your snow removal people, the people that walk your dogs, that help watch your kids, that clean your house. You really want to take a look at everyone. Don't forget those personal grooming people, the hair, the makeup, that kind of thing.

HEMMER: How about the dry cleaners?

SMITH: That's a very interesting question. I usually get a couple e-mails via the Web site from drycleaners who wonder why they're not tipped. Here in the United States, tipping is customary and it is not customary to tip your drycleaner.

However, if your drycleaner does a really good job for you, you should referring them business. And if your drycleaner delivers directly to your door, you should be tipping their driver because that falls under delivery person.

HEMMER: OK. All right. Listen, times are tough, and you're saying do something, do anything. Now, there's got to be more than you can do than just give money. What is your suggestion?

SMITH: If you're doing well, if you still have your job and if your economy is doing well for you and your family, you should still be tipping the regular amounts.

But for people who have lost their jobs who, whose mortgages have disappeared, who are suddenly caring for ailing parents, your budget has decreased significantly, then you need to think of other ways to show appreciation.

The typical things that happen — one of the things that people do is when they are on a tight budget is they won't tip at all. And you don't want to do that. You want to do something, even if you can't give cash. You want the people to know that they're appreciated, so the big three things, tip what you can. If you can't tip usual amounts, scale back a little bit. And then write them a note, "Usually I would give you a much better tip, it's really been a tough year this year."

The second thing you can do is write a letter. Either to them personally, to tell them how much they mean to you, or if you can, you write a letter to their supervisor or boss, so that that puts them in line for a promotion when they go forward.

And the last thing, if you're good in the kitchen, you can always bake them something to show your appreciation.

HEMMER: We had a floor director, Liz, in this morning. She came in with a big old basket of cookies. They were so good, so good, in fact, and so many that we've got more to eat tomorrow. We win.

SMITH: That's very nice. She is showing that she appreciates you.

HEMMER: You bet that she is. Jodi, thanks for coming in tonight. Happy holidays. Merry Christmas, whatever applies.

SMITH: Happy holidays to you, too.

HEMMER: Jodi Smith, thank you.

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