City & Politics, Columns, Essay

Social Beef: Guide to Christmas holiday tipping

The holiday season is the time of year where consumers spend money at reckless levels. It never ends. It can also add up. Remember that Christmas bonus you got paid? Well kiss that goodbye. It may as well be called the “gifts for family and other misc., items” bonus.
Your hard-earned coin gets splashed around on gifts, money for parking while gift-hunting, dinners and catch-ups, the workplace secret Santa and postal deliveries. You can add “tipping” to that list too. Yes. Tipping. Of course we already tip. That’s not what I mean. During the holiday season some industries subtly expect a “holiday” tip or “festive” tip on top of your normal tipping percentage. This seems fair.The rule should be: if you come in contact with one particular person in the service industry for a consistent period of time throughout the year and they provided you with good or exceptional service, they’d be first in line for this holiday tip. Some industries that battle adversity or the elements, such as doorman of a hotel who may spend periods of eight hours in the cold, may be considered next in line for a holiday tip. Then, there’s the begillion charities that flood the streets, alleyways, shopping malls. Choose your charity; don’t feel compelled to help them all. You may want to throw the homeless community a little extra moolah, or, provide them with something they actually need, such as a warm sweater, toque, scarf or gloves (second hand of course).

As you can see, it can be hard to determine who should be worthy of a holiday tip. There are a lot of candidates. And, how much is considered a good holiday tip? We don’t want to go overboard, do we? We still have gifts to buy and a Christmas grocery list to tend to. If you are still on the fence, read on. Here’s our first official “Social Beef: Guide to Christmas Holiday Tipping” on who to tip what to tip and what kind acts deserve our tips. 

1. The holiday tip: What we already know about tipping, is that in the service industry, tipping rates are something like 15-20 per cent these days. A holiday tip is not defined by percentages. It can be any amount. If you feel like dropping a $50 holiday tip on top of your bill at Fast Eddy’s Diner because you and the manager have been good friends for 10 years and the food is just to die for? Do it. But decide on the amount ahead of time so you’re not fumbling about when the bill arrives and feel obligated to tip more than you should because the owner of the restaurant is standing over your shoulder. Rookie move.


2. Tip for acts of kindness: If you happen to share a cab with someone and they hailed the cab first and offered to share it with you, pay a bit more for the ride or, better still make sure you cover their fare. Tip your bar staff extra if you see them calling cabs for patrons or provide food snacks “on the house” so that your Christmas booze doesn’t get you Christmas drunk. Basically, anything that goes above and beyond their normal duty, deserves a holiday “bonus” from us.

3. If you are undecided about it all,” holiday tip” no-one: Rules on this can be overwhelming. When push comes to shove, if you wholeheartedly believe you just don’t know who to give a holiday tip to, then the solution is: tip no-one at all. Don’t be an “in-betweener”.–

*Here’s a list of who to tip and who not to holiday tip (but, really you can holiday tip anyone you want)*
Lawyers. No holiday tip. They get reimbursed with bonuses, hefty salaries and mansions made of gold. Although, it comes down to timing. If they’ve helped you with a certain case and it just so happens you wrap it in December, a little something might be acceptable. Take them out for cheap sushi. Your treat.
Accountants. Yes. Do it. They’ll do your taxes forever. And, they might show you ways to claim more money back next year. Throw them an extra $50.
The Canada Post worker. Yes. They deliver your mail in shitty weather (when shitty weather happens) and all they wear is that windproof jacket and slacks. Throw them an extra $30 or give them a case of beer.
Your local bar tender. Yes. They provided you with laughs all year. They were a shoulder to cry on. They told you lame jokes. They bought you shots “on the house” for no reason at all. Even when you were a mess, they didn’t  judge. Throw them $30, buy them a shot and say thanks.
Realtor. No. Chances are they screwed you over in the house they “helped” you acquire. Screw them back with no holiday tip.
The trades industry. Yes. Only if you have a rapport with them and they are the chatty types. Any gruff tradies and ones that give you attitude, don’t bother. Throw them $50.
Hotel staff. NoHow often do you stay at the same hotel? Exactly. 

Wait staff. Yes. They put up with the fussiest of fussy customers, drunk customers, customers that “click” their fingers at them and deal with the negative feedback so that chefs don’t have to. They are the front liners. Be a sport, throw them $50 and watch their beady little eyes light up.
The homeless. Yes. Don’t be a jerk. Throw them $10.
Salvation Army. Yes. You see them ring those bells inside shopping centres. At least they are doing something to earn it. Throw them $10.
Cab drivers. No. Cabbies these days have attitude. Half the time their POS machines “don’t work”. And half the time they are on their own phone talking while driving. Give them their normal tip — but no more!
Your web-tech-social-media guy/gal: Yes. You’ve been bugging them all year long with “can you explain to me how to change the font on my website?” and “what does  CSS mean again?” and “I need help to change my banner”. And they’ve handled you with class. Throw them $50 and they’ll suck it up again next year.
Landlord. No. They never really listen to your complaints, do they?
Food vendors. Yes. Remember that night you were walking home and you bought like three hot dogs at 1 a.m.? They were there cooking it. They are like your personal cook. Anytime, late at night you need food on the street, they are there. Throw them $10 and give them a big kiss on the forehead (no tongue).
Hairdressers & Barbershops: Yes and Yes. For the gals, they’re basically your sounding board for personal relationships. For the guys, those quirky Italian barbers just completely “get” you. Repay them for their  “extra” services they did for you this year. Throw them $20.

Justin Robertson is a freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter: @justinjourno

Illustration by Sarah Jennings.

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