Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Be Ye Nice: Tip The Mailman

Yesterday our mail lady Margaret slid her annual Christmas card into our box. The first year we lived here, I was like, "Oh how nice, Margaret wants us to 'enjoy the peace of the season.'" I didn't realize that this was her way of saying, "If you would like to give me a little holiday something, that would be great." For some reason, tipping at Christmas is a very controversial topic. Do some Googling and you'll see. The question of whom to tip and how much elicits the kind of bitter debate usually reserved for questions of breast vs. bottle feeding or whether or not to "Ferberize" your baby. You know what I'm talking about, and you do not want to get in the middle of that. (BTW, put me down for all-breastfed, but formula is not poison; infant cosleeping; yes to babywearing, but not in anything that has been batiked; and modified cry-it-out, but not before six months of age.) Bombs away!

So I tip our mail lady at Christmas. It is not required. The mail carrier is not going to throw your mail down the storm drain if you don't tip. It may not even be customary where you live. But it is nice, and I absolutely think it is smart. I get great service from that lady, all year long, and if you've ever suffered at the mercies of a not-so-good mail carrier, you know what I mean. Your box of checks from the bank? They're at somebody else's house. Priority mail envelopes? Accordioned into your box and reeking of cigarette smoke. Dealing with a bad mail carrier is a constant, low-grade irritant. And a good one is, well, good. I get a fair amount of packages, which Margaret brings all the way up to the door, and when I'm shipping things out, I schedule carrier pickups online (if you're not doing that, check it out because it is wonderful) and she comes up to the garage and takes things away. I don't think it need be a major amount of money, and some people just give cookies or something. Anything is nice, of course. I think last year I gave her a $25 or $30 gift card to Target. Target gift cards are like legal tender to me, but as Matt often says, "Nothing spends like cash." Maybe this year I'll do cash. But it's not a high price to pay for a lot of goodwill.

If you tip at this time of year, who else do you tip?
When I still had my cleaning lady, I gave her a gift card (Target of course) for one session's pay. And she usually brought us a bowl of cookies and candy she made. I could see how this could really add up if you had a cleaning lady, the mail person, a nanny (lord I wish), and whoever else. I have heard that people give things to their garbage men, but how does that work? Someone told me that she makes cookies and puts them on top of the can where they'll see them. Something about that is unappetizing, but maybe that's the way to go?

It makes sense to me that plenty of people don't tip, whether because it's not the thing to do where they are or because there is no extra money for that kind of thing. But the people who attempt to justify their not tipping and get all righteous about it. . .I hate to say it, but they often sound like jerks. A glance around the intertubes turns up the following reasons for not tipping:

"I look at his government pension as his tip." What does his pension have to do with you and how you might say thanks?

"The mailman uses our poolside bathroom during his rounds. That's tip enough." Is that you, Donald Trump? You are tacky.

"I tip her every time I pay taxes or buy stamps." Sigh. You probably aren't really a jerk but you sound like a real "Get off my lawn" type. Or one of those people who hates the fact that they have to press one for English.

"I don't tip them because they are overpaid." I think being a mail carrier probably is a good job, but I doubt they are "overpaid."

So, not to get all lecturey up in here, because I think there are different good ways to go about thanking the people who help us everyday, and I'd love to know what you do. Tipping our mail lady is what Works for Me!


Lynn said...

This is my first time visiting. Thanks for the good reminder about making an effort to appreciate those who serve us all year. We, too, have an excellent mail carrier, and it's too easy to take him for granted.

Carol said...

What a great post! I'm sure mail carriers everywhere are joining in with a resounding "Amen!"

Carrie said...

My dad was a mailman for 30 years. Yep, tips are suuuure appreciated but no, he didn't get all sulky and vengeful about those who didn't tip. With hundreds of people on your route, that would be a little too much holiday hate to bother with. And, my dad will be the first to point out, it's technically illegal for mail carriers to accept tips, but it's not enforced.

As the KID of a mailman, I loved when people gave cookies. My dad also appreciated those who gave a bottle of booze, but of course chances are it wasn't his particular brand of booze so it might have ended up getting regifted.

You know, the gift of a dependable bathroom to use is actually pretty nice. I bet my dad would have happily taken that in lieu of tip.

Sara said...

This is a good reminder, Becky.

I never thought about the mail carrier, but have received the Christmas card from the paper carrier. I confess that I haven't yet tipped him/her, partly out of forgetfulness, and partly out of being occasionally peeved by his/her services.But that's no excuse. I'll try to leave some cookies or something this year. Get my act together!
In our little fam, our rationale is to tip for normal or even not-so-great service & over-tip for better or great. People who don't tip or under-tip in restaurants are totally mean.
Oh! And my parents used to tape an envelope to the garbage for the garbage man. Kind of risky, though.Forgot about those fella's too. Dang it!

Bren said...

Hey, did you know that scheduling those pick-ups adds to her pay? No lie. It's a sort of record that she had to do something extra, and they count that. (My mail lady used to just pick up all the packages I had going out, and finally told me this after 2 years) So it's a good thing to do (not saying that's her tip, or nothin')

Speaking of, I ran a home business for that long, leaving leaning towers of boxes out there, and never tipped her. I suck. Will pay back-tips this year. Probably in cookies.

Garbage man. I like that one. Ours always honks for Ike, as we run out as soon as we hear them to watch the fun. (Which means we could just hand our cookies right up. Bet they'd like a coke.)

Keely said...

I've had like 6 different mail people this year, and they all pretty much sucked. So no tippage - but I usually do.

And I am SO not surprised that I agree with you on every single one of those parenting stances ;)

Michele said...

I had babies in the mid-80s. Ferberize? I had to look this up. We used to do this long before it had a name. All-breastfed on demand for me until over 1 year of age. And a big YES to cosleeping though it was consider wrong and hippyish. In fact everything I did was consider strange and alternative even by mothers my own age.

Tipping the mail carrier, garbage man, bus driver, etc. is nice. I usually go with a nominal amount + cookies.

Cassie said...

Definitely tipping our mail carrier and house cleaner. Our mail lady, bless her heart, has had to deal with an un-shoveled walkway far too often but always takes it in stride. And our house cleaner... well, she's just a gem. A gem who cleans my bathrooms. (She'll be getting cold, hard cash.)

Not that it matters but I agree with your parenting philosophies too, by the way. =)

A Day That Is Dessert said...

Amen to all of it!!

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

I like to leave scratch-off lottery tickets as a tip. Cheap but alluring . . . with the potential of a decent pay-off.

Anonymous said...

My husband is the one who taught me the importance of good tipping, especially in restaurants, and I've always followed that advice. When folks treat you well, let them know you appreciate it.

Casey said...

I always forget to tip the mailman. Last year, we tipped our regular sitter and that was about it. Our garbage men leave a card a couple of weeks before Xmas, basically reminding us to tip them. I think that's rude of them to leave the card but I'm not opposed to tipping. Oh, a few years back our garbage men left a card saying he was on disability and could we please send his tip to his house rather than leave it at the curb. WTF?

Kim Layton said...

Thanks for reminding me because I have the card from my mailman in the kitchen. Have a merry Christmas!

L. said...
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