I am an Upper East Side wife and mother with two children. The residents of our building have agreed to tip our doormen, super and two gardeners who tend to our common areas 25% more this holiday season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We usually give $200 to our favorite doorman, $200 to our super who never complains and always has a smile on his face even though he deals with everyone else’s complaints, and $100 to the other two full-time staff, and $100 to the two gardeners.
My husband says we should continue to give 25% more in 2021. I disagree. We have been giving the same amount to the people who work in the building for the past five years because it doesn’t create increased expectations year after year. It’s simpler that way.
We have been working from home this year, and have not had any pay cuts. We live in a privileged world, and we are fortunate to be able to work remotely when millions of people have lost their jobs, sure, but New York City is an expensive place to live and these “holiday envelopes” are not cheap.
What do you say?
Upper East Side Wife and Mother
Dear Wife & Mother,
If you are giving 25% extra this year, give the same dollar amount or even a little more next year. Your tips haven’t gone up in five years, even to keep pace with inflation, so this is the year to make a grand gesture, and stick with it.
If anyone understands what it’s like to have to budget to make ends meet, it’s your doormen, super and other staff who work tirelessly behind the scenes. The average pay for a doorman is around $16 per hour — although that’s probably higher in New York, especially in Manhattan — and they clearly rely on tips at the end of the year to buy gifts for their loved ones and enjoy the holidays, just like the residents of the buildings they tend.
Also, people who work in buildings already know everyone’s business. They know who comes home late at night smelling of gin, stumbling in the doorway, and require help getting to their apartments. They know the couples who bring home an overnight guest every time their partner is away on business (or not). They know whether you’re stressed out, whether your kids are well behaved and if you’re having marital problems. You may never see the night-shift doorman, but he sees all.
“ Money talks, especially in a year when so many people have had to do without. ”
Supers, gardeners and doormen — unlike neighbors — are paid to smile and say “good morning” even when if they got out of bed on the wrong side, are going through a messy divorce or need a kidney. They are there to cater to your needs and be as pleasant as humanly possible. For every neighbor that gives you a biannual “hello” in the elevator, you can usually rely on the staff’s good manners once you leave your apartment.
They see and hear everything, so they know if your daily routines have changed, and a holiday envelope with a sum of money that’s more than what you normal give will come as a welcome surprise to them. Monetary gifts help, especially when they’re given to people who provide a service all year long and don’t get enough appreciation. But so too do handwritten notes, detailing all the little things they did for you during the year.
Numerous studies show that positive recognition and affirmation are appreciated more than money in the workplace. One such study said that over 80% of people said they value recognition of their hard work over a monetary increase. Well, I don’t buy it. Money talks, especially in a year when so many people have had to do without. Your finances have been largely untouched by the coronavirus pandemic, so it’s time to pass on some of that goodwill.
Read also: How much to tip everyone
I also generally advise against leaving one envelope with a lump sum. That will only give them more work to do and could possibly cause ill will among the staff. A tip is a ‘thank you,’ and should have the person’s name on the envelope. Don’t forget other people who come to your home this time of year: Dog-walker, piano teacher, babysitter, nanny, housekeeper or personal trainer. A general rule of thumb — there are no hard-and-fast rules — is one week’s pay.
Give 25% more to your building staff, and thank them for all the hard work. Make each note individual. (They may compare them.) Unemployment is difficult and challenging enough, and they may have family members who are struggling. Job insecurity and job loss create stress, fear, loathing, arguments among households over budgets, but it can bring with it a sense of shame. We put so much of our own worth in our jobs, when that job is taken away, what’s left? Character.
People want to feel valued. And they want to be seen.
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