Is It Tacky to Give Holiday Tips Digitally?


Q: I have a long list of holiday tips to give out this year: to my doorman, handyman, super, nanny, housekeeper and others. Normally, I give cash and a greeting card, but would it be OK to tip with Venmo or another digital platform instead this year? It feels awkward handing out cards when we’re supposed to be socially distancing, but sending a gift over Venmo feels tacky and impersonal. How do I handle it tastefully?

A: There is no shame in tipping digitally. Your recipients would likely appreciate the contactless option in a year when we’re all trying our best to keep a distance.

“Right now this is something that many of us should be thinking about doing,” said Elaine Swann, an etiquette expert and a spokeswoman for Zelle, an app for money transfers. “It keeps us safe and we don’t put the other person in an uncomfortable predicament.”

Ms. Swann suggests that if you know the recipient’s contact information and can find their accounts through an app, send the money first, without warning, and then follow up with a note, phone call or email to wish them well and tell them to keep a lookout for a digital gift. “There is nothing wrong with that,” she said.

If you don’t know what platform your recipient prefers or want to confirm that you are, in fact, sending money to the correct person, ask. Tell them that a gift is coming their way and you’d like to know how they prefer to receive digital deposits. Few of us would recoil at news that we’re receiving a gift.


AKAM, which manages residential properties in New York, has been encouraging residents to tip digitally, when they inquire about it. “People are very happily accepting gifts on Venmo,” said Vishal Kaura, the senior director of premier hospitality training and development at AKAM. The method is more popular in newer buildings in neighborhoods like Williamsburg and TriBeCa, where residents tend to skew younger.

Will this become the new normal? Mr. Kaura suspects that once the pandemic ends, many people will return to cash tips, but not everyone. “Gen Z loves to do everything digitally,” he said. “Moving forward, the younger generations may end up doing it digitally.”

Those little cash envelopes may become a thing of the past.

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