Q: Holiday tipping is a mystery to me. I know I am supposed to tip the staff of my Upper West Side co-op, but I never know how much. This year, the question seems complicated by the pandemic. Tell me, how much should I give?
A: Every year, New Yorkers tip their doormen, supers and porters for a year of opening the doors, cleaning the hallways, collecting the packages and doing the other thankless jobs necessary to keep a building running smoothly. If ever there were a year to open your wallet wide, this is the one.
“There was so much more that was asked of these people in the beginning of the year, and it’s important to acknowledge that,” said Philip Lang, a co-founder of Triplemint, who helped develop the company’s online tip-o-meter. “These were the people who didn’t have a choice but to come in to work everyday. They were the ones interacting with everyone who came into the building.”
But the pandemic has also been financially devastating for so many New Yorkers, a lot of whom don’t have the money to spare. Between February and May, 1.25 million jobs were reportedly lost in New York City. In October, the unemployment rate was 13.2 percent — a huge leap from 3.6 percent in October 2019.
If you are in a position to give, consider a generous tip. How much you give depends on the size of your apartment, the number of units in the building and the size of the staff. If you live in a building with 200 apartments and a large staff, each employee should get a smaller share of your total gift. If you live in a small building, staff will be receiving fewer envelopes overall, but you’ll probably have fewer workers to consider, so tip accordingly.
Think about how much you use the building’s services and which workers went above and beyond for you — but don’t overlook the doorman with the graveyard shift just because you rarely crossed paths. (Renters typically give smaller tips than owners. And this year, with vacancies up, staff working in rentals may receive fewer tips.)
If you left the city during the pandemic, as many New Yorkers did, your absence should not translate to a smaller gift. While you were away, the staff was still sanitizing hallways, collecting packages and showing up to work while the city was shut down. “What you have to realize is you still own your apartment, the staff is still working there and working extremely hard in a very stressful situation,” said Dan Wurtzel, the president of FirstService Residential New York.
If your household has lost income this year, give what you can. You are never obligated to tip, and the staff should not withhold services in you can’t. If you have limited cash to spare, consider a thoughtful personal note, a baked gift or something else that expresses your gratitude in this trying year.
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