Should you tip your service provider?


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tipping is a topic many of us wrestle with throughout the year, and especially during the holiday season.  Trying to figure out who to tip and how much can be confusing.

Should you tip your plumber? What about your dog walker? Do you just pull out a bit of extra cash for every service company that comes to your house? What about giving a gift card or making a homemade treat instead? Do contractors expect tips? And finally, where does it all end?

Angie's List asked highly rated service providers to weigh in.

When tradespeople do get a tip, cash is the most-common gratuity offered. Other gratuities can come in the form of food and drink, gift cards, personalized gifts, referrals, and letters or reviews.

Angie's List Tips for Tipping:

  • You should never feel obligated to tip: However, if you do decide to tip your tradesperson this holiday season, first talk to the owner of the company to ensure tips are allowed. Some companies expressly forbid them.
  • The gift of praise: If tips are not allowed and you feel strongly about the work, or you are looking for an alternative to a cash tip, consider writing a letter to the company owner praising the employees' work; or, write a positive online review that spells out that great experience. This written proof will likely be appreciated just as much as a tip and may have a much longer lasting effect.
  • Creative gifts: If money is tight this holiday season, you could still put forth an effort to let your service providers know you appreciate them. We've heard from Angie's List members tell us they'll bake a sweet treat for their service providers and add a handwritten thank you note.

Angie's List offers the following tipping advice to help consumers get through the holiday season.

Holiday-related services:

  • Contractors who help hang your decorations, lights, etc.: A tip of $20 to $50 for the crew may be in order, based on the complexity of the task.
  • Bag boys or others who help carry your packages to your car: A tip of $1 per package/bag may be in order, though probably no more than $5.
  • Personal shoppers/concierge/errand services: A tip of 15 to 20 percent is recommended, possibly more, depending on the complexity or amount of work you have them do for you. Some of these services will do shopping, gift wrapping, mailing of gifts, etc.
  • Event entertainment: A tip of 15 to 20 percent is appropriate for Santa impersonators, carolers or musicians.

Year-round services:

  • Yard workers, handymen, etc.: A tip of $20 to $50 may be in order depending how often they visit your home.
  • Housecleaners: Many suggest $25 to $50, a day's pay, or a gift of equal value. If you use a service that sends a different housecleaner each time, this may not be necessary, unless you ask them to do some one-time tasks to help you prepare for the holidays – such as helping unpack and put up decorations, a deep cleaning before a party, etc.
  • Childcare providers: For babysitters, the recommendation is a gift at the holidays from your kids, plus one or two nights' pay. For a full-time nanny, one to four weeks' pay plus a small gift from your kids is appropriate. For standard child care providers, a gift at the holidays and $25 to $75 each. This may not be appropriate for some pre-Kindergarten child care/education providers. Check with the manager of the facility to see what's appropriate, which might be a small gift from your kids.
  • Mail and paper delivery:  Though the U.S. Postal Service frowns on gratuities and gifts for mail carriers, authorities request that the gift or gratuity be $20 or less.  For daily newspaper delivery, a holiday tip of $15 to $25 is appropriate.