Is holiday tipping really necessary?

By Lucy Cohen Blatter  | November 28, 2012 - 10:52AM

On hump day of Holiday Tipping Week here on BrickUnderground, we delve into the somewhat contentious issue of why building staff need holiday tipping in the first place.

Some people believe that it’s a reasonable tradition that allows owners and renters to recognize a year’s worth of work well done. Others see it as a form of blackmail, wherein a super or doorman will (unofficially) withhold service--or give you the fisheye--if you don’t give enough money.

We took to the streets recently and conducted a sidewalk poll of around 30 New Yorkers, asking, among other tipping-related questions, whether they doled out gratuities under pressure or because they felt it was the right thing to do.

We found a fairly even split.   Interestingly, even those who said they feel pressure to tip (because it's a custom and/or because they may anger the staff if they don’t),  most didn’t seem to mind too much, chalking it up to another high cost of living in New York City.

Below, a sampling of perspectives from the New Yorkers asked why they tip at the holidays:

  • “I do it because of social pressure. I’m worried I’ll get dirty looks if I don’t. I feel I’ll get the stink eye, and I’d rather not.” -Scott, Upper West Side
  • “You know, honestly, they make a good salary…they are unionized. [Some make] $1,000/wk.  And some … don’t know what the hell is going on.  They sit there like Jabba the Hut… If it were up to me, no [I wouldn't tip]. I’m a nice guy, but I’m not a good tipper.  Not $1,000 apiece let’s put it that way.”  -Walter, Carnegie Hill
  • “People deserve tips. They work hard.” -Walter, Upper West Side
  • “If they take good care of the building, tenants — why not?” -Nick, Upper East Side
  • “Tipping is way overdone in the U.S. It’s meant to encourage people to go above and beyond their service. But I don’t have a lot of money, so I’m not sure what to do. I’m a person who feels guilty, [feels] the pressure.” -Peni, Yorkville
  • “It’s the tradition...It’s part of living in a doorman building, it’s expected. You can acknowledge their assistance if you tip over the holidays, and don’t have to think about it for the other 11-and-a-half months of the year.” -Bob, Carnegie Hill
  • “In the service industry they rely on gratuities. This is the equivalent of a bonus.” -Brad, Midtown
  • "I don’t know if it’s fair but it’s just customary in this country. It does add up but it’s like…keeping up with the Joneses. You never know when you need someone to help out, it’s good to grease the wheels.  It’s [part of] the cost of living in New York.” -Jim, Upper West Side
  • “Sure, everyone should be remembered during the holidays, especially if they did a good job all year. And I always hear my friends complaining later if they forgot to tip and they want something come January or February.” -Jackie, Upper West Side
  • “I think they have to provide service, though you may get faster service if you’re a good tipper or if you tip for individual services.” -Thomas, Upper East Side
  • “They expect and deserve a tip—it’s the holidays!” -Steven & Sarah, Park Slope
  • “I think holiday tipping in NYC is out of control. If you need something special during the year and someone makes an effort for you, then it’s okay to tip. Just tipping because it’s a holiday is ridiculous.”  -Frank, Upper East Side
  • "They deserve something, some recognition. Should it be $200 from each renter or owner is another question.” -Jane, Upper West Side
  • "It makes sense to remember the people who provide you with service all year long, especially if you don’t tip throughout the year.” -Semona, Gramercy/Union Square

Related posts:

BrickUnderground's 2012 Holiday Tipping Guide

Take BrickUnderground's 2012 'Naughty vs Nice' Holiday Tipping Poll 

All 2012 Holiday Tipping Coverage

All 2011 Holiday Tipping Coverage

All 2010 Holiday Tipping Coverage

What happens to a bad tipper

An open letter from your porter at the holidays

NYC Real(i)ty Speak: Good excuses for lame tippers (sort of)

To tip or not to tip the garbage man: Advice from our street-parking friends in Brooklyn

Dear Ms. Demeanor: Tipping the amenity staff at the holidays

Serial Renter: 3 tips on tipping

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