Holiday Tipping Guide: How much to tip your doorman, super, porter, and other staff
- Giving more this year will be appreciated by workers bearing the brunt of inflation
- Average tip for supers $150-$300, doorman and concierge $75-$200
- Take Brick's two-click tipping poll to see if your tips are in line with your neighbors
With the pandemic practically in the rear-view mirror, thanks and praise for essential workers seems to have been forgotten. But residential building staff now serve as de facto receiving departments, handling exponentially more deliveries of packages and food, all the while keeping an eye on vacant apartments for New Yorkers who have swapped their primary residences for their vacation homes in this new work-from-home era.
To help you calibrate tips (and yes, adjust upward for inflation), we've updated our annual holiday tipping guide, plus added our recommendations for how, exactly, you should go about dispersing your generosity. And you can see if your tipping is generally in line with your neighbors by taking Brick Underground’s two-click annual tipping poll.
[Editor's note: This guide has been updated for 2022. A previous version of this post was published in November. We are presenting it again as part of our winter Best of Brick week.]
Do I have to tip?
No. Tipping the staff during the holidays is a custom, not a requirement, but you’ll be in the minority if you don't. Many building staffers tell us they treat non-tippers the same as tippers, just as plenty of others admit to extending fewer favors and smiles to non-tippers, or subtly encouraging them to "pay as you go"—in other words, to tip for each extra service staffers perform.
How much should I tip building staff?
The precise amount depends on the size of your building (the larger the staff, the smaller the individual tips), quality of service, staff seniority, length of time you’ve lived there, whether you own or rent (more on that below), personal chemistry, your financial circumstances, and whether you're frugal, generous, or somewhere in between.
Here's a general framework, for you to use as you see fit:
- Super, resident manager: $150-$300 on average; $100-$500 broad range
- Doorman and/or concierge (the latter handles more personal requests, like lining up an emergency dog-walker): $75-$200 on average; $50-$1,000 broad range
- Porter, handyman, and maintenance staff: $25-$50 on average; $20-$100 broad range
- Garage attendant: $25-$75 on average; $20-$100 broad range
2022 was a tough year because of inflation. Should I give a little extra?
There’s no question that it will be appreciated, especially because inflation hit a 40-year high this summer, increasing prices for groceries, gas and rent.
If you needed more services this year, you really should bump up your tip. Concerned that you'll lock yourself into a higher amount for the future? Include a note that references your appreciation for something specific that the staff helped you with—and say you wanted to recognize how they went above and beyond their usual duties. That should make it clear that your intention is to offer a bonus and not a raise.
How much should I budget in total for the entire building staff?
Much will depend on the size of your staff and the other factors cited above, but it may help to review the results of Brick Underground’s 2021 holiday tipping poll, completed by over 1,800 New Yorkers, to get a sense of what others do (below).
My building's 'doormen' are actually security guards who don't do much besides sit there. How much should I tip them?
Some security guards do just sit there, because that is all that they are required to do, while others work just as hard as doormen. In the former case, it's okay to tip on the light side, so use your discretion.
One of my doormen is a jerk, and I never see my super. Do I have to tip them?
Rather than make what could be interpreted as an insult by completely withholding a tip, many residents in this position tip on the low end of the scale. You might withhold a tip and then forget about it completely, but building staff are not likely to forget your gesture, or lack of one.
In Brick Underground's Naughty vs. Nice Holiday Tipping Poll, 65 percent of nearly 600 voters with "bad" doormen said they still planned to tip them, usually in the range of $25-$50 apiece. As for those with delinquent supers, only 49 percent of the 455 respondents planned to give them some extra cash. Those who did were clustered in the lower end of the $25-$100 range.
Should I tip the new doorman the same as the one who’s been here 20 years?
Newer doormen in their first few years of service often receive smaller tips. For instance, a first-year doorman may collect half of what a senior doorman does. Again, it is ok to use your common sense here.
Is it ok to tip my favorite doorman more than the rest?
It’s ok to play favorites, like tipping some doormen better than others depending on how useful they are to you. Just try to keep everyone’s tip within the range of acceptability.
Should the amount I tip correspond to the rent I pay, or to how many people live in my apartment?
Tipping is (theoretically) about rewarding service, not about how big your apartment is or how much you pay for it. If you’re a family that enlists a lot of help at the door corralling kids and helping with your stroller, or someone who works from home and receives a lot of deliveries or visitors, you probably get more assistance from the staff than a single person who travels a lot for work and doesn't place many online orders, so tip accordingly.
I’ve had a financial setback and can’t afford as much as last year. What should I do?
The staff is accustomed to senior citizens on fixed incomes tipping lightly, and they're usually “forgiven," though some workers say they won’t perform extra services for these residents for free.
As for lost jobs, divorce, and other life challenges, many doormen tell us that if they receive a small amount—particularly from someone who normally tips just fine—they automatically attribute it to financial trouble and say they don't need to hear you say, “wish I could do more!” Of course, this won’t fly if you’re still taking your annual jaunt to St. Barts and waltzing in with Prada shopping bags. And if you ask for favors often, the unable-to-make-ends-meet excuse may eventually run its course.
My building has a tipping pool. Do I need to give individual tips on top of that?
With a tipping pool, residents contribute what they wish into the pool, which is then divided according to seniority and full-time or part-time status. The anonymity of the process means that tenants feel they will get equal treatment by the staff—no special favors for the big tippers. But in practice, in many buildings with tipping pools, owners continue to tip individually; at least for the staff members they see the most.
Are renters expected to tip as much as owners?
Renters, as a group, tend to tip less than condo and co-op owners. The reasons why have a lot to do with renting life; for example, a renter who has not lived in a building for a long time and does not know the staff well is not likely to tip a large amount.
Some renters also believe that holiday bonuses are the landlord’s responsibility. With so much invested in their building, co-op and condo owners have a bigger stake in how the building is cared for.
Income is a factor as well. Many renters can be at the early stages of their careers—and earning power—than owners. Many renters simply have less money to spend on tips. Moreover, first-time renters who are also first-time New Yorkers may not be familiar with the custom of holiday tipping.
Should I tip my landlord or management company?
You are probably thinking, “What? Isn't the rent enough?!” Seriously, there are actually situations where a gift, if not a cash tip, makes sense. If you have a close rapport with your mom-and-pop landlord, a nice bottle of wine is a nice gesture. Similarly, if you are calling the management company every other day to see if a larger apartment has become available to accommodate your growing family, a little something to stay on the landlord's mind, in a good way, certainly wouldn't hurt.
How much should I tip non-building workers?
- Cleaning person/housekeeper: One to two weeks of pay.
- Cleaning service: Tip 15-20 percent throughout the year, as a portion of their earnings goes to the cleaning service. If the same crew cleans your apartment each time, a holiday tip (one week's pay) is appreciated.
- Full-time nanny: One week's pay minimum, or two if you can afford it. Or, one week's pay and one week of vacation.
- Regular babysitter hired occasionally: Consider $25-$50 in cash or a gift card
- Regular dog walker: One week's pay
- UPS delivery: Since UPS assigns drivers to specific addresses, $25-$50 if you have a lot of packages delivered. More if you have a lot of business-related deliveries.
- Mail carrier: By law, mail carriers can't accept cash or anything worth more than $20. In reality, some (but by no means most) residents do tip in the $25-$50 range, especially if they receive a lot of deliveries or a lot of mail that requires signatures.
You do not need to tip your property manager, contractor (plumber, electrician), or real estate broker.
When is the best time to give a holiday tip?
Doormen collect year-end tips from December all the way into February, but the bulk of the holiday cash is handed out in the couple of weeks leading up to Christmas.
This is not, however, what staffers necessarily prefer. Many doormen tell us that the beginning of December is better because it helps with their own holiday shopping. A few say they prefer the gratuities to be spread out, cutting down on the temptation to spend it all at once.
Do I have to tip at the holidays if I tip all year round?
Residents who tip year-round for extra services often go on the lighter side at year's end—at least with the staff who’ve been receiving those a la carte tips.
Do I have to tip for a full year if I just moved in?
It’s okay to prorate your gratuities, unless you didn’t tip for services performed in connection with the move itself.
Are checks ok, or do I have to give cash?
Cash is preferred, but as a precaution against sticky fingers, write a check if you’re handing the tip to a super or another staff member to pass on. (Note: Most doormen we spoke to prefer to get their tips directly rather than via the super or another doorman.)
Is it okay to Venmo a tip to my doorman?
As for whether you can use Venmo—yes! It’s fast, convenient, and contactless. Most New Yorkers use it, so get with the program.
Ideally a building would share staffers’ usernames to make tipping electronically seamless, but if yours doesn’t, you’ll have to find your doorman on the app by searching for their name. And if you don’t see it—just ask. They will appreciate that you are making sure your gift gets to them.
Make sure to keep the transaction “private” or between you and the recipient, as opposed to public to avoid having staff members compare their tips.
Should I include a card or a note?
If you’re tipping in cash versus by app, a plain white envelope is fine. No expensive cards are necessary. Most people keep notes short and sweet (“Thank you for your help this year” or “We enjoyed seeing your smile”) and that’s perfectly acceptable, though some doormen tell us they do appreciate a personal note explaining what exactly is most valued about their service.
Are food or gifts an acceptable substitute for cash?
They’re appreciated, but until colleges start accepting cookies for tuition payments or Con Ed for utility bills, gifts are no substitute for money.
How do I tip staff members I rarely see?
You can ask the super or another staff member to hand out your envelopes, but writing a check instead of using cash is better to reduce the possibility of stealing. Include a family photo if you think the recipient may not be able to connect your name to your face.
Do staff members tell each other how much they’re tipped?
Some do, so to be on the safe side, assume yes. Also, be aware that some staff members keep lists comparing your tip this year to prior years. You should do the same to make sure you are not giving less than you gave previously.
Should I bump up tips each year to keep up with inflation?
You don’t have to be quite that strict, but a bump up every two or three years would certainly be appreciated and considerate.
Are tips tax deductible?
If you run a business from home, you can claim a small deduction of up to $25 per staff member, categorized as a "business gift" on your tax return
Brett Perkins, CPA, owner of Perkins CPA, explains the rules from the IRS on business gifts:
- You can deduct no more than $25 of the cost of business gifts you give directly or indirectly to each person during your tax year. If you and your spouse both give gifts to the same person, both of you are treated as one taxpayer.
- Any item that could be considered either a gift or as entertainment is generally considered entertainment and cannot be deducted.
- You need to have records that prove the business purpose of the gift as well as the details of the amount spent.
It might seem like a small amount, but Perkins says New Yorkers do take these deductions. In some cases he moves gifts to "marketing or promotions" if it is a function of the business. There are no limitations placed on those items.
The rules are clear and easy to follow, he says, but outdated.
“Do I think they need to be revised? Absolutely! The $25 limitation no longer makes sense today. They should have been adjusted for inflation,” he says.
Need a laugh? Read how one New Yorker's holiday tipping was remarkably easy, thanks to a mysterious wad of cash she found in her apartment.
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