Ms. Demeanor's Vertical Etiquette

Dear Ms. Demeanor: How much do I pay my super for small jobs around my NYC apartment?

By Dianne Ackerman  | November 1, 2019 - 10:00AM

It can be hard to know how much to pay or tip building staff. Here's what Ms. Demeanor does to keep everyone happy.


When my super does small jobs in my apartment, I never know how much to pay him. He just won’t give me a price. How do I figure out what to give him? Should I just give him a big tip during the holidays? Signed, Got Cash, Just Clueless

Dear Clueless,

This is probably the number one question asked by renters and owners. Unfortunately, there is no easy, one-size-fits-all answer.  

I myself am an older single woman who often needs small jobs done in my apartment. If the job takes just a few minutes, I merely say thank you. (However, I also give my super a very hefty tip at the holidays.) If the job is more complicated, I hand him $20. I have no idea if this is the right or wrong approach but it works for me. The super still comes when I ask and, as far as I know, doesn’t stick pins in a doll that looks like me.

When I first moved into the city, I asked my neighbors about tipping the staff. While it seems that New Yorkers will gladly tell you almost anything about their sex lives, most are reluctant to discuss anything financial. So I was pretty much on my own to figure things out. 

I now give a holiday tip of $100 to the doormen and the porter and between $200 to $300 the super. The rest of the staff get $20 to $50 each, depending on how long they have been in the building. I am almost sure that others give less and some give more, but this is what I can afford and it seems to work.

Some of the staff confide in me and what I have learned is that besides a decent tip, what they want is to be treated nicely (smile and say hello when you come in and out) and with respect. While we know that the staff are supposed to treat everyone equally, the people who tip more are going to be treated better. 

So, tip as much as you can afford (or a tad more) and buy the staff a cup of coffee sometimes when you are getting your own. Your life will be better for it.

Ms. Demeanor

Dianne Ackerman is the new voice of reason behind Ms. Demeanor. She has lived in her Upper East Side co-op for the past 20 years and is the vice president of her co-op board. She is filled with opinions that she gladly shares with all who ask—and some who do not. Have something that needs sorting out? Drop her an email.


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