To Tip or Not To Tip?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Bossi

“Dear PoPville,

This morning, when my father in law was taking out our trash cans, the trash man said something to him to the effect of “why don’t you ever take care of us at Christmas?” My FIL took this as an insinuation that we should be tipping them at Christmas, like you would a doorman. Is this a reasonable expectation? How would one even go about tipping the trash collectors and how much would you tip? If you don’t tip, will your trash not be picked up?

I’m curious if this enterprising trash collector took my FIL for a fool or if I’ve been a fool for the last ten years and owe some serious back-bonus pay to the trash collectors.”

Ed. Note: I was always that you should tip postal workers and trash collectors. You guys?

136 Comment

  • I tip the garbage men (all six of them) and the mail person.

  • We tip our mail carrier and trash collectors, although you’re not supposed to ($20 each). However, it’s always crass to ask for a tip.

    • +1. Tbh, I think if someone asked me for a tip I’d be more likely to NOT tip.

      • justinbc

        I honestly don’t think I could be more likely NOT to tip than I already am, unless there’s negative tipping. Can I take money from someone if they ask for a tip? Because I could definitely get into that.

      • As he handed us our boarding passes, the DCA skycap felt the need to point out how he expects tips. So he got a dollar.

        • I’m curious how this went down. Did he say that tips are welcome or something that is more insinuating that they’re expected? If he just said something along the lines of “we’re allowed to accept tips” I would be able to forgive that as correcting perceptions that they can’t/don’t (though a polite sign that tips are appreciated would be FAR less annoying). If he said something more along the lines of “and the standard is that people tip $1-2 per bag” then that’s just outright obnoxious.

  • It’s a northeast thing. DC sort of qualifies, sort of doesn’t.

  • orderedchaos

    Don’t know about trash collectors, but here’s the rule for USPS (and any federal employee):

    “All postal employees, including carriers, must comply with the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Exec­utive Branch. Under these federal regulations, carriers are permitted to accept a gift worth $20 or less from a customer per occasion, such as Christmas. However, cash and cash equivalents, such as checks or gift cards that can be exchanged for cash, must never be accepted in any amount. Furthermore, no employee may accept more than $50 worth of gifts from any one customer in any one calendar year period.”

    • My dad was a postman — and cash was way better than the crappy cookies he got from everyone. I give a card and cash.
      Oh — and I tip the mail carrier (though the newspaper).

    • Yeah, I’m sure all of the letter carriers are at-risk for being influenced by lobbyists and foreign governments.

    • I’ll tip my mail carrier once they stop forging my signature and abandoning my signature required packages.

      • Don’t you think there’s a chicken and egg question here?

        • There probably is, but the point is there shouldn’t be. Doing your job according to the rules should be the bare minimum that is expected. You shouldn’t have to tip the mail carrier in order to actually get your mail. Instead, tips should be reserved for excellent service. Run back to the truck to get my package when you see I’m just getting home? Tip. Doing your job in a surly and inefficient manner and losing things regularly? No tip. I’m not about to reward someone for getting a job and doing it poorly.

          • justinbc

            +1, there shouldn’t be. You shouldn’t need EXTRA incentive to do the absolute basics required of the job you signed up to do (and are already being paid for, by each of us, via taxation).

          • I agree, there shouldn’t be. Relatedly, bourbon should also have the same health benefits as kale, and make you feel bright and refreshed the next morning. It doesn’t, though – life is full of little disappointments. I prefer to deal with the world as it is, rather than as it should be. And if a small tip to people who work hard, in a service job that I wouldn’t want to do, gets my cans put back where they should be and the occasional extra service (such as picking up something that really should be in a bulk trash pickup, or getting in for a haircut I desperately need last minute when I forgot to make an appointment), I’m OK with it.

  • jim_ed

    A tip for a fairly compensated government employee doing their job? Nope. They want a tip, they can start bringing my cans in and out of my back gate for me. I don’t tip the people at the DMV or the guys laying asphalt on my street either, fwiw.

    • Agree 100%

    • Yeah, I’m not on board either. Who am I not supposed to tip once we start getting into trash collectors?

      • +1. Also where in the world do you leave the tip? I feel like someone would take it, especially when trash collectors come so early in the morning half the time. Geez.

        • You can put it in an envelope and tape it under the lid of the trash can, that’s what my parents have always done.

          • justinbc

            So in addition to the neighborhood packages thieves, now at Christmas time you’ll have guys cruising through your hood scoping out all your trash cans. Great.

    • The average annual salary for a garbageman in DC is $37,000. Considering the cost of living in this area I would not describe that as “fairly compensated.”

      • jim_ed

        Looking briefly at DCHR’s salary data, thats a lowball. Starting salary for full time averages around $36,000, and most of the non-supervisory roles get between 45-55k, which is an extremely fair salary for not having a college degree or additional vocational schooling in this day and age. The “crew chief” of each truck makes around $65,000. Combine this with the fact that most of them only work 6 hours a day and get all paid holidays, health insurance, and likely a retirement plan, and its a very generous position if you can get it.

    • Thank you! I tip (not the trash collectors, mind you) but I am genuinely sick of this tipping culture. Example: at Union Market, almost every vendor selling their $7 loafs of bread or $10 juices have a tipping option on the POS system they use. The question must be asked: what am I tipping you for?

      • justinbc

        I’m not sure if there’s a way to disable that in Square (what they all seem to use). I’ve never set it up, but I agree that I see it on every single e-receipt system I see now regardless of the vendor.

        • Why would a vendor disable it? It’s free money. People tip three times as much via the POS like square as they put in the tip jar. Just because the option offends anon here, small business people should give up that income? Sheesh.

    • The issue is that mail delivery and trash collection are physically demanding tasks, performed in all sorts of weather. I know there are issues with individuals mail carriers or trash collectors not doing their job well/at all (I’ve experienced both), but barring that, if you’re considering tipping anyone around the holidays, please consider the difficulty of the job they perform when deciding who to thank with a tip. (And as the daughter of a mail carrier, so speaking from experience, they’re not THAT well compensated.)

      • I think you tip with a baseline of this is what your job is for which you earn a salary. If someone performs above and beyond that baseline, tip. If they do not, do not tip because then they are “just doing their job.” Once the trash collectors actually make sure to empty my trash cans completely each time they come and/or put them back in front of my house instead of two doors down the street, then I am unsure I’d say they are even meeting their baseline here.

      • justinbc

        In that case, we should all be heading down to the water treatment facilities with our wallets wide open…

      • The weather issue I’ll give you, delivering mail in the sleet and snow seems awful. But “physically demanding work”… nah. Being a garbage collector or mail carrier is not any more physically demanding than any job that you perform without a degree. Its good hard work, but not any more difficult than mopping a floor, fixing pipes, or serving food.

    • Our mail carrier is excellent. We know him by name, he greets our small son by name, says hi to our cats (the last carrier brought treats for all the pets on the street) and is careful with our mail. So yeah, I’m not gonna feel bad about throwing him an extra $20 once a year.

      • I feel like we had a relationship with our garbagemen when I was a child. Thus, they got a tip. Leaving a stack of $20s by the can for some guys I’ve never met? I don’t think so.

        • Same here, I feel like the garbage collectors are pretty impersonal where I live. And I was born and raised in the Northeast and have never heard of tipping garbage collectors! Nannies, building staff, yes, but where does it end?

  • tipping the garbage man/woman? new one to me…

  • Growing up, we never tipped garbage collectors or the postal carrier, nor did they ask. I didn’t even realize you should. We have have given something to the newspaper delivery person. When did this become a thing?

  • I’ll admit, I’ve always wanted to, but never have, because I can’t really figure out the logistics of it. Do you hang around til they come through the alley and then hand out envelopes?
    I would never tip our mail carriers. They’re the worst. But hey, at least I always know they’re coming, because they’re always screaming profanities on their cell phones as they make their appointed rounds.

    • Right, it would never even occur to me to tip the garbage man (or the letter carrier for that matter). I never even see them!

    • justinbc

      Our UPS guy is outstanding. Our USPS has one good guy, but he’s not there daily, and sometimes they aren’t even in uniform. We had one girl deliver it last week while on the phone in sweatpants.

      • Same here. Our UPS guy gets a tip (via some kind of giftcard) every year. He’s fantastic and we love him. Our USPS woman keeps losing the key to our building (like, 5 times this year so far), is grumpy, doesn’t take outgoing mail, and is often subbed for by people in their regular street clothes (who also lose the key). She gets a baggie of cookies in the spirit of the season (though when her truck broke down she also got bottled water, soda, and a snack because we’re not terrible people).

      • This is my situation, too. We have our regular guy who is outstanding, and you can always tell when he was there. The mail is not shoved haphazardly into our boxes, the couple people who have broken boxes in our building’s mail is taken to their door, any USPS packages are stacked neatly and out of the way, and the outgoing mail has been taken. I’d tip him in a heartbeat. Thing is, I never know when it’s going to be him versus his subs (some of whom are also just fine, but a few of whom are annoyingly unprofessional and rushed).
        I do know his name, so maybe I could leave an envelope in the outgoing box with his name on it. Still think a sub would take it if they happened to come that day. He’s also on the older side, so I imagine he’s out a bit around the holidays (enough seniority to get the “desirable” days off).
        I’ll tell you who deserves a tip: the Google Express delivery people. They bring the stuff to my (upstairs) door and are always pleasant when I am home at delivery time. However, I have seen stories of them refusing tips (perhaps a policy (help pages state “not necessary/expected”), perhaps just the dance of “no, I shouldn’t”) and that’s always so awkward.

    • Right – my first thought was logistics. I have never even SEEN the garbage men who take our trash, mostly because it’s back in the alley and we leave through the front of the house. Plus every time I happen to be home from work and see the postal worker, it’s a different person.

  • When I had one, steady mail person, I would tip them with a gift card. Since we have a steady flow of different carrier now, I haven’t. I wish I could tip the delivery person for UPS who always goes to great lengths to hide our packages, but I have no clue how to go about this (or even if it’s one person with a route). When we had a private trash company in MD, they sent tip envelopes each year. Not sure about how to do it for DPR.

  • The quote from the garbage collector rubs me the wrong way, I’m all for tipping but by no means do I feel like I’m under any obligation to tip the mail man, the garbage collector, the guy who sweeps the sidewalks every Tuesday, etc.

    • justinbc

      Seriously, at what point do we draw the line? The guy who shows you which lane to self-check-out at CVS?

      • Blithe

        My preference would be to abolish all tipping — and, for example, raise prices in restaurants and pay appropriate wages. If someone goes above and beyond their usual duties, then I would probably do what I considered a gift rather than a tip.

        • justinbc

          I am 100% on board with that, and glad to see the trend of restaurants in particular doing this (although it’s being offset slightly by every other store like McD’s, Starbucks, etc now adding tip jars, but I think most people just ignore those).

          • Doesn’t this remove the incentive of people going above and beyond? Or at least reduce the likelihood people who will go above and beyond regardless will see any gratuity for doing so (even when they don’t ask for it)? I am totally on board with eliminating the standard tip for any level of service you might receive, but I see nothing wrong with a trend of tipping where someone does a better than expected job.

          • Thing is, there’s little to no evidence that people tip to reward exceptional service. You could argue that this would change if the standard tip were removed, but I doubt it. Tips are more likely to punish (or reflect systemic biases, like lower tips for black servers and higher tips for attractive women) than actually reflect quality of service.

          • justinbc

            It’s been disproven through multitudes of studies over the years that the tip is corollary to the service provided. Certain demographics (many of them, not just one) will almost never tip, and certain demographics will almost always receive high tips (think Hooters waitresses). Hard workers will work hard, lazy workers won’t, it shouldn’t be a gamble for them whether or not they will get tips based on who the customer is or how hot they are. (and that’s ignoring how many customers blame servers for things that are kitchen problems due to employees who don’t work on tips)

          • This is one problem I have with tipping someone like a trash collector. Either they take the trash when they’re supposed to, or they don’t and get reprimanded by their supervisor. It’s not like they can provide an exceptional level of service to us.

  • I moved to the District in 1980 and I have tipped the trash collectors and postman every year at Christmastime. Everyone in my neighborhood (Barnaby Woods) seems to follow suit. I don’t think you owe the trash collectors “back-bonus” pay but you should probably start tipping them from this point forward. They won’t stop collecting you trash if you don’t, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find your petunias trampled or some garbage “accidentally” strewn in your yard or driveway if you continue your current practice.

    The garbagemen and postmen in my neighborhood are kind, hardworking people that fully deserve this kind gesture around the holidays. IMHO, this falls along the lines of tipping your waiter or bartender (granted, they are less tip dependent than garbageman/postmen but still…). Are you required to tip you waiter/bartender? No. Is it a good way to show appreciation for good service and ensure that the good service continues into the future? Definitely.

    • Tipping your waiter in the US is a de facto requirement. Servers’ hourly wages are intentionally lower than minimum wage because it is expected that their tips will make up the difference in pay. Trash collectors and postal service employees receive a full salary and benefits — the two are not on par.

    • “They won’t stop collecting you trash if you don’t [tip], but I wouldn’t be surprised to find your petunias trampled or some garbage “accidentally” strewn in your yard or driveway if you continue your current practice.” Whoa — retaliation by garbagemen against non-tipping residents would be totally unacceptable.

  • Growing up, we always gave the mailman and some of our regular delivery (FedEx, UPS, etc) guys a little card with some cash or a gift card around the holidays because they were awesome, helpful dudes, but it was never requested or otherwise hinted at. That’s just crass! And we NEVER tipped the garbage men – I don’t think it would have ever occurred to my parents to do that, especially since our garbage men were total pr*cks, leaving cans strewn about the street, people’s yards, no cares at all. This garbage man sounds almost as if he’s about to start blackmailing you into some “tips”, jeez!

  • Nope, they make $32-61k plus retirement. health and sick leave benefits, in mostly unionized positions.

    This isn’t a service worker making $2.30 a month who lives on tips.

  • One shouldn’t tip a Unionized member.

  • My former boss “tipped” the garbage men around the holidays by taping cash to the trash bags in the alley before he left for work. I always thought that this was hysterical and evidence that this was not a man I wanted to be following through life.

  • My friends grandma would put two Budweisers on top of her cans every week. She literally could put a boat our for collection and they’d take it.
    Isn’t this what Boxing Day is for…should we bring it back?

    • Blithe

      Reading this, I recall that sometimes people used to leave bottles of scotch on top of the newspapers in their garbage cans at Christmas. I can’t imagine anyone doing this now.

      • justinbc

        Yeah something about this harkens back to a different era. Like when your trash guy might have been Bob a few doors down and everyone knew everyone.

        • One of the trash collectors on my route DOES live a few doors down. Nice guy, always cheerful, cute kids.
          I would tip (if there were a logistically easy way to do it) because trash collection is a hard job that I’m very glad someone else is doing. It has nothing to do with how much they get paid, or whether they chose it themselves, or whatever other excuses folks come up with. It’s physically grueling, it’s dangerous, and we’d be in a big mess without them.

          • yeah but you could make that argument about many other jobs, like the guys repaving (or tearing up) the roads – it’s physically grueling, dangerous, and we need them because they provide (or are supposed to provide) a service to us all. But then where does it stop? Do we tip cops? The guys who are tearing up the road?

          • justinbc

            I agree with the concept that it’s a job I most definitely would not want to do (although the difficulty I’m not sure of, as the trucks that I see have those automated lifters). I’ve always brought my WMATA bus drivers Christmas baked goods (even though I think Christmas itself is silly) to say thanks, and I would happily give these guys a beer & a shot, but like you the logistics are just impossible for me to work with, unless I took a whole day off to do it.

          • Some WMATA bus drivers make six figures. It’s a terrible job, but they aren’t exactly poorly compensated for it either.

            Once they consistently charge people to board the bus, I might reconsider my position.

          • justinbc

            I don’t give them treats because I think they’re underpaid, I give them treats because I know my regular drivers pretty well and I stand and chat with them some mornings and many of them are nice, friendly folks who I enjoy interacting with.

          • “I stand and chat with them some mornings”
            Please stop doing this. They should be paying attention to what’s going on in the bus and on the road, not making idle chatter with passengers. Say good morning and then move on.

          • justinbc

            It’s really not that difficult, and they are the ones who initiate dialogue because, presumably, they get tired of just driving around with inconsiderate assholes all day. Do you never listen to the radio while driving? There’s little difference.

          • “I would tip (if there were a logistically easy way to do it) because trash collection is a hard job that I’m very glad someone else is doing”

            If he lives a few doors down, couldn’t you leave a tip in his mailbox?

    • Exactly. This is the point of Boxing Day. We do tokens mostly–starbucks gift card, or whatever, but it’s about spreading Christmas cheer (not to sound too much like Tiny Tim).

      • yeah, I’m pretty sure that was why my parents’ tipped (well, still do tip) the mailman – he’s pretty much a friend at this point, anyway!

    • justinbc

      LOL @ that boat comment.

    • I tip the garbage man, the mailman, my barber, the guy who drives the shuttle bus I take – probably some others that I can’t remember at the moment. My motives are not at all altruistic – a little grease at the holidays guarantees (or helps, at least) that my cans are returned, that I can squeeze in for an appointment at the last minute, if I’m running late the bus will wait for me, etc.

  • We hang out and give each of the trash collectors (3) and recycling guys (3) $20 each. We put the money in an envelope with our address.

    Not sure if this is related but we often times find our cans put back at the top of the alley throughout the year.

    My father was a postman and I’m sure he would never have taken cash. However, I do remember enjoying baked cookies and the chocolates he would bring home. In the 60’s, I guess one knew their mail carrier personally.

  • Blithe

    When I was growing up and lived in a house, my parents tipped the trash collectors and the postal workers around Christmas –but these were people who consistently provided services, and who regularly interacted directly with us. If I lived in a house, I’d probably do $20 gift cards to show my appreciation. Living in an apartment, it seems less personal. As in, if I have something odd that needs to be picked up from the trash room, there might well be a specific charge for this. I’ve never seen either the people picking up the trash for the building or the people delivering the mail, and I’ve no sense that they’re doing personal services for me — in the way that the postal delivery worker used to pick up my dad’s outgoing mail to save him from having to walk to a mail box. So I don’t tip — although I do contribute to a fund for building staff. I tend to tip as I go for services where someone seems to be going out of their way for me — so I want to show immediate appreciation.

  • I’d consider tipping them if they didn’t move the soggy cardboard my neighbor puts in their trash into my recycling can – or toss it on my alley steps. Being my neighbor’s recycling police is one thing, but making it my problem is very annoying. No tips for bad service!

  • I tip my guys mini cognac bottles…

    • And let me mention, my guys take my bins off my raised stoop, empty them and put them back so I don’t have to do a damn thing.

  • justinbc

    I typed out various forms of laughter and backspaced repeatedly but it’s hard to keep down. These are paid employees, right? They do their job and get paid for it. Sometimes they don’t even do it, or partially do it. I don’t even know if it’s the same guys who come by every week, who sits around and watches the trash collectors? Even if I wanted to tip them, what am I supposed to do, sit outside for hours in the morning until they show up? What if they come when I’m always at work, do I tape some cash to the inside of the lid? So many ridiculous questions because this is beyond a ridiculous principle. Also, the gall of someone to actually strongarm their way into a tip from an old man, wow…

    • Blithe

      I think that asking for a tip is in very poor taste. On the other hand, many neighborhoods that may have had this as a common practice have had rapid turnovers in population. I’m curious — do you, or anyone — think there’s an appropriate way for a worker providing a service where tips are customary to indicate this to a customer?

      • justinbc

        I think the least offensive way (because let’s face it, anytime someone you’re not expecting to asks you for money, you’ll likely be somewhat offended) would be to say thank you to those who do tip you already, and maybe encourage them to tell others so that it’s second hand, and more friendly coming from a neighbor. That’s assuming that you and your neighbor actually talk, which again goes back to the “porch culture” mentality that DC is really losing. (part of the reason why I wanted a swing in our front yard, it accommodates chatting so easily)

    • Believe it or not, this is a thing.. It’s like tipping your doorman. Is he your personal doorman, no. But he’s really nice when you simply offer a generous THANK YOU around the holidays. Same goes for the trash guy… This is not about a government job vs non government or specifics or what have you.. It’s about being nice during the holiday season, a little extra “hey thanks” for doing one of the most non desired jobs ever. Here’s a little cheer from me to you.

      • justinbc

        FWIW I wouldn’t ever tip a doorman either. What’s he gonna do, lock you out?

      • Well, it kind of is about government job vs. non-government job. I can’t get my mind wrapped around tipping a government employee. They get salaries, benefits, including pensions, and other benefits the barista and waiter can only dream about.

        Also, most of the country doesn’t know what a doorman is, but when you have one it obviously makes sense to tip them because they are in a position to do all sorts of optional, helpful things that make your life easier. The garbage man might haul off something he isn’t supposed to, such as a bulk item, so tip for that perhaps. But otherwise….

    • I posted a WaPo article about trash collectors that might be stuck in moderation. It says that their jobs are highly coveted because they make a decent salary for not having a college degree, and have hours that would make most of us green with envy. I think our tip money is better used elsewhere.

  • I’ve heard that it’s customary to tip the garbage collectors during the holidays… but the ones who serve my alley do such a slipshod job of it (often leaving miscellaneous trash items strewn in their wake) that I’ve never felt inclined to do so.

  • My parents always “tipped” the garbage man and mail carrier around Christmas when I was a kid. It was always the same guys for YEARS, and they did a good job and were very friendly and nice.
    “Tipped” isn’t the right word for it though, it was more like an end-of-the-year thank you for a job well done.
    As someone who makes $2.77 an hour, I’d tip my trash guy or mailman if they did a good job, but they don’t, and the certainly make better money and have waaaaay better benefits than me.
    Asking for a tip is tacky.

  • From a Washington Post article:
    Trash collectors are also not allowed to accept tips and gifts, which can lead to awkward interactions with grateful residents such as the woman who approached Bland and Nix’s truck as it idled behind a townhouse development off of Arizona Avenue NW. She tried to hand an envelope to driver and crew chief, Tavis Clinton, 34. It takes some doing before she gives up, gets into her red Prius, and drives off.

  • I always tip my trash men, and the USPS, UPS, and newspaper delivery people too. I’m not sure it as any effect on the service I receive, but it makes me feel good to do it. I probably would stop if they hit me up for it, though. There’s a big difference between a holiday gift, freely given, and a pseudo-obligation.

  • Emmaleigh504

    Now I feel terrible for not tipping our mail guy. We have the same guy and he’s super nice and will go out of his way to make sure I get packages. Do you just leave money in an envelope in the mail box?

    • I hand the mail man a card with $20 on a Saturday — and make sure to be home on trash day around the holidays. Trash dudes get $10 each. As for all the outrage for tipping trash collectors, I’ve been to places where the trash isn’t picked up. I am grateful for anyone who comes, especially in the dead of summer, and gets rid of my skunky trash. I don’t think they make nearly enough (like teachers). Meanwhile I’d find it more reasonable to complain about internists who essectially threaten people into paying a yearly retainer to be able to see the doctor when the need arises. My internist has a scary sign in the front room demanding $1,000 or next visit, the patient will be relegated to a nurse practitioner.

      • justinbc

        I had to Google what an internist was, I totally expected it to be some sort of intern who’s kept past their trial period! You should definitely take a photo of that sign, it sounds like a candidate for some classic PoPville shaming.

      • I think those concierge care services are super annoying. I understand costs are high, but I’m not going to be bullied into paying someone just to get into a practice. And I love nurse practicioners anyway! Easier to get appointments, less rushed, and they can prescribe the good drugs 🙂

      • Yeah I bet the Nurse Practitioners in that office LOVE that sign.
        (Though of course there aren’t any. Why would they work there, to be so disrespected?)

  • My mother tips her trash guys, BUT, she lives on a private suburban street and these are guys from a private trash company. Plus, after they got the first holiday tip from her (it was $50 per guy, 2 trash guys and a driver), they started taking her trash and recycling cans out of the garage and putting them back *in the garage* when she left the garage door up on trash day. This has been enormously beneficial as she has grown older and has more trouble hauling heavy cans out to the street.
    I don’t tip the trash guys in the city because I’ve stayed out and watched for them and it never seems to be the same crew twice. If it was the same ones, I’d tip, but I’d also kinda hope for an extra level of service in exchange, even if it was something as simple as them actually up-ending the can to get out the miscellaneous trash at the bottom or putting the lids back on properly to discourage others from putting trash in mine during the day before I get home and get to bring them back in. If I tipped and nothing like that happened, I wouldn’t do it again.

  • anonymouse_dianne

    Hmm. Postal worker – not for me. I never have the same one. BTW USPS are still part of the fed, but none of us has gotten more than 1% increase in pay in the past 5 years. Don’t get overtime or comptime either. When I lived at the Newport I would give a card and check to Don the building fixer-upper. When I was on the board, I learned that staff generally got very little in raises, gifts, etc. Then it was decided to pool tips and distribute them. I didn’t like that so much because some of the front desk people were useless and some were gems. I think the important aspect is to show appreciation when (at the time) it is due.

  • Perhaps if they stop throwing flinging garbage all over the alley every time they come through and leaving my trash can about six houses away, I’ll think about it.

  • I was taught growing up with modest means to always tip the people at Christmas who do those every day things that we take for granted (but shouldn’t!). This includes:
    – Mail man
    – Garbage crew
    – Dry cleaner
    – School crossing guards
    – Office/home cleaners

    • You were raised right. Kudos to your parents.

    • My mother has the exact same philosophy. She’d leave a little tip or a little present for our postal worker, landfill worker, pediatrician, etc. She’d even bring plates of cookies over to the fire house and police station.

  • No tip with the service I get — you have to chase down your trash and recycling can; if there is only a single bag of trash they are too lazy to reach in and throw it in the truck. No Way!

    • Agreed. My tip is do your f’ing job and empty the trash cans. Every week I have to choreograph how my bags are stacked in the can in order to convince them to take more than just the top bag. If I put out my can with just one or two bags in it, they flip the lid open and then just skip over it. If I fill it to the brim with trash, they take the top two bags and leave the lower ones to fester. I can’t win.

  • I know that as a building we give a tip to our postal worker around Christmas. I don’t think we do the same for our trash service (private).
    However, growing up (not in DC) my parents always tipped the garbage men and mail carrier. After Thanksgiving you’d suddenly notice your empty trash cans placed neatly on your curb instead of toppled all over the sidewalk/street, and then the last pickup before Christmas the truck would honk as it went down the street so you’d know they were there and ready. Needless to say…it’s never inspired me to give an extra tip to them.

  • I don’t know about other neighborhoods but I have 4 or 5 rotating mailmen, none of them more than 2 days in a row, so I don’t know who I would be tipping. Not that I would be inclined to as atleast 2 of them make walking through my landscaped flower beds between me and my neighbor a sport and regularly trample them.

    And don’t get me started on the trash guys. Guys who make top dollar salaries, full benefits and pension who only have to work 4-4.5 hours a day, so little in fact a large portion of them are able to maintain other full time jobs, who then somehow manage to dump half the trash from cans into the alley rather than the truck don’t warrant a “gift” at Christmas. The alley resembles a landfill after trash pickup, with lots of trash strewn about and your cans 20-30 yards from your house, on their side and in piles around the alley. The first person in my alley who drives home from work that day is the unlucky one who has to walk the alley pushing all the cans out of the way because there isn’t room to drive down it.

    Give them money? Heck no.

    • Ditto — when growing up (in the South) we gave a Christmas gift to our mail lady — but then she was on our route for more than 15 years. In Petworth we have at least three different letter carriers. Who gets tipped and when?

      (They routinely misdeliver to identical numbers on Delafield and Decatur, which is a problem too.)

    • Its little gestures like a tiny annual tip that that make them care about who you are and build a sense of community. And if being a trash hauler is so great, why don’t you go and put in an application?

  • Didn’t realize you were supposed to tip. Maybe that’s why they block our back gate with the cans each week.

  • This just happened to me last week. Very similar opening line – “you don’t believe in Christmas?” (I do, but that was a risky opening question). I live just North of U St and wonder if it is the same guy. After the Christmas ice-breaker, he then informed me that all my neighbors took care of the crew but me. I laughed out loud at that. The folks on my block are not tipping the trash guys. Judging by the cans they leave out, most of my neighbors don’t even know when the trash is picked up. I then inquired about the logistics of getting him a tip. He said he could take it right then. Ha! It was a harmless, humorous hustle that we both enjoyed, but it was definitely a hustle. Who knows? It may have worked. I may leave him something, though the fact he is shaking down everyone he sees is probably not a best practice. His superiors probably wouldn’t appreciate it.

  • Sometimes, “Tipping” really is just a city in China. I have no idea who my trash collectors are, or who my mail carrier is, and that’s just fine with me (for the record, as a single person, I put out a bag of trash roughly only once a month).

  • I have two different mail carriers who work during the week. One seems to be around the beginning of the week and the other Friday/Saturday.

    Since 2001 I have NEVER had the same mailman for more than a year and never had the same one every day of the week. Prior to 2001, yes, afterwards, no.

  • I don’t tip government employes doing their job – and I am one and wouldn’t expect it – regardless of the “special” time. I do have one exception – the leaf rakers working on Thanksgiving day. I give some soft drinks and cookies so they can keep their energy up. I know they are getting overtime which is no small thing, but still, raking leave on Thanksgiving??

  • Uh… local and federal government employees. Is it even legal for them to ask for “tips”?

  • Yeah I tip them. It’s called paying taxes.

  • Come on! Rain or shine, they haul your heavy, disgusting trash and people are hating on them with all this stingy talk? You tip them to show appreciation for doing a job that you would never do in a million years.

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