Tipping is Not a City in China

housevsaptHouseowners deal with many issues that are foreign to apartment and condo dwellers.  Beyond the seemingly endless (and often expensive) hassles associated with purchasing and moving into a home, one then has to deal with some combination of tasks which include: trash disposal, lawn maintenance, appliance repair and maintenance, outdoor holiday decoration placement and removal, basement flooding, HVAC maintenance, “Mischief Night” soaping and eggings, neighbors’ rogue pets, and on and on.  But this is the time of year where you “make some of that back.”
The "Where's my tip?" hand
The “Where’s my tip?” hand

The holiday season for apartment and condo dwellers might as well be renamed the “Tipping Season.”  Every person that works in and services the entire building (and parking garage if you have one), expects a hefty tip this time of year.  A reward for a job well done (or perhaps some insurance for good service in the year to come).  Many of these people are relatively invisible for 11 months of the year but like clockwork they’ll appear in your vicinity several times between Thanksgiving and the end of the year.  You’ll get a hearty “Hello!” and smile and even a handshake with eye contact from some of them as they happen to be there vacuuming in front of your door, getting to that old maintenance request, tidying up the lobby or offering to help with a package.  Wonderful, friendly busy staff as far as the eye can see.  Much like waiters and waitresses, the tip is essentially an expected part of their compensation so you’re a heel if you stiff them.

 

But how much to tip?  When?  Who?  How do you appropriately “slip them the cash?”  Despite literally hundreds of years of doorman buildings and other apartment complexes with staffers on the books, there has been no progress on exactly how to do this “tip drill” well.  Does each one get the same or do the people that know your name get more?  Is there a “class system” in which doormen get the big dough and maintenance gets 50% less?  Can you send a big check or bag of cash to some management flunky and trust them to divvy it up fairly?  What’s this year’s “rate?”  $100 each?  $200?  $50 due to Obama and the recession?  Does the Super really deserve $500 (after all, he already makes more than everybody else, right?)?  Do I slip a $20 to the weekend substitute parking guy?
Will "Schneider" fix your overflowing toilet in a jiffy next year?
Will “Schneider” fix your overflowing toilet in a jiffy next year?

 

It’s crazy!  Don’t you already pay a “maintenance” fee each year for these services?  Even if you want to do the right thing, there’s no way to know what “the right thing” is.  Ask most doormen and they’ll shrug and say, “Whatever you think is fair sir.”  That’s no help.  You may spend thousands of dollars tipping different people and still miss the guy that fixed your toilet during your Superbowl party because you forgot what he looked like (note: you’ll know if that happened the next time you desperately need his services and he’s conveniently unavailable btw).

 

So to all you house-owners out there, be happy this holiday season knowing that this is your time… a time where you can relax in your home and enjoy the holidays while your apartment-dwelling counterparts are struggling with the all that goes with the “Tipping Season.”

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