121807doorman.jpgIt’s that time of year again when New Yorkers debate how much to tip the – deep breath – doorman, super, handyman, locker room attendant, trainer, baby sitter, dog walker, beauty salon, cleaning person, day care center, garbage collector, mail carrier, paperboy and parking attendant(s). Sewell Chan, the Times’s Man on the Web, has tied himself to the tipping post with a 1,780 word monograph on the subject, largely sourced from Doorman, a book by Professor Peter Bearman, statistician and sociology professor at Columbia University.

The bottom line: If you use any of the services listed above, which were cited as tip-worthy in this useful Holiday Tip Guide, you’d better cough up something or face consequences ranging from dirty looks to severely diminished service. In New York, $50 seems to be the mid-range for the super and doormen, depending on how fancy the building is. Kiplinger has some thorough advice, including a warning against tipping waiters more than 15% during the holidays. Here’s what others are paying the help, according to a nationwide survey in Consumer Reports:

  • $10 to $20 for the newspaper carrier
  • $10 to $25 for the sanitation or recycling collector
  • $20 to $50 for the child care provider
  • $25 to $75 for the housekeeper
  • $10 to $25 for the school bus driver.

Since the cost of living is high in New York, you’ll want to hew on the top edge of that scale. The rule of thumb is to match the holiday tip to what you pay your helper in a week. But don’t even think about spending more than $5 bucks on your kids’ teacher – that’s the law. Though that’s pretty much what they make in a week anyway, right?

What’s your opinion on the annual holiday tip shakedown – a chance to reward good service and grease the wheels for next year or, in the words of Ebenezer Scrooge, just “a poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December”? How much are you tipping and where do you draw the line?