This isn’t your standard holiday tipping guide. Plenty of people will tell you to give the maid one-day’s pay for the holidays or slip the trash collector $10 to $30 the next time he wakes you at 6am. Instead, this is your annual guide to tipping those who can’t accept tips. These people may work equally hard all year round, yet are precluded from extending their palms by company standards, government regulations or simple rules of etiquette.
To make the whole process easier on you, we did some research and nailed down exactly what types of gratuities are acceptable for non-tippable professionals. Here are our suggestions for showing your appreciation for 10 professions who are prohibited from accepting monetary tips.
1. Nursing Home Workers. Most agencies and nursing homes don’t allow their employees to accept cash, so check your specific agency’s rules before tipping. While this may seem unfair, considering the thoughtful care they provide your loved ones, the policy is fairly prevalent throughout the industry. You might consider a gift certificate, gift card or a small present, like a book, potted plant or box of gourmet chocolates. You might also consider a donation for the home, like blankets, board games or books.
2. USPS Carriers. Come rain, snow or dark of night, these government employees aren’t allowed to accept gifts worth more than $20 on a single occasion. According to USPS spokesman Mark Saunders, you can give them a gift card — which handily slips into a USPS approved envelope — but none that can be exchanged for the cash equivalent. Other nice gifts for your chilly carrier include hand warmers or refreshments like cookies or popcorn. If you’re served by a variety of temporary carriers (as is more and more common these days), you might send a group gift to your local USPS branch, like a gift basket. Saunders said the total cash-value of gifts over one year can’t exceed $50.
3. FedEx Carriers. As with USPS workers, FedEx Code of Business Conduct prohibits employees to receive cash tips. The boys and girls in blue can, however, accept non-monetary gifts of up to $75 in value within one year, so go with the rules mentioned above.
4. UPS Delivery Persons. UPS spokeswoman Rebecca Treacy-Lenda says the delivery service trains their drivers to politely decline tips. “However, we realize that customers often have a strong bond with our people because of the terrific service they provide and when a customer insists, we allow our folks to accept nominal gratuities. Our drivers do receive heartfelt and sincere gifts during the holidays of baked goods, knitted items and even invitations to holiday parties. We ultimately leave this matter in their hands when confronted with the issue of whether or not to accept or decline a gift.” In other words, it’s up to you, but a non-monetary gift of under $20 is recommended.
5. Teachers. Rather than inundate your child’s teacher with yet another box of bath salts, how about a Groupon coupon or a Restaurant.com book? It would be extra special if your child includes their own little gift, be it a homemade item or some small token they purchased with their allowance. Your child spends hours every day with their teacher, so have them try and get creative with something they think matches their teacher’s personality.
6. School Bus Drivers. Teachers get all the treats, gift cards and “World’s Best Teacher” mugs, while bus drivers — who brave the elements and over-excited kids — are often ignored during the holidays. Most transportation departments frown on cash gifts, but our local school district says the best possible gift would be a complimentary letter to the driver’s supervisor. Your child might also offer a Christmas card with a big smile and a week’s worth of impeccable bus behavior.
7. Flight Attendants. Holiday flights can present nightmare scenarios for flight attendants, even more than they usually experience in these days of overbooked flights and overstuffed cabins. Despite low pay, high responsibilities and many grumpy passengers, airlines don’t allow their in-flight specialists to accept any form of gratuity. Thus, the best gift you can give is to behave yourself during the flight and dole out a heartfelt thank you as you exit the plane. Buh-bye.
8. Public Pool Lifeguards. With kids out of school for the holidays, activity centers fill up and lifeguards have their hands more than full. While most aren’t allowed to accept gifts, you might slip these pool-safety inspectors a $5 or $10 Starbucks gift card if your child is a regular swim fan or takes lessons. If nothing else, a little caffeine will help the lifeguard remain alert throughout their shift.
9. Bus Driver. If you regularly take public transportation, you might feel inclined to show you appreciation for your bus driver. A nice card or festive tin of cookies or any homemade baked goods is always a nice gesture. As with postal carriers, many bus drivers drive different routes these days, so you might bring your special treat to the station house for everyone to share.
10. Your Boss. Though you obviously don’t have to “tip” your boss, a thoughtful gift shows your appreciation for a year’s worth of employment. You could go solo or chip in with coworkers to buy a joint present, gift card or restaurant gift certificate. You might also find a little something special for your boss’s children and partner, if you’ll see them at the holiday party.