I live in a doorman building with eight staff, and this is my first year here. I rent the unit. Am I expected to give each member of staff a tip, or just the doorman I see most of the time – the one that helps me with my shopping, for example? Would it be okay if I gave an envelope with a lump sum so the building staff split it among themselves? It’s my first time living in a doorman building and I would rather not ask my neighbor what she does. She’s only said “hello” to me once in six months.
William in New York
First of all, don’t give your neighbor’s attitude a second thought. In New York, most people live on top of each other and want to jealously guard their personal space. It’s easier to say hello once in six months than listen to your neighbor going on about her tendinitis or cat’s allergies or compare tips on doormen. This is not Middle America, people. But most New Yorkers worth their salt will help you out in a jam.
I was recently at a Christmas party in Manhattan and a neighbor of the host quietly told me before another building resident arrived, “They live in the building, but they don’t own their apartment.” I thought it was a weird thing to say. It reminded me of this survey released by real-estate website Trulia: 51% of people would prefer their neighbors to be homeowners, but that still doesn’t excuse someone introducing the couple of Apartment 2B as renters.
Doormen — unlike neighbors — are paid to smile and say ’good morning’ even when if they got out of bed on the wrong side, are going through a messy divorce or even need a kidney. They are there to cater to your needs and be as pleasant as humanly possible.
But back to your dilemma: Doormen — unlike neighbors — are paid to smile and say “good morning” even when if they got out of bed on the wrong side, are going through a messy divorce or even need a kidney. They are there to cater to your needs and be as pleasant as humanly possible. For every neighbor that gives you a biannual “hello” in the elevator, you can usually rely on the doorman’s good manners once you reach the lobby.
Regardless of whether you rent or own, everyone should tip. Only 3% of owners in doorman buildings give nothing to building staff, 23% give less than $ 250, 17% give $ 250 to $ 500, and the same amount give $ 500 to $ 750, according to the 2014 “Holiday Tipping Poll” by real-estate advice site BrickUnderground.com; 11% give $ 750 to $ 1,000, 13% give $ 1,000 to $ 1,500, and the rest give more.
Read: How much to tip everyone
Most renters still give, but slightly less than owners. Only 2% give nothing, the same survey found, while 25% give less than $ 250 to the building staff, 25% give $ 250 to $ 500, 12% give $ 500 to $ 750, 9% give $ 750 to $ 1,000, 7% give $ 1,000 to $ 1,500. The rest give more than that.
How much you decide to tip depends on the number of building staff, how long you’ve been there, how much you have had to rely on the staff during the year, and your budget. The super gets the highest amount (between $ 100 and $ 250) and your regular (OK, favorite) doorman should get around the same. Weekend doormen get about half that. And you should include the invisible man who works late nights.
I advise against leaving one envelope with a lump sum. That will only give them more work to do and could possibly cause ill will among the staff. A tip is a ‘thank you’ and should have the person’s name on the envelope. Don’t forget other people who come to your home this time of year: Dog-walker, piano teacher, babysitter, nanny, housekeeper or personal trainer. A general rule of thumb — there are no hard-and-fast rules — is one week’s pay.
Back to those who are not paid to be nice: I remember Dolly Parton once telling an interviewer that — when she was growing up in the Smoky Mountains — she always made sure to say “hello” to her neighbors on the street even if they never said, “Hello, Dolly” back. She never wanted anyone to think that she was the kind of person to walk around with her nose in the air. You could try this with your neighbor from time to time. And sometimes a smile is worth a thousand words.
(This story was updated.)
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