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Tipping your Favorite Waitstaff for the Holidays

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During the holiday season, I tend to avoid leaving large tips to my favorite bartenders, servers etc, cus some of the establishments I frequent have tip pools. Instead, I give cards, individually with cash inside them made out to each person. I want to ensure that this is a gift and not a tip to be shared.

Wondering what your practice is?

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  1. My tipping practice remains constant throughout the year.

    1. I don't go to restaurants that pool, so I usually just leave extra and/or give them a bottle of wine! I also wait tables and many of the regulars will drop off cards and our management will distribute them to the staff.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Missmoo

        "I don't go to restaurants that pool"

        So, do you ask the host/hostess when you first show up and walk out if they pool?

        1. re: FrankJBN

          No I meant I don't know of any that do it.

          1. re: Missmoo

            How would you know if you don't ask?

            1. re: Missmoo

              I bet you go to restaurants that pool tips and you don't even realize it.

              1. re: ttoommyy

                Sorry I'm in the business, I live in a particular area, I usually know someone on the staff. It's not a big deal to me if they do pool tips, but it is very unusual around here. Sheesh. It was just a comment about my understanding in this area of the country.

                1. re: Missmoo

                  Sorry. I saw that you lived in SF and made an assumption based on restaurants here in NYC. I apologize.

        2. I worked as a waiter in Whistler, BC for over a decade and while tip-pooling is not common up here i can say that a personalized card would seem much more special than just an overly large tip that time of year. i think your idea is a sound one.

          1. Since I tip waiters all year long I see no need to tip them extra at the holidays.

            Generally speaking holiday tips/gifts to regular but intermittent service providers are given to those who work 51 weeks a year without tips.

            1 Reply
            1. re: FrankJBN

              Yeah that's how I do, if I eat out within a day or two of Thanksgiving or Christmas I'll tip an extra 5%.

              If someone is actually working on Christmas then I'll tip 40% or so.

            2. We usually give gift cards to the servers or managers we really like, but if we've gotten to know the person pretty well, such as the bartender of this one place we go to every week, we'll give a more personally thought of gift. (We know he does watercolors in his spare time, so he's getting a copy of a collection of award-winning paintings. Thanks, Amazon!)

              1 Reply
              1. re: Michelly

                That's how I feel, if I go to the same place for lunch or dinner say, once a week, it's usually the same bartender and server that waits on me. The btender and server are very thorough and they know what I like for food and drink etc. Hey look, they work pretty hard for their tips, they make sure everything is excellent and I feel that showing appreciation, in addition to regular tipping, for the past year, in the form of cash, for the holidays cus I have the means to do it, is a nice thing to do and most can use the extra income. I wouldn't like that to be shared with poor waitstaff or slackers.

              2. Gift cards certainly strike me as appropriate and "personal," given the concern you have for the tips pool.
                I belong to an organization that has a breakfast meeting at a small local restaurant once a month. Our server basically runs around like crazy for the whole place, and keeps us in coffee and other orders in the back meeting room. (The breakfast is mostly buffet, unless someone really wants to order from the menu). At our December meeting, we do take up a collection at breakfast for our favorite, friendly, and very loyal server, and it has become a tradition I think we all look forward to. She is an important part of our gathering, and has been for 3 or 4 years. The side conversations about family, mutual friends in our small community, her interest in the work of our group, etc., etc., have been a wonderful bond. (Oh, just to avoid any Chowhounds misunderstanding, I think most of us tip her when we pay for the breakfast each month, too, of course!)

                1. I don't go anywhere enough to be a "regular".

                  I do up my tips for the season - as a server the job becomes more hectic with the holidays and everyone can use some extra money.

                  When my grandmother was living I would give a very large cash gift to her regular lunch spot and ask that it be distributed equally (there was no regular server for her). My grandmother was a classic Southern eccentric and a servers worst nightmare. These folks dealt with her with grace and good humor. No matter how many wallet sized tip charts I gave her she never had one - said she gave them to friends who admired them. Her tipping remained firmly planted in the '50's and was not adjusted for inflation.

                  1. There are three places where we are regular enough that we give the staff Christmas tip (no tip pooling) just before the 25th.

                    My husband's regular lunch place always gives him a bottle of wine at the holidays. Two of our regular places as well as another place we frequently dine, give us a bottle as well.

                    My hairdresser and manicurist also get Christmas tips.

                    1. "Holiday tipping" seems to be an outdated notion to me. There is no one I give holiday tips to the way say, my grandparents generation did. Although I do tip more generously around the holidays just because 'tis the season, I can't imagine tipping garbage men, postal officers and so forth on the holidays. Does anyone still do this?

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: olyolyy

                        Until a recent change in personnel, we always did tip our postman. He was a cheerful sort, always took time for the lonely little old ladies on the block, and helped us once with a wayward parcel. Was well worth a little acknowledgement at Christmas.
                        Mr. Pine likes to eat at Denny's for Christmas breakfast (don't ask), and he always leaves a much-too-large tip, figuring the waitress had to work on a family holiday and maybe can use the extra money.

                        1. re: olyolyy

                          <Does anyone still do this?.

                          Yes. This time of year is a time where lots of people not only depend on it but expect it.

                          1. re: olyolyy

                            As per my post above - this is the time of year to tip those who provide service to you all year without receiving tips.

                            You tip waiters, why not others who give you service?

                            When you say granparents generation, what, do you mean people in their 50s? That's where I am and it is common practice among my peers.

                            1. re: FrankJBN

                              <why not others who give you service?>

                              Right. This means housecleaners, manicurists, hair salon, car washers, gardeners, garbage collectors (although I give less now knowing they're not allowed to leave their trucks no matter what), window washers, plumbers, the list is endless.
                              Then there're the ones who compare what they've received with the next one to see what they've received to see if what they've received is good enough. It's a whole industry....Christmas bonuses.

                              1. re: FrankJBN

                                i can't think of anyone who I would tip other than a waitor. I don't patron any one manicurist or hair stylist but it would seem appropriate if you went to the same person every time. Personally living in a major city I would be shocked if I was the only one on my street not giving the garbage man a christmas bonus.

                                1. re: olyolyy

                                  <I would be shocked if I was the only one on my street not giving the garbage man a christmas bonus>

                                  I'm curious. Why?

                                  1. re: latindancer

                                    I just don't see how that would even work with large apartment buildings.

                                    1. re: olyolyy

                                      Oh, I see what you're saying, thank you :). I just have a difficult time watching the collectors around where I live who don't/won't do any work other than pushing the gas pedal, and operating the steering wheel. The truck does the work.

                              2. re: olyolyy

                                I tip our postwoman (post person?) $20 and small gift. She always goes above and beyond especially in bad weather.

                                We don't have garbage pick up so no need to tip there.

                                My house cleaner gets a weeks pay and a small gift.

                                The college kid who mows our lawn and does odd jobs gets cash.

                                Our nanny get a weeks pay, a substantial gift as well as something hand made from our child.

                                I don't tip anyone I tip regularly during the year (ie: my manicurist, hairdresser, etc) but I do give gifts, usually a bottle of good champagne as well as whatever holiday treats I have made that year.

                              3. Xmas costs me a fortune in tips to waiters at my favorite place. I also give the longstanding busboys $20 or so. Thisis all done on Xmas eve lunch so it is an expensive day but it is worth it.

                                1. I am a regular at a small-staffed bar where I leave somewhere between 50% and 100% as a Christmas tip. I have no idea what their practice is regarding pooling, but I think the individualized expression of gratitude matters more than the amount going to the individual.

                                  1. ". It means my dermatologist ( which I do not tip but sent gift)"

                                    Your dermatologist? A doctor? It is inappropriate to tip a professional whether by gift or cash.

                                    Hair salon yes - MD no.