A few seasonal tips

Dear Betsy

The one thing I always dread about Christmas is the tips. I never know how much to give, end up giving nothing, then worry that I’ll come home to find my rubbish all over the drive and my post in the composter. Please advise.

Yours, with a fiver? A tenner? Some loose change?

Miss Moneypenny

Dear Miss Moneypenny

You’re really not alone in your seasonal tip trauma. Unlike Americans, who tip all the time, class-ingrained Brits find the whole idea of rewarding ‘staff’ with cash mortifying, and can’t so much as hand over a tenner to the binmen without the words ‘Lady Bountiful’ ringing chippily in their ears. It’s also a generational thing – babyboomers wouldn’t dream of forgetting to tip the binmen, the postman, the milkman, the paperboy… but that’s mainly because they grew up when all these jobs were done by people they saw daily. Now we get our milk at the supermarket and our papers on our iPads, it’s not surprising that the younger generations are confused.

Like most etiquette, it’s up to you to do or spend what you feel most comfortable with. If you don’t want to tip, don’t. But the way I look at it is this: it’s the equivalent of me buying a drink for someone, to say thanks for the little extra things you do on top of your job. I tape a fiver to the binbags (clearly marked!) because the refuse collectors will take extra stuff sometimes, they never spill my rubbish and have been known to wait while I stagger down the road with my binbag. I also leave a fiver for the postman, because a postman who uses his initiative when it comes to parcels is a godsend. I also give the lovely man who comes to chop down my wilderness of a garden the equivalent of a week’s payment, and I make him a tin of biscuits, partly because he takes all my green waste away but also because he dispenses truly reassuring words of wisdom, like ‘you’ve got better things to do with your time than weeding, Betsy, love.’ If you still have a paperboy, imagine what a different a couple of quid from even a quarter of their round will make to their morning.

Should the idea of handing over money make you squirm, then consider the tin of homemade biscuits. They’re a good present for people who fall between Proper Family Gift and Cash Tipping, like teachers, or the lady who gives you a lift to work, or your Zumba instructor. Ha. That’ll teach her to have perfect thighs. If you have a local dog rescue shelter, a tin of chocolates can really cheer up the human staff, if not the animals, during those cold walks! And the best way to ‘tip’ an author is to write a nice review of a book you’ve enjoyed on Goodreads or Amazon. (Yes, there is someone behind me with a sharp stick, telling me to say that…)

Envelopes are good because you can just write, ‘Happy Christmas!’ on them and tape them to the door, if appropriate, or hand it over with a cheery smile. Don’t be embarrassed about giving what you can afford; you’re not the only person on their round. But above all, don’t be embarrassed about what’s a nice gesture. This is the season for what comes around, goes around, after all.

Yours, with at least 20% more goodwill


About Bettsy

Betsy Phillimore is the Principal of The Finishing Touches, a very modern finishing school based in Mayfair, London

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