Holiday Tips:Who Gets Tipped...and Stiffed

Last Updated Nov 17, 2010 5:10 PM EST

Are you a big holiday tipper? If so, you're probably in the minority, according to a national survey by Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports asked 1,900 people who they tipped and who they stiffed during the holiday season and found that the majority tipped just two types of people -- housekeepers and teachers -- and they didn't tip overwhelmingly generously.

Everyone else was more likely to get stiffed than tipped, according to the survey. But that's based on the national average, said Tobie Stanger, a CR editor who led the research effort. Who you tip and how much you give is a very regional affair. People who live in big cities and the coasts were more generous than those living in middle America, she said. Who you are expected to tip can even vary by neighborhood.

Stanger says the school bus driver gets tipped in her neighborhood, even though bus drivers didn't register on the survey. A lot of New Yorkers tip their doormen, too. But the magazine didn't come up with a median tip for doormen because there wasn't enough data to deliver national numbers. There just aren't a ton of doormen in California and Kansas.

If you move into a new neighborhood, Stanger suggests you get tips on tipping from the neighbors so you don't run afoul of local custom. The Emily Post foundation provides practical tips on tipping too.

"If you think tipping is important, it really needs to be part of your holiday budget -- just like food and postage and wrapping paper," she said.

Need help on who gets tipped and how much? Here are the results from Consumer Reports latest survey showing who consumers tipped and stiffed and how much they got. The tip amounts are medians -- the midpoint between highs and lows. That filters out the super-generous tippers, who gave $500 to the housekeeper, as well as the penny-ante tips from the Scrooges among us.

Housekeeper: 66% give the housekeeper a holiday gift. Median value: $35

Teacher: 60% tip the teacher, but cash is less likely than a gift card or gift. Where 53% gave the housekeeper cash, 45% of those giving something to the teacher chose a personal gift. Median value: $20

Hairdresser: Just 48% of those surveyed gave their hairdresser a holiday gift. Median value: $20.

Newspaper delivery: As newspapers have struggled in recent years, Stanger said customers have apparently become more likely to tip the delivery people getting up in the wee hours to plop their newspaper paper in the bushes. Some 49% tipped the newspaper carrier. Median value: $15.

Manicurist: 48% gave something to their manicurist at the holidays. Median value: $15.

Who gets stiffed?

Garbage Collector: It's a dirty job, particularly at the holidays when only 11% of those surveyed said they gave anything to the person picking up their trash. Median value of tips, when they were given: $20

Mail Carrier: To be fair, the postal service discourages tipping, telling patrons that they shouldn't give cash and can only give gift cards if they're worth less than $20 and can't be turned into cash. That means 79% of mail carriers get nothing. The 21% who get something, get a gift worth $20.

Gardener: Only 23% of those surveyed tipped the lawn crew, according to Consumer Reports. That's the bad news. The good news is that the tip amount was the second-most generous recorded in the survey. Median tip: $25.

Pet care: People pandering to our pets got tips about 27% of the time. Median value: $20

Barber: It's clearly better to cut a woman's hair than a man's. Almost half of women tipped their hairdresser; just 34% of guys tipped the barber. But the tip amount was the same. Median value: $20.

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