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Holiday tipping guide: How much to give your building staff

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A comprehensive guide to the age-old question

An open red envelope. In the envelope are one hundred dollar bills. There is a gold bow on the outside of the envelope. Shutterstock/Dim Dimmich

This story was originally published in 2016, and has been updated with the most recent information.

‘Tis the season for New Yorkers to unfurl their wallets in the spirit of giving—be it to donate or buy gifts for their loved ones—and while they may be sure-footed in that spending, many stumble when it comes to how much to tip their building’s staff.

And with good reason: There are no set rules for how much you should tip a doorman or super. How much appreciation should be shown to staff depends on the size of the building, the quality of service, how long a staff member has been with the building, and whether the tipper owns or rents, among other personal factors like financial ability.

Tipping isn’t a necessity, but it is a meaningful way to show one’s appreciation for those that make day-to-day living a little bit easier—and there’s no time like the present to get those gifts in order.

For the past few years, Brick Underground has rolled out a comprehensive tipping guide that addresses the nuances of holiday tipping in this day and age. Here’s a basic guideline:

  • Super, resident manager: $75-$175 on average (broad range: $50-$500)
  • Doorman and/or concierge: $25-$150 on average (broad range: $10-$1,000)
  • Porters, handyman, and maintenance staff: $20-$30 on average (broad range: $10-$75)
  • Garage attendant: $25-$75 on average (broad range $15-$100)

In 2018, Brick Underground polled nearly 3,000 New Yorkers and found that majority of owners in doorman buildings set aside between about $250 and $500 for building staff, with majority of owners in non-doorman buildings allotting less than $250 for staffers. One percent of owners in doorman building and 17 percent of owners in non-doorman buildings tipped nothing. (Don’t be that guy.)

While a good chunk of renters in doorman buildings tipped between $250 and $500, the majority of respondents in both categories tipped less than $250 to building staff collectively. A big takeaway: 30 percent of renters in non-doorman buildings skip the holiday gratuities altogether. (Seriously, don’t be that guy.)

When it comes to what to give, cash is preferred if gifts are being doled out directly, but if a super or other building staff member is collecting gifts, a check may be the way to go. Considering a gift-gift over a monetary gift? Brick Underground notes that “until colleges start accepting cookies for tuition payments or ConEd for utility bills, gifts are no substitute for money.” (Plus, some doormen have already confessed to providing less thorough service to residents who stiff them during the giving season.)

Real estate startup Triplemint has also rolled out its Holiday Doorman Tip-O-Meter, which has users answer a series of questions—do you rent or buy, how big is your building, how often do you require the services of building staff, etc.—to determine how much you should tip. The recommendations are generally in line with what Brick Underground recommends, though Triplemint surveyed 100 doormen in Manhattan to determine its numbers, which gives some modicum of insider info.

The Emily Post Institute also has recommendations for tipping for all manner of service providers, from live-in nannies to to pool cleaners. For building staff (superintendent, doorman, elevator operator), the suggested amounts start at $15 per person—significantly lower than Brick Underground’s recommendations—and go up from there. But, as the EPI notes, “tipping averages tend to be higher in cities.” (And you should definitely take how pricey New York City is—and how much you rely on your building staff throughout the year—into account.)

When it comes down to it, tipping is a building resident’s choice, but remember—everyone could use a little kindness this year.