Angie's List: When to tip the service providers in your life

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Angie's list has gone straight to the professionals. Highly rated service providers are weighing in on the age old question. To tip? Or not to tip?

"This time of year the question of tipping your service company comes up really often," said Angie's List Angie Hicks. "Most people automatically think I need to pay cash. What they don't realize is there are lots of other options. For example, I think one of the most powerful ways to say thank you to a provider to write a nice letter to their company telling them what great service they provided to you throughout the year."

"The general rule with tipping at a salon is that there are no rules about tipping, in general," said salon owner Jennifer Barker. "We are similar to the restaurant business where around 20 percent is generally what's accepted. But I would say that tips often reflect how well we do our job."

Angie's List says you don't always have to give a gift of cash to show your gratitude.

"If you are working so busily from morning till night sometimes that extra homemade Christmas candy is just what the doctor ordered when it comes to 4 o'clock and you haven't had lunch," Barker said.

"Tips come in many different forms," said Landscaper Ryan Curry. "I've had a customers oftentimes, I've had customers cook us dinner, we've been given sports tickets."

"The best form of appreciation that customers can show me is by having me back for more projects at their own property in the near future and also just referrals to friends, family, neighbors."

You should never feel obligated to tip, but if you do decide to tip, talk with the company owner first to make sure it's okay. Some companies don't allow their employees to accept tips.

Holiday-related services:

Contractors who help hang your decorations, lights, etc.: A tip of $20 to $50 for the crew may be in order, based on the complexity of the task.

Bag boys or others who help carry your packages to your car: A tip of $1 per package/bag may be in order, though probably no more than $5.

Personal shoppers/concierge/errand services: A tip of 15 to 20 percent is recommended, possibly more, depending on the complexity or amount of work you have them do for you. Some of these services will do shopping, gift wrapping, mailing of gifts, etc.

Event entertainment: A tip of 15 to 20 percent is appropriate for Santa impersonators, carolers or musicians.

Year-round services:

Yard workers, handymen, etc.: A tip of $20 to $50 may be in order depending how often they visit your home.

House cleaners: Many suggest $25 to $50, a day's pay, or a gift of equal value. If you use a service that sends a different house cleaner each time, this may not be necessary, unless you ask them to do some one-time tasks to help you prepare for the holidays – such as helping unpack and put up decorations, a deep cleaning before a party, etc.

Childcare providers: For babysitters, the recommendation is a gift at the holidays from your kids, plus one or two nights' pay. For a full-time nanny, one to four weeks' pay plus a small gift from your kids is appropriate. For standard childcare providers. a gift at the holidays and $25 to $75 each. This may not be appropriate for some pre-Kindergarten child care/education providers. Check with the manager of the facility to see what's appropriate, which might be a small gift from your kids.

Mail and paper delivery:  Though the U.S. Postal Service frowns on gratuities and gifts for mail carriers, authorities request that the gift or gratuity be $20 or less.  For daily newspaper delivery, a holiday tip of $15 to $25 is appropriate

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