With the holidays at hand, I always ponder on ways to say “thank you” to people who have made my life easier throughout the year. Before I moved into a retirement center, the letter carrier always received a card with a cash remuneration, despite the objections of the Post Office. Ditto for the garbage collector, the gardener and the folks at my mother’s assisted living center. I don’t give fabulous sums, though I wish I could, but this is the season to recognize people who provide us service throughout the year without much acknowledgement or fanfare. Sadly, some of the people working in these trades are among the lowest paid in our country so I have no doubt a little extra cash is appreciated. The question is, how much to give.
Holly Peterson, writing for Town&Country provides a sliding scale for givers. She says If you’re an average Joe, give the Maitre D’ at your favorite restaurant a handshake and $100. If you are a money bags, be prepared to part with $1,000 or “leave your mink at the coat check…” Seriously? (“Tipping Points,” by Holly Peterson, Town&Country, Dec/Jan 2014 pg. 184.)
Peterson’s suggestion leads me to understand I’m neither an average Joe nor a money bags. Who in my circle has a favorite Maître D’ for heavens sake? Still, I don’t quibble with her intent. It’s always wise to be on the good side of folks like my garbage man who knows my secret passion for Twinkies.
Of course an annual gift isn’t a bribe but a heartfelt thank you. Still, I am mindful that these invisible servers have more power than we care to acknowledge. Peterson is also clear on that point and cited the example of a tenant who lived at a swanky New York address and wanted to move to an even swankier one. With her ample bank account in hand, she appeared before a board of her likely new neighbors convinced that with her social status she was a shoe-in. Unfortunately, the committee decided to do a thorough review and conferred with the doorman of her current residence, a man who had opened and closed doors for her and carried her packages for 27 years. When asked what he thought of the woman, he gave her a thumbs down. She’d never been anything but rude, he told them. Needless to say, and to her complete surprise, the applicant was turned down for her new residence. (Ibid, pg. 186.)
My father had a favorite saying while he was alive: When it came to buying tools, buy the best you can afford. Sound advice, no doubt, but I’ve never needed many tools. I hire people, instead; so I’ve learned to readapt his motto. Always be as generous as you can to people who provide personal service. By nature, I consider myself a frugal person, but I’ve never found that investing in people ever proved to be a bad bargain.