This is a new conundrum for me as a former suburbanite Southerner: Tipping the building staff.
Apparently it's a major issue here in the city. Tip your doorman or super too much, and you look like a schmuck. Stiff them, or get cheap on your gratuity and don't expect any favors or someone coming to fix your leaky toilet in 2011.
A lot of this comes quite candidly from your housing situation, and the type of building you're living in. If you're like me, and renting a small apartment in a non-doorman building where you share a non-live-in super with five other buildings, and you've seen the guy once since you moved in, you don't have much to worry about. If you own a huge $14.5 million penthouse across the street from me at the Dakota, and you've got a full staff of workers and a crew of doorman working hard to keep tourists out of the building, then things are quite different.
Is it important? Heck yes. In a co-op, if you're not on the board of directors, you chance of getting the doorman to do you any special favors is practically nil if you're not handing out a nice Christmas present of cash. And you think they don't care? Don't remember? Although every one of them will deny it, these guys keep a list.
There's quite a range of discussion about the amounts that are appropriate. A nice little housing blog here called Brick Underground has been doing surveys and come up with this general ranges:
- Supers and General Managers of co-ops and (owned) apartments tend to get the most. They can get a tip between $100 and $175 dollars per resident, although a broader range puts them anywhere from $75 to $500 depending on the type of building, tenants, etc.
- Doormen and concierges are just below that, netting a tip of somewhere between $75 and $150 average, but can range from as little as $10 to $1,000.
- Porters and handymen, $20-$30 average (broad range $10-$75)
- Garage attendants, $50-$75 average (broad range $25-$100)
The amount can also vary by type of resident. Seniors are notoriously cheap, but doormen tend to cut them a little bit of break, especially if they're on a fixed income.
Not only is there a formal ritual in how much to give, there's even unwritten rules about how to give.
- Cash preferred. Most prefer their tips in cash, but if you're giving someone else a tip to distribute, you might want to play it safe and give a check.
- Food? Staff doesn't mind you handing out cookies, but they're no substitute for cold hard cash.
- When to give? Seasonal tipping can run from Thanksgiving past New Years, but the weeks right before Christmas are peak times. Most staff would prefer them now so they can use the cash for Christmas shopping.
- Need something done? There's no better time to ask the doorman for a favor than while you're handing him an envelope with a cool Ben Franklin in it.
And just to keep things fair, here's a doorman's tipping tips for his fellow doormen.