7 "Polite" Holiday Tipping Habits That Are Actually Offensive, Etiquette Experts Say
These are the gratuity gaffes you'll want to avoid this giving season.
'Tis the season of giving! As we get closer and closer to the end of the year, many of us choose to spread holiday cheer by giving back to others—especially to those who are providing some type of service for us. But in your attempt to show your appreciation, you could end up coming across as rude instead. To help you avoid any gratuity gaffes over the holidays, we talked to etiquette and financial experts to get insight on what to avoid when giving back. Read on to discover seven "polite" holiday tipping habits that are actually offensive.
Tipping someone with a gift card
While it may be gift-giving season, gift cards aren't a replacement for standard gratuity.
"It is not polite to tip someone with a gift card," Billy Parker, etiquette expert and director of GiftDelivery.co.uk, warns. "This can be seen as an insult to the recipient's work and can be seen as a way to avoid giving a cash tip."
Or tipping with any gifts
In fact, gifts in general should not take the place of money. Leo Smigel, a personal finance expert and founder of Analyzing Alpha, advises against giving any non-monetary gift to service workers in the coming weeks.
"Personal items like baked goods or small trinkets can suggest an assumption about the individual tastes and needs of the recipient," he explains. "Cash is king in the tipping world—it allows people the freedom to choose."
Sharing holiday cheer in lieu of money
Words aren't going to outweigh what money can mean to someone during the holiday season either, Gillian Dewar, financial expert and CFO of Crediful, notes.
"Writing a seasonal greeting or sharing holiday well-wishes is a nice gesture, but it should never replace a tip," she says. "You're stripping service professionals of cash that might be vital to get them through the holidays."
Only tipping at sit-down restaurants
If you aren't already extending your tips all year-round, it's at least important to remember to spread the wealth during the holidays. In other words, you shouldn't stick to tipping exclusively at sit-down restaurants right now, according to Dewar.
"So many people rely on tips to fund their holiday season, and tips extend far outside the restaurant realm," she says. "Tip your baristas, delivery drivers, and mail deliverers—these hardworking people work diligently for you all year."
Not tipping more for big to-go orders
Many of us gather in large groups with our loved ones throughout the holiday season, and we may decide to cater the celebration instead of cooking. But if that's the case, don't tip sparingly, Thomas Franklin, finance expert and founder of Bitinvestor, cautions.
"You may have been tipping for to-go orders, but it's offensive to tip less than when you're dining in," he shares. "Although it's takeout, someone took the time to assemble your order, ensure everything was in place, and even added cutlery. This adds to their tasks for the day during the already busy holiday season."
Normally, a $2 to $5 tip is "courteous" for to-go orders, according to Franklin. "But if it's a large or intricate order this holiday season, consider tipping more," he advises.
Mixing cash and card payments
If you're trying to be more helpful to workers during the giving season, avoid mixing cash and card payments by telling your server to take cash off and put the rest on the card, Franklin adds. During the holiday rush, "combining both can be confusing and stressful for servers," according to the finance expert.
"No matter how well you explain or how many circled receipts you provide, it can lead to anxiety," he explains. "Save them the stress and stick to one mode of payment. Either pay entirely by card or completely in cash."
Making a big show of giving generous tips
It's not necessarily a bad thing to be over-generous during the holiday season—no one is going to say no to a larger tip. But that doesn't mean you're entitled to make a scene about leaving more than standard gratuity, according to Kimberly Wall, etiquette expert and the founder of BibleKeeper.com.
"Making a big show of tipping is generally frowned upon as handing out tips publicly can embarrass the receiver," she says. "Instead, discreetly give out any large tips this holiday season to demonstrate your respect for their dignity."
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