• Babysitter - One evening's pay or a small gift from the kids
• Day care provider - A gift between $25 and $75 for each staff member
• Personal trainer - A gift worth up to the cost of one session
• Newspaper delivery person - $10-$30 cash, or a small gift
• Personal caregiver - Between one week to one month's salary
• Massage therapist - A gift worth up to the cost of one session
Source: Emily Post Etiquette
When a garbage collector drives up a 750-foot-long driveway to collect trash from your front door, does he deserve a Christmas tip?
Yes, Cheryl Dunson decided a couple of years ago, definitely.
"I gave my garbage man a gift card to Red Lobster," she said. "It just so happened that he was coming up the driveway and I was home and I thought, 'It's Christmas time, I should do something nice.' I had the gift card in my purse so I ran out and gave it to him. It was funny, he drove all the way back down the driveway before he stopped, pulled over and stopped to see what it was."
From garbage collectors to pet groomers to newspaper deliverers, holiday tipping is an appropriate way to say thanks to service professionals who have a consistent and personal relationship with customers, said Dawn Jumper, owner of The Etiquette Co. in Chattanooga.
Whether customers give cookies or handwritten notes, the tip should depend on three factors: budget, level of service and length of the relationship, Jumper said. The longer and more personal the relationship, the larger the tip should be.
"Also take the time to write a handwritten note of thanks," she said. "Your note and kind words may actually mean more than the gift itself to the recipient."
At Santek Waste Services -- where Dunson works in marketing -- Waste Services Operations Manager Brent Barnes said holiday tipping used to be more common.
"Years ago, it was a pretty common occurrence," he said. "But what we see now is somebody leaving the driver a six pack of Coke or some cookies or a gift card. It's not as prevalent as it used to be because most homeowners in a house both work, so they're typically gone during the workday when the garbage man picks up their waste."
At the U.S. Postal Service, tipping for mail carriers is still so popular that the company has a long-standing policy to govern what mail carriers can and can't accept. Carriers can accept any gift worth less than $20, but can't take any cash.
"Carriers appreciate anything customers want to give them," said spokesman David Walton. "Some people leave homemade cookies or a little gift. It makes their day. But we have to follow the rules."
Not everyone thinks holiday tipping is a good idea, though.
"Sorry but I don't see a point in tipping the mail man, doctors, trashman, etc.," wrote Shellie Erwin on the Times Free Press Facebook page. "I only tip those whose job depends on it."
That's one reason people don't tip, and another is because the service during the year was subpar. But usually, a tip won't substantially affect your service during the year, according to etiquette expert Emily Post. The most effective way to address service issues is to call the company directly.
In fact, that's one reason USPS tips are limited to under $20, Walton said.
"Having gift acceptance limitations ensures that federal employees do not create the appearance that the receipt or gifts or gratuities can influence their level of service performance," he said.
Local Marylu Carl said she always tips her mail carrier during the holidays, as well as her salon stylist and cleaning lady. This year she's even leaving some dog biscuits for her mail carrier.
"Got to keep those canines happy," she said.
Pet groomers and pet care providers also see an uptick in end-of-the-year tips. At the Ark Pet Spa and Hotel on Dayton Blvd., about half of all customers give tips during the holidays, said office manager Rena Buckels.
"Around the holidays a lot of our regular customers will bring in something a little extra," she said. "Mostly gift cards, or something edible. The holidays are really nice."
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or firstname.lastname@example.org.