Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Holiday Tipping for Small Business Owners

The holidays are an incredibly busy time of year for most of us, whether we’re running holiday sales for our customers, trying to close a year-end deal, or preparing for an annual inventory. Amidst all the hustle and bustle and buying holiday gifts in between, it’s easy to forget the service people who have been helping to make our businesses successful all year, but this is a great time of year to remember them with a small token of appreciation.

The Emily Post Institute publishes a helpful holiday tipping guide for all kinds of home service providers, and offers some factors that we business owners should consider in tipping as well:

  • The quality and frequency of the service you receive.
  • Your relationship with the service provider (for example, the UPS delivery driver who always has a biscuit for our store dog and knows us by name gets a bigger tip from us).
  • Your location; tipping averages tend to be higher in larger cities.
  • The number of years you've been using the service.
  • Your budget.

Tips are generally in the form of cash, but need not be (and in fact some businesses prohibit their employees from accepting cash gifts or even gift cards). The second most popular gift among business owners appears to be chocolate. At my business, we sent out big Costco stacks of holiday treats to two local service providers with large staffs.

So who do you tip? Delivery people are an obvious choice, along with regular service providers, like the trash and recycling collectors and lawn mowing and snow removal people. You might also include outsourced computer support, janitorial services, and supply providers (water, laundry, rugs, etc.).

As far as the amount or value of a tip, the Emily Post article offers some helpful guidelines for home tipping. Businesses can probably act on par (I am more generous if we put our service people through a bigger workout than a residential customer would), but you can also ask fellow businesses around you to get an idea of the local norm. For service people employed by larger organizations, it’s a good idea to check the company website for guidelines. For example, the United States Postal Service allows carriers to “accept a gift worth $20 or less from a customer per occasion,” but never cash or cash equivalents, such as checks or gift cards. And there is a $50 per year (combined occasion) limit. If you tip regularly throughout the year (as I do for our store dog groomer), you may forego holiday tipping, or give a more modest holiday tip than you would otherwise.

A final recommendation for your holiday tipping: always include at least a brief thank you note. Etiquette experts suggest a handwritten note of appreciation and, if possible, personal hand delivery.  

This time leading up to the holidays carries a bit of extra stress for business owners, but likely for your service providers as well. Finding the time to say “thank you” in the spirit of the holidays will help spread good cheer and warmth to all.

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