laplumeDear L. A. Plume,

A service man came to fix something at my house the other day and, by the end of his visit, he had determined he couldn’t fix it. BUT when he left, he held out his hand to me. I’m thinking it wasn’t to shake hands – which is exactly what I did because: 1) Why would I tip him for a job not done?, and 2) He certainly didn’t do anything over and above what he was being paid for by his employer.

Who do we tip and when? It’s so confusing, and with the holidays, even more so.



Dear Patrice,

It is confusing, and there are so many people to tip at Christmas, it seems that we won’t have any money left over for gifts for our friends and family. The “guidelines” are that people who work for you personally, such as a nanny, babysitter, day care provider, housekeeper/cleaner, dog walker,  etc. should be tipped an amount from one evening’s pay (babysitter), to up to one week’s pay (nanny, housekeeper/cleaner, dog walker, personal caregiver, live-in help).

Your personal trainer, pet groomer, massage therapist, pool cleaner, barber, etc. should be tipped the equivalent of one session or visit. However – don’t forget to tip: your package delivery people, elevator operator (this could be confusing because we have so many here in Beaufort), handyman, trash collector, yard/garden worker, etc. A small gift is appropriate for these people.

I strongly suggest you tip your hairdresser an amount that will insure you keep looking good next year; if he owns a small salon, he probably would like a case or two of Prisoner red wine and/or some nice bottles of bourbon. And you really shouldn’t forget those nice people who sit atop the bridge and open it every time you’re in a hurry to get to the other side; or possibly, even open it for you when you want to get your boat underneath it.

Be kind, be generous and buy local.

L. A. Plume


Dear Ms. Plume,

At Christmas, my paperboy has always left me an envelope for his annual tip/gift. I’m used to that and I know what I’m comfortable giving him. But I found an empty envelope in my mailbox the other day with just my first name on it. Could it have been left by my postal carrier? Is he allowed to solicit for tips? What should I do?



Dear Confounded,

Your postal carrier is not allowed to solicit for a gift so let’s hope that’s not who left that envelope. You may give your postal carrier a gift that has no more value than $20. You may not give him cash in any form, or a gift certificate that can be redeemed for cash. You may give him snacks or beverages that are not a part of a meal, gifts with little intrinsic value (i.e. less than $20). You may also give perishable items such as cookies, flowers, etc. that are worth less than $20, but if the gift is worth more than $20 he must share with other postal employees.

Good luck figuring out that gift. Let me know what you choose.

L.A. Plume


Just for fun, and because we haven’t heard from him in awhile, Mr. X weighed in on the above question:

“Tipping isn’t at all accepted in the UK, as you know. If you leave your change on a bar they will run after you. The idea of tipping a postal worker is really strange to me. They have their salary and benefits, the job is sought after. Why would I tip them when their work is a legislated government function? It smacks of bribery of an official. What seems even worse is that there are official limits on what they can receive, so it is condoned at national level. Should I tip the guys fixing the highway on 278, which I use regularly? Should I tip the ‘bus driver’ in a city? More importantly . . . who tips me?”


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