Ever Joy Palmer is an avid online shopper.
The 27-year-old seller of beauty products says she does 90% of her monthly purchasing on websites such as Amazon and Etsy. That means frequent visits from mail and parcel carriers.
"Basically, the only things I don't order online is food, and that's just because I haven't gathered the courage to do it yet," Palmer says. In a typical month, she receives up to five packages. When Christmas rolls around, the mother of two says, that number can double.
All of those parcels presented her with a problem she took to social media to solve: "How much should you tip your mail carriers for the holidays?" she posted on Facebook.
It's a common question during the festive season. Deciding who gets tips can be just as confusing as determining how much to give them. A majority of Americans (66%) give tips to at least one service provider during the holiday season, according to Consumer Reports. Experts say the best place to start is with those you encounter the most often.
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"Our goal is to show gratitude for the services they extend to us throughout the year," says Elaine Swann, etiquette expert and founder of the Swann School of Protocol headquartered in Carlsbad, California. "The first person you should tip is the individual who has the biggest impact on your life – who makes it easier. For some people, it's the trainer, others it's the pool cleaner, maybe it's your caregiver."
She says that when you give a tip, put it in an envelope. "You want to be clear that this is no accident," she says. "You really want to present it well."
Swann says that when deciding how much to tip, it's important to consider that workers in the service industry are often underpaid the rest of the year.
"If you only see that person every six months, it probably doesn't warrant a big tip," says Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach in Florida. "It gets expensive if you're going to try to give money to everybody."
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Whitmore suggests you jot down a list of the most important service people you contact and base your tipping strategy on the amount your budget can handle. "You don't have to feel obliged to give money to everybody," Whitmore says.
Lena Koropey, founder of the business etiquette consultancy Gramercy Protocol, offers the following guideline on whom to tip and how much to give, depending on where they serve you:
The standard in the domestic staff industry is to provide an end-of-the-year bonus around the holidays. This includes babysitters, nannies, house cleaners and dog walkers. It also includes handymen you use often, along with landscapers and gardeners.
Koropey says that in most cases, you should tip the cost of one week's salary: "If it's a house cleaner, you would tip the cost of one full cleaning. If it's a live-in, maybe it can be up to a month's pay."
This category includes people such as building managers, supers, bellhops, porters and parking assistants.
Koropey says a generous gift for building superintendents and building managers can range from $100 to $200 per year, depending on how often you interact with them. "Maybe if you haven't seen them, you can bring that number down to fit what's appropriate," Koropey says.
For doormen and other building workers, tip anywhere from $25 to $150 during the holidays, based on the level of service they provide. "Think – has this person gone out of their way for me?" Koropey says. "And tip them according to that."
Rather than worrying about how much extra to tip those who provide personal care, such as hairstylists, barbers, manicurists, beauticians, personal trainers and beauticians, tip them each the cost of one service if you want to be generous, Koropey says.
"If you get a haircut and the cost is $50, feel free to give them a holiday tip that equals the cost of one service," Koropey says.
She says to use the same rule of thumb for your pet groomer, masseuse and acupuncturist. "It's a much more streamlined process," Koropey says.
Some service industry workers have unique situations that limit the amount of money you should tip.
For example, some mail carriers are government workers. "They are only allowed to accept up to $20 gifts," Koropey says. "They are allowed to accept gift cards. An Amazon gift card, for example, will allow them to choose a gift that works best for them."
She warns that giving money to your kid's teacher can come across as bribery. She says a small token gift from your child is more meaningful.
"It's a different type of gift," she says, "because it comes from a place of appreciation for providing the support to the child."
Follow Dalvin Brown on Twitter: @Dalvin_Brown
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Christmas 2019: Here's who you should tip and how much to give