A holiday tipping how-to

December 18, 2007
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The City Room blog on the New York Times website ran a guide to holiday tipping yesterday that draws much of its advice from Peter Bearman’s Doormen—a book the NYT‘s Sewell Chan says contains one of “the most sophisticated discussion of holiday tipping City Room has encountered.” Chan’s article continues:

[Holiday tips and bonuses are] fraught with meaning. [The gesture] “is both a gift, a way of saying thanks, an obligation, and yet also a sign of expected reciprocal attention and an expression of social power,” Professor Bearman writes. “These contradictory meanings make the bonus difficult to talk about, and tenants often squirm in their seats (or cognitively) as they try to describe just what it means.”
Professor Bearman writes that the holiday bonus is most often construed in one of two ways. “On the one hand, the Christmas bonus is often represented as the acknowledgment of all of the assistance received during the past year,” he notes, adding later, “On the other hand, the Christmas bonus is often represented as a pre-payment or down payment for the next year, an advance on the services to be received.”
He distinguishes the bonus from a mere tip, a payment for services rendered. “Whereas tipping encodes the relationship too starkly as a service relationship, because the number of small favors is endless, the Christmas bonus symbolizes the value of all the little services over the past year.” But it is also “a hedge for service in the coming year.”

Our excerpt from the book discusses the Christmas bonus.
Update: Based on the large number of responses the NYT‘s City Room blog got from it’s last article about holiday tipping they also published this follow-up based on their reader’s comments.

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