THE BLOG
12/17/2014 05:59 pm ET Updated Feb 16, 2015

Holiday Etiquette: What to Tip the Mail Carrier and Delivery Person

Tis the season to be generous and Holiday Tipping is on everyone's mind. It's a "hot" topic in more ways than one because people often feel pressured to give or tip based on what they hear from their neighbor, coworker or friend. One of the most commonly asked holiday tipping questions: "What is the proper amount to tip my mail carrier and delivery person?"

First of all, a holiday tip is not an obligation but merely another form of gift giving, expressing gratitude to someone that has provided loyal service throughout the year. A gift or tip takes into consideration your personal budget, the frequency of the service and the relationship you enjoy with your provider. Let's face it, we are all more likely to give a gift or tip to someone that greets us with a friendly smile, calls us by name and is reliable and respectful. These qualities tend to apply to most of the mail carriers and delivery drivers I have come into contact with throughout the years. They are hard workers that make our daily life much easier. That said, there are clear guidelines when it comes to giving and tipping our delivery men and women. When in doubt, check the website, but I have done the legwork for you.

USPS: According to a representative from the USPS Ethics Council, "Letter Carriers are prohibited from accepting cash or a cash equivalent such as a Visa or Master Card gift card from Postal Service customers." You may give a gift to a Letter Carrier valued at $20 or less or a gift card to a specific retail venue valued at $20 or less (e.g., Starbucks gift card), as long as the aggregate value of gifts that you gave to the Letter Carrier do not exceed $50 in a calendar year. For more information on the USPS tipping policy, visit their website here.

Fed Ex: "Gifts of cash or cash equivalents such as gift cards or gift certificates must never be accepted. Employees are allowed to except a nominal gift valued at up to $75, no cash." - Steve Barber, FedEx Global Communications

UPS: "At UPS we train our drivers to politely decline tips, however, when a customer insists, we allow our folks to accept nominal gratuities. We do not suggest an amount or range for monetary gratuities. Our drivers do receive heartfelt and sincere gifts of baked goods, knitted items and even invitations to holiday parties. Ultimately we let them use their own judgment about whether or not to accept or decline a gift." - Justin Luther, UPS Public Relations
What are some thoughtful alternatives? I did my own poll and here are some of the responses I received:

  1. A gift card to a restaurant that serves hot meals and cold drinks.
  2. A Starbucks gift card and cheerful travel mug.
  3. A beautiful scarf perfect for this time of year.
  4. A mini-valet to stylishly stow away keys.
  5. Luxurious hand cream with a holiday candle or a warm pair of gloves. (I have to preface this comment with the fact that I once suggested warm gloves as a good alternative and was inundated with responses from people who said it was a ridiculous gift -- but, still, here it is again on a particular mail carriers "wish list".)
  6. An eco-friendly water bottle.
  7. A warm hat.
  8. Movie tickets.
  9. An insulated thermos.
  10. An winter first aid kit with a specialty face cream, lip protection, throat lozenges, packets of cocoa and a variety of energy bars.

I realize that the $20 spending limit creates a challenge, but with a little thought and consideration of the person you are gifting, your holiday gift will be a thoughtful gesture of kindness and appreciation for those who cheerfully go above and beyond the call of duty. When in doubt as to what to get, you can always catch them out front and ask what is on their holiday list this year.

As you ship off those last few packages from Santa and open another gorgeous Christmas card, remember to express your thanks to those who helped ensure a safe and speedy delivery of holiday cheer -- your mail carrier and delivery drivers.

For more on Holiday Tipping, you may also like "Holiday Tipping Guide: Thoughts on Expressing Gratitude".

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