The only rule for holiday tipping this year seems to be that there are no rules. Some co-op and condo boards are offering guidelines and recommendations to residents, reminding them how much extra work the staff has done this year to cope with the upheaval of the pandemic. Other boards are continuing with such traditional policies as pooling tips from residents, then dividing the pot equitably among staff members – a system that helps avoid the possibility of any awkward conversations at the front desk. Some boards, however, are looking for unique solutions.
“Residents are always very eager to do the right thing,” says Stacey Cowley, the president of her 250-unit Brooklyn condo board, “but they don’t always know what’s expected.” Her board sends out a letter each year with a list of staff members and links to resources about how much to tip. “We’re going to send the letter this year and make sure to encourage people to reflect their gratitude,” Cowley says. The board has also been paying each staff member a $200 monthly hardship fee since the beginning of the pandemic, although Cowley doesn’t know how long that will continue.
John Melidones’s board is approaching things a little differently. Instead of encouraging residents to be more generous, he and the rest of the board at the 96-unit co-op in Jackson Heights, Queens, are considering doing it themselves. “We discussed how the staff has stepped up and how to work the gifts,” he says, referring to annual bonuses. “This year I think we’re going to increase the gifts. We used to give them one week’s pay, but maybe we’ll go up to two, in acknowledgment of how most of them have extended themselves.” With regards to residents, Melidones says the board usually stays out of how they give tips.
Barbara Eastman, the president of her 107-unit Manhattan co-op, says that she and her board have also taken a generous approach, giving staff members a bonus in late spring as a way of thanking them for going above and beyond the call of duty. The board has not yet decided if it will augment the traditional year-end bonus. But the co-op’s annual winter party – usually held in February – is on hold for now.