Every year at this time, residents of New York cooperatives and condominiums observe the tradition of tipping members of the building's staff for a year of opening the doors, cleaning the hallways, collecting the packages and doing the other thankless jobs necessary to keep a building running smoothly. If ever there were a year for shareholders and unit-owners to open their wallets wide, this year of the coronavirus pandemic is surely the one.
“There was so much more that was asked of these people in the beginning of the year, and it’s important to acknowledge that,” Philip Lang, a co-founder of Triplemint, tells the Ask Real Estate column in The New York Times. “These were the people who didn’t have a choice but to come in to work every day. They were the ones interacting with everyone who came into the building.” They were the ones, in other words, who put their lives on the line simply getting to and from the buildings where they work.
But the pandemic has also been financially devastating for so many New Yorkers, a lot of whom don’t have the money to spare. Between February and May, 1.25 million jobs were reportedly lost in New York City. In October, the unemployment rate was 13.2% — nearly quadruple the 3.6% rate in October 2019. This complicates the math this holiday season.
People who are in a position to give should consider a generous tip. How much you give depends on the size of your apartment, the number of units in the building and the size of the staff. If you live in a building with 200 apartments and a large staff, each employee should get a smaller share of your total gift. (Triplemint has developed a tip-o-meter to guide you through the calculation.) If you live in a small building, staff will be receiving fewer envelopes overall, but you’ll probably have fewer workers to consider, so tip accordingly
Think about how much you use the building’s services and which workers went above and beyond for you — but don’t overlook the doorman with the graveyard shift just because you rarely crossed paths.
If you left the city during the pandemic, as many New Yorkers did, your absence should not translate to a smaller gift. While you were away, the staff was still sanitizing hallways, collecting packages and showing up to work while the city was shut down. “What you have to realize is you still own your apartment, the staff is still working there and working extremely hard in a very stressful situation,” says Dan Wurtzel, the president of FirstService Residential New York.
If your household has lost income this year, give what you can. You are never obligated to tip, and the staff should not withhold services if you can’t. If you have limited cash to spare, consider a thoughtful personal note, a baked gift or something else that expresses your gratitude in this trying year. Everyone has suffered during the pandemic. This is the time for all of us to spread as much joy as we can, in whatever form we can afford.
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