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The Newspaper Carrier’s Triple Tip To Tip Him

On January 20th, I received a THIRD letter from my newspaper carrier soliciting for a holiday tip. An excerpt from the letter:

“Those customers who have not done it yet and those who are still in the process of sending me their warm wishes are kindly requested to do so at your earliest convenience (and preferably before all the New Year sales are over for my shopaholic wife!!!!)”

It seems that somewhere around the time that teenagers who delivered the paper to your doorstep and collected payment from the customer personally were replaced by adults who drive by and throw the paper in your driveway (if you are lucky) and collect payment electronically it became OK for carriers to send holiday letters informing customers where they can send a holiday tip. While I find it rude for anyone to even suggest they are due a tip or gift, I’ve come to accept this tipping practice as standard, at least in my area of the country.

But for a carrier to send THREE such letters pressuring customers for money (two before Christmas and this one well into January) is blatantly crass in my opinion. My trash collectors, postal carrier, hair stylist, house cleaner, and babysitter did not send me such letters. Why is it acceptable for a newspaper carrier to do so? 0122-13


It’s not acceptable.  It’s blatant begging.   When someone so conspicuously demands a tip,  I begin to wonder if the level of standard service I should expect from them will decline in quality as a form of retaliation should I fail to tip.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kaye Dacus January 23, 2013, 10:39 am

    These days, most carriers are not employees of the newspaper but independent contractors (the large daily paper where I worked until 2006 was in the process of transitioning to this model then). Send copies of the letters to the circulation manager at the newspaper with a request that the carrier cease and desist soliciting money from you or else you will cancel your subscription. That should put a stop to it.

  • Politrix January 23, 2013, 10:43 am

    I’m incredulous that someone would actually have the gall to do something like this.
    As a very generous tipper myself — even when the service is so-so — if I were you I’d seriously consider forwarding a copy of this letter to the Customer Service Department of the newspaper in question, expressing my outrage. I wonder if this person’s employer is even aware of it?

  • Shalamar January 23, 2013, 10:46 am

    Ooh, boy. I was a newspaper carrier from 2008-2009, so I have very clear memories of what a horrible job it can be. Frigid temperatures (I live in Manitoba), blizzards, impossible-to-find addresses, and all that. And, I admit, when Christmas rolled around, I left my customers a letter. The letter just said “All the best for this festive season from your newspaper carrier, Shalamar.” No solicitations for money. I did get a few tips, which was nice. I tend to find that a lot of customers seem to think that elves or robots deliver their morning paper and never think of the humans behind it.

    That said – that guy’s letter was unbelievably crass. No-one is holding a gun to his head to do that job, and the idea that his customers owe him tips is ridiculous.

  • Beth F January 23, 2013, 10:48 am

    I’d speak to the person in charge of delivery at the newspaper. Something like this would really keep me from wanting to keep up my subscription with the newspaper.

  • Wendy B. January 23, 2013, 10:48 am

    I think I’d contact the newspaper and inform them of these letters. Some companies (the postal service comes to mind) have rules about this sort of thing. He should at least be informed that tipping is an option, not a requirement.

    I’ve generally had the idea that you tip based on difficulty of job as well as how pleased you are with their service. Our papers are already sorted and packaged, all they need is tossed out (or slipped into the tube). The kids (and occasional adults) who walk door to door to deliver papers have a harder time of it than the truck drivers. However, postal employees have to sort the mail themselves, then bundle it, then sort it in the delivery vehicle (often their own if they’re rural carriers) and sort the packages as well, then deliver the mail to each home while endeavoring to keep everything straight because each customer gets something different.

    If his wife is a shopaholic, that’s his problem, not yours.

  • Otter January 23, 2013, 10:54 am

    I received one such letter and did tip about $10 out of Christmas spirit. In retrospect though, why? What kind of service am I tipping for? They throw the newspaper, which I pay for, on my driveway from a car. There is no level of personal interaction. If I don’t tip will they not deliver it? Will it end up in the gutter? You are right, the garbage collectors, mailman and meter readers do not get a tip. Hmmm….

    • spenc April 5, 2019, 7:05 pm

      The garbage, mail, and meter readers and waitresses get days off, sick time,vacation,company vehicles,a hourly wage,heath insurance,401k,mileage reimbursement vs $0.26 a paper – rubber bands ,bags,and gas. If you want to meet your contractor, just leave a note to ring the door bell when he/her deliver your paper.

  • Lisa Marie January 23, 2013, 10:58 am

    I am not defending the guy because I also think he is crass. However, I remember as a teenager having a newspaper route. I had to pay for the papers I received each week including the “extra trials” and then try to collect (some people were deadbeats) and most of my “pay” was tips. Not a very rewarding job. Oh and when I cut the deadbeats off, they called and complained and I got yelled at.

  • sio8bhan January 23, 2013, 11:01 am

    I’ve received a “Christmas card” for the past few years from my early, throw from a moving car, carrier. This year I mailed him a generous tip (in addition to the monthly one I pay on line).
    Interestingly enough, my level of service is unchanged. I always have to put on my boots to trudge out to retrieve it, far from my porch.

    • spenc April 5, 2019, 7:26 pm

      Call the paper for a delivery service request, that you would like it on your porch. Leave your tips there not online.

  • Shoegal January 23, 2013, 11:02 am

    Having your paper delivered is a service that you have to pay for, right? I think it is standard for paper carrier to put this sort of message in their papers during the holidays. I might be inclined to tip him – but I’d be damned if I’d give him squat if he demanded it in several letters. Even if I did tip him after the first message – I ‘d be outraged to see him sending out more letters in January and would refrain from tipping him next year.

  • Mary January 23, 2013, 11:13 am

    If I were to tip a newspaper carrier, I would rather do smaller amounts four times a year. I don’t think we’ve ever had the same delivery person for an entire year.

    • spenc April 5, 2019, 7:54 pm

      December is the only time that it is commonly acceptable for a contractor to send out cards. Save any tips for december and just send a card for other holidays. Just one person doing that can be the difference between 50 years delivering the paper VS 5 weeks.

  • WildIrishRose January 23, 2013, 11:19 am

    For some stupid reason, I’m STILL amazed at the entitlement mentality of some people.

  • Lisa January 23, 2013, 11:27 am

    What a shame. I remember delivering the paper in the Seattle area; getting up super early in cold temps, carrying papers in my delivery pouch stacked to the gills, both front and back, and having to do this by foot. Any tips given were earned. It’s a shame that an adult would be so greedy.

  • Cat January 23, 2013, 11:32 am

    I think I’d follow it to the letter and send him my warmest wishes.

  • Mae January 23, 2013, 12:02 pm

    I always believed you tipped according to how your liked your service. Requesting a tip *3* times is incredibly rude and pushy. I agree with @Wendy B -If his wife is a shopaholic, that’s his problem, not yours.

    I heard a news story just after Christmas that a garbage collector (in my state but a different county than I live in) was knocking on customer’s doors asking for his holiday tip. One such customer was interviewed and he said he was so shocked he asked the garbage collector how much of a tip did he think he deserved and the worker said “How much do you have in your pocket?”. He refused to tip the man and called the county services department to report him. He is on “administrative leave” until an investigation can be completed.

  • The Elf January 23, 2013, 12:04 pm

    This is one of those cases where I have a hard time trying to see “the best” in the person committing the offense or wondering if there’s another side of the story. It’s never okay to demand tip money, especially thrice!

    Shalamar’s idea is great. It’s a holiday wish, no pull for money, but does serve as a reminder that hey, the paper delivery person exists. Hopefully, that will be followed by a “we should tip him” thought.

  • Mae January 23, 2013, 12:05 pm

    I forgot to ask in my original comment- when did tipping the mail carrier and garbage collector become the norm? I don’t remember my parents ever tipping these workers.

  • Justine January 23, 2013, 12:11 pm

    And some people are just keeping their head above water with their finances. I know my mom lives on a very fixed income, doesn’t own a computer, and takes the paper. She probably doesn’t have an extra $5 or $10 to tip him or her.

  • Ashley January 23, 2013, 12:15 pm

    I’m glad I’m not the only one suggesting giving the letters to whoever is in charge. If I got those letters it would be a surefire way NOT to get a tip from me.

  • 8daysaweek January 23, 2013, 12:18 pm

    Contact the newspaper and let the circulation manager know. I work for a daily newspaper; the higher-ups here would flip out if they found out someone was doing this.

  • Jewel January 23, 2013, 12:22 pm

    Yes, his letters are over the top crass. On the other hand….how many of us would want to get up out of a comfortable bed at 4:00am (or earlier) every day, rain or shine, heat or cold, to drive the streets (putting untold miles on the car) to strain your arm throwing newspapers to land *just so* in your customer’s yards? I sure wouldn’t. It’s too bad some of his customers place such low esteem on his services that they can’t bring themselves to send him a $20-$30 tip once a year.

  • mpk January 23, 2013, 12:26 pm

    I would just send them a note with warm wishes for the holiday season. No money.

    I used to tip everyone over the holidays, but i just can’t afford it anymore. Cut way, way back on giving Christmas gifts, too.

  • Bint January 23, 2013, 12:37 pm

    I’m so glad I have a newsagents across the road.

  • Carol January 23, 2013, 12:44 pm

    Our carriers (we get two papers) usually just insert a Christmas card that has their return address on it one Sunday. Most people then mail them a small check.

  • Goodness January 23, 2013, 12:46 pm

    Admin said: “When someone so conspicuously demands a tip, I begin to wonder if the level of standard service I should expect from them will decline in quality as a form of retaliation should I fail to tip.”

    And should that happen, another letter should go out — to the paper’s distribution center, with a copy of his extortion demand attached.

  • Pinkiu January 23, 2013, 12:48 pm

    Tipping has gotten outrageous. I understand wait staff, since they do not get paid minimum wage. However, every other most every other worker gets at least minimum wage. I don’t tip my letter carrier, my construction workers, plumber, my newspaper carrier, a sales person, my vet, that fast food order taker, the office assistant nor anyone else who is in a service profession. If I have a relationship with the person who serves me, I may give a gift because of the relationship. I don’t have relationships with my electrician, the librarian, nor the gas station attendant where I get gas. When a person takes a job, they know the wage. To expect a tip is wrong. If someone is kind by giving a gift or tip, then wonderful. But to expect it is entitlement mentality, and out country is full of people who think they are owed more. Do your job in season and out and call it an honest day’s work. What happened with that work ethic?

  • Jodie January 23, 2013, 12:51 pm

    from the age of 10 until i was 18 i had a paper round, in the UK i was meant to be 13 but i took over my sisters when she quit and we never told anyone about it. It took a few hours a week delivering the freebie paper. At Christmas a few of the homes gave me a tip, which was always surprising and never asked for, normally a few pounds, but a fortune to a teenager. But the idea of asking, now that is just wrong. i was getting paid to do the job, after all

  • Marie January 23, 2013, 1:00 pm

    My previous newspaper carrier routinely left tip envelopes when delivering the paper – usually about three times a month. It’s not like he was walking the route. He would fling the newspapers from a moving car. Then he sent a letter telling us he was leaving for a better job but still wanted a tip; this after we had given him a Christmas tip two weeks earlier! Needless to say, it did not happen.

  • June First January 23, 2013, 1:23 pm

    I agree with the idea to send a copy of the letter to the newspaper’s circulation department. I used to work for a newspaper company. My former neighbor got a paper carrier job at the same company. She would complain about how she had to purchase the bags and rubber bands from them, and that she couldn’t support herself on that job.

    Um, it’s a part-time job. There’s a reason it’s traditionally a first job for neighborhood kids.

  • Library Diva January 23, 2013, 1:23 pm

    Not only is his begging unprofessional to the extreme, but his portrayal of his wife as a stereotypical 1960s female who has no idea of the household budget and just buys whatever she feels like is unflattering to say the least. Absolutely forward these to the circulation department of your newspaper.

  • Queenofallthings January 23, 2013, 1:23 pm

    I don’t have an issue with ONE letter. My carrier does this, and I would have no other way to tip him, short of standing outside at 5:00 a.m. hoping to catch them as they drove by. But three? No.

  • Redneck Gravy January 23, 2013, 1:48 pm

    Here’s a tip for him: buy a book about stopping addictive behavior or a money management guide!

    I also had a paper route and I NEVER solicited for tips – around the holidays or any other time. And I had a retirement facility that had to be walked door to door, 12 floors high. I am appalled at his begging.

  • BeckyH January 23, 2013, 2:21 pm

    I had my newspaper delivery person send a letter as well. Her letter stated something along the lines of “due to the state of the economy, she was appreciative of our ‘gifts’ to her. And she was kind enough to include an envelope . I was kind enough to drop my subscription. I had already been considering dropping my subscription because there were instances where I didn’t have time to read the paper – but her demand for a tip sealed the deal. Tips are optional, not a right.

  • Magicdomino January 23, 2013, 2:30 pm

    I also get the Christmas card – with the carrier’s name and address on the front of the envelope. I like to send one of my own cards with the check, but that is my choice. He’s pretty good about delivering in heavy snow on the rare occasions we get snow, and I’ve received the newspaper even after a severe storm when the post office didn’t bother delivering for three days.

    Ask me three times for money? Three times and you are out.

  • Enna January 23, 2013, 2:38 pm

    This is very unprofessional.

  • FerrisW January 23, 2013, 2:39 pm

    As a non-American I’m always baffled by people expecting tips. Can I ask who it’s ‘normal’ to tip in the States? I understand tipping waitresses and have done so whenever I’ve visited the US, but who else are you expected to tip? Do those people also get low wages, like waitstaff?

    Where I live, you don’t tip anyone- although some restaurants have a tip jar when you go up to pay, that you can leave some money in if you’ve had exceptional service, or the food is particularly good, as a way of giving a compliment. I would never tip my mailman or garbage man or hairdresser or any of the people that I hear about being tipped in the States, since their services are already paid for in their wages. In fact, the most I’ve done is offer our mailman a cup of tea and a biscuit when it was particularly cold out and I happened to run into him as he was dropping off our mail (which he accepted, and we had a good chat at the kitchen table while he warmed up, and I gave him a thermos to take with him which he returned to me the next day in my letterbox).

    So in the States, how do you determine who does and does not get tipped, assuming average level of service?

  • Wren January 23, 2013, 2:43 pm

    We were happy to tip our newspaper delivery person, who is a drive-by, because she has to slow almost to a stop and aim precisely in order to heave the paper across the invisible fence so the dog can retrieve it without being shocked. When we contacted the paper and asked them to ask her to do this, she complied. But she never asked for a tip. Instead, we gladly gave her one for her good service. IMO a tip should never, ever be requested. I agree with those who urge the OP to contact her newspaper’s circulation department.

  • Z January 23, 2013, 2:44 pm

    My parents get two newspapers. The City and the Neighborhood. They’ve never tipped the City deliverer. But I think the Neighborhood delivered gets a small tip every time (monthly, I think), he comes around to collect payment. It’s $2.50 for a month, so it’s really easy to round up to $3. And I know I, at least, feel bad for him b/c he inherrited the route from two older brothers, but uses his little sister’s short bike to do the delivery. He might also be in college by now, which makes it even more odd (the size of the bike, not having the job).

    I’m with others. Asking for tips is the surest way not to get one. It smacks of entitlement.

  • Jenn50 January 23, 2013, 3:06 pm

    I, too, would forward this greedy letter to the newspaper’s circulation department. There’s nothing wrong with sending a Christmas card with a return address where folks can send tips, but a letter like that would irk me to no end. To top it off, the paper delivery people here are adults who drive around in warm cars, deliver late (or sometimes not at all, with no compensation to the customer), and chuck the paper wherever they please. Usually nowhere near the driveway or step. My best friend badly broke her arm when she slipped on the ice while trying to fish her paper out of the tree on her property. This is why we don’t get the paper anymore. We do, however, leave something for the garbage collector. I guess it’s a testament to the small town we live in, because the normal practice here is to leave baking, chocolates, small gifts, or even envelopes with cash in a prominently labeled gift bag on top of your trash can. Thieves haven’t seemed to bother with these tributes, maybe because we all tend to keep an eye on our trash bins (and the neighbours) due to the prevalence of wildlife trying to scavenge from the bins. Our garbage man seems appreciative of ANY gesture of gratitude. This year, we gave him a little gift pack of different coffees and chocolates, and he grinned, waved, and gave us the thumbs up from the curb. Next year, I might add a modest cash gift, since he’s so gracious.

  • Shalamar January 23, 2013, 3:21 pm

    Jewel said “On the other hand….how many of us would want to get up out of a comfortable bed at 4:00am (or earlier) every day, rain or shine, heat or cold, to drive the streets (putting untold miles on the car) to strain your arm throwing newspapers to land *just so* in your customer’s yards?”

    Thank you – I’ve been getting pretty uncomfortable with some posters’ responses that seem to indicate a belief that delivering newspapers is easy. It’s not. I mentioned the weather in my previous post. How many times have you woken up, seen that the weather is atrocious, and thought “Ugh, I don’t want to go to work in THAT?” When you’re a newspaper carrier, you’ve got no choice.

    Here’s what a typical morning for me was like:

    – Get up at 4:30 a.m.
    – See if the papers had been dumped off at my door yet. (This is how it used to work for me – now, carriers have to drive to a location to pick up their papers.) If not, call the supervisor.
    – Check for any new customers. If there are any, make sure I know how to find their houses.
    – Check for any customers who had gone on vacation and suspended delivery.
    – Check to see if I have enough papers. If not, call the supervisor.
    – Get going (possibly in -35 Celsius, or a blizzard, or freezing rain).
    – I never threw the paper onto people’s driveways – I would have lost my job if I had. If the customer had a mailbox, I was expected to put the paper in the mailbox. If not, I was expected to wrap an elastic band around the paper and *drop* it gently onto their doorstep. If it was raining or snowing, I had to use a plastic bag.
    – Try to get the deliveries done in enough time so that I could get to my 9-5 job .
    – Go to bed no later than 10:00 p.m., because 4:30 a.m. comes pretty early.
    – This was 7 days per week, including holidays.

    I probably sound very self-pitying, and I don’t mean to. I’m also not excusing that carrier’s sense of entitlement.

    • admin January 23, 2013, 4:34 pm

      I had a newspaper route when I was young delivering a morning edition. I’ve done the 4:30 am wake up and delivering in all kinds of weather. I never sought a tip from any of my customers. The job entailed doing those duties and if one wanted a more cushy job, you got one. Otherwise you did your job to the best of your ability with no expectation that you were owed more.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith January 23, 2013, 3:33 pm

    Asking for tips three times? No. Not tipping at all because the service person isn’t a waitress? Also not ideal. Money is a concern for everyone. The excuse that my budget is tight as a consumer doesn’t really disqualify me from considering the people who provide some form of personal service. I also think that the manner is which they are compensated and the general obstacles they might face in the performance of their jobs would factor in. So most people are fine with tipping waitstaff because the likelihood is that they aren’t being paid much otherwise. Some people are fine with tipping hair stylists, massage therapists, babysitters and those they encounter face to face because their service is personal in nature and has a strong relational component, but isn’t medical or professional. (I’ve never heard of tipping doctors, lawyers, counselors and the like even though the service is personal and has a social component. But it’s professional and commands a significant fee.) Yard crews, postal workers and doormen brave the elements, perform a vital service regularly and do so in a way that directly affects the quality of life of their particular client list. So they get tipped by at least some people. (And postmen make a pretty good salary in many cases.) Garbage collectors get even fewer tips, if any (unless urban and more critically necessary?). Newspaper delivery people are contractors who provide a personal service under less than ideal conditions who also are not paid very much (unless they are filling machines or leaving stacks as a distributor). I can see where a tip would be appreciated and where the grounds for being hopeful of obtaining one could be justified. But demanding? No. I’d cancel the subscription.

  • CaffeineKatie January 23, 2013, 3:36 pm

    If I got an extra service from my carrier–place it on the porch or in the mail box,for example–I would tip. But lobbing it from a speeding car so I have to go play “hunt the paper” every morning? And with the newspaper publisher handling all the payment transactions, so there isn’t any worry about the carrier getting paid? Nope, no tip from me. And if I got a begging letter like that, I would tell my husband we were switching to the online version, and he’d have to buy a book of crossword puzzles, instead.

  • Angela January 23, 2013, 3:55 pm

    You could send a copy of the letter to his supervisor, but I’d love to see what happened if you sent a copy to his wife. I wonder if she knows or appreciates being termed a “shopaholic” and used as a basis for begging.

  • Cora January 23, 2013, 4:35 pm
  • Chicalola January 23, 2013, 4:44 pm

    The job may not be easy…..but it’s a job that I’m sure someone out there would love to have if they were looking. There are a lot of jobs that are services to other people. Do we tip the McDonald’s workers who have to deal with rude customers? Do we tip the people who stock groceries? Maybe it would be nice…..and a lot of these people have to get up early to do their jobs too. No one denies that there are hard, thankless jobs out there, but it doesn’t mean anything is owed to them. They get payed….and if they feel it’s so terrible, they should find something else.

  • Justin January 23, 2013, 4:59 pm

    If the same amount of effort was put into delivering good service as went into writing and distributing letters more tips would likely be given without prompting. When I was a yound teen I had a small paper route and most of my customers were elderly. During the winter I would bring a snow shovel with me if it had snowed overnight and take a few extra minutes to clear the sidewalk for many of my customers (the ones who paid on time and had a smile or a kind word, I had to collect monthly door to door). On cold days I was often invited in to warm up and have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and I was generously tipped. Performing small kindnesses for another person often results in far better results than a demand.

    I also like what Shalamar did, simply giving a card and good wishes. Many people who provide services give a card, I get them from my dentist, financial advisor, etc. and it is simply a nice gesture. If someone chooses to give a card in return or a tip it is because they want to.

  • Stephanie January 23, 2013, 5:16 pm

    Yes, in the United States newspaper delivery people are paid a flat rate per paper delivered (usually just a few cents) and as such they very often rely on tips to make any reasonable hourly amount. It’s polite to remember that occasionally as a customer and tip, but it is NEVER ok to be begged for a tip like that. The poster who sent a Christmas did it correctly- people are reminded that there is a human behind their paper delivery, but that’s it. Asking for a tip, even once, is rude.

  • Kai January 23, 2013, 5:40 pm

    To those whining about being a letter carrier:
    Yes, it’s outside. Yes, the weather can be nasty. No, I wouldn’t feel like getting up early to do it. But you know what? That’s what you are PAID for. It’s not a volunteer position. If you want a job where you can sleep in and stay indoors, you can get one.
    It drives me nuts when people expect extra bonuses and accolades for doing their job to the extend they are paid and expected to do it.

  • Sue January 23, 2013, 5:55 pm

    Our children had newspaper routes when they were 9-13ish. They would pack up the papers as soon as they got home from school and walk or ride their bikes to deliver. Many people had specific requests as to where the paper should be placed, i.e., between the front doors, on the garage floor, etc. One customer was a wheelchair user and asked them to set it on the end table that was just inside the door. They were happy to comply and because we live in a small town, we were comfortable with the request. Sometime in December, they did include a Christmas card when they delivered. They would write something along the lines of “Thank you for taking the paper. If you ever have a problem with my service or have a special request, please call me. I hope you have a nice holiday.” They signed the card and included our phone number. Because they gave excellent service, they frequently did receive generous tips, for which they always gave a thank you note.

  • Marozia January 23, 2013, 6:25 pm

    I’m not paying for his vulgar, shopaholic wife’s spending sprees!
    I agree with Angela, send a copy of letter to his boss and wife and see how they like them.
    About 40 yrs ago Mum & Dad used to tip the sanitation workers here in Western Australia, but apparently that’s not allowed now.

  • White Lotus January 23, 2013, 6:36 pm

    I only do electronic papers any more, but the HomeTown Rag and PrettyBigUTown Fishwrap provided the carriers with holiday cards and tip envelope enclosures the carriers would address and usually stamp, and insert in one delivery before Christmas. We would use those envelopes to send a tip. The smart carriers were the ones who signed the cards and invested in stamps, I think. I had a vehicle paper route for a while, as an adult. Great part time job for a student, right? I found it difficult and exacting work, very poorly paid, and with school and being a TA, I just could not keep up the pace. I think our carriers earned those tips. This fellow? No. Just no. One card plus return envelope I can see — carriers don’t collect door to door and haven’t for many, many years. Most people never see their carriers and never know their names. Once — sure. More than once? And in January? No.