With the holidays upon us, it’s a time of both reflection and forward thinking. Our Etiquette Guy, Jay Remer, is always on hand to steer social conundrums in the correct direction with cheers for a festive season that we can all enjoy together.  

Dear Etiquette Guy,

Since it’s the holidays, can you please refresh my memory of gratuities for household staff and extended support team members like doorkeepers, residential building valets, etc.?

                                                                                                                              Giving Generously

Dear GG,

During the holidays, it is customary to give cash gifts to people who have served us in some capacity during the year. In part, deciding how much to give depends on your relationship with the person and your feelings and ability to be generous. A rule of thumb for household staff is one week’s salary–more if you wish. For others, $100 popping out of an envelope brings a smile to most faces. Many people in the service industry depend on gratuities to make ends meet. If you enjoy a festive holiday meal at a restaurant, I recommend a minimum 20% gratuity. Some patrons use this opportunity over the holidays to be considerably more generous. This generosity is very much appreciated and, in many cases, means the difference between them having a joyous holiday or not. I encourage people to be as generous as possible during these challenging times. The gratitude you will invoke makes the holidays a more delightful time of year.


Dear Etiquette Guy,

Do you think I must attend my office holiday party this year? The pandemic is still in our midst, and I already interact with most of these people daily through Zoom or in-person meetings.

                                                                                                                                        Party Pooper

Dear Pooped Out,

You do not need to attend your office holiday party–or any other party. The choice is yours, and if you think otherwise, you have given too much power to others, and you’re not protecting your boundaries. Sometimes we feel like being social, and sometimes we don’t. It’s a personal choice, not one that others should judge or comment upon. This doesn’t stop you from sending cards or exchanging gifts with co-workers on your holiday list. Spread joy and engage with others, but always on your terms.


Dear Etiquette Guy,

Is there a polite way to check if someone has received a gift I sent by mail after not hearing from them within ten days?

                                                                                                                                         Postal Santa

Dear Santa’s Helper,

Politeness is often a state of mind. If you inquire as a factual matter, you can tell the person that you have mailed a parcel and want to be sure it has arrived safely. No one should ever seek to solicit a thank you, but this form of questioning creates a shared responsibility with the postal service. They are not perfect, so the question is legitimate. I try to always get a tracking number in case the parcel was misdirected.


Dear Etiquette Guy,

Do I always have to contribute to an event or gift at work when I know I won’t be in town that day to partake?

                                                                                                                                           Gift Giving

Dear Gifter,

I am not a fan of pressuring people into participating in voluntary activities. You need not feel any responsibility to contribute if you don’t want to. No guilt trips allowed. People who push others are skating on thin ice–we must respect other people’s choices and boundaries. So, no, you don’t have to, but people will most likely appreciate it if you do. You can be present in spirit if not in person, but the choice is always yours.