Holiday Tipping and Baby Showers, Vol. 4, Issue 51

Dear Etiquetteer:I recently moved to a new apartment. Unlike my last living situation, this is an apartment building with someone at the front desk 24 hours a day, maintenance staff, and a building manager. Since I have never lived in a building with staff in all my years of existence, I have no idea about proper tipping during the holiday season.Not that it is important, but we're not talking a doorman with a hat and epaulets, who will call me a cab; the round-the-clock staff is more security focused.Dear Tipping:Etiquetteer congratulates you on your move and commends you on your thoughtfulness for those employed in your new home. Indeed, your query raised many happy memories of Etiquetteer’s days as a concierge in a condominium of some 100 residences. Christmastime invariably saw many discreet presentations of gifts at the front desk, from bottles of wine to books (from the people who really knew what Etiquetteer liked) to home-baked cookies. And, of course, cash. Cash is always the most Perfectly Proper gift in this situation. Etiquetteer strongly encourages you to get those gift envelopes with the oval cut out so you can see the president’s face on the bill, and to have a crisp new bill in the envelope. Etiquetteer has no idea how many people are on the staff of your building, but encourages you to remember as many as possible. Start with the building manager, continue with the staff with whom you interact most, and then the remainder. Please don’t forget the late shift, who rarely gets to see everyone in the building unless there’s a fire alarm.To Etiquetteer, a minimum cash gift of $10 seems appropriate for the holidays; less than that might appear cheap. So if your budget is less than $10 per person, Etiquetteer thinks a gift (perhaps chocolates) will be received in the proper spirit.You do not have to present each staff member his or her envelope or gift personally; if you wish, hand everything to the manager, who will distribute accordingly. Just please don’t bake a fruitcake, wrap it in tin foil, and send it down in the elevator.

Dear Etiquetteer:Two of my close friends are getting married next month. This grand move was precipitated by the fact that the bride is pregnant, although they did plan to tie the knot anyway.Being the quintessential hostess myself, I've undertaken to throw the shower. However, what I had in mind was to have one shower to honor both events, the wedding and the birth, but keeping the theme generic (a spa getaway) so that neither is emphasized more.This is mainly for budgetary reasons, but also due to logistics. The bride may be relocating soon and it'd just be the same eight people (who are not all friends) getting together in another two months to do pretty much the same thing all over again.I'm told it's improper, and that it's poor etiquette. But I'm pigheaded, ‘cause I think my ideas are cute (I'm calling it "Pamper yourself!"). Please let me know if it is truly a bad idea. Thank you.Dear Pigheaded:Permit Etiquetteer to agree with your self-assessment. Now let’s discuss why.Etiquetteer adores a theme party, but in this case encourages you to consider something that will be more useful and less embarrassing to your friends. Etiquetteer’s late great-grandmother Houska used to say, "The first one comes anytime. The rest take nine months." Even though more and more people are not even bothering to get married before having children, it’s still the height of Bad Taste to underline the situation by combining a bridal and baby shower.Whose budget are you thinking about: yours as the hostess, or the honoree’s, who will soon have another mouth to feed and a bottom to diaper? While Etiquetteer acknowledges the cuteness of your "Pamper yourself!" shower idea, isn’t it the new baby the honorees will have to be pampering soon? Etiquetteer doesn’t know the circumstances of the expectant bride, but imagines that a spa getaway might be less useful than traditional baby shower gifts.

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