I’m pretty cheap. I like to call it being frugal, but many people would just say I’m just cheap. I don’t like to tip. I mean, I tip in restaurants, and spas and salons. Oh, I tip. Listen, I know too many waiter-actors to not appreciate how awful it is to serve food to people. (Also, I worked in bagel store until the fateful day I snapped and cussed out the manager in front of the customers. More on that another day.)
But as somebody who has lived outside the USA a good part of her life, tipping hasn’t been ingrained in my psyche the way it perhaps should be. Particularly if I’m wanting to live in this borough. Currently, I still get my back up at the notion that tipping is-not-but-it-is mandatory. Now I’m a shareholder in a co-op with a Super and an Assistant Super. They’re super nice guys. They work hard, I know. I’ve never asked them to do anything for me that didn’t strictly belong to their job scope. Cue the Holidays and I know that time has come for me to confront my anathema to tipping building staff. I get it, intellectually, but morally, I throw up in my mouth a little bit every time I’m told I need to do this to ensure good service, good relationships, and no retaliatory behavior for the following year. Basically, to me, it’s not so much a tip as it is protection money.
The weeks leading up to December have been defined by my extreme agita at the thought of having to tip staff for the first time. I resent the practice. A friend who once lived in a studio in one of those ghastly Trump buildings along the West Side Highway told me that he had budgeted $250 for holiday tips to the many and varied staffers. And that was the low end (but he was a renter in a studio so he felt justified). $50 for the doorman, $75 for the super, $20-$30 to porters, concierge, and so on. If every unit gave around that amount, a doorman getting $50 from each unit stands to make $14,000 in tips during the holidays. And again, $50 to the doorman is the low end of the “broad range”.
So: where does that leave us with my large-ish one bedroom in a Harlem, non-doorman, pre-war HDFC? There are a hundred tipping guides out there. I was even able to contribute one that (thankfully!) involved finding alternatives to cash. But there very few insights to how these apply in HDFC buildings. (beside, who wants insights? I want a cold, hard figure) I know some HDFC’s out there don’t really take their income requirements seriously, but ours does. So I’m thinking, they can’t possibly expect we’ll be tipping in the same range as the rest of Manhattan. But then our guys do the same work, if not more, as other supers/assistants. (Why more? It’s a really old building full of really old residents). But we just really don’t have that kind of expendable cash (plus all the moral back up bullshit I was talking about just now). I tried talking to my neighbors about the tips but got no straight answers. No wonder. As I learned on Streeteasy, neighbors don’t like to discuss such things because they don’t want to be exposed as paying to little or too much. And if they tip a lot more on purpose, then that means they want to be top of the heap with the staff and don’t want anybody supplanting them as king of the tippers.
Enter MATH. I noticed that many forums and guides out there mention square footage, and family size and family age and such things to come up with their numbers. So math figures into it? Okay then. Proportions and percentages, thought I! With a few simple mathematical formula, I could find out by how much percent our apartment was cheaper than other, comparable, apartments in Manhattan. And then I’d adjust the amount of tip in proportion to that percentage. And just because I said a few sentences ago, that I wanted cold, hard figures, let me put my money where my mouth is: We were thinking $75 Super/ $50 Assistant Super. But that was more than I was willing to spend on some of my friends presents, so then I was thinking more like $60/ $40.
Here’s the math: First, calculated the mean value. I found a couple of comparable apartments (same squarefootage, features, bedroom/bath count). Then I simply added their asking prices (didn’t bother with sale prices, I mean, c’mon) and divided that amount by the number of apartments. Mean value for 900 squarefeet of pre-war goodness?: $821,000. (Seriously??? That can’t be right.)
Next, I needed to find the Percentage of Discount between that Mean Value and our purchase price to determine how big of a discount we got! I love this part. Percentage of Discount is calculated like so:
The Discount amount is: Original Price (in this case the Mean Value) – Purchase Price.
So, to get the percentage we calculate $625,000 / $821,000 = .76 or 76%.
NOW: If we’re being generous (which I am) and take a $100 tip , and apply the 76% discount, we’ll have our tip amount commensurate to our apartment’s value! So, 76% of $100 is a $76 dollar discount, making our Tip Amount (drumroll please…) $24 dollars!
That’s awesome! Obviously, I’d round that up to $25, I mean, it’s Christmas, after all. Great. So that would mean, $25 (Super)/ $15 (Assistant). Great. Awesome. Totally Fair. I mean, you can’t fight the numbers. Math is Math, that’s why they call it Math. Right? They won’t hate me for just sticking to cold hard facts, right? Right. $60/ $40 it is then. Merry Christmas, one and all.