Return to Sender: If You Receive a Gift You Don’t Like Please Don’t Complain

If you Google for anything related to tipping housecleaners odds are that you will run across a link to this blog. Funny enough it is the number one search criteria for One Frugal Girl and more readers stumble across my blog with that query than any other.

I wrote the post, (probably the shortest post I’ve ever written), back in 2010. Despite it’s age I still receive comments from time to time and an email pops into my inbox every so often from readers telling me how they approach similar situations. It seems the rules for tipping house cleaners are not particularly clear.

I consider myself a pretty good tipper. Despite my frugality I understand that some jobs don’t pay a lot and I think good service should be commended as often as possible. I almost always tip at least 20% when I go out to eat, get my hair cut or go to the spa. An exception only occurs if the service is particularly poor.

At Christmastime I also tip the mailman.  I live in a neighborhood where mail is still delivered door to door. It’s actually a HUGE perk of living here. When I go out of town I never need to stop the mail. It gets placed through the mail slot in my door day after day while I’m gone.

I haven’t tipped the mailman the entire time I’ve lived here, but a few years ago we got a new carrier and he has always been kind and friendly. He knows our family by name, (even my young son), and when he knocks on the door to alert us of a package he always takes a minute to say hello.

On extremely hot days we leave cold drinks outside in a cooler for him and if I see him walking on his route I always make a point to wave and exchange pleasantries.

A few years ago he hinted about receiving a tip at Christmastime. I Googled for how much to tip a mail carrier and read that postal employees are not allowed to accept cash gifts. After reading this I presented him with gift certificates equaling roughly $30.

Now fast forward to today. My mailman is retiring and I decided it would be nice to send him off with a thank you gift. I placed a card with very kind words outside of our door and included a gift card worth $30. A few days later he knocked on my door to say goodbye. I was actually sad to see him go. I’ve chatted with him about sports, his retirement, his children and all sorts of other topics over the years and I was surprised by how emotional I felt about his last day.

He said his goodbyes and then said, “Let me give you a piece of advice.” He’s an older gentleman so I expected to hear some sage advice about raising children or living a good life. Instead he said, “People want cash not gift cards.” He then told me that he didn’t appreciate the gift card I presented to him at Christmastime either. I was kind of shocked by the remark. I wasn’t exactly sure how to respond and to be honest I was so surprised I’m not exactly sure what I said in response.

I’m sure he didn’t mean it the way it came out, but I presented him with a gift and I couldn’t believe he decided to take an opportunity on his very last day to tell me he was unhappy with what I provided.

As I shut the door I wondered how many people tip their mailman for holidays and retirement. I bet the majority of homeowners on his route didn’t present him with anything. Was my approach so awful? What do you think? How much do you tip your mail carrier and how do you tip them? Also, have you ever gotten a gift you didn’t like and had the nerve to complain about it?

16 thoughts on “Return to Sender: If You Receive a Gift You Don’t Like Please Don’t Complain”

  1. you did the right thing.the mailman is an ass.for him to say anything other than thanks and be grateful that you gave him a gift is horrible.i would have told him if he didnt like the gift he should stick it.but i probably would have thought of it later because i would be standing there with my mouth hanging open not believing what i just heard.we had a mailman who was here for 20 years, he was a nice guy and we gave him a 20.00 tip on the holidays.some other people in the building gave him 10.00 or 0.
    we have all gotten gifts we didnt like but we dont tell the person .we say thank you and thats it.he apparently doesnt have an idea of how to act in a gracious and grateful manner.i guess it shouldnt amaze me that poeple can act that way but it still does .
    you did the right thing .he did the wrong thing.period

    • Thanks for your comment. I definitely think I stood at the door with my mouth open. I was shocked to hear a grown man complain about a gift.

  2. Wow. Not only was your mail carrier a jerk it was not necessary to tip him for a job. He earned about $60,000 plus about $30K in benefits. I worked for the postal service for many years and we were well compensated for our jobs. I tip waitresses, hairdressers, etc well but I will not tip someone who is more than fairly compensated for doing his job.

    • That’s an interesting take on it Tammy. My postal carrier actually hinted at getting a gift on multiple occasions, so maybe he didn’t think the pay was good enough or he wanted a little extra money in his pocket before retiring.

  3. Wow, I am shocked! I was always taught that you smile and say thank you for any gift you are given. You never complain even if you do not care for it. He was obviously not raised that way. You did something very nice for him and he should appreciate that! At least you are getting a new mail delivery person and hopefully this one will have manners!

    • Ha! I haven’t met the new mailman yet and yes we will continue to do nice things for him (like leave cold drinks out, etc.) Maybe I’ll start dishing out Amazon gift cards the next time around, since it seems the post office frowns on giving cash to carriers. Who can complain about that kind of gift card?

  4. Yes, let’s hope your next mail carrier has some manners. What makes this story so crazy is that he had already retired and received your gift. Thus, it appears he came back just to inform you of his unhappiness at receiving non-cash gifts, which was something you gave specifically to help him avoid any trouble at work.

    • I thought the mail carrier knocked on our door to say goodbye, but you could be right, it could have been a ploy to complain about his gift. I’m not sure what he expected me to do. I certainly wasn’t going to turn around, grab my wallet and pull out $20 for him.

  5. wow i am shocked by his response. of course it’s always easier to come up with responses when you’re not caught off-handed (for example, “oh you didn’t like it? then let me take it off your hands”). perhaps a visa gift card woul dhave been more appreciated?
    although i do often hear from hairdressers and such that they do prefer cash to gift cards. cash is king i guess

    • Oh how I wish I could think faster on my feet! I think he was looking for me to give him cash after he complained. Of course, I had no intention of doing that so he certainly should’ve kept his complaint to himself.

      It’s true that everyone prefers cash, but the post office specifically frowns on it, so I thought I should avoid it. Guess not 🙂

  6. Well, I think I am the one voice of support for the mailman. I do believe in accepting all gifts graciously. But he didn’t really complain about his gifts until the day he was leaving and he was still friendly and stopped to talk to you on his last day, despite his apparent displeasure at the gift certificates you have given him. Maybe he mentioned it because the new mailman would not be happy with those gift certs and would make his displeasure known.

    I am curious about what gift certificate you gave him. Personally I leave a Visa gift card for my mail men and cleaning women. It’s become all to easy to buy cheap gift cards to stores that no-one goes to on eBay. Or a $30 gift certificate to an expensive steakhouse where it will not cover the cost of a meal. So when you mention $30 in gift cards it is kinda hard to determine the actual worth of those gift cards,

    • Hmm. So you think he was trying to help out the next postal carrier by telling me that he didn’t like my gift and the next guy wouldn’t either. Interesting take on it.

      I provided a gift card that could be used a whole host of restaurants in our state. My grandmother has purchased them for my husband and I in the past and we’ve never had a problem covering the bill with it.

  7. I’m floored! I would have expected that he was going to offer some parenting advice, too — my UPS driver asks about the kids all the time, acknowledges that moms work really hard, and praises me for being at home with them (super nice!) — so this bit of rudeness, delivered as “constructive criticism,” would have mortified me. I’m sure you were one of very few customers to give him a retirement gift — many people not being home during the day, as you are. You’ve left cold drinks for his route — again, probably the only person doing this. Maybe he was just a jerk all the time. The fact of hinting for a holiday tip might have been a tip-off.

    I live in an urban neighborhood with door-to-door mail service as well. I’m also a WAHM, so I’m on pleasant terms with the mail carrier as well as the UPS guy. At the holidays, I give them pretzel buttons. The difficulty is that during the holidays, there are always extra UPS drivers and sometimes different mail carriers on this route, so it might take a week to actually see the year-round worker.

    • I did think the hint for gifts was a bit much. I was a bit annoyed at his mention of it every time the holidays came around, but he was nice the rest of the year so I didn’t let it bother me too much.

      It’s interesting that you mentioned pretzel buttons. I thought about providing him with something similar, but I wasn’t sure about his health and didn’t want to assume the item I bought would be appropriate for him.

      It turns out he didn’t think the gift card was appropriate either!

  8. Wow, I don’t blame you for being flabbergasted. I would have been too! I think it was extremely nice of you to leave out cold drinks for him and give him gift cards. Talk about unappreciative! Like someone mentioned, postal carriers get paid adequate salaries and benefits and receiving gifts from nice people like you are an extra perk of the job.

  9. Well for Postal worker to hint for a tip would have had me upset with him. I was always taught you don’t ask for gifts people give because they want to. Also Post office doesn’t allow them to accept gifts over $15 is what I have been told. I always bake cookies & put them on a very nice plate bowl ect. I have never gotten complaints. If I did I would no longer give anything.


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