A Recession Guide to Holiday Tipping

In 21st-century New York, you can ask someone if she's having a threesome or using Botox, but it feels oddly off-limits to inquire about the dollar amounts being given to the super. One brave neighbor in my building recently weighed in on the subject, offering a view I used to subscribe to for several years: Take the monthly maintenance and divide it among the workers. But my maintenance costs have recently skyrocketed, and building worker productivity has not.

I'm not alone. Others are wondering about this stuff too. At Tipping.org, there's a list that dares to spell things out: Give $20 to $30 to the custodian, $25 to $100 each to the doormen, $20 to $30 to the handymen and $30 to $100 to the superintendent. The site says--as does everyone who addresses this issue with intelligence--that it "depends on how fancy the building" is. And for some tippers that might be the toughest task of all: coming to terms with exactly the kind of place you are living.