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Gift Guide: What to give the extra people in your life

Chandra Greer shares tips on what to give your doctor, bartender and other extra people in your life.
By Kevin Aeh |

You know what you’re getting your parents and best friend for the holidays. But what about your doorman or favorite bartender? Gift-giving expert Chandra Greer, owner of Old Town stationery shop Greer (1657 N Wells St, 312-337-8000), shares her thoughts on what kind of gifts are appropriate: “In general, I think the more important these service providers are to your day-to-day well-being, the more generous the gift should be.” Greer says that at the very least, they should all receive a card with a heartfelt thank you and a few thoughts on how they’ve made your life better over the past year. “If it’s someone who doesn’t play a significant role in your life—the barista who always makes your cappuccino just the way you like it—I think a card is sufficient,” Greer says. “For more important players I recommend a gift as well.” She says monetary gifts should be reserved for people who are directly in your employ. “If you give money to a doctor, teacher or mailman, for example, I think you risk insulting their professionalism. The exception would be tipped service providers such as hairstylists or bartenders, there I think a card with a small amount of cash is appropriate,” she says. Here are some guidelines:

“Be generous here,” Greer says. “This person is keeping your child entertained, fed and alive. A week of salary plus a gift such as jewelry, restaurant gift certificate, etc. is appropriate.”

Personal trainer
Greer says to go with a small gift. If the trainer also teaches group classes, maybe he or she would like an iTunes gift card to save money getting new songs for class. 

A small gift and/or cash (double the tip you normally provide) will do.

Door person
You can give a small gift. “But you can also tip a little extra cash in lieu of a gift,” Greer says. Twenty dollars in a card should be enough.

Mail carriers
Small gift. “I would include UPS and FedEx delivery drivers as well, if you receive a lot of deliveries from them,” Greer says. “We usually give ours a nice pen or candy.” (FYI: USPS employees aren’t allowed to accept cash or gifts worth more than $20.)

“Give them a moderately substantial gift valued at $30–$75, depending on your budget,” Greer says. “The ante is upped where the care of kids is involved—but don’t go overboard with teachers because it may seem like you’re trying to influence them.”

“Again, the gift should be commensurate with how much this person is keeping your household together, so the more important they are to your life, the bigger the bonus or gift should be.” We suggest an extra week’s pay.

You could part with a little extra cash, but he or she would probably appreciate homemade cookies, too.

“This tends to be a fairly intimate relationship, so I think a small gift might be called for,” Greer says. She suggests a nice pen.

“If they practically—or actually—saved your life, you could give them a fairly significant gift,” Greer says. “But I recommend something everyone in the office could enjoy such as a gourmet gift basket or plant, as most health care is very team-dependent. If not, a card will suffice, and I actually think they’re not accustomed to being recognized in this way so that would be appreciated.”