Ever Joy Palmer is an avid online shopper.
The 27-year-old seller of beauty products says she does 90 percent of her monthly purchasing on websites like Amazon and Etsy. That means, of course, frequent visits from mail and parcel carriers.
"Basically, the only things I don't order online is food and that's just because I haven't gathered the courage to do it yet," Palmer said. In a typical month, she receives up to five packages. And when the Christmas rolls around, the 27-year-old mother of two said that number can double.
All of those parcels have presented her with one dilemma that she took to social media to solve: "How much should you tip your mail carriers for the holidays?" she posted on Facebook.
It's a common question during the festive season. Deciding who gets tips can be just as confusing as determining how much to give them. With a majority of Americans (66 percent) giving tips to at least one service provider during the holiday season according to Consumer Reports, experts say the best place to start is with those you encounter the most often.
"Our goal is to show gratitude for the services they extend to us throughout the year," said Elaine Swann, etiquette expert and founder of the Swann School of Protocol headquartered in Carlsbad, California. "The first person you should tip is the individual who has the biggest impact on your life — who makes it easier. For some people, it's the trainer, others it's the pool cleaner, maybe it's your caregiver."
She said when you do give a tip, make sure you put it in an envelope. "You want to be clear that this is no accident. You really want to present it well."
Swan also said, when deciding how much to tip, it's important to consider that workers in the service industry are often underpaid the rest of the year.
"If you only see that person every six months, it probably doesn't warrant a big tip," said Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach in Florida. "It gets expensive if you're going to try to give money to everybody."
Whitmore suggests you jot down a list of the most important service people you have contact with and base your tipping strategy on the amount your budget can handle. "You don't have to feel obliged to give money to everybody," Whitmore said.
Lena Koropey, the founder of the business etiquette consultancy Gramercy Protocol LLC, offered the following guideline on whom to tip and how much to give depending on where they serve you:
The standard in the domestic staff industry is to provide an end-of-the-year bonus around the holidays. This includes babysitters, nannies, house cleaners and dog walkers. It also includes handymen that you use often along with landscapers and gardeners.
Koropey said, in most cases, you should tip the cost of one week's salary. "If it's a house cleaner, you would tip the cost of one full cleaning. If it's a live-in, maybe it can be up to a month's pay."
This category includes people like building managers, supers, bellhops, porters, and parking assistants.
Koropey said a generous gift for building superintendents and managers can range from $100 to $200 per year, depending on how often you interact with them. "Maybe if you haven't seen them, you can bring that number down to fit what's appropriate," Koropey said.
For doormen and other building workers, tip anywhere between $25 to $150 during the holidays based on the level of service they provide. "Think — has this person gone out of their way for me?" Koropey said, "And tip them according to that."
Rather than worrying about how much extra to tip those who provide personal care, like hair stylists, barbers, manicurists, beauticians, personal trainers and beauticians, tip them each the cost of one service if you want to be generous, Koropey said.
"If you get a haircut and the cost is $50, feel free to give them a holiday tip that equals the cost of one service," Koropey said.
She said to use the same rule of thumb for your pet groomer, masseuse and acupuncturist.
"It's a much more streamlined process," Koropey said.
Some service industry workers have unique situations that limit the amount of money you should tip.
For example, some mail carriers are government workers. "They are only allowed to accept up to $20 gifts," Koropey said. "They are allowed to accept gift cards. An Amazon gift card, for example, will allow them to choose a gift that works best for them."
She warned that giving money to your kid's teacher can come across as bribery. She said a small token gift from your child is more meaningful.
"It's a different type of gift because it comes from a place of appreciation for providing the support to the child."
Follow Dalvin Brown on Twitter: @Dalvin_Brown
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Holiday tipping: Here's who you should include and how much you should give them