How Much Should You Tip the Mailman at Christmas?

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Mail being delivered to a mailbox.
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Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night keeps them from delivering your bills, magazines and Amazon packages. Acknowledging your mail carrier's hard work is a thoughtful gesture at the end of the year, but choosing a Christmas gift for a mailman can be tough since you might know nothing about him, including his name. Tipping a mailman would be easier, but the United States Postal Service prefers that you find a different way to thank the person who delivers your mail.

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Tipping a Mailman

Here's the problem with tipping a mailman at Christmas: He's technically not allowed to accept money from you. Mail carriers in the U.S. are federal employees and have to comply with a set of standards that are enforced by the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. Those rules say that federal employees can't accept any cash or cash equivalents, like gift cards, from customers. Mail carriers are only allowed to accept noncash gifts valued at up to $20 from people to whom they deliver and can accept no more than $50 worth of gifts from any one individual during the calendar year.

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That said, the fact that tipping a mailman isn't allowed doesn't mean people don't do it. Many residents don't know that their mail carriers aren't supposed to accept cash, and there are probably mail carriers who gratefully pocket $15 or $25 tips without reporting it. If you don't want to put your carrier in an awkward position, think about noncash gift ideas for a mailman.

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Keep in mind that this policy only applies to mail carriers employed by the USPS. Delivery drivers who work for services like FedEx and UPS aren't subject to the no-cash rule, though their employers may have their own tipping policies.

Gift Ideas for a Mailman

A good Christmas gift for a mailman is generally something useful rather than decorative. You might see gifts like ornaments, mugs or plaques reading "#1 mailman" for sale, but your carrier has almost certainly been gifted these kinds of items before and doesn't want any more. Also bear in mind that your mail carrier needs to keep his hands free on his route, so your gift should be small enough to tuck into his bag until he returns to his truck.

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Food or drink gifts may be appropriate, especially if you can ask your mail carrier in advance about his preferences. For example, you might flag him down to ask whether he likes coffee and what kind and then gift him with a bag of his favorite beans or a box of his favorite K-cups. Homemade baked goods, while delicious, aren't a great Christmas gift for a mailman unless he knows you well, as your specific mail carrier might be understandably wary about taking homemade food from strangers. A box of gourmet chocolates, a container of spiced nuts or a big package of trail mix might be appreciated, and none requires refrigeration.

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Comfort items are also good gift ideas for a mailman since the job is physically demanding. In a cold climate, give him a package of hand warmers, a few pairs of thick socks or a cozy scarf, or in recognition of how many miles he walks each day, give your mail carrier a package of scented Epsom salts for soaking his feet or a microwavable heat pack for any achy body parts.

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How to Gift the Mailman

Whatever you decide to give your mail carrier at Christmas, include a handwritten note thanking him for his work or simply wishing him a happy holiday season. If you don't know his name, write "For the mail carrier" on the note and tape it to the gift. Place the gift at your mailbox. If your mailbox is outdoors and there's rain or snow in the forecast, wrap the gift in a plastic bag to keep it dry until the mail is delivered.

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