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Holiday tipping being lost amid poor economy

BRADENTON — Gifts to relatives, friends and employees might not be the only holiday staple consumers are cutting back on this season.

Because of the recession, local businesses that provide services are seeing fewer end-of-the year holiday tips and gifts.

And the businesses that are still getting additional gratuities this season, say they are fortunate.

“Usually, I get Christmas cards with a little extra something, this year I’ve hardly noticed anything,” said Brandy Keckler, a dog groomer at Pup In A Tub.

The Emily Post Institute, an organization of etiquette experts, said annual holiday tips is customary for providers of services who are regularly depended on throughout the year such as day care, pet care, beauty salons, house cleaners and lawn and pool maintenance workers.

A Consumer Reports survey of 1,900 U.S. residents, revealed 30 percent intended to reduce holiday tipping this season.

Keckler and her co-worker Jaime Adams said they are feeling the decrease at Pup In A Tub on Cortez Road.

“People are giving maybe just a couple of dollars and saying this is all that I have,” Adams said.

Keckler said $100 was the largest tip she received last year from a regular client.

“This year, the most I’ve seen is about $15,” she said.

Adams and Keckler understand the pinch the economy has put on consumers’ ability to tip. However, the two say their salary is not based on hourly wages, but on tips and commission.

“I will be lucky if I can get gifts just for the family,” Adams said.

John Wheaton, manager at Pinch-A-Penny pool supplies and services, said his four servicemen have seen fewer holiday tips from regular clients.

“They’ve taken a big hit,” Wheaton said. “They’ve seen a large decrease even in Christmas cards.”

For pool cleaning and maintenance, The Emily Post Institute suggests clients pay the cost of one cleaning for the crew to share as a holiday gratuity. For customers of Pinch-A-Penny, that would be about $80-$100.

“Our guys aren’t even seeing close to that,” Wheaton said. “They’re seeing maybe $5 here, $10 there, where in previous years they got $20-$50 per person.”

Lizzie Post, author and spokesperson for The Emily Post Institute, said because holiday tips are recommended and not mandatory, service providers are likely to see a decline.

“In these tough economic times, this is one point where you’re going to see a decline,” Post said.

Simply “a thank you to the service provider in your life,” still is important, she said.

“If $10, $20 or $30 is in your budget, than that’s what is in your budget,” Post said. “Homemade treats are always a great way to go, too.”

Nick Clark, co-owner of Fitness Together in Lakewood Ranch, said his clients have given homemade gifts — baked goods.

“I think they like to see their trainers eat cookies and brownies,” Clark said. “Our clients are taking good care of us. We’re still getting some gift cards here and there, and they’re always generous.”

At Puppy Patch Preschool, director Jane Bowen said parents generally give small wrapped gifts to the teachers.

“It’s maybe about 5 percent less (this year),” Bowen said.

“The parents are still very appreciative. The teachers are grateful for the parents’ recognition that their job during the day can be adventurous.”