Mailman Etiquette
September 20, 2012 4:27 PM   Subscribe

I order many things online and get lots of packages. I really like my mailman. Is there something nice I can do for him?

I seem to get most packages via USPS, and I'd like to thank my mailman. He always knocks and waits for me to come to the door, he's always friendly.

Should I wait until the holidays and give him a card with some cash or a gift card inside? How much is a nice gift?

Is there something I could do for him now, instead of waiting? Call his supervisor or something like that?

I get some packages via Fedex / UPS, but I'll wait until the holidays and give cash or a giftcard; what's a good amount, and is cash or a giftcard better? I'd probably go with somewhere generic like Target.

I have never tipped a mail person before so I'm totally clueless here. I live in Los Angeles, CA in case it is relevant.

posted by insectosaurus to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Mail carriers are not allowed to accept cash. They are allowed to accept gifts, but only those valued up to up to $20, so don't give him something worth more than that, he can't accept.

I usually leave my mail carrier a gift card during the holidays, for something like Starbucks. I figure even if there is nothing there he likes, it's a useful thing for re-gifting, or someone in his family will want it.
posted by instead of three wishes at 4:30 PM on September 20, 2012

In addition to the above good advice, you can definitely contact their supervisor.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:35 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Given the financial issues at USPS - padding his job security with a nice email to the local Postmaster would probably be much appreciated.
posted by COD at 4:52 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

My carrier, in downtown LA, is a saint, and he told me to never mention his name to his supervisor or indeed, anyone else connected with the USPS. He's a long time veteran, and works very hard, despite constant changes in his route, his hours, the amount of overtime he gets, etc.. He told me that if I say how great he is, his supervisor will assume he's spending too much time chatting and not enough working. YMMV, but I see his point.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:55 PM on September 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

The rules about gifts relate to federal employees, not just postal service employees. So you also can't tip the congressional aide who cleared up some red tape for you. The complete rules, in all their federal legalese glory, are here.

While individual non-cash gifts are limited to $20, there is also a limit of $50 per year in total gifts from one source to one employee. So, in theory, you could give gift cards of $16.66 each every month from October through March, not exceed the $20 limit, and not exceed the $50 annual limit. However, this practice would probably be in violation of standard 2635.202(c)(3) which says that employees shall not "Accept gifts from the same or different sources on a basis so frequent that a reasonable person would be led to believe the employee is using his public office for private gain."

So, if you do multiple gifts make them more irregularly timed. And, gift cards should not be convertible to cash.

With regard to letters of commendation to the local postmaster, don't email them. Print them out, put them in an envelope, put a stamp on them, put them in the mail. It's the Post Office, remember? Ask specifically that the letter be put in the carrier's employee file.
posted by beagle at 6:06 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

When it's super hot and I see our carrier I'll run out with a cold waterbottle from the fridge. When we have cookies or treats I'll give them a plate of those kind of things as well.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:08 PM on September 20, 2012

How about some gel inserts for his shoes? There are so many rules about what they can accept, it's hard to do something like give a monetary gift without them getting into trouble.
posted by Yellow at 6:14 PM on September 20, 2012

On that note, offering the use of your bathroom and a glass of water would probably be kindly welcomed (this goes for everyone who works outside going from home to home).
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:19 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I do cookies when the weather turns yucky. Depending on your mailbox, you can leave them with a stickie note that says "Mail carrier" in the mailbox. Or on the mailbox.

One of my close friends is a postmaster, and she says carriers like small gift cards, appreciative notes, things like that. She definitely pays attention to carriers who get compliments from their routes (and she doesn't think it means they're slacking).

I'm home a lot when the carrier comes and she's really nice to my kids who are SO EXCITED by the mail lady and her truck, so we'll stick a picture they draw in the card.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:26 PM on September 20, 2012

Mail carriers are not allowed to accept cash. They are allowed to accept gifts, but only those valued up to up to $20, so don't give him something worth more than that, he can't accept.

I have given my letter carrier >$20 for years every December and he has never refused to accept it. Just put the cash in a card, write a nice note, seal the envelope and make sure to hand it to him.

I'll wait until the holidays and give cash or a giftcard; what's a good amount, and is cash or a giftcard better?

Cash, always cash for something like this.
posted by mlis at 1:30 AM on September 21, 2012

I was at one point getting dozens of little ebay packages every day for a few weeks. I filled a pretty little bag with as many little luxury chocolates as it would hold and left it tied to the mailbox with a note thanking them and offering "a little extra energy to help carry all those packages."
I didn't hear anything, but the chocolates went away when the mail came and I like to think they got a smile out of it.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 10:10 AM on September 21, 2012

This might not work for you, being in LA, but here in NC it is chilly in the winter, so around the holidays I give the mail carrier/FedEx/UPS folks a holiday card with a thank you note, and a collection of those little hand and foot warmer packs.

Also, don't underestimate the power of a simple handwritten note, just to him, letting him know you appreciate what he does. In my experience those sorts of things mean more than a $20 gift card anyway.
posted by msbubbaclees at 10:17 AM on September 21, 2012

Thanks so much, everyone. As a very belated follow up, I left my mail carrier a card just to say thanks shortly after this thread, and today I handed him another card w/ a giftcard enclosed & wished him happy holidays. He (not knowing what was in it, of course) seemed surprised and happy, it was a very sweet interaction!
posted by insectosaurus at 12:32 PM on December 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

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