Holiday Cheer: Sharing a Smile with Your Mail Carrier

by Carlos Aranguren 12/13/2020

Photo by Dference via Pixabay

"Can I tip the mail carrier?" It's a burning question whenever the holiday season approaches.

The short answer is no. Postal employees are bound by an Ethical Conduct code. Within this code, a rule lets carriers take a non-monetary gift worth up to $20. The annual total gift limit from one customer is $50 worth of gifts.

What Gifts Are Off-Limits?

Postal employees may not accept:

  • Cash or checks.  
  • Alcohol.
  • Clothes.
  • Meals.
  • Event tickets.

Gift cards are not a work-around. Anything else that can be used as money is similarly off limits.

What Gifts Will Keep Your Carrier on the Right Side of the Rules?

Postal Service rules on gifts for permit carriers to accept:

  • Hand warmers, mugs, and so forth, worth $20 or less. 
  • Snacks, drinks, and perishable gifts.

More expensive treats would need to be shared with the whole crew of your post office.

In other words, you may tip your individual carrier in trinkets, but not in actual money.

Any Legit Ways Around the No-Tip Rule?

If your mail carrier has been trudging through rain, snow, and blistering heat for years, is tipping really barred? Yes!

So, it's never done? Well, let's just say the official gift limit has been routinely ignored for years, if the New York Times blog is a good indicator. But gifts can get a carrier in trouble. This is something we should all keep in mind.

Now, maybe you know your carrier by name, and are on a friendly basis. Maybe you've shared garden cuttings, helped a stray cat get home, or even worked together. There is nothing in the law that says you cannot offer a gift to a friend. A carrier, in other words, may accept a gift of your choice if you have a personal friendship—but not because of the job, which is what defines a tip.

Check first. If your friend the mail carrier isn't comfortable with an intended gift, skip it.

How Else Can You Meaningfully Show Appreciation?

Make a splash on your carrier's behalf by writing to the higher-ups. Thanking the postal service for your carrier's excellence. You might send a letter to the local postmaster. To go higher up the leadership chain, you could write to the Area Operations VP or the Human Resources VP.  

Your letter can describe how your carrier has helped people in your neighborhood. It can explain why your carrier is the bee's knees. Nothing like positive reinforcement from the public in a personnel file. Plus, because such letter-writing rarely happens, this style of praise really stands out. 

Oh, and be sure to send your letter through the United States Postal Service.

About the Author

Carlos Aranguren

Welcome to the blog site of Carlos Aranguren, your number 1 real estate professional serving Gaithersburg, MD and surrounding areas.