By Hannah Berman


Recently, I wrote in my column, right here in this paper, that I no longer give tips to my three sanitation men. They are not actually my men; I do not own them. For accuracy, I will rephrase and say that they are the men who collect my garbage three times a week. I did not use the term “tip.” Instead, I referred to it as a “holiday gift.” But what I call it matters very little. The meaning is the same and my point was, and still is, that I refuse to reward someone for poor service. In my naïveté, I assumed that readers would agree with me. I was wrong.

While many readers did agree with me, some wrote and others called to let me know that they disagreed with my point of view. These folks feel that it is incumbent upon all homeowners to give a year-end reward to the men who collect their trash. I appreciate all responses, including those from people who disagree with me. Nevertheless, I stood my ground and stand by my word.

Two men called me a cheapskate. A third said that I was a tightwad. And the fourth critic said that not giving a holiday gift of cash indicated that I was mean-spirited. In my opinion, these comments were uncharitable. None of these adjectives is an accurate description of who I am. Never, by any standards, have I been considered to be a frugal person! My late husband, Arnie, was a very generous man. If he were here, he would attest to the fact that I spend too freely and that I tend to give overly large tips. He would also say that I am anything but mean-spirited.

While I dislike having to defend myself and normally avoid doing so, I am now doing just that. After all, why should those people think ill of me? Without fail, the postman who brings my mail gets a holiday gift from me every year. The manicurist who cares for my nails also gets a thank-you each December in the form of cash. And I give this holiday gift to her despite the fact that I tip her handsomely each time she gives me a manicure. All beauticians love to cut my hair because I make it worth their while. I also give a very nice tip each time my groceries are delivered. I have been told by some that I actually overdo it, but I feel that the cartons that the young fellow schleps in from the truck are sometimes heavy. However, since I don’t lift the cartons, I don’t really know. So even when they are not heavy, I give a large tip. He gets the same amount from me whether the cartons are heavy or not. That is my way. I do all off this, but I steadfastly refuse to thank anyone for a poorly done job.

It occurs to me that since the handful of people who contacted me feel so strongly about my not tipping the garbage men, we could make a deal! To that end, I am extending the following invitation to the critics who contacted me. Here it is, fellows: Come over to my house after every trash collection. While you are here, you may pick up paper cups, napkins, or any of the other items that are left on the ground near my garbage pails. And if it has rained or snowed, you might want to empty out the water that has collected in the pails as well as in the overturned lids. When that has been completed, you can replace all the lids securely on the pails. When all of that is done, I will be happy to tip you. And if you still feel strongly about giving a holiday gift to sanitation men, you can pass the money on to the three who collect my trash. Hopefully, you will feel free to let me know if you want to participate in this deal.

It is akin to that old expression: “Put your money where your mouth is.” Or, in this case, it is more like, “Put my money where your mouth is!” That is just the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-295-4435.


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