Despite sluggish economy, holiday tips, in general, are up

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Monday, December 6, 2010
— With the recession entering its third year, you'd think tips to workers would be down.

And especially in Rock County, where the unemployment rate is at 9.5 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But that's not necessarily the case.

Some of the newspaper carriers, hairstylists and tow-truck drivers contacted by the Gazette said they're getting bigger tips, even during the holidays.

"Things have gotten better and better every year for me," said David Portlock, 49, Beloit, who has been delivering newspapers since October 2004.

"There's been no signs with problems with the economy as far as people tipping me," he said.

About 25 percent of Portlock's more than 400 Sunday customers tipped him an average of $20 last Christmas. Tips ranged from $5 to $65, he said.

"They really help a lot," Portlock said.

"I just appreciate it when they do tip me. But I don't count on them to live on or anything like that," he said.

Hairstylist Josh Jensen said his customers continue to tip the same but come less often to his Hair 2 Dye 4 salon in downtown Janesville.

"People are waiting longer stretches to get their hair done," he said.

Jensen, who has been in the hairstylist business for a decade, predicted tips might be worse this holiday season.

"I know a lot of people are getting their unemployment cut.

"So it's really going to hurt because you definitely depend on tips, especially since I'm in business for myself," he said.

Jensen said he doesn't expect tips, "but they're always appreciated."

Teresa Bartram at Shear Magic agreed that "tips haven't gone down, but customers don't come as often as they used to."

The tips, which range from $2 to $20 per customer, aren't expected, and "we're appreciative of whatever we get," she said.

Newspaper carriers Sue and Ray Ellis of Janesville said their tips "actually went up" after envelopes and their home mailing addresses were given to customers.

Their tips this year even doubled those of 2009 during National Carrier Appreciation Week, they said.

"I don't know if it's the times, but several customers told us they really appreciate the way we do things, understand how hard our job is and because of the cost of gas try to tip a little better," Sue said.

Even though economy continues to struggle, the Ellises don't expect tips to be down this year.

"I don't see that tips have backed off since Ray began 11 years ago. And since we've been doing the route together since 2005, they've increased," Sue said.

"They are really nice. But that's not why we deliver papers. That's an extra for us," she said.

"As long as you treat 'em right they're going to appreciate it," Sue said.

Steve Davis, owner of Davis Citgo, said he hasn't noticed any change in the amount or number of tips in recent years at his Janesville business.

"It's pretty much stayed the same," he said. "People are generous because they're glad to see us."

At Dewey's Towing Service, Beloit, tips in 2009 were down about one-third from those in 2008, Manager Jean Dewey said.

Dewey also predicts tips will be down again this year.

"I imagine they would be," she said.

But what tips the drivers of the company's five tow trucks get, they really appreciate, Dewey said, because it usually means "they did a good job."

Last updated: 3:53 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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