CASH. CASH. CASH.
Let me make myself perfectly clear Cash is what people want. They do not want the myriad of fruitcakes or cookies no matter how well-intentioned they are. They do not want your hand-me down presents from your sister-in-law that you don't want. They don't even want that tacky signing Christmas tree you found on sale at the local Bi-Mart (it was on sale for a reason).
Service people are not "servants" they are people who do you a service. They are people who do the things you won't or can't do. The maid who actually likes scrubbing toilets. The gardener although you try, you cannot make the hydrangeas look better than he can. The accountant like you could work a calculator better, he is the one who keeps you out of jail by actually doing your budget books correctly. The babysitter you stay home all day with your children and tell me that some chocolate chip cookies wrapped in holiday cellophane are what you want for Christmas. The hairdresser she deals with your crazy hair and still keeps her mouth shut about your grays. The garbage collector do I really need to say anything about this?
These people make your life, and mine, easier. Do you really want to peeve them off by skimping on their Christmas gift? Do you really want them to see the tacky side of you? Service employees usually make less money than other professions and yet they are the ones most people reserve the stale cookies and "on sale gifts" for. Why? Well, I asked a friend, who was about to put a very disturbingly ugly canister of shortbread cookies on her (and my) hairdresser's counter.
"Sheryl, I saw you buy that at the Dollar Store yesterday and thought it was a stocking stuffer," I said quietly. "Why are you putting it on Maureen's counter?"
"Oh, that is her Christmas gift from me," she replied proudly. "She will be happy to get it. You know these people don't make much so it is the thought that counts."
I promptly took the gift' off the counter, walked Sheryl outside and tried to explain that service people do not deserve our cheap gifts. It is not the thought that counts or else these service people (like our hairdresser) will know you have cheap thoughts, that you think they are cheap. They do a service for you and if you feel you need to give them a gift, it should be a valued gift, one that is commensurate with the service they provide you. I explained that if they stopped doing her dirty work for her, what would she do?
What would have happened if Sheryl had left that cheap tin of cookies for Maureen? Well, Maureen is not stupid, she would have thought that her service for Sheryl wasn't worth a valuable gift and thus lessened her service to Sheryl the next time she had her hair done. She gives her boss a great holiday gift because she hopes for a promotion. She gives her co-workers nice gifts because she appreciates them. Why would she give service people cheaper gifts when they do so much for her?
Let's face it, if you make enough money to use service people (except for the U.S. Postal Service, that is a different thing altogether) then you make enough money to purchase a thoughtful and tasteful gift or to give money. Gift cards and cash are the best gifts since they allow you to buy what you want or need.
One year, I put a $10 bill in a card for my gardener. I told him Merry Christmas and handed him the card. I rarely spoke to the man so I had no idea that his daughter had bronchitis and that his wife had to stay home to care for her leaving them very much broke around the holidays. Other neighbors who used this gardener's services gave him cookies or cheesy gifts for the holidays. I am sure he was gracious when accepting them but had they really gotten to know him they would have known that he wasn't a "knick knack" kind of guy and that he was diabetic so sweets were forbidden. That $10 bill that I gave him bought some eucalyptus salve and a heating pad for his family and that was better than any cookie or gift that I picked out.
I say it again if you value your hair looking great, your garden being weedless, your budget books being accurate, your house as clean as a hospital, your children out of your perfectly coiffed hair and your garbage out of your driveway give cash!