Here’s a tip: Service industry appreciates gestures

How do you say thanks around the holidays?

The holidays are a festive time of year for most Lawrence residents.

But they’re even sweeter for many of those in town who work in the service industry – particularly people who have an ongoing, one-on-one relationship providing their skills to customers whom they have come to know well.

Like Mark Chapman, owner and hair designer at LADA Salon & Spa, 4931 W. Sixth St.

In his experience, it’s a common practice for longtime clients – he calls them “guests” – to express their gratitude during the holidays with a gift of some sort.

“Seventy-five percent of my guests bring me a bottle of wine (this time of year),” says Chapman, a wine connoisseur.

“I actually get a lot of bottles of wine. My guests will pretty much always bring in a gift card to somewhere like Borders – I like fashion magazines and music – or a bottle of wine.”

There’s nothing unusual about that in his industry, since many clients form long-lasting friendships with their hair stylists.

“After doing hair designs on a guest who’s been coming here for years, you become close to them,” Chapman says.

Even something as simple as a holiday card with a photo of a client’s family makes a meaningful gift to salon professionals.

These kind gestures are always appreciated, he says.

Gifts an unexpected treat

Chapman’s experience is similar to other Lawrence residents who provide their services to people and form bonds with them.

That seems to be true whether a person is a hair stylist, massage therapist, personal trainer or lawn-care worker.

Even professional pet sitters get a little extra thanks around the holidays, according to Denise Van Sickel, owner of Lawrence Pet Friends.

Her business, which she launched in July 2005, has grown to a client base of 175 pet owners. Van Sickel’s hallmark is personalized care for each pooch, kitty or other beloved critter.

“Trust is important in my business. Clients and I have to form a bond before I even want to take care of their pets. They have to like me as a person,” she says.

After all, Van Sickel is charged with taking care of her clients’ homes while they’re away, plus lavishing their pets with lots of love.

And her clients are quick to show their appreciation as the holidays roll around.

“I have received cash, animal-related jewelry, homemade goodies, a bottle of wine. Of course, I have only made it through one holiday season as a pet sitter,” Van Sickel says.

What’s the best way to express gratitude toward one’s pet sitter this time of year?

“A donation to the Lawrence Humane Society in my name would be really cool. Or homemade goodies are a nice way – it shows a personal touch. Of course, who could say no to cash?”

She’s quick to point out that she never expects gifts of any kind, but when it happens, it’s delightful.

“Whenever I receive anything outside of my usual fee, I feel very special. It means I have made an impression on my clients, and they truly appreciate what I do for their pets.”

Thanks for hard work

Dallien Holtkamp, 22, owner and sole employee of Turformance Lawn Services, sometimes gets a little extra “thank you” at holiday time.

“I usually get a handful of tips and maybe a couple of cards, but for the most part we’re not around (mowing people’s lawns) that time of year. I’ll get a card once in a while from customers I’ve had for years and years,” says Holtkamp, a junior at Kansas University.

“I’ve also gotten several $20 tips, which customers either enclose in their final payment for the year, which is usually around December. Or they’ll come out and hand it to me, and we’ll talk about lawn care for the next year. They’ll say they’re happy with the job I’m doing and hand me a $20 bill.”

Any gesture like that means a lot to Holtkamp.

“Of course you do (appreciate it). You work hard all year long, and it’s always nice to know people appreciate that, the money notwithstanding,” he says.

There’s no real protocol for how much to tip the person who provides your lawn-care services, according to Holtkamp.

“It kind of depends on the person. I don’t ever expect anything. Typically, I would say whatever it costs to mow your yard, that would be the tip. A $20 tip would be very much appreciated.”

Utilitarian gifts good, too

What about baby sitters – what’s a good rule of thumb for giving them a tip or gift as the holidays approach?

John Drees, an education specialist for Lawrence Memorial Hospital, offers a few ideas.

Drees teaches the Safe Sitters program, which a recurring, two-day workshop that teaches youngsters how to approach their baby-sitting jobs as a business.

“I would suggest anything that would be utilitarian that they might use (while baby-sitting) – a little game, a backpack, disposable latex gloves for changing diapers : that makes sense for me,” he says.

Another option is a gift card, or cash.

“Then the sitter can elect to purchase what they want. Like a gift card to Borders, where they could buy books or games or something.”

A present such as an iPod would be lower on his list of good gifts for a young baby sitter.

“We try to encourage that the sitters engage with the children (they are caring for), so we discourage having them use things like an iPod,” Drees says.

But there’s nothing wrong with thanking baby sitters with a gift this time of year.

“We certainly don’t counsel against accepting gifts from their clients. We try to teach them it’s a business relationship.”

Plates of cookies

The holidays are especially nice for Kristii Adrian, owner of Bodyworks Downtown, 700 Mass., a collective of six massage therapists and five yoga instructors.

“Lots of people give us extra tips. A lot of our clients who are also in the service industry give us gift certificates to the businesses where they work, like restaurants,” says Adrian, who also is a massage therapist.

“I have people give me $50 at Christmas; it’s extremely nice. For longtime clients, yes, it’s common (to give a tip or gift). It’s lovely.”

Sometimes the holiday gifts are homemade – and delicious.

“Our clients are very generous. We’ve had them bring in plates of cookies, and some of our clients who come from other countries will bring in their traditional foods,” she says.

“I think that the homemade gifts are particularly touching, because they took the time to make something for you. Sentimental value oftentimes exceeds monetary value in importance.”

Listen for hints

People remember their personal trainers at this time of year, too.

“I’ve received cards and small gifts from clients. Gift cards are usually about the best; you can give them (to a trainer) inside a Christmas card. I’ve received cash and gift certificates – to restaurants, places like Best Buy and Starbucks. It’s thoughtful,” says Shawn McDonald, director of personal training at the Lawrence Athletic Club, 3201 Mesa Way.

“I’ve been surprised whenever I’ve received something from one of my clients, except for one person who I’ve been with for six years.”

What’s the most thoughtful gift he’s received from a client?

“It was a housewarming gift – a blender. That’s kind of weird, but I needed one. I had just moved into a new place and was making protein shakes with just a hand shaker, and my client knew that a blender would be nice for me to have,” McDonald says.

McDonald says that if a client chooses to give a gift to a personal trainer – or anyone in the service industry – it’s good to listen and try to find out what that person could really use.

“If they mention they like to barbecue but their grill is broken, then it might be nice if you were to give cash and mention in the card that this could go toward the purchase of a new grill,” he says.

“Figure out what’s important to them – it means more.”