Gift-giving ideas for your unsung heroes | Ask Erin

Dear Erin, I want to show my appreciation, but I don’t want to break the bank.

Dear Erin,
It’s the season of giving, and I want to say “thank you” to some of the unsung heroes in my life — the carrier who delivers my newspaper, the letter carrier who delivers my mail and packages, the fellow who collects my refuse, the landscaper who keeps the neighborhood looking so neat and the list goes on and on.

I want to show my appreciation, but I don’t want to break the bank. What’s an appropriate “tip” to hand out during the holidays? And what kind of gift is appropriate in lieu of cash?

— Doling out gifts in Dyes Inlet

Dear Doling,
Bravo for wanting to acknowledge these helpful —and often unappreciated—folks in your life.

Be thoughtful and your gratitude will shine through.

Your appreciation doesn’t have to be expressed by a tip. A plate of your great-grandma Cora’s famous homemade cookies or a gift card to a local coffee shop will often fit the bill.

A nice hand-written card can also do wonders— but write more than just your name. Tell the person why you appreciate them.

“Dear Mail Carrier: Thank you for your patience with my barking puppy. He no longer sees you as a stranger, but now looks forward to your daily visits. Happy Holidays, from Erin and Fido.”

You get the point. Make it specific to your situation and the receiver will feel cared for and noticed.

If you aren’t able to personally hand the gift or card to the recipient, make sure to mark it well.

For example, if you are at work when the refuse collector stops at your house, place the gift on top of the trash can. Wrap it in a plastic wrap so it isn’t damaged by the weather and top it with a bow.

I spoke with Brian Ireland, customer service supervisor for the West Hills Bremerton Post Office, and asked if there are government regulations regarding what letter carriers are allowed to receive.

He read from an official document that stated gifts given must be valued at $20 or less and carriers are not allowed to accept cash.He said the most common gifts received are baked goods.

And in case you are fretting if people receive oodles of the same item—say 20 jars of jam — both Ireland and a spokesperson for Waste Management said that doesn’t seem to be an issue; a diverse selection of gifts are usually given.

And remember, it’s always good to hear, “Job well done,” even when it’s not the holidays. Make a point to show your appreciation year-round. Surprise these folks in the heat of summer with ripe tomatoes from your garden, along with a simple note.


Last week, I answered a question about whether it has become old-fashioned for men to open doors for women. I said if you are the first one to approach the door, the polite thing is to open the door for anyone behind you, regardless of gender.

Most of the emails I received from readers agreed with my stance. A few women wrote in to say that if they are in the company of a man, they expect the man to open the door.

Many people commented that often when they hold open the door for strangers, people walk through without saying “Thank you.”

But my favorite email came from 86-year-old Dot Holly, who referred to her husband as “a door-opener person.” Not only does he open car doors and help her in and out, he kisses her each time.

If Mr. Holly is thoughtful enough to kiss his wife every time he opens the car door for her, surely we as a community can thank strangers who hold doors open for us.

No kissing necessary.

— Ask Erin is a feature of Kitsap Week. Have a question? Write Ask Erin, Kitsap Week, P.O. Box 278, Poulsbo 98370 or e-mail