Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Monday night, I came home to find this on the door:Let me preface this by saying that I know this is a French tradition that dates back a long time. But it still gets my goat. Why should I have to give a tip to someone for doing what they are paid to do? The firemen I get - a lot of them are volunteers, and besides, you don't really want to piss the firemen off.

But the mailman? Come on. I remember back in Bretagne, we knew a couple working for La Poste in Paris. Between the two of them, they got at least an extra 8,000€ every year. EIGHT GRAND PEOPLE. I bust my butt for my job, and no one gives me a tip at the end of the year, let alone an eight thousand euro one. Our postman doesn't even do a good job - he's really lazy and often times just leaves mail on top of the mailboxes - which is not cool since they're outside where any Tom, Dick or Harry walking by can grab them. (Or maybe that should be "Thomas, Richard or 'arry").

To be fair, they are technically "selling" you a calendar, and you are free to give however much you want to purchase it, but the calendars are super lame now. Who wants to stick this up on their wall?
I've adopted a lot of the French ways over the years, but this one just isn't one of them. How about you guys though? Will you be giving out a little extra somethin' somethin' to your mailman this year? How about to the Firemen? Or to your building's concierge?

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Blogger Eileen said...

I'm pretty sure this used the be a tradition in the U.S., too, we just lost it. My mom still tips people at the end of the year---the women she hires to clean the house, the dog walker, any service people she pays (and I think those are the only ones). But they're generally low-wage jobs.

December 1, 2010 at 1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it ok to not give the tip to the postman or everyone does? I heard about this practice in France but I don't really know how bad it is to not give?

In Singapore, most of us stay in high-rise buildings and we don't even see the postman who delivers the mail to our mailboxes located on the ground floor. People here do give some extra $ during the New Year to domestic helpers or office help who do the cleaning chores, etc.

December 1, 2010 at 1:49 PM  
Blogger Alisa Tank said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 1, 2010 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger PigletinFrance said...

OMG, I can't believe that they actually posted a formal notice to let you know when they'd be coming by - like asking you to make sure that you're in when they pass, just like if you were having your gas meter read or something!

I give a small tip to my postman as we've had the same one for a couple of years now and whenever we don't have him we have problems. I'll only give if it is him. I also give to the firemen.

Mr Piglet on the other hand, hides and doesn't answer the door. I call him scrooge.

But, if someone put a note in my letterbox or a sign up to say when they were coming I would make a point of being out. Its one thing that they come asking for a tip, it's another thing to tell someone when you're coming to ask for it!

December 1, 2010 at 2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't in France but my parents always leave some beer for the mailman in their letterbox and in return they get a xmas card!!

December 1, 2010 at 2:47 PM  
Blogger Danièle said...

Man I am an exile and I would give a lot of money to have one in my kitchen. It the pride and joy of any traditional French kitchen. Its soo kitsch that its great.

December 1, 2010 at 3:17 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I don't like the tradition either, for the same reasons as you, plus the fact that I never carry much change around and they always come when I've 20cts in my purse, or €10.

If they post a notice, I'm gonna be out!

Firemen is different.

December 1, 2010 at 4:05 PM  
Blogger MilkJam said...

The fireman came around (lights on and all!!!) when i was out of town a few weeks ago - scared the crap out of MG! Anyway he tipped them, and no the fireman's calander is not at all hot :S

The mailman I normally would not feel great about tipping but because our mail(lady actually) is so freaking AWESOME (leaving packages on the doorstep instead of making us go pick them up when we work all week). I think if she stops by I'll give her a big tip!

December 1, 2010 at 6:06 PM  
Blogger the fly in the web said...

I always bought the post calendar...but I've always had postmen and women who really went the extra mile for us.

I didn't mind the rest of it either..the football club, the kids' gym club, the dustmen....and, of course, the firemen.

It was such a small community that I knew most of the people concerned.

December 1, 2010 at 6:06 PM  
Blogger Marie said...

I am fine with that tradition as everybody, mailman, fireman, etc does a great job aroubd here.

December 1, 2010 at 6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am in the same boat as MilkJam. Our mailman is FAB. If we aren't home he'll hold our packages until we are, same with registered mail... He keeps an eye on the house when we are on vacation, stops sometimes just to say hi... He even sells stamps to the older people that don't get out often, and will take mail in town and throw it in the box of you clothespin it to the box. We'd have spent countless more hours waiting in line at La Poste if not for him.

I will for sure tip him when he comes around... My aunt is a mail carrier in the US and has serious health issues due to physically carrying the mail as well. I'd be happy for her and feel like she deserved it for her physical dedication to her job if she were to get tips.

December 1, 2010 at 7:07 PM  
Blogger Vivi said...

Did you know that the mailmen actually pay for the calendars out of their own pocket? I think they do this to kind of feel like you're getting something for your money instead of feeling like it's just a handout.

December 1, 2010 at 8:20 PM  
Blogger shannon said...

My mom has always given the mailman a tip at Christmas time. I just thought that was normal and never thought much about it. Apparently, it's not normal??

December 1, 2010 at 8:21 PM  
Blogger Pepe Le Pew said...

Let me get this straight. The mailman hangs a note on your door when he wants to communicate with you? Wouldn't you think that a mailman would mail it to you?

December 1, 2010 at 11:02 PM  
Blogger Jess in Brisbane said...

I got the one from the bin men last year just so I could give it to my parents back in Australia. Now I'm back here with them and it's proudly displayed on the fridge with its pretty average cartoons about recycling. They get a kick out of the fact that the bin men sell calendars at all.

December 2, 2010 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger Les rêves d'une boulangère (Brittany) said...

This is so interesting; in Australia such a thing would never be asked.

December 2, 2010 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Cécy said...

You know, I like the American system of tipping according to service.
I sure wouldn't tip our mailmen here. The first one we had held our mail and refused to deliver it to the mailbox on our house (10 feet away from the road). His reason being that we were the only one with a mailbox on the house in our dead end. Well guess what he didn't have problems bringing the mail inside the house of our neighbor who have no mailbox on the street and whom we think deal drugs.

My mom always buys the firemen's calendar and puts it in the toilets...

December 2, 2010 at 2:04 PM  
Blogger kylie said...

we've got the same notice on our door! i escape this by being on the top floor behind the secret door, but the boys' grandmother buys two every year. one for herself and one for the boys. ours are not as lame as the one you have photographed here. :)

December 2, 2010 at 4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first year we lived here, I couldn't understand why everybody - postman, firemen, local football team all turned up at the gates with a calendar, but I did think how kind it was. Didn't know we were meant to pay them. :)

I'm more than happy to buy a calendar from La Poste and les Pompiers, but I'd actually be grateful to have warning of their arrival, because I never seem to have have any cash on me when they come.

I wonder is there any possibility that they could confer between them and arrange for one of them to bring something other than a calendar, say a pen or a fridge magnet, because I find one calendar sufficient, and we do get given them by all sorts of shops as well.

December 2, 2010 at 4:46 PM  
Blogger wcs said...

I did a blog post about this four (OMG) years ago. Check it out:

December 4, 2010 at 8:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've already bought one, although its more out of cultural guilt than anything else. I feel like its the same as tipping in the US; you give something no matter how bad the service was. Although this year is was kind of annoying, the guy showed at 9:30pm which is way too late to be hitting people up for money.

December 5, 2010 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I think our mailman is pretty much the only one I would give anything to, but he seems to be the only one that doesn't come around with his hand out...

December 6, 2010 at 10:09 PM  
Blogger Paris said...

Yes, we had the same letter, and our gardienne accompanied the postman so we would know he was the real deal and not some fraud. We gave him 10 euros. And THEN I showed Georges a clip from "A Year in Provence" where the British writer, Peter Mayle, and his wife discover this French "tradition" of "free" calendars (but of course, you can give the "facture" a little tip, SVP) from not only the postman, but two different firemen and two other guys, all of whom were doing works on Mayle's Provençal home but way behind schedule. It was HILARIOUS, Georges got a huge kick out of it and agreed that it was just like the French to pull something like that.

I asked him why we didn't "buy" the calendars in our other house on rue Marcadet, and he said he usually just sent them away, but this time since the gardienne was with the guy, Georges felt he couldn't say no. Smooth, non? However, when the postman asked the gardienne about going down the long hallway near our door, she said they wouldn't bother as all the residents down there "are dead".

No wonder I haven't seen any of the shutters open since we moved in... in May.

And now this has me wondering... are we supposed to give a tip to our gardienne? At least SHE does a good job, but we pay high charges to live in this building and a lot of that goes to paying her salary. Do other people tip their gardiennes/concierges at Christmas holidays in Paris?

December 9, 2010 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger Paris said...

And by the way, Sam, ours is the same La Poste that C told you to warn me about because they have a rep for taking valuable stuff out of envelopes & packages. So after we tipped the postman, I said to Georges that maybe we needn't have bothered since I'm sure he and his colleagues have already helped themselves to big tips from the neighborhood inbound/outbound mail anyway. Hmpf! But, he did seem friendly and all I can do is hope he's one of the good ones.

December 9, 2010 at 2:27 PM  
Blogger Delana said...

I was at a friend's apartment last week when the postmen came by with the calendars. I remarked about how nice it was the they did such a benevolent thing on their own time...thinking of course that they were raising money for sick children or something. When I was told the money was FOR the postmen and women I was stunned. Not the plate of cookies that I used to give my postman (of 20 years). My friend bought the calendar...then threw it in the garbage.

December 16, 2010 at 8:45 AM  

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