They know where you live. They know what you discard. They know what you’ve bought lately, and if they were the trashmen of yesteryear they could make big cash money by providing this info to crooks on the side (“The Smith house on 12th St just got 3 x 55″ TVs – i picked up the boxes”). Once a year, they leave mysterious ‘cards’ with their names and personal addresses on them every holiday season – and expect you to leave or mail them a tip for doing their job, which is collecting East Nashville’s trash. Every year about this time, if you live in East Nashville you may very well get what appears to be an innocent looking Christmas card or business card, usually in a plastic baggie for protection – they are generally left on top of your trash can, or attached to it, or in that general are, or sometimes even the mailbox, on your trashday this week.
The featured image above is one being used by several garbage collectors this year, and the one below in the ziplog bag is being used by the Recycling company (I’ll spare us all the irony in the recycling lesson here).
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So you have to ask yourself – If you don’t go through the effort of leaving him or her a tip for doing the job they signed up for, do you really have to worry about them being nefarious and shady characters? The answer is probably not, at least not in 2015. A generation ago, they would have probably knocked on the door and waiting for you to gather their ‘tip’ – at least these days they’re a bit more passive agressive about it. Why else would they leave their name and home address on a piece of paper attached to your trashcan once a year if they were not expecting a tip? Who in their right mind came up with the idea of ‘tipping’ the garbage collector? It was certainly an old mafia tradition, but mainly in the northeastern US – but somehow it has still flourished as deep tradition in a few small southern towns, or specific areas of towns, to be more precise. You won’t find any tip request in North Nashville this time of year, but Green Hills, East Nashville, Brentwood – these garbage collectors are not dumb people. They know most everything you purchase, how wasteful you are, and likely exactly how much you make in a year. they know who will be receiving a card that suggests a tip is requested – after all, they’ve been scoping you out all year long.
Sound crazy? We think so, too. Even as an East Nashvillian, I don’t understand the concept of tipping the garbage collector. Do they go above and beyond? No – they actually do MUCH less work than they did 10 years ago. 10 years ago they stood on the back of a truck all day, hopping on and off, manually emptying the garbage bins into their truck – and there were 3-4 people on every truck. These days there is rarely more than 1 person in a truck, and everything is automatic, they rarely, if ever, touch the trash. They drive up beside it, align the trashcan with the arm on the truck, and while watching on a live video feed to a screen beside them in the cab, they activate the arm which dumps the trash and returns the bin automatically to the street. I fail to see what part of that job requires a tip. When I am at a restaurant, or the hair salon, or similar service type industries, I absolutely tip – and generally above and beyond. I worked in a restaaurant while in college and lived on tips. Those people make low wages with zero benefits – this is NOT the case with garbage collectors. Garbage collectors get a living wage (or better, on average), benefits, vacation time, and sometimes even bonuses based on production numbers set daily/weekly. They even have overtime when needed – after all, they can’t just not pick up the trash, it has to be done, no matter how long it takes.
Other than East Nashville, where people have clearly lost their mind and even want to do group gifting in order to give bigger and better tips to a garbage collector they’ve probably never even met, unless you count a wave from high up in the cab of the truck. In fact, according to Daily Finance, only 11% of us actually tip the garbage collector nationwide – and it’s definitely based on area/region, or even neighborhood. Consumer Reports cites Sanitation Workers as the least tipped job by most holiday tippers.
Making the situation even more weird, is that apparently there is an unspoken tradtiion for those in the know – that instead of mailing cash or taping a gift card to the trashcan – to leave a case of beer or a bottle of liquor at your trashcan pickup area as your holiday tip for the driver(s). Let’s look at numbers for a moment.. The average contractor garbage collector (as Metro Public Works uses) averages $19.10 per hour, in addition to benefits and paid vacation days. These are not $2.13 per hour server jobs. Add to that, with ‘curbside pickup’ each truck/driver will collect from HUNDREDS of houses PER DAY, for 5 full days before the cycle repeats. This means that each garbage collector could, on average, have over 1500 individual residences to place his ‘request for a tip’ on every year. Even if only half of them (though it seems to be much more common here in East Nashville) tipped $20 that would be $15,000. If the national average of 11% held true here, that would still be $3,300 in pocket in addition to the regular pay/benefits package. Are YOU an East Nashville (or other area) garbage collector or recycler – we would love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org
From MyMoneyBlog, here is the average tip for Garbage Collectors:
We’re not the only ones wondering about this strange phenomenon, from the East Nashville group:
So why in the world does anything think that tipping is proper for a Garbage collector? We may never know – but we do know that the debate is for real. In case you’re not in the East Nashville Facebook group, we’ve included some of the more interesting conversations about this weird tipping behavior:
So, East Nashville, you’ve read both sides of the argument, so it’s time to answer – do YOU tip our Garbage Collector? Sound off in the comments! or email your experiences below.
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