For many people, it is a holiday tradition to give a gift to those who make our lives a little easier - like trash collectors, delivery drivers, and mail carriers but for some, there are strict guidelines regarding what they are allowed to accept as a gift.

Tis the Season

I have a friend who sets out a lovely little basket on their porch this time of year to offer bottled water and snacks to those delivering holiday packages. I have another friend who tapes a Christmas card, with a gift card inside, to the top of her trash can for the man who collects her trash each week.

Tipping and Gift-Giving

While these are all wonderful gestures, there are some rules that you may not know, especially if leaving a gift for a United States Postal carrier. It turns out the government has some strict guidelines when it comes to employee tipping and gift-receiving.

WGBF-FM logo
Get our free mobile app

Ethical Code of Conduct

As is the case with most employers, there are rules and guidelines that are enforced as part of a person's employment. The USPS is no different. In fact, since they are a US government employer, they follow what is called the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch.

attachment-christmas gift tipping

What Can a Postal Carrier Accept as a Gift?

Before you go slipping a twenty into a holiday card for your mail carrier, let's take a look at what those Standards of Ethical Conduct dictate when it comes to accepting a gift. It turns out, that your mail carrier can only accept a gift valued up to $20 per occasion. They also are not allowed to accept cash or anything with a redeemable cash value like a gift card issued by a credit card company or a bank. They are also only allowed to accept up to $50 worth of gifts per customer per calendar year.

All postal employees, including carriers, must comply with the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Exec­utive Branch. Under these federal regulations, carriers are permitted to accept a gift worth $20 or less from a customer per occasion, such as Christmas. However, cash and cash equivalents, such as checks or gift cards that can be exchanged for cash, must never be accepted in any amount. Furthermore, no employee may accept more than $50 worth of gifts from any one customer in any one calendar year period.

What Can You Gift to Your Postal Carrier?

If you wish to gift something to your postal carrier, the code of conduct suggests "modest items of food and non-alcoholic refreshments, such as soft drinks, coffee and donuts, offered other than as part of a meal." It is also permissible to gift a greeting card, or a gift card for a coffee shop or restaurant, again, as long as the value is $20 or less.

[Source:; US Office of Government Ethics]

LOOK: What Christmas was like the year you were born

To see how Christmas has changed over the last century, Stacker explored how popular traditions, like food and decorations, emerged and evolved from 1920 to 2021 in the U.S. and around the world. 

Gallery Credit: Stacker

More From WGBF-FM