Dear Angie: I hired a general contractor to retile my bathroom shower stall. There are two guys working on it. Am I supposed to tip the workers? If so, how much is customary? It's a $2,000 job. — Debbie B., San Diego.
Dear Debbie: Tipping isn't the standard in the home services trades, as it is in the restaurant and personal grooming trades. Still, it's a question many homeowners wrestle with. To help answer it, Angie's List recently polled nearly 5,000 home service professionals across the nation to find out whether they expect a tip and if so, what they tend to collect.
I'll spell out the survey findings below, but if you are considering giving the crew a tip, I would first talk to the owner of the company to determine whether tips are allowed. You don't want to put the workers in a difficult situation. If tips are not allowed, but you feel strongly about the work, you could write a letter to the owner praising their work, and/or you could write a positive online review that spells out that great experience. This written proof probably will be appreciated just as much as a tip and might have a much longer-lasting effect.
The Angie's List survey showed:
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■ Movers and house cleaners are tipped more frequently than other service providers.
■ Contractors such as plumbers, roofers and electricians are tipped the least.
■ Only 7 percent of handymen and painters say they are tipped routinely, although 28 percent say they receive tips for service that goes above and beyond.
■ Remodeling companies expect a tip 6 percent of the time, with 18 percent tipped for top-notch service. Half of remodeling firms say their gratuities come in the form of food and drink, gift cards or personalized gifts.
According to the survey, when tradespeople do get a tip, cash is the most common gratuity offered, and most often the tip is less than 20 percent of the total job cost.
Most contractors in the survey say they charge their clients what they think is a fair price for the work being done and don't expect a tip.
No consumers should ever feel obligated to tip a contractor, but I hope this offers some guidelines, should you decide to tip.