How much should I tip movers?
October 13, 2004 12:31 AM   Subscribe

How much should I tip movers?

My boyfriend and I are moving from two small (350 sq. ft) apartments in LA to one larger apartment in Atlanta. My moving company says that, although the driver will be the same for the whole move, different crews will be doing the loading/unloading of our stuff at each end. Obviously, we don't have too much stuff, so I figure it won't take very long to load the truck. Do I tip a percentage of the total cost of the move (yikes!), a set amount to each guy, or should I use some crazy formula depending on how long each guy works?
posted by faustessa to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ten bucks, maybe twenty if they do a really good job.

posted by pwb503 at 12:42 AM on October 13, 2004

Nothing. You'll never meet them again.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 1:59 AM on October 13, 2004

P_G, I wouldn't necessarily assume that, especially if they do a good job. We've used the same company 3 times in the past 4 years as we moved around the NY metro area, and we got the same core crew of guys each time. They _definitely_ remembered the first tip they got for doing a solid job, and were unbelievably helpful on the following moves. (Including coming back for free a day later to finish the last one--the initial estimate guy totally guessed wrong, and the crew came back on their own time, after their shift the next day, to pick up the last batch of stuff and drive it over to the new place.)

More importantly, anyone who's been the victim of a sloppy move can vouch for this--guys who put a lot of sweat and care into humping your stuff around deserve your consideration. Stiffing someone who just did a good job with your life's possessions is just not cool.

You don't have to tip each guy individually...generally, just handing a group tip to the crew leader is fine. He can dole things out appropriately if people didn't contribute equally. As for the amount, if you're strapped, you don't have to drive yourself to ruin, but you should really at least make sure each guy can get a couple of beers on you when they're done.

If money really is a concern, there is another, cheaper route--you can just make sure the guys are well taken care of during and after the move. Make sure they've got a lot of bottled water, juices, whatever, while they're working, and feed them. (A lot of times, if they're working over lunch, they'll want to take off to get lunch and get out for a bit, so buying a pizza isn't necessarily a great idea. On the other hand, you might just approach the crew chief and say you'd like to chip in for lunch before they head out.) A little politeness goes a long way, and you could probably do just as well on the karma front with less money by making their lives easier.

Definitely don't stiff 'em, though. Sheesh.
posted by LairBob at 4:49 AM on October 13, 2004

Even if you think you'll never see them again, tip them. Word will get around, possibly even to the unloading crew, and it even might be the same guys, hard to tell. Tip the driver too (is he not going to help unload?) .

In all of my moving experiences, even ones moving from one large apartment to another, there's never been more than 2 movers, one of them the driver. My last move was one guy.

Definitely have cold water on hand, make it clear where it is. Moving is hot, hard work. Don't be afraid to help a little. I never bust my hump but I make sure I open doors, hold elevators, carry stuff, do whatever I can to make things go quicker and smoother. If they get paid by the hour you're saving yourself money doing this. If they don't it's just nice.

Tipping should be related to price but probably not a flat percentage. I'd say maybe $5-$10/hour per person moving. It's hard for me to make a personal recommendation here, I tip a lot more than that but I'm a very difficult person to move. And getting more difficult. I have a lot of bulky, heavy stuff that would cause me to cry if it broke. Mostly it's photography equipment, music equipment and woodworking equipment. I've taken to moving as much of it as I can in advance. My WW equipment keeps getting heavier and more expensive to move.
posted by RustyBrooks at 5:59 AM on October 13, 2004

PG, don't be so niggardly! Have a heart! :o)
posted by shepd at 6:23 AM on October 13, 2004

Some good answers here as well.
posted by FreezBoy at 6:23 AM on October 13, 2004

I worked for a moving company one summer during college. Pretty much what LairBob said, except DO tip them individually. A lot of drivers or crew chiefs will pocket everything if they think no one saw the tip money being exchanged (or will dole out the money unevenly). Sad but true.

You won't tip them until the end of the day, so it doesn't really provide much incentive for them to do a good job. That's why you should provide plenty of water/gatorade/etc. and buy them lunch. The little things go a long way. Since the driver will be the same for your move, he/she will probably pass on the info about whether you're nice or the customer from hell. It's especially important if they will be moving boxes which you packed up yourself. In that situation, the moving company isn't liable for damages to anything in the boxes. It's really easy for those boxes to fall off the truck, then get thrown back on, then fall off again. You get the point.

Going back about 12 years: the movers made $10/hr cash. Tips were usually $10 or $20 for an 8-12 hour day plus lunch and beverages.
posted by titanshiny at 6:51 AM on October 13, 2004

Tip as much as you feel you can afford. I tipped a couple hundred bucks on my last move, and they deserved every penny.

Jesus, you people who think stiffing hard workers is OK amaze me. May you all be reincarnated as slaves.
posted by languagehat at 9:45 AM on October 13, 2004

For my recent move, I had two one-liter bottles of Gatorade in the fridge for them when they finished loading, and another couple in the fridge at the new place for when they finished unloading. Plus donuts!

It took them just over an hour to load and about an hour and a half to unload. (The new place was on the third floor.) I tipped them $30 each. I was prepared to tip them as little as $20 if they were surly or unhelpful, but after seeing some of the amazing athletic feats they pulled off (i.e. one guy wrapped a strap around a 27" TV and literally ran up two flights of stairs with it on his back) I kinda wish I'd had more. It was very entertaining. It would have been less entertaining had they broken anything, but they didn't. They were obviously quite experienced.

Advice: Try to get the first moving slot of the day, especially if you're paying by the hour. The guys are fresher. In the afternoon they're going to be tired and slower.
posted by kindall at 2:11 PM on October 13, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks everybody for all the help.

I feel justified now in my previous instinct to tip very generously. When I asked my dad this same question, he told me $5 or $10, and I thought that sounded absurdly small.

I'll be headed to the bank forthwith to pick up some crisp, shiny Grants and Jacksons. Also, donuts and water.
posted by faustessa at 3:32 PM on October 13, 2004

I think we gave our three guys with a truck, who were awesome, forty bucks.
posted by britain at 5:29 PM on October 13, 2004

The only time I had movers was the last time (worth every penny), and for six hours of work at around $400 total, I gave them everything in my pockets after getting them lunch that day, which was about $50. I always wondered if it was low, but it sounds like it was on the mark.
posted by mathowie at 11:32 PM on October 13, 2004

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