Tipping is not a city in China
February 4, 2010 7:02 AM   Subscribe

Do you tip the person (from AAA or similar) when they come to jump start your car?

I read through the topics covered here and didn't see anything about autos, other than detailing.

Christmas weekend, our car was double parked on a two-way street in the Bronx and when we went to start it, the battery was dead. It was pouring rain and windy, getting dark and the flashers were dying. Stressed to AAA that we were double parked, it was dark, and we were worried about getting hit. Given the weather and distance from the responding garage, the gentleman got there very quickly and jump started the car. He was on-site for less than 2-3 minutes.

Because of his speed in responding, the miserable weather and holiday weekend, I handed him a $10 which he gratefully accepted. Thoughts?

I look at it as yes, I'm paying for this service via AAA annual dues but I'm not paying this gentleman directly. I believe tipping should be for good/exceptional service, which I think was done here. Some think I'm crazy.
posted by TravellingCari to Society & Culture (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think it depends on the nature of the person doing the helping. I was trying to help a friend jump his car once and a cop pulled over to help us. My friend tried to offer him a tip but he declined on the basis that he wasn't supposed to accept tips from people. Which makes sense in a way because it could be construed as trying to bribe a cop in other contexts.
posted by dfriedman at 7:10 AM on February 4, 2010

I would probably have tipped him $20.

He got you out of a bad situation. You could have gotten a ticket for being double parked; you could have really inconvenienced the person you blocked in; as you note, you could have gotten hit. He got there fast, he fixed the problem, got you out of the cold and rain and on your way. So yes, a tip was very appropriate, in my opinion.
posted by Kangaroo at 7:13 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't even have a car, so don't take this as authoritative advice or anything. I think that under the specific circumstances, it was entirely appropriate, though of course entirely at your discretion, to tip given the circumstances. Normally, the guy's doing his job, and you're paying his wages indirectly through your membership fee, but given the miserable weather and etc it seems a perfectly reasonable thing to do. I think the crazy perspective is taken towards people who habitually tip, or in some cases tip at all.

My personal tipping rules are to regularly tip staff in restaurants or similar such places, and deal with most other occasions as they arise (taxis, for example — if they help me with bags or the like). YMMV, obviously.
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 7:13 AM on February 4, 2010

Tipping, if accepted by the service company, is never in bad taste. I think it shows that you really do appreciate someone for just doing his or her job.
posted by xingcat at 7:13 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sure, he's getting paid for the service through AAA, and he probably does not expect to be tipped, but there's nothing wrong with tipping someone for exceptional service. You are a generous person who wants to reward good service, plus you want to be giving during the holidays. Good for you. Tell your stingy friends to loosen up the purse strings!
posted by The Deej at 7:13 AM on February 4, 2010

Doubt you'll find many here who are among the "some" who think you're crazy. I woulda done the same, good on ya.
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:18 AM on February 4, 2010

As an aside, you can ask the AAA response person on the scene for their card, which has a number on it that you can call and give good feedback.
posted by Morrigan at 7:22 AM on February 4, 2010

I think you did the right thing. He got you out of a possibly dangerous jam, quickly, in bad weather, on a Holiday weekend. I think that counts as going the extra mile/excellent service.

When in doubt, tip. The people who think you're crazy for tipping the AAA driver are cheap-ass, and that's not something to aspire to.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:23 AM on February 4, 2010

On my birthday, my parents came and got me to take me to dinner. Mom's car blew a tire.

She had AAA, so she called, because neither she nor my father could figure out how to get the donut out. Also she's not very strong, and my father's still recovering from some abdominal surgery, and I refused to touch their car in case something went wrong (a policy I consider sound).

The guy showed up faster than the time reported, looked at the car, nodded, got out the jack, jacked the car up, got the donut out from its holder under the car, did the replacement, put it in the car, and then said, "OK, it's done."

My mother had to chase him to give him the tip, and he was surprised at getting one.

Therefore, you did well.
posted by mephron at 7:27 AM on February 4, 2010

Heck, yes.
Anybody who pulls me out of the ditch gets a tip.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:32 AM on February 4, 2010

Service industry jobs (car emergency response, restaurant wait staff, hotel maids, taxi drivers) are appropriate to tip. You probably made this guy feel like it was somewhat "worth it" to be working such a crappy shift because you were grateful for his help and the tip showed that you believed he went above and beyond.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:40 AM on February 4, 2010

I always tip those guys, even the time I just needed a jump start on a beautiful day outside my own house. I tend to give a tip when the person is doing something for me because I don't want to or can't do it myself, such as deliver my take-out food, come to my location to work on my car, or drive me around in a cab. I think the rule of thumb is, when in doubt, offer a tip. It's up to them to refuse it. In this case, the guy definitely deserved the $10, maybe more.
posted by amethysts at 7:48 AM on February 4, 2010

I tipped a AAA tow truck driver once. He came to tow my car to the mechanic's shop because it wouldn't start. This guy actually ended up getting it started for me, which made me deliriously happy. So I tipped him $10.00, I think, then went on my way to work. I stopped to get gas on the way, and the car wouldn't start again. I had to call AAA again, and they sent the same guy back to actually tow it to the garage this time. I kinda wanted my $10.00 back at that point.

I don't know if this adds anything to the discussion, but I still think that all things being equal, it's alright to tip people in these situations. I mean, if the car had continued running, I wouldn't have ever had a second thought about having tipped the guy.
posted by Shohn at 7:55 AM on February 4, 2010

The one time I called upon AAA, I didn't tip. I figured the fellow was paid by AAA to do this type of job, and he arrived and did it. I did thank him and shake his hand.
posted by Atreides at 7:58 AM on February 4, 2010

Thanks all! Good to know I'm not totally crazy. Yes, I probably would have tipped more if I'd had more cash on hand.

As an aside, you can ask the AAA response person on the scene for their card, which has a number on it that you can call and give good feedback.

Interesting, I didn't know that. Will keep in mind for the future. When AAA called me back to make sure all had gone OK, I certainly let them know about how quickly he'd responded and how promptly he fixed the program.

I don't keep a car in the city or drive often but have kept my AAA membership active for situations such as this. In this instance alone it more than paid off as I'm not sure what garages within walking distance would have been open at that hour of that weekend.
posted by TravellingCari at 8:00 AM on February 4, 2010

My uncle works as AAA service guy. He gets tipped often, and definitely appreciates it. Those shifts are brutal. You aren't crazy. If I thought he went above and beyond what I expected I might have called up the company and commended his service.
posted by amicamentis at 8:03 AM on February 4, 2010

While tipping is certainly appropriate and appreciated, I think the consensus is that it isn't really expected in these cases. Though this is in some sense a "service job," it's a semi-skilled one. You don't tip your mechanic, or your plumber, or your carpenter. They're expected to charge what they expect to get for their labor, and tips aren't built into their compensation they way they are for, say, wait staff and strippers.

So while it's a nice gesture, and you'll definitely make the guy's day, I don't think you need to feel bad for not tipping the AAA guy unless he really goes above and beyond. I'd lean more towards tipping if somebody's pulling me out of a ditch at 2AM in the rain than fixing a flat at 3PM downtown on a nice day.
posted by valkyryn at 8:17 AM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

I tried to tip a AAA guy once, and he said thanks, but it's not allowed. This was years ago, though. I never tried to tip a AAA guy again, but I've only had to call maybe two or three times in the last twelve years. If I need their services in the future, I'll definitely offer, seeing what folks are saying here.
posted by rtha at 8:19 AM on February 4, 2010

I tried to tip a AAA guy once, and he said thanks, but it's not allowed. This was years ago, though. I never tried to tip a AAA guy again, but I've only had to call maybe two or three times in the last twelve years. If I need their services in the future, I'll definitely offer, seeing what folks are saying here.

I think each respondent for AAA is from individual service stations or towing companies, so whoever responds has to follow the rules of his/her company, and not AAA itself w/r/t tipping.
posted by xingcat at 8:33 AM on February 4, 2010

Tow truck / AAA callout drivers' pay is minimal, so tips make a difference. I tip $10 when I have it, though sometimes I don't.
posted by anadem at 8:47 AM on February 4, 2010

Tow truck / AAA callout drivers' pay is minimal...

Nope. Not by a long shot. Tipping is not expected nor required.
posted by torquemaniac at 9:06 AM on February 4, 2010

I think it was OK you gave him a tip. Another vote for giving positive feedback to the AAA, as it probably comes into consideration come raise/promotion time. I do this when someone helps me out even when it is part of their job description as there are enough people who don't give a damn when they could help you out.

I was in Borders the other day looking for a new Moleskine (I know, but I like the form factor), they didn't have the one I wanted and the sales clerk behind the desk volunteered that I look upstairs in their bargain bin. Sure enough, there was a generic copy for $5 that even had the pocket in the back cover. Not only did it save me having to visit another store, but it saved me $10. She got good feedback on the Borders customer website when I got home and I got a note back saying her store manager would be notified which will hopefully benefit her.
posted by arcticseal at 9:20 AM on February 4, 2010

When I had to have a guy tow my car home 70-something miles (thank you, AAA-RV add on!), I didn't have any cash on me. I told the guy outright- "I'd live to slip you a $20, but I haven't got it. Sorry." He seemed appreciative, which gave me the impression that a tip isn't necessarily the norm, but also isn't unexpected. Definitely not the grudging "uh, yeah, no problem" you'd get from someone who was *expecting* a tip.

On the ride, the guy said that the job is rough from a long hours and bad weather perspective, but that AAA compensated them fairly well. It seemed like the best way to make money is to be a shop with a few trucks and a network of drivers to cover the shifts. If it was just a sole-proprietor, it probably wouldn't be worth it. Seems like you'd have to do something else for money, but also couldn't do anything that would prevent you from taking a AAA call.
posted by gjc at 9:38 AM on February 4, 2010

Tip everyone that helps you. I'd rather be known as an easy touch rather than a cheap fuck.
posted by digsrus at 9:42 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Pouring rain and windy, doubleparked; not only was it right to tip him, but let's hope his name was Chris or Lee, because you have to name your first born after him, and you might have a girl.
posted by theora55 at 10:05 AM on February 4, 2010

I am definitely in the pro-tipping camp.
posted by TedW at 10:54 AM on February 4, 2010

I wanted to tip the battery guy once because he did a lot of work but I had no cash (I never carry cash anymore). I felt bad about it because he deserved a tip.
posted by zzazazz at 4:31 PM on February 4, 2010

thanks all - "best" answer only because it made me snort soda out my nose on a l-o-o-n-g day, but you all told me about what I was looking for.
posted by TravellingCari at 7:14 PM on February 4, 2010

« Older Familial contents under pressure.   |   Does treating everyone like a criminal solve... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.