Tipping for Small Favors (when?, how much?)
March 31, 2021 7:20 AM   Subscribe

Looking back on my life, I realize I've failed as a tipper and want to make amends. I'm particularly not sure about times you ask for what amounts to a favor from someone you're getting a service from. Would appreciate feedback on whether you'd tip and how much for following situations:

- Ask deli person to divide your pound of turkey slices into 4 separate quarter pound bags?
- Ask guy in UPS Store to come out and help lift the 10 boxes from your car
(FWIW, I did this recently. It took the guy about 5 minutes and I gave him $5)
- Ask delivery person to bring heavy package into your house rather than leave it on porch? Part II--delivery person is super nice and offers to take the heavy item out of the box for you?
posted by Jon44 to Human Relations (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
-only if there were a tip jar
-$5 but it kinda depends on how heavy!
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:38 AM on March 31 [3 favorites]

Deli person - no if it's a big chain grocery store, maybe if it's a small deli but if I had ordered it like that - "4 bags of turkey, 1/4lb in each bag" - I probably wouldn't think to tip because what's the difference than if I had asked for a 1/4lb each of 4 separate meats?

UPS Store - yeah, I think a $5 for that would be good.
Delivery person - a $5 if it didn't take long, maybe $10 if they did. plus a bottled drink from the fridge if you had one.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:40 AM on March 31 [3 favorites]

Weirdly it's never occurred to me to tip at the deli. Hm.
Five minutes is a long time. I might tip $10 in that instance.
Coming inside your house? $20, minimum. Also, don't ask for this, dang. If they offer, fine, and then shower them with cash. I mean, what if delivery person is scared? I've noted no scared delivery person so far: they all seem to be cheerful fatalists. There must be some, though, who are terrified but feel like they have to do whatever they're asked to do to stay employed. Make it rain on all delivery people, is my attitude. Also, if somebody volunteers to take your grocery cart to your car, say yes, press generous bills on them as you leave the store and run off, allowing them go take a tiny fresh-air mini-break in the parking lot.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:40 AM on March 31 [9 favorites]

I, too, have struggled with "when to tip" in the past and I think I've improved but I'll watch this thread and learn as well.

1) I would not tip for this, as I feel this is akin to "cut it thick/thin."
2) I'd have tipped $10 for this because my personal rule (not informed by anything) is $1 per thing that you carry for me, with a $5 minimum.
3) $5 to bring it in, $10 for also unboxing it.
posted by kimberussell at 7:42 AM on March 31 [5 favorites]

1) I agree with the consensus, I would not tip for that and agree it's like noting your preference for how thick to cut the slices. I don't think I've ever even seen a tip jar at a grocery deli counter. But maybe you go to a fancier grocery store? Do you notice other patrons tipping the deli worker?

2) If the UPS store isn't that busy, I think $5 is totally fair. If it's a couple of days before Christmas and it's a madhouse, then $10 would be nicer.

3) Agreed with those above saying $5, unless you live on the 10th floor of a walk-up or it's 100lbs, etc.
posted by coffeecat at 8:08 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]

(One complication here is that many employees aren't allowed to take tips, and can sometimes even end up Under Suspicion just for being visibly offered one. This matters the most in shitty retail situations, where people are often under a lot of surveillance in the name of "loss prevention" and can get kinda cracked down on if they strike anyone as doing anything hinky. If it's a real edge case situation where I'm not sure what the norm is, I sometimes just say thank you and ask if I'm allowed to tip. People mostly take the offer as a compliment even if they have to say no.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:12 AM on March 31 [16 favorites]

(But so for instance, I definitely wouldn't just up and leave a cash tip at a chain grocery deli counter, even for special favors, because it puts someone in the position of either chasing me down to return it or getting in trouble for failing to do so.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:23 AM on March 31 [2 favorites]

I am NY. Westchester. I think your location and cost of living is relevant.

1. Deli guy - Absurd ask. I would ask for 4, 1/4 lb portions of turkey. A good deli counter man can tell a 1/4lb while catching the meat off the slicer. Easy to put into 4 bags. I think it also depends on how busy they are. I would either hit the tip jar for a buck or two or tell him to keep the change if the change if the change was over a buck. If not, I would take the change and add a buck and put it in the tip jar. No tip jar, not tip in this case. At a grocery store deli counter, no tip, but again I would not ask for this. I would divide it up when I got home.

2. $10. How big were these 10 boxes? How much will it cost to ship? To me, $5 is low, very low.

3. How far into the house? Just inside the door or all the way to some room? Again, $10.

4. Restaurants. 25% or more

5. Food delivery guy for a local place with no surcharge, at least $5, depending on the size of the order $10 or more. Generally about 10%?
posted by AugustWest at 8:30 AM on March 31

Hi, I lived off of tips for twenty years so I have some thoughts.

1. Tipping for counter service is complicated but I agree with everyone that unless there is a visible tip jar, no one expects you to tip. It is polite and thoughtful to offer, but important to be aware that (as nebulawindphone said) you may be making someone/their boss uncomfortable just by offering. I don't offer when the counter service is being provided by a "big" business. I do offer when the establishment is small or obviously family-run.

2. and 3. $10 to $20, according to what you can afford. I tip as well as I can for things like lifting multiple heavy boxes. That shit's hard work.

When it comes to tipping service workers who rely on their tips as the bulk of their income (thanks, capitalism!), I tip generously. Often 50% of the bill.

Tips are the absolute worst, but they are also literally the only way for people in certain industries to be able to pay their bills. I find it really interesting how much cash certain people are eager to throw at bartenders but then the same folks are stingy with everyone else.

I am so thankful for every tip I received and I'm thankful you're asking this question.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 8:45 AM on March 31 [11 favorites]

I’m an excellent tipper in situations in which tipping is part of the deal, but am super-reticent to tip when it might be offensive. Context matters: in countries with good labour practices like in the wealthier European countries and to a lesser degree Canada, tipping is less widely practiced, and can be seen as an unwelcome commercialization of ordinary human interactions and also sometimes as a sort of crass display of power and status.

In the U.S. and other countries where people’s pay may be too low to live on, using your examples, I would tip $2-3 if there was a visible tip jar, $10, and $10-20 depending how far it was from the porch into the house. (Like, are there stairs, does the package need to get past a foyer.)

In countries where it’s safe to assume people are making a living wage, I would tip $2 if there was a visible tip jar, nothing, and nothing.

I tip 20%+ on all food-related stuff: takeout, delivery, in-restaurant meals, grocery delivery. Except in a very few countries, like Australia, where doing that would be perceived as super weird.

Hope this helps :)
posted by Susan PG at 10:19 AM on March 31 [4 favorites]

I paid my way through college working in a grocery store, back when that was still possible, and agree that tipping the deli guy is weird (and I've also never seen tip jars at grocery stores - the workers who carry groceries to your car get tipped but no one else). But you know what's not weird? Writing a letter to the manager of the store, saying how helpful the deli guy is. Maybe he'll get a raise/promotion, or at least a nice compliment from his supervisor. In fact, writing letters to compliment people is always the right answer when you can't tip or forget to tip.
posted by jabes at 11:25 AM on March 31 [6 favorites]

I'm a little surprised Covid hasn't come up in the answers here - currently I'm tipping where I probably wouldn't, if there's a contactless payment option, just because working retail at all strikes me as going above and beyond right now.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 3:44 PM on April 6 [2 favorites]

- Ask deli person to divide your pound of turkey slices into 4 separate quarter pound bags?
Nothing at a standard grocery. Maybe a few bucks at a specialty butcher, because I know those places struggle to stay in business and I want to support them.
- Ask guy in UPS Store to come out and help lift the 10 boxes from your car
(FWIW, I did this recently. It took the guy about 5 minutes and I gave him $5)
Would never have asked this, honestly. $5 seems reasonable.
- Ask delivery person to bring heavy package into your house rather than leave it on porch? Part II--delivery person is super nice and offers to take the heavy item out of the box for you?
Would never ask this. $5-10, I guess?
posted by amaire at 11:27 AM on April 11

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