Tripped up by tipping.
January 25, 2008 8:08 AM   Subscribe

We're coming near the end of a major kitchen remodel and we'd like to show our appreciation to the foreman/carpenter by "tipping" him at the end of the job. How much?

It's a HUGE remodel. Walls were taken down, floors were replaced, plumbing stacks were moved; nearly the entire first floor of our house has been revamped. We're using a "full service" company, meaning they handle all the sub-contracting (electrician, plumber, drywallers, painters) for us. It's a family owned company and they use the same subs for every job they do. We've had a foreman for the whole job and he is also our carpenter (but is not one of the owners). He has overseen all the work from the start and has had his hands in everything, including the demolition. He installed our cabinets to near perfection and even repaired some drywall work he wasn't satisfied with (he's admitted to us to being a perfectionist and it shows in his work). Everything has been done on schedule (we're actually a week ahead at this point) and there hasn't been one day of non-work without explanation. Needless to say, we're incredibly pleased with his work, his professionalism, and the job in general.

We were at the company's showroom the other day and noticed a bulletin board where several thank you letters were posted. Some of them mentioned a "token of appreciation" to go to certain members of staff and it got us thinking that we'd like to "tip" our foreman but we have absolutely no idea what would be appropriate.

Everything I've seen on tipping is fairly general and covers more than a one-time service: servers in restaurants, hair stylists, doormen, etc. The question isn't whether or not it's appropriate to "tip" him, the question is how much or what (if not money)?
posted by cooker girl to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The foreman, unlike a waiter, probably isn't used to being tipped. So anything you choose to tip is going to be a welcome surprise. Even a nicely-written card and a bottle of his favourite scotch will be enough to show how you feel about the work.

If you want to tip with money, guesstimate what you think he earns in a couple of days (or maybe check employment ads to see how much that might be). Tip him quietly, and obviously not in sight of any of the other workers.

Probably the best reward for anyone in skilled trade is a recommendation. Anyone you know need some work? Tell them, and make sure they ask for him personally when they contact the company. Oh, and tell us too. Good tradespeople are like gold dust.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:20 AM on January 25, 2008

He’s already getting paid, and you’re already paying plenty for your kitchen so money probably isn’t appropriate. Get to know him, find out what his hobbies are. Does he play guitar? Get him a gift card to a music shop.

You could invite him and his family over for a dinner in your nice new kitchen. Only do this if you’re sure he’d be comfortable with it, you don’t want to put him in the awkward position of hanging out with “the customer” if you don’t think he’d enjoy it.

Most of the really good contractors are good because they take a huge pride in their work. Probably a nice photo of your new kitchen and a letter of thanks to him (not the owners of the company) would be all you need to do. Also let him know that he can use you as a reference if he ever goes into business for himself.
posted by bondcliff at 8:22 AM on January 25, 2008

He's already getting paid. A good professional reference goes a long way in that line of work, as does requesting his contact info to pass him along to other potential clients. Write something up on highly and strongly commending this specific foreman and the company overall. Also, personally contact the owner of the company in person and in writing, and let him know just how fantastic the foreman is. You can let the foreman know you did this.

If you feel like you want to go above and beyond that, buy him and his crew a nice lunch on their last day. The productivity and results you are so pleased with are due to his professionalism, but also due to how he leads his crew and gets them to perform. Reward them all.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:26 AM on January 25, 2008

A letter of recommendation and the offer of being a reference is more meaningful and polite than anything: A tip of a few days' wages is nothing compared to getting new clients in the future.

...and a bottle of nice scotch.
posted by lothar at 8:26 AM on January 25, 2008

Uhh, yeah, how about sharing this tradesman's contact info with the green?
posted by notyou at 8:38 AM on January 25, 2008

Nthing a bottle of booze.

I used to work on construction sites quite a bit after the main trades went through. A nice bottle was always the favorite thank you gift of the various trades we dealt with.

I never got anything (pity me) when we finished our work, but anything you do to recognize workers as more than robots is greatly appreciated.
posted by Argyle at 8:41 AM on January 25, 2008

Ask for some business cards so you can pass them among your friends.
A thank you card is a nice touch.
A tip? Like others have pointed out, he's getting paid. He's not like a waiter where his pay is based on his getting tips. The contractor is getting well-paid. No tipping.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:45 AM on January 25, 2008

cooker girl, what town are you in? Seriously, if this guy is near me, I'd like to know about him. I'm in NC, USA
posted by amtho at 8:51 AM on January 25, 2008

Nthing a nice gift rather than cash. A gift certificate to a nice restaurant, a great lunch for him and his crew on the last day, a bottle of something special... anything to convey that you realize he went the extra mile for you.
posted by jon1270 at 9:01 AM on January 25, 2008

My husband does this type of work, and he would be a little flummoxed by a tip. He's a perfectionist as well, and absolutely the best "tip" for him would be a geniune thank you and recognition in the form of a thank you letter to him, copied to his supervisor or the owner of the company.

Nthing everyone here that a bottle of liquor would be OK, too. Even a gift card would be OK, but a cash tip is odd and might make him uncomfortable (I checked with the husband and he confirmed he would think it was bizarre if someone tried to tip him - although he has been rewarded by his company in cases where he has gone above and beyond in service to customers).
posted by peep at 9:01 AM on January 25, 2008

Nthing the recommending him to others. I would love to know about such a person in my area.
posted by procrastination at 9:16 AM on January 25, 2008

It's great that the foreman and the rest of the crew did such a great job, but nothing you've listed in your initial description goes beyond the job description of a typical general contracting company or foreman/superintendant. Most contractors use the same subs from job to job, and the foreman usually has his hands in everything on the jobsite.

That said, the attention to detail that they've shown, along with coming in on schedule, do deserve some praise. Maybe hold a cocktail party and invite everyone on the construction crew or something? I'm sure the foreman would be the first to tell you that he couldn't have brought it in on schedule without his team.
posted by LionIndex at 9:25 AM on January 25, 2008

Nthing a nice thank you letter (written on paper and sent via snail mail - most service business like to post these types of letters in their lobby or front desk area), along with the promise to recommend his company to friends and relatives. And then do recommend him. A few years ago, my parents hired a contractor to replace their kitchen floor. His company did an excellent job at a good price, so they also had him install vinyl siding on the garage (which was in dire need of a paint job). Mom raved about the company to the next door neighbor, so the neighbor ended up hiring them for some work, too. Mom is a great letter-writer, and wrote a praise-filled letter to the company. Now they're the ones sending her small gifts and cards for holidays!
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:08 AM on January 25, 2008

Not to rubbish the suggestion, but foremen and work crews don't really smack of cocktail party to me. I think if you have a grip on specific guys who have done the work then a bottle each would be good. I'm a little anti a gift just for the foreman, and certainly do not go with the cash at all.
posted by Frasermoo at 10:12 AM on January 25, 2008

I agree that a letter of reference copied to the higher ups in the company isthe way to go. As well as asking for business cards to hand out. I have done this with a flooring refinisher and a home inspector and it was much appreciated.
posted by wmeredith at 10:47 AM on January 25, 2008

Thanks to everyone, especially peep. I should add that I was planning on making up a mess of food once this whole thing is over (I'm a cook) and taking it to the showroom for everyone to enjoy (all the guys go to the showroom every day before going to the job site) as a general thank you. I certainly was going to write letters and we're Angie's List members, so I'll be sure to remember to let them know how happy we are with the job (and it's not even done yet!). We planned this remodel for just over a year and everyone in the company has been fantastic, from the designer (who worked and worked and worked with us until the layout was as good as it could get) to one of the owners (who came out to our house several times to look at duct work and pipes and walls to make sure we could pull off what we wanted), and to Joe (who really has gone above and beyond our expectations -- they were low, granted, due to neighbors' and friends' experiences with contractors).

As for letting you all know what the company name is: sorry! I should have put that in the initial post, I suppose! We're in Cincinnati and the company is Auer Kitchens. Our foreman's name is Joe.

Thanks again!
posted by cooker girl at 11:04 AM on January 25, 2008

As a former (well it never really goes away) carpenter with friends in the business, trust me that money for the foreman is NOT a faux pas. The foreman is sorta like the director of a movie, and is probably overseeing more than one project. It is not uncommon to give a substantial 'gift' upon completion. Gifts in the past have included a very nice Scotch, a 3 day hunting trip, a week at a beach condo in season and in one friends case, a collage fund began for his daughter by one grateful couple, and lots of gifts of cash usually in check form. This just based on my experience and personal observations, of course.
on preview: the food for the crew is an excellent idea
posted by dawson at 11:07 AM on January 25, 2008

Incidentally cooker girl, I should point out re my comment above, this involves building actual houses from the ground up, houses that are worth between 1 and 3 million at completion. (Houses such as I will never live in :)
So having yr kitchen redone would be, obviously, something on a lesser scale. (For example, not everyone owns a beach house to provide.) But yeah, the food and a keg of beer for the guys and a little something more for the foreman would be, while not required, appreciated. And remembered if you, say, need something repaired down the road.
posted by dawson at 12:10 PM on January 25, 2008

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