A crash (or refresher) course about who should receive a gratuity, and how much.
By S.B. Jackson
The origin of the word “tip” is controversial and mostly unsubstantiated, but legend has it the term is a 16th-century acronym derived from the phrase “to insure promptness.” Despite its inception, one thing is for certain: as you travel in your motorhome, the question of whom to tip will often arise.
It’s easy to remember to reward someone who provides a personal service. Hairstylists, manicurists, shoeshine attendants, or masseuses who provide you the indulgence of a well-needed massage are generally tipped 10 to 15 percent of the total bill, depending on how satisfied you are with the service.
When it comes to pampering your pet, Richie Powell, a pet store owner for almost 20 years said that customers in his shop generally tip around 10 percent, “but there are several known to tip up to 20 percent.”
Certain delivery services warrant a tip. Postal mail and freight packaging employees are generally forbidden from accepting monetary gratuity, but take-out food deliverers usually get 10 percent of the total bill. Drivers bearing flower or grocery orders commonly get $3 to $5, depending on how far they have to travel, as well as the size and the weight of the package.
Tipping RV technicians is often against the rules, but you can always double-check with the shop foreman. If a monetary reward is prohibited, it is often permissible to bring in a box of doughnuts or have a pizza delivered for lunch. Some roadside service providers are regularly tipped, such as towing ($50), a jump-start ($20), and changing a flat tire ($25), as is the service of a locksmith ($10) should you need assistance opening that entry door. You also can expect to tip for manual labor, such as washing the motorhome ($10 to $20), detailing (15 percent of the bill), and roof maintenance ($15).
Tour guides are commonly tipped. For a two- or three-hour excursion, you should plan on a $5 to $10 gratuity, and for an RV tour package, 10 to 15 percent of the total cost. “Usually the whole group pools the tips and presents a separate envelope to the wagon master and to the tail gunner at the farewell party,” said Paul Search, a former guide for tour operator Tracks to Adventure. “But if a small group requests special side trips during the tour, those participants tip whoever made the arrangements at the time in appreciation for lining out the details.”
Casinos are popular stopovers among RVers, and folks working at these establishments often receive tips. Gaming table workers typically receive a $5 chip per session (if you win, 10 percent of those winnings or $25); cocktail waitresses a $1 chip per drink; and bartenders a $1 chip per drink. “It seems in Vegas the protocol is to tip everyone,” stated Annette Nichols, a former casino employee. That includes the bathroom attendant ($1) and the valet who parks your towed vehicle ($3).
Golf comes with a variety of tip-worthy assistants, starting with the attendant at the bag drop ($5), caddies (20 percent of the caddie fee), the attendant at the cart return ($5), and the person driving the beverage cart ($1 to $3). Some of the more exclusive clubs may also staff private starters ($25) and forecaddies ($50 to $100).
Of course, restaurants are the most familiar venues for tipping. However, “A lot of people honestly don’t know what to leave,” explained Linda Long, a former food server and bartender. “If the service is good, 10 to 20 percent of the check is a reasonable amount.” (Other food servers have suggested that the minimum tip is 15 percent.) Before leaving a tip, Linda said, you should first check to be sure it hasn’t automatically been added to the bill. When you are dining on a coupon or gift certificate, calculate the tip based on the normal cost of that meal. “And if your group is holding onto the table an extra amount of time, leave the waiter an additional gratuity to compensate for the tip missed by serving a subsequent party.” Other services generally tipped at a restaurant include the coat check attendant ($1), musician ($5), and wine steward (10 percent of the wine bill). If you are dining at a self-serve restaurant, you may want to leave a gratuity for the server who refills your drinks and keeps the table cleared.
Tipping a campground attendant for providing assistance with parking has long been considered a non-practice, but paying a gratuity for this service is starting to take hold in some camping locations, particularly when the attendant includes hookups and leveling in the service. If you are unsure about tipping protocol, inquire at check-in. If monetary tipping is not permissible, but you would like to extend your appreciation, consider presenting the attendant with a homemade dessert or a nice bottle of wine. Another good way to say thank-you is by thoroughly cleaning the campsite before you go.
Generosity peaks around the holidays, and when you sit down to express your gratitude at the end of the year, remember to include the house sitter and landscape service for holding down the fort while you were away traveling the wide open roads; the mail-forwarding service that always seems to know where to find you; and the storage facility attendant who guards your RV investment when you return to home base.
Gratuity is in the eyes of the beholder. You should never feel obligated to hand over money for unsatisfactory results. But in the interest of service workers who rely on tips to help subsidize their wages, consider rewarding them for a job well done.