The first time you cram your car with cardboard boxes and spend the day lugging everything you own up five flights of stairs, it’s sort of fun. But after you’ve moved yourself a few times, you start to think about how nice it might be to have someone else do it for you. If you’re getting ready for a move and you’re planning on using a moving company, it’s probably a wise decision; letting professionals do the heavy lifting can help make the entire process go more smoothly and give you more time to concentrate on all the other little moving details. Like, for example, worrying about the do’s and don’ts of tipping your movers.
From creating a move budget and getting boxes to packing for the move, at the Extra Mile, we know how overwhelming moving can be . The aim of this article is to take away the stress of one particular moving conundrum: figuring out how to tip, how much to tip, and who to tip on the day of your move. In general, current etiquette mostly agrees that a tip should be somewhere around $10 to $50 per mover (calculated by the hour or as a flat fee), or between 5% and 20%, divided among your movers. If this seems like a large range, it is; that’s because so many factors go into figuring out how much to tip. The advice below will provide a more detailed look at all those factors, and help you calculate a tip based on your personal circumstances.
Are you required to tip movers?
Tipping is never required, but because it is widely understood that people in service professions deserve and even depend on tips, you’d almost never intentionally not tip the person who cuts your hair, parks your car, or serves your dinner. Some put movers in a different category, and say they don’t expect tips in the way that, for example, a bellhop does. Others argue that because movers are responsible for the survival of all your material possessions, their work is especially deserving of a reward for a job well done. Most agree that if movers are competent, you should give a tip just as you would for anyone providing an important service.
Depending on your move, that could mean tipping a lot of people. The size of the crew for your move will vary based on how much stuff you have and what the job entails. For a small apartment or house, you may have two or three movers; for a larger home, four or more may be required. Moving companies may use separate crews for packing, loading, and unloading, especially in long-distance moves. You’ll probably interact primarily with the foreman, who manages the rest of the workers. Moving can be quite expensive, but if you’re factoring that into your tip calculations, keep in mind that individual movers are not necessarily making tons of money.
In some situations, you may decide a tip is not warranted. Examples of these might be if your movers are rude or disrespectful; if they arrive late due to laziness or incompetence rather than traffic or other understandable reasons; or if they are careless with your belongings.
Standard tip for movers.
If at all possible, tip individual workers rather than assuming the foreman will evenly divide your cash between the crew. One person may not disperse the tips as you’d assume they would. Tipping each individual also lets you give one a little extra if you feel that person went above and beyond in terms of service, e.g., taking particular care to safeguard a fragile item or doing tasks, like breaking down boxes, that their contract did not require of them. (But don’t play favorites unless you’re okay with the possibility of your movers talking about it later!)
Tip once the move is complete, just before the movers leave. There are two reasons for this: one, you won’t know how well the job has been done until it’s actually done; and two, while it’s highly unlikely that even the rudest of movers would threaten you or damage your things out of revenge over a small or nonexistent tip, it’s always prudent to avoid angering anyone or getting into a confrontation if possible.
For a long-distance move, there may be one crew assigned to pack and load your things, and another that actually drives your belongings to your new home. Ask beforehand how your movers will be dividing these tasks, so you’ll know whether you need to tip the first crew after they pack the truck or whether the tip can wait until the shipment is delivered.
If a mover breaks something or damages your property, you may choose to not tip, especially if the damage was due to unsafe or careless behavior. However, if the incident is due to bad luck rather than negligence, and if the movers act quickly to fix the damage or work with you to manage the situation, you might decide to tip anyway. If the broken item was valuable, you can also deal with the problem through your insurance company. If the damage is minor or simply cosmetic, like smudges on a white wall, you might decide it’s easier to simply fix it yourself later.
As mentioned above, the standard tip can range anywhere from 5% and 20% of the total or $10 to $50 per mover. But within that range, the amount you tip should be partly based on performance. If your movers were professional, polite, worked hard and treated your belongings and property respectfully, that’s worth a lot more than if they dawdled, had a bad attitude, or made you wonder if your stuff would survive the trip. Also take into consideration the specifics of your move. If you had many heavy or bulky items, if your move involved multiple flights of stairs or other tricky maneuvering, or if your movers had to work especially hard for another reason, you’ll probably want to tip more than you would for a simple, straightforward, relatively stress-free job.
As for how to tip, larger moving companies may let you add the tip to your credit card payment if you prefer. Smaller businesses might not have that option; in that case, go with cash or a check. You can also inquire beforehand with your moving company about the best way to handle tips.
Customary tip for movers.
While there’s no one customary amount to tip, it’s safe to say that within the usual range – let’s use the simplest method and say that’s a flat fee of $10 to $50 per mover – your decision should take into account all the specifics of your move. Think about:
- The amount of time and effort the move requires (movers who spend all day packing your things should get more than those who only load and unload a truck).
- The norms in the region where you live (movers in metro areas tend to get higher tips).
- Your satisfaction with the movers’ performance (were they polite? Efficient? Careful with your things?)
- The level of physical difficulty involved (climbing lots of stairs and lifting particularly heavy or oddly-shaped objects make the job tougher.)
These factors apply both in local and long distance moves. Though longer moves will usually be more complex, that’s not always the case, and local moves may also be full of difficulties; a crew who packs up a six-bedroom house, moves its contents across town, and unloads them in a new home with four flights of stairs are working harder than a crew who loads a small apartments’ worth of boxes into a truck to be driven two states over.
Local or long distance, the choice of whether to tip based on a flat fee or a percentage is up to you; both are valid options in the complicated world of tipping etiquette, and both involve a range that lets you take into account the different factors deserving of a higher or lower tip. And although a flat fee involves less math, the two may come out nearly equal in the end, with exceptions for very costly, complex, long-distance moves.
If you tip by percentage, calculate based on the total, final bill, and remember to divide the amount between all the workers, even if more than one crew handled different stages of your move.
How to treat your workers.
When interacting with your movers, be on time just as you expect them to be. Of course, unexpected delays can happen, but don’t intentionally keep your movers waiting.
Remember that movers are professionals doing a job, and be polite and respectful of their time. If the situation calls for it, you might want to learn their names and chat with them. But if they just want to get stuff done, give them space and let them get to work.
On moving day, have water and/or other drinks like juice or soda to offer your movers, and let them know they’re welcome to use your bathroom. They’ll probably have a plan for lunch breaks, but if they’re unfamiliar with your area, offer to tell them about good nearby spots. If you’re buying lunch or snacks for yourself, it’s always nice to offer to pick some up for them as well. All of this especially applies if the movers are packing your things, or if the move takes all day. Providing fans if it’s hot out and heaters if it’s cold is also a considerate touch, but your movers will probably come prepared for the conditions. Don’t offer beer; movers are not typically allowed to drink during their workday or carry alcohol in their trucks.
Make sure to communicate clearly with your movers, and don’t hesitate to confirm addresses and arrival times to ensure everyone’s on the same page. If you want certain items to be unloaded first, or placed in certain rooms, and especially if your move involves multiple locations (e.g., your new house and your storage unit) go over all of that beforehand, and double check that everyone agrees on the details. (This extends to the labeling of boxes; make sure movers know what contains fragile items, and if you want boxes unloaded in their proper rooms, clearly mark each box with its location.)
If your movers are doing a great job, thank them verbally. Sure, you’re probably going to tip them, but a non-monetary thank-you is always nice. Plus, hearing specific feedback about what you appreciate will help them continue to work well with you for the rest of the day. (If they’re not doing a good job, you can express that too, but don’t just rant; bring up a particular concern and ask if they can make changes to fit your needs.)
Don’t micromanage movers. Yes, you should advocate for your needs, but trust that they’re the experts in packing and transporting household goods, and assume they probably know more than you about the best and safest way to do this.
Tipping with money, as opposed to goods, is always the best option. Everyone can use some extra cash.
Alternatives to tipping movers with cash.
That said, there may be situations and locations where other approaches are acceptable. Do what is right for your personal situation and region.
Aside from a cash tip, there are other ways to show appreciation for the work your movers are doing. Offering extra food and drinks, as mentioned above, shows your concern for their well-being. Some people choose to buy lunch instead of giving a tip; if you do this, make sure your movers actually want their lunch provided, and ask them what they’d like before simply showing up with randomly chosen pizzas or sandwiches.
Depending on the situation, you might even offer to gift your movers household objects you aren’t taking with you. For example, if one of your movers mentions that he loves restoring old furniture, you might let him have his pick of the old dining set you were planning to donate to charity.
Another way to show appreciation for a good crew is to provide feedback to their employer, using specific names if possible. Movers may be rewarded based on recognition like this. You can also refer your friends and family to your movers, or write a positive review for the company online, something many small businesses in particular really value.
What if you don’t leave a tip for movers?
Let’s say the move is over and you weren’t able to tip your movers, either because you couldn’t swing it financially, you forgot to go to the ATM, or the movers left amid the hubbub of the day before you got a chance to hand over the cash. If you still feel guilty and want to tip, you can probably remedy the situation. Call the moving company, explain that you forgot to tip but would like to do so now, and ask how you can forward the money to the crew who worked on your move.
As you’ve probably realized, there is (unfortunately) no official rule for how much to tip movers. You’ll have to decide based on everything from the quality of service to the particulars of your move to the norms in the city where you live. All you can do is research tipping etiquette ahead of time, treat your movers with respect, and try not to get too stressed out about the exact amount of the tip. After all, it is only one small part of a complex and hopefully positive life change.
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