Field Service

Tips on Tipping: How Field Service Workers Feel About Gratuity

Everyone loves getting a few extra dollars in tips — and certainly field service workers are no different. But despite the nice little boost a tip provides — both monetarily and in recognition of great customer service — it seems like there’s virtually no standards at all when it comes to field service techs taking tips.

So we asked around to find out whether local service companies, especially ones that work directly with consumers in the field, had any policies, strategies, or … well… tips for dealing with tips in the field — do they allow them? tax them? share them? And what we found out is that the etiquette of tipping — whether giving, receiving, or overseeing — is pretty much all over the map.

Work Hard, Tip Hard

Jeremy Green, who runs Castro Locksmith in San Francisco with his father, says tips can actually present something of a conundrum for his company. For instance, Green says when he does his job quickly and efficiently, customers sometimes object that they have to pay a full rate for what appears to be so little work. Thus, great work typically equals no tip.

“[Customers often] equate the total in money and total in time spent at their door, never taking into account the time to get to them from where we came from, and think that it’s too much money for five minutes of work,” Green says. “You’d think they would be ecstatic when I get them in quickly, but as soon as the door opens and the emergency has passed, the money crops up as the most important thing to think about.”

Green says his locksmiths typically get tipped on non-emergency jobs (which, to be fair, can get pretty expensive). Their odds of seeing a few extra bucks go up on pre-scheduled jobs, like re-keying a lock.

“We love tips,” Green says. “It’s not very often that we get them, but when we do, it’s really cool.”

Will Sweat for Tips

So locksmiths may be under-appreciated for their fast work, but that doesn’t mean that a job completed quickly always has to end tip-less. Vena Doss, who works as a secretary for Puma Moving Company, says her company’s workers often leave a job with a few extra bucks. Why? Well, for one thing, their job really looks tough — and customers seem to appreciate that sort of manual labor. Picking a lock, while it may require some real difficult and precise skills, just doesn’t appear to impress in such an emotional way.

“Tips aren’t necessarily required,” Doss says, “but customers often give them to individual employees or crew leaders for the amount of work they do.”.

Doss says individual employees are allowed to pocket tips from customers without having to report them to the company or split them with the crew — although a crew leader has to cut his team in on any tips he gets. 

The ‘Odder’ Side of Tipping

Then there’s an even stranger element to the whole tipping question: What happens with non-cash tips?

Believe it or not, customers give field technicians some pretty weird gifts to say “thank you.” Just ask the repair techs at Northgate Garage Door, Inc., a company based in San Rafael, Calif. Kevin Hewitt, a manager with Northgate, said his guys have been given bottles of wine instead of cash in the past — although one tip really stuck out in his mind: An Amazonian bow-and-arrow set.

Hewitt and his employees are happy to accept tips from customers, and he lets his techs keep the money (or bow and arrow sets) for themselves. He added that most tips come from urgent fixes, like a broken spring in a garage door, so customers are grateful for the save. The average tip about $20 per fix, and they happen a couple of times a week, he says.

The Bottom Line

Tipping, while it may lack a set policy in most companies, is an accepted (and highly appreciated) gesture in the world of field services. But ultimately, the decision lands on the customer’s shoulders as to whether they feel the particular service warrants extra gratuity.

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