By Sam Wasson
Updated Oct 12, 2022
Most homeowners in the U.S. are well accustomed to tipping. In America, it is not uncommon to tip your servers at a restaurant, your hairdresser, a bellhop, or a bartender. But, there are several professions where tipping is less clear or more complicated altogether. Moving is one of those professions, and many first-time movers may be unaware of its complex tipping etiquette.
This article will clarify things by explaining when tipping is appropriate and how to calculate an appropriate gratuity.
Technically, no, you’re not required to tip movers. However, it’s greatly appreciated and customary to do so, especially if your movers have acted professionally. Moving is hard work and a demanding job that requires moving professionals to haul heavy objects with care and precision while doing so quickly. Movers may also encounter difficulties on the job, requiring them to think on their feet and go above and beyond their job requirements to load your cargo. We highly recommend tipping for those movers who do a good job and do so politely and efficiently.
Tipping for moving can be complicated, as more factors can affect your gratuity amount than other service positions. For example, it’s customary to tip servers between 15%-20%. Still, for movers, it depends on the kind of services they provide, their quality of service, the cargo they’re carrying, and the working conditions they face.
Before we get into all factors affecting your gratuity, let’s establish a quick baseline. There are, generally, two types of moves a homeowner can undergo, local and long-distance. It is customary to tip between 5%-10% of your moving cost for local moves, which are generally smaller and less intensive. Long-distance moves, especially cross-country moves, are more complex and require more work and coordination on the mover’s part. These larger-scale moves carry a higher gratuity of 15%-20%.
Sometimes using a percentage of your move’s final bill is not appropriate for moving tips. When moving, depending on the type of service contract you sign, you will not know the final cost of your bill on moving day, only knowing your total by the end. This delayed bill can prove to be a problem for long-distance movers, as your first loading team will finish their work before you receive your final bill in your new home. In situations like these, or if you don’t want to bother calculating percentages, you can use a standard hourly rate for calculating tips. Typically, $4 to $5 per hour per mover is standard for local movers and up to $6 to $7 for excellent service. For long-distance teams, $8 to $12 is standard.
We’ve stated a couple of ranges for tipping, with the lower end of the spectrum reflecting an average to potentially subpar level of service. The higher-end figures, however, should be considered for movers who provide excellent service. Some other factors to consider when giving a good tip are:
While it’s unfortunate, not all moving companies take their jobs seriously. Some cut corners and hire less-than-spectacular employees or possess a low-quality of work. While vetting your moving company can reduce these risks, sometimes oversights happen, and you might get stuck with an unimpressive moving crew. Here are some criteria that may result in a mover receiving a lower-than-average or non-existent tip:
Sometimes a higher tip isn’t appropriate, but you still want to show appreciation for your moving crew. Below are some basic things you can do that make your movers feel thanked without upping their tip amount.
Moving, especially during a hot day in the middle of summer, is a blistering job. A few bottles of cold water, a pitcher of iced tea with some cups, or a cold glass of lemonade can go a long way. Due to dietary restrictions, we recommend using plain water bottles or unsweetened iced tea with optional sugar and sweetener packs.
Sometimes jobs can go on for well over a full day’s work or take place at odd hours of the day, leaving your movers without a meal. One great way to show your team appreciation is by offering to buy them all lunch or an evening meal. Again, in case of allergies or dietary restrictions, we recommend talking to the crew or foreman and inquiring about what would be best for a meal. Even something as simple as a large pizza could brighten your movers’ day and leave a great impression.
Some moving teams may feel uncomfortable with their client purchasing them a meal, or their company may have policies restricting gifts or favors. In these cases, you may be better off offering them light snacks. Chips, fruit, energy bars, candy bars, or sandwiches are great options.
One of the simplest but most genuine ways to let your movers know they’re doing a good job is to be appreciative, polite, and welcoming. In any service industry, employees frequently run into unkind, disrespectful, and downright rude clients. So when a client shows genuine decency and courtesy, even for smaller, half-day moves, it goes a long way.
There are a few ways to let a company know its employees did a great job, but the most effective is by writing a glowing review that mentions it by name. The easiest way to do this is by going to your moving company’s Google My Business page and leaving a rating and review. Some companies also have survey systems that directly inform the manager on how employees did on the job. These surveys can be highly valuable for the crew, so always fill them out.
While tipping for movers may be less straightforward than other services, it’s still a standard part of the moving process and can go a long way. By following some of the tips in this article, you can appropriately show your appreciation without over or undertipping on your next moving crew.
Some moving companies will have an optional section of the bill or moving quote labeled as “gratuity” or “tip given.” These sections allow you to add the tip to your total moving cost and pay with a credit card. However, this may not be the best way to tip your crew.
Some companies have policies that divide these tips or even take out portions through a pooling system. To ensure your crew gets the most out of your tip, a good rule of thumb is to use cash tips given to each crew member at the end of the day or the end of the move. Furthermore, avoid giving cash to their boss or foremen to distribute, as they may not do so fairly or equally.
Sometimes, accidents happen, regardless of care and caution. If your moving crew has acted professionally and taken reasonable care of your possessions, and something still breaks, it may not disqualify them from a tip. On the off chance that something does break, and the moving crew tells you immediately and takes responsibility, a tip is likely still warranted. However, if this damage occurred due to carelessness, unprofessionalism, or if your mover neglected to tell you, you’re more than justified in withholding a tip.
While elements of a move, such as tips, were tax-deductible for a time, they’re no longer under most circumstances. In 2018 the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) changed the laws, making moves no longer tax-deductible, with the sole exception of military moves. This law is currently set to stay in place until 2025.
Not all countries have the same expectations regarding tips. Countries like China, France, Spain, Sweden, Japan, and Australia do not have strong tipping cultures, so tips will likely be refused or seen as odd. However, tipping in Canada, Columbia, and Saudi Arabia is comparable to the U.S., with similar rates. Countries like Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, The Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, and the U.K., also accept tips but at lower rates, usually around 5%-15%.
Sometimes you hire a specific crew to handle certain tasks, such as packers, hoisting specialists, or unpacking services. In these situations, paying them $4 to $5 an hour is a standard tip or $6 to $7 per hour for excellent service.
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