Should Your Field Service Employees Accept Tips? How Much?

  • September 1, 2016
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According to a survey of 10,000 home service professionals (home painters, maids, window washers, etc.), the vast majority say customers shouldn’t tip them. However, that’s not true in every case.

For instance, window washers do take small tips (an average of six dollars, 30% of the time) while electricians and plumbers more typically say “thanks, but no thanks.”

When your customers want to tip your home service field techs, what’s your company policy? Do you even have one?

On the one hand, if you find out that customers tipped one of your employees, that’s a sign they are happy with the service. But if you pay your workers a competitive wage or salary to do their job, they shouldn’t need anything extra – right? Perhaps you had some experience with this before, taking service calls earlier in your career. Was it OK then to accept tips?

Another consideration: tipping might be bad for business. After all, allowing a 5 to 20 percent gratuity could represent a huge pricing disadvantage if your customers know that local competitors have a strict policy of not allowing tips.

For many companies, tipping isn’t an issue until it’s an issue (ie. when the manager discovers it’s happening). Often, there’s no easy way to check. If you find out your are employees taking tips already, should you tell them to cut it out?

When it comes to your field service employees receiving tips, the answers to these questions seem to depend on the service. The general rule of thumb seems to be that customers won’t tip skilled trades like plumbers, electricians and HVAC technicians, while they might tip for services that don’t take a lot of technical training.

Even then, there’s a gray area for a lot of companies that fall into either category. Customers often don’t seem to know what to do (and practices will vary by city or region), so we looked at what field service companies had to say about this contentious topic.


Image source: Your Green Pal

Tipping the Moving Company: Yes.

When it comes to the hard slog of moving your stuff from one home to the next, tipping is more customary.

Oz Moving, out of New York, suggests that for customers who wish to tip, 15 to 20 percent of the price of the moving job is appropriate.

For this industry, more than some others, tips might not take the form of cash: pizza, cookies or other baked treats aren’t out of the ordinary.

Tipping Pest Control Professionals: Only for Special Calls

For pest control companies conducting regular maintenance in an apartment building, employees don’t need to be tipped. Those once-a-month or seasonal visits are just part of the overall maintenance program. It’s their job.

That said, exterminators who are called to deal with a sudden infestation may get tipped and can typically accept. It’s not unusual for customers to throw in an extra $10 to $20, or even $50, depending on the job, says the director of M&M Pest Control, Timothy Wong, quoted in CNN.

The funny thing about tips for this particular field service industry: customers are generally more inclined to provide a tip when the pest control professional doesn’t find an infestation. Good news is good for everyone, apparently.

Tipping the Painters: Some Companies Don’t Allow It. Some Do. It’s a Gray Zone.

According to J. Stevens Painting in Atlanta, some painters will prohibit their employees from accepting tips, with that rule written into employee contracts. Certainly, customers are not obligated to tip.

As with movers, gratuities can take forms other than cash, such as ice-cold beverages and meals (as with the pizza example for movers, above).

Tipping the HVAC Technician: Not a Cool Idea

HVAC maintenance and repair is a fairly technical and highly-paid profession and most people in the field won’t accept tips, even if the employer doesn’t have a specific policy.

When asked by The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration (ACHR) NEWS, GAC Services VP Rich Biava in Maryland said his company doesn’t strictly enforce a no-tipping policy. Still, he sees why some HVAC companies would do so: “Before you know it, they’re doing extra work and spending an extra half hour doing things for the customer. The guys we have see this as a career, not just a job, so I don’t think they would risk doing something they shouldn’t be for $20.”

Meanwhile, Chuck Blouse, a sales engineer and marketing representative for Williams Service Co. in Pennsylvania notes that tipping can actually be unfair to other employees in a company. In large field service companies, there may be many people involved in a successful service call, from dispatchers to accountants, salespeople and others.

Sharing tips in that kind of environment is just not as straightforward as servers in a restaurant putting all tips in a jar and sharing them with the rest of the staff at the end of the night. “The technician should not be the only employee to receive a personal reward,” Blouse told The ACHR News.

Should your field service company allow employees to accept tips? Ultimately, you’ll have to factor in wages, common practices in your specific industry and your own experience. Despite any policy, if customers absolutely insist on providing a little extra, keep in mind that the customer is always right.