At the end of a long day of packing your possessions, labeling boxes, and fretting about moving everything from Point A to Point B, you might suddenly realize you have no idea how much to tip movers -- you know, those guys who hauled your couch up three flights of stairs, along with all the other stuff you've accumulated in your lifetime. How much gratuity is customary for such service?
Generally, 15% to 20% is a customary tip in metropolitan areas, and 10% is on par for smaller areas, according to T.J. Peterson, digital marketing manager of Oz Moving & Storage, based in New York City. This jibes with a recent survey that found that 39% of respondents tip movers 10% of the total moving cost, while 22% of respondents tipped 20%. If movers do a superior job -- say, lugging heavy furniture up five flights without a scratch -- some people tip $10 per hour, per person.
Do you have to tip movers?
Yet tipping movers, like tipping any service worker, is a matter of discretion. In other words, if your movers took extra care when lifting boxes onto the truck or carefully wrapping your grandmother's mantel clock, then show your appreciation with a nice gratuity. If the movers treated your possessions like junk, there's no obligation to tip them at all.
"If you're unhappy with your experience, you're not obligated to tip," says Peterson.
Plus, tipping movers may be a disappearing custom. Just like some restaurants now forbid tipping and pay their employees more, some national moving companies are instituting a no-tipping policy, too. Smaller companies may follow suit; however, they work on tighter margins and would likely pass those higher wages onto customers. Either way, you'll pay more.
When in doubt, ask. When you book a moving company, inquire about its tipping policy so you know what to expect and have the cash (or check) on hand.
How to tip movers
If you're using a national moving company, chances are good that tips are a line item on your bill, which you can pay by credit card. That's the best way to prove to the IRS that tips were part of the total moving costs, if you're deducting the cost of the move on your tax return.
Another tip if you're deducting your moving costs: Tip movers by writing a check -- which might seem weird, but it will document your generosity. "A large cash gratuity with no documentation would be disallowed under audit," says Jonathan Francis, a certified public accountant in Briarcliff Manor, NY.
If you're fine tipping your movers in cash, there's no need to tip each mover individually; just hand the cash or check to the job boss, who will distribute it. If you're moving long-distance, and different crews load and unload the truck, divide the overall tip and give half to each crew, Peterson says.
One final note: Buying lunch, including beverages (e.g., water and, of course, a six-pack of beer for when the job is done), for movers is a nice thing to do, and definitely appreciated. But make no mistake: It's not a tip. So if your movers have done right by you, make your appreciation known with good ol' greenbacks.
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