It’s that time of year when everybody is feeling generous, and people like your mailman are leaving holiday cards in your mailbox to remind you that they’d really appreciate a few bucks for the service they’ve provided over the course of a year.
The people you often don’t think about, though, are the people who take care of your car, or provide car-related services. Do you tip them at the holidays? Here are a few to think about.
If you just put a transmission in your car, you might really find it hard to convince yourself that you should tip anybody involved, especially after you got the $5,000 bill. But the truth is, no matter how high the bill was, the guy that’s actually performing the service is probably making between $15 and $25 an hour.
If it was an oil change, he’s definitely at the low end of that range. More specialized guys obviously make more money.
You never HAVE to tip your mechanic, of course. If it’s just an oil change place, a few bucks is appropriate.
If it’s a trained professional who has saved your bacon several times, a sawbuck in an envelope, a six-pack of a good IPA or a gift card for a month’s worth of coffee at the end of the year goes a long way to pushing you toward the front of the line when there’s snow in the forecast and your winter tires are still stacked in the garage.
If you happen to own an old British car, you probably want to scale that tip up to a cool hundred, because you know you’re going to need the help.
Tow Truck Guy
By this point, you should either be smart enough to have AAA or have roadside assistance as part of the deal when you buy a new car. When you’re stranded by the highway, there’s nothing quite as comforting as knowing that a guy in a set of mechanic’s coveralls is going to come and get you home.
If you do have a membership, or some kind of roadside service, no money changes hands when you arrive at your destination. Depending on just how horrible the conditions were when you were picked up, a tip is a pretty nice thing to do.
The amount ranges depending on the service. If you were locked out or you ran out of gas, anywhere from $3 to $5 should cover it. You can add to that if the driver showed up in six minutes and hauled you out of the worst neighborhood in town in the pouring rain.
Delivery services range anywhere from guys with CDLs to some kid with an $800 hatchback, whose insurance company probably doesn’t know he’s driving professionally.
The amount of tip varies on a few factors. If he’s delivering food, it’s kind of the same calculation you make for the waitress that walked your food to your table. 15 percent is a good rule of thumb, more for fast, courteous service, less for a guy who used your bag to wipe the bugs off his windshield.
For delivery of things, it depends on what the thing is. A poinsettia might be a few bucks. A grand piano is more. For a fold-out couch, just empty your wallet.
There is NOTHING more pleasant than getting your car back after it’s been freshly detailed, especially if you’re a parent with kids who spill milk and crush cookies into your carpets.
Like your mechanic, you never HAVE to tip a detailer. You just spent $100-plus to have your car cleaned up, after all. But again, the guy actually doing the detailing is probably making minimum wage. If he did an exceptional job, by all means throw him a few bucks.
That five dollar bill probably means nothing to you in the grand scheme of things, but means an awful lot to a guy at the lowest end of the pay scale.
Christmas Tree Tiedown Guy
I mention this here, because during my college years, I worked at a Christmas tree farm. People would wander around aimlessly for an hour, select the tree they liked and I’d cut it for them. I’d throw it on a trailer and drive it up to the register, and then help them tie it on the car, because somewhere along the line, the ability to tie a knot was no longer considered a life skill.
Almost invariably, I could judge the tip I was going to get by the car the dude was driving. Brand new Mercedes-Benz? Tough luck, kid. Crappy old Aries K Wagon? Payday.
You may not think you need to tip the Christmas Tree Tiedown Guy, but it sure would be a shame to have that nice tree you just bought go blowing off the roof on the way home.
It was never more than a couple of bucks, but for a kid making $5 an hour, that was the difference between eating a cold peanut butter sandwich and a hot pizza at the end of the night.