To tip or not to tip painters, plumbers and other home-service providers?

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Posted: Saturday, April 26, 2014 12:00 am

It's home improvement season, so more of us are likely to be hiring help. But have you ever wondered whether you should tip the repairman, painter or plumber who does an exceptionally good job?

A recent survey by a Nashville, Tenn.-based startup, Your Green Pal, an online tool that connects homeowners with lawn care service providers, shows that tipping home service providers is not the norm in the largest metro areas.

Your Green Pal co-founder Bryan Clayton said the survey was conducted using Google searches, Craigslist and Angie's List in the top 15 metro areas. Employees surveyed 1,000 different businesses in 10 different categories, from painters to landscape artists, and asked them, “Do your customers ever tip you?” and asked for the smallest tip, largest tip and average tip each business had received.

Clayton said the survey focused on smaller businesses to get the most accurate feedback. “We wanted to make sure we were (talking to) the guy who was going to show up” on the job, he said.

Some industries seem to receive tips more than others. Movers, for example, are always tipped, one local business said. But the survey showed only 26 percent reported tips.

Overall, the survey indicated that tips are given only 18 percent to 30 percent of the time, depending on the industry.

Interviews with representatives of local businesses serving the Omaha area jibe with the results. Most businesses contacted said they receive tips anywhere from 5 percent to 15 percent of the time — but when they do, it's always memorable.


24 percent say customers tip

Average tip: $26

Doug Peterson, owner of Peterson Painting, said he's received about three tips throughout a career that began in 1997. But it's OK, because he doesn't expect them.

“We make what we want to make. That's the whole idea of doing the hard bid. Once you have that hard price ... you know if you do everything you say you'll do, at the end of the day, you're making money,” Peterson said.

While they're not expected, tips are still appreciated. “Any time it has happened, it was a complete surprise to me,” Peterson said. “The feeling you get after that, wow. ... Even if somebody doesn't give me a tip, it's nice to know you made your customer happy.”

Window washers

30 percent say customers tip

Average tip: $7

“It all depends on the job,” said Michael Noden, owner of Grand View Window and Gutter Cleaning. “It all depends on (the customer's) mood. ... It's never a lot, unless it's around Christmastime.” If Noden gets a tip, he said, the customer typically will tell him he did a good job and to go buy himself lunch.

But it's not very often. “Most of the time they just pay the bill and we're off to the next job.”

While tips are appreciated, he said he'd prefer a repeat customer over a one-time tip. And if he does get a tip, he said it can be a sign that he under-bid the job. “That's why you bid them right. You don't low-bid yourself, that way even if you don't get a tip you're still walking away OK. I'd rather bid it right and not get a tip.”


21 percent say customers tip

Average tip: $9

Jared Wentz, owner of Ak-Sar-Ben Electric Service, said he receives a tip about once a month, normally in cash. The amount varies, but it's usually $5 to $20.

While tips aren't required, especially for a company owner, Wentz said, a tip usually means the customer would refer his business to someone else. “I think they both kinda go hand in hand. If you get a tip, they like you, you did good and they'd refer you to a friend.”

Snow removal

23 percent say customers tip

Average tip: $11

In winter, Noden's window washing and gutter cleaning business turns to snow removal, and he says he's even less likely to get a tip for that service. “They never tip, they don't even come out of their house. I bill them by email.”

Pool service

18 percent say customers tip

Average tip: $11

“I would say with the pool service and the lawn service, I don't really see a whole lot of tipping,” said Tyler Hipsher, owner Tyler's Pool and Home Care.

Hipsher said he receives tips from about one out of every 20 customers, regardless of what service he's providing. “For the basic services, weekly pool care and mowing ... for the most part tipping isn't really expected.”

Lawn mowing

22 percent say customers tip

Average tip: $6

Hipsher said he receives tips typically when he goes “above and beyond” by performing an odd job or request for a customer.

“When I'm working with the crew of a couple of guys and we get tipped 20 bucks, the customer will say, 'Here, make sure you guys get some lunch,' or something like that.”


18 percent say customers tip

Average tip: $15

“For us, it's fairly common,” said Bob Polinko, owner of Bob's Home & Business Repair, which does everything from general repairs to remodeling work.

His employees don't have to report tips to him, but sometimes they'll mention to him that someone gave them $25. “I know that some of them have received gift certificates, too,” he said.

Cleaning service

28 percent say customers tip

Average tip: $12

Teri Ondracek, owner of Absolutely Clean Home Services, said tipping isn't common in her experience, although one out of her 30 clients leaves about a $5 tip on her weekly cleaning bill of $50.

“I get tipped by most of my clients at Christmastime, but I very rarely get tips throughout the year,” Ondracek said. “Almost everyone tips at the holidays, at least with a gift.”


26 percent say customers tip

Average tip: $17

Of all providers, tipping seems to be most common for movers.

“It's getting to be a lot more common than what it used to be. My guys receive tips pretty much every day, of all different variations,” said Brad Woodle, owner of Jim's Moving Co.

Moving day is stressful, he said, so when movers do a good job, are courteous and don't damage any furniture, customers are happy about it.


19 percent say customers tip

Average tip: $13

Brent Harris, owner of Acorn Plumbing, said he and his three employees typically receive tips about 15 percent of the time.

“It varies. Depends on the job,” Harri said.”I don't know if I've ever gotten anything like $100. I would say along the lines of $25 or something like that would be more common.”

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