With all of the time, we’ve spent sheltered in place in our homes lately, it’s likely that you’ve taken advantage of numerous pickup and delivery services more than a few times. You’ve also probably wondered whether you should leave a tip at all or how much gratuity is enough when using these types of services.
The answer: Tipping during a pandemic isn’t always obvious. So, which services warrant a tip and how much should you give? While there is no hard-and-fast rule, here are some pointers to help you avoid making an etiquette error the next time you leave a tip.
1. Always tip for delivery and takeout/curbside pickup
Whether you’re getting Mexican food delivered for Taco Tuesday or placing an order for delivery from your favorite beverage store, right now you should tip at least 15 percent to 20 percent. The same goes for grocery delivery. If you’re picking up from a restaurant that began offering curbside pickup in the wake of the pandemic, leave a tip.
The employees outside probably are working for gratuity, but not a large hourly rate. But just how much should you tip for curbside or in-store pickup? That depends. While some etiquette experts suggest tipping the same 15 percent to 20 percent that you would tip for delivery, others say it’s OK to go lower.
There is a difference between curbside pickup and actual delivery, and there’s more involved with delivery. Folks coming to your front door should get a little more money. Still, a tip of at least 10 percent is suggested on pickup orders during a pandemic. As for grocery pickup, the etiquette is a little more complicated.
Grocers usually don’t allow their employees to accept tips, but in this scenario, they might have altered their policy. If you want to tip the curbside pickup person at your grocery store, ask first if a gratuity can be accepted. Finally, it’s still alright not to tip drive-up window workers at fast-food restaurants. Those workers earn an hourly rate, and staffing the drive-up window is part of their regular job duties.
2. Tip just as generously regardless of who delivers
You should tip the delivery driver the same amount whether you order your lunch directly from a restaurant or through a third-party delivery service like Grubhub or DoorDash. The suggested rate here is at least 15 percent to 20 percent as well—although you might have noticed that some delivery apps have a default tip set to 25 percent.
If you’re able to swing it, it’s a nice way to thank the person facing the health risk to deliver essentials to you. Note: When ordering through a third-party service or the restaurant itself, the tip is intended for the person delivering to you, so they should be treated equally. Even if you have to pay extra for delivery through a third-party service, service fees shouldn’t cut into your tip.
3. A service or delivery fee is not a tip
Delivery fees or service charges on your order total don’t go to your driver, so don’t use it as an excuse to tip less. A delivery fee covers other costs for the restaurant. It’s really important not to confuse a delivery fee with a gratuity. They are two different things.
4. Some workers can’t accept tips, but you can still offer a kind gesture
Although you might be feeling extra grateful for postal workers delivering mail and packages every day, mail carriers aren’t allowed to accept cash tips or gifts worth more than $20 in value. Instead, you might want to leave some candy or a gift card for a cup of coffee in the mailbox. What about your local boutique that’s started delivering home goods, or the pet supply store that’s delivering dog food? Many small retail businesses don’t expect tips, but now is a great time to show gratitude by posting a glowing review online. Not only should you patronize your local businesses, but you also should put forth an effort to highlight your positive experiences.
5. Be cautious with cash
For online or phone orders, you’ll likely add the tip when you provide your credit card information. But what about cash tips at a time when we’re all trying to eliminate unnecessary physical contact? If you do have to tip in cash, put the cash in an envelope in advance to put workers more at ease. If cash does change hands, sanitize or wash your hands before and after the interaction and follow the Centers for Disease Control guidelines for maintaining safe social distance.
6. Tip on the total, not the subtotal
Should you tip on the subtotal before tax or the total after-tax? Just tip on the whole thing. As essential workers gear up in masks and gloves and take extra precautions to deliver food and necessities so the rest of us can stay home, now isn’t the time to count pennies.
7. Consider tipping contractors, fitness instructors and others who go above and beyond
You probably wouldn’t normally tip a plumber or electrician who visits your home, but if you can afford it, it’s not a bad idea. If they come out in the middle of the night, or arrive all masked and covered up, you might offer to give them some extra gratuity. More than likely, they will take it because business likely isn’t as good as usual. If your favorite trainer or fitness instructor offers free workout plans or streaming classes while gyms are closed, you also might want to send them a tip on Venmo or PayPal. If they’re not charging you but just doing it to keep you going, then why not go ahead and send them a little something?
8. When in doubt, just do what you can
This are difficult financial times for many people. If tipping above and beyond your normal amount feels out of reach, just do what’s in your budget. The bottom line is: Give what you can afford at this time. Some people are not impacted at all financially, and some people don’t have jobs. To say across the board that everyone should tip more would be unfair.