Q: What is your advice regarding whether to tip an independent contractor hired to do work on a home? The bill will be close to $2,500, so tipping 15 percent would add substantially to the cost of the project. Also, how would you suggest handling the situation if the contractor hired is a neighbor or family friend? Would it be handled differently if you hire a company to do the work rather than an individual?
A: While tipping is expected in the food service industry and in personal grooming situations, like the person who does your hair, tipping is not usually expected in the home contracting industry. There are probably exceptions to the rule, but a recent survey done by Angie's List on a large number of contractors found that only a small percentage received tips for their work.
Contractors usually charge what they feel is a good price for the work they will do. That fee would include paying any of their employees. Tipping workers above what you pay the contractor for their good work could cause tax consequences for the employer, so if you are going to tip, ask the employer if it's OK to do so.
If the contractor is a neighbor or family friend, consider gifting them with a gift certificate to a place they frequent or something in the food or beverage line instead of offering cash. And if they do a good job, be sure to recommend them to others. Word of mouth can do a lot of good for reputable contractors. People do pay attention to online reviews and recommendations from people they know.
Another way to show your appreciation to workers in your home is to offer them coffee, water, soft drinks and/or food. And, of course, showing them respect and consideration is very important, too, and it costs nothing.
Do your homework on the people you hire that come into your home. You want to know they can do the job and that they employ good workers. When possible, use the same people on an ongoing basis. This allows for good relationships to be developed. Remember, the lowest price may not always be the way to go — we usually get what we pay for.
Karen Hickman is a local certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.