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Tipping delivery people?

I don't ever order food delivery from a restaurant. I love to walk and will usually call ahead and pick up my order or more often just eat out and let someone else wash dishes.
But last week I was sick as a dog and "needed" some hot Thai soup to cure my aches and pains.

I called the Thai place across the street and placed the order which totalled just under $6. I gave the delivery guy $7. I thought that was ok since he only had to walk across the street and I am on the ground floor. The guy flipped and cussed me out in his native tongue.

After thinking about it I figured I was wrong. Then again, I was in a Dayquil/Nyquil/Tylenol/Motrin stupor. I did not lose too much sleep over it.

What's the protocol for tipping delivery people? Percentage of the bill? $$$ per block? Just in case I am ever too sick to get my own food.

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  1. I usually do around 20%. I figure the person isn't waiting on me, but they're risking life and limb (literally) to bring me my food. If I'm paying cash I usually round it to the nearest convenient dollar amount. But more and more I use seamlessweb, so I can get pretty specific with what to tip.

    Honestly, I probably would have given the guy $7 as well, unless I had some pocket change to make it $7.50. Giving him $8 would have made it nearly a 33% tip. It's not about the percentage really, but I think you're right... it was across the street and he didn't even need to climb any stairs.

    1. I worked as a delivery guy in college (not in NYC), so I tend to overtip. That said, I think what you gave is fine, given the small order and proximity of the restaurant.

      If I order delivery for two and its $25, I might give $5. that said, I really overtip, and $2-3 is fine.

      1. Maybe it's just me, but regardless of how small the order tipping a delivery guy anything under $2 just seems chintzy.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Ann900

          I'm with Ann900. The fact that the guy made any trip, even a short one, means he should be compensated. Even if it is only across the street.

          1. re: LulusMom

            I agree too! I was chintzy. I just wasn't thinking straight. Back in the day I was a delivery boy for a pharmacy and later in life a taxi driver. I usually overtip if the driver is halfway decent.

            1. re: Motosport

              I would have tipped a little more since i always feel like i should have at least a base amount on a delivery, regardless of the cost of the order...but with the person flipping out like that, i wouldn't worry about it that much. The flipping out was much more inappropriate than what might be perceived as a small tip.

          2. re: Ann900

            Agreed. Plus, I usually increase my tip if the food delivered is "difficult" like soup (hot, no spilling, etc.). That said, it's pretty ridiculous that he'd cuss you out over a buck...

            1. re: akq

              It was what I call a true New York moment: Me, sick as a dog in my PJ's, with a raging Asian ranting in the lobby as the doorman looks on. Just right for Seinfeld!

              1. re: Motosport

                The guy had no right to berate you. That is just ... bad karma.

              1. re: Ann900

                I agree. Whether you're tipping a delivery person or a server, the absolute minimum is two bucks.

              2. What you gave is totally fine. What I tip depends on how prompt the food is (I'm not likely to tip 20% if I had to wait for an hour) how far he/she had to travel, how bad the weather is (if it's raining cats and dogs, I'll probably overtip.) My friend who worked as a pizza deliveryman in college said he would've been happy if everyone tipped 10%, he can't count the times he was tipped 5-10 cents with 20 dollar order.

                1. Can I ask a side question about tipping delivery people? In some ways, my question is sort of the flip-side of Motosport's: what do you do when you have a HUGE order delivered...and tipping 20% entails tipping $100? (And that raises major eyebrows with your university accountant!)

                  So here's the situation: about a month ago, I was working at a small conference at the university where I study. We had a lunch order of about $300 + $10 set delivery fee and a dinner order of about $500 + $30 set delivery fee. In both cases, the food was coming from about 5 minutes drive away, and in both cases, my colleagues and I removed the food from the vehicle and set it up ourselves. The food did come in disposable containers that had to be packed, but since we were ordering for 50 people (or what they say feeds 50 -- I think it feeds more!) off of a catering menu, presumably the costs of these materials were included in the price of the order.

                  Any ideas on how much to tip in this situation? I wasn't the one paying for the food, so I don't know what was ultimately given, but I know the question caused quite a bit of debate about whether you're tipping based on price or service. (The expensive bottle of wine example was brought up, but I don't think that's a useful analogy because there was a lot of food in that truck! Maybe it's easier to think of a pizza dude with lots of pizzas?)

                  Also, the set delivery fees were a matter of debate. If you have them, do you tip the driver less? I find this especially confusing, as in the case of the $10 delivery fee, I suspect the driver wasn't receiving any of that, while with the $30 fee, I suspect he was.

                  I realize not everyone has experience working with caterers (wedding catering aside, and a quick Google suggests that has its own customs), but I'm curious to hear both experienced voices and gut instincts.

                  Ah, and for the record, next school year, ordering the food and deciding on the tips will be my job, so I'm doing my research now!

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: lemonfaire

                    My best guess $20 per person unless they are performing more service than delivery. When one of my employees delivers a new $15K motorcycle, unloading it off the trailer and answering questions from the new owner they are thrilled to get a $5 tip. Then again, they make much more than minimum wage. They are not working primarily for tips.

                    1. re: lemonfaire

                      I'd tip at least 20%, no matter what. That is a LOT of food to carry, drive, manage, etc. And really, why be cheap?

                      1. re: lemonfaire

                        You should first call and ask if the service fee is for the diver or the restaurant. In either case the net amount that the driver should receive in both cases is 10%, $30 and $50, respectively.

                        As an aside, since you are a graduate student, there is one piece of advice that jfood must give you and everyone in your generation. You have to learn to be more comfortable calling a restaurant. Jfood knows the twitter generation is more into txtng than calling (he has two at home) but the phone is an incredibly useful tool. This, and your other situation, could have easily been resolved before the fact, if a simple proactive conversation with the counter-party occurs versus having to deal with what might be an uncomfortable reactive situation.

                        Good news is that these things are learning situations and he commends you, not only on this board but your follow-up posts on the other.

                        1. re: jfood

                          Good advice, assuming that the restaurant is willing to share the breakdown. Still, I cringe at the thought of having to tack a $50 tip onto a $500 order with a $30 delivery fee. Custom or politeness or whatever, the trouble with these catering orders is that the money isn't really mine, and anything I sign for immediately has to be justified to a whole host of other people (ie. a less than warm and fuzzy department accountant)....which makes me think that it's likely best to not only ask the restaurant, but also ask the department folks what they consider permissible so that I don't get yelled at for being frivolous with public university funds. Many bases to cover.

                          Regarding the phone issue...JFood, I'm a smidge bit older than you seem to think, and while I really appreciate your advice (and was absolutely requesting advice), I think most CHers, regardless of their ages, would prefer to be addressed as peers. But I hear you on the texting and Twittering, as I teach those kids, and I have a hard enough time getting them to send emails with standard spelling let alone come to office hours for a face to face conversation.

                          1. re: lemonfaire

                            Yeah, my husband works for a university, and has to justify all the $$ spent. But since he's married to a former waitress (me), he's willing to (when necessary) pull out his own wallet and add $10 or $20 if he feels it is the right thing to do. Not saying everyone can do this.

                            1. re: LulusMom

                              Yeah, three years into an eight year PhD program, I certainly feel the pinch. Thus, I don't go out to eat much (but when I do, I usually tip 20%) and I go to every free catered event I can. ;-)

                              I can't complain too much, though; as tight as things are, I have a job (in Michigan!), I love my teaching and my research, and I've become a really creative home cook.

                      2. The standard for delivery is like that for buffet service: 10%, rounded, with more if the delivery person has to walk through heavy weather, up flights of stairs, or carry an unusually large order, et cet.

                        1. We don't order for delivery much anymore. We used to have a service called "Takeout Taxi" or something like that, that would pick up food from about a dozen different restaurants and deliver just about anywhere in Charlotte. They had one of our favorite takeout places as a customer and it was all done online. After they were gone we were left with one fairly good Chinese restaurant nearby that delivers to our neighborhood so they get our business when we are too lazy to fix something ourselves. We have always tipped the driver well. $20 order (which is about the minimum) got him at least a $5 tip. They have brought us food during bad weather,high gas prices, and busy Friday evenings. I think that as a result of this tipping policy that we have, we get our food quickly, and quite often brought to the back porch where we are sitting in the afternoon sun. The drivers have changed over the years but our phone number has not. I think that they know that we will be generous put forth the effort to keep us happy. I try and give what I guess I would like to receive if I were in that position.