How Much To Tip Movers So They Don’t Break Your Stuff

7 September 2015 by

How much to tip movers is always a sensitive subject: too little and you risk them “accidentally” dropping the porcelain doll collection that you inherited from your Aunt Midge, too much and you risk them not smashing that creepy porcelain doll collection. 

Put it this way: when you hire a couple of guys to carry every single thing you own from your house—sharp corners, stairs, wayward pets—into the moving truck—inclement weather, OCD customers, loading stuff like a Tetris expert—I think we can all agree that these fellas deserve to be rewarded. And if you’re thinking “well, they do earn an hourly wage,” then perhaps you ought to stop tipping waiters, hair stylists, massage therapists, taxi drivers, and your spray tanner, too.

Not to disparage these other workers, but as Matt Fuller, Sales Manager for Ready Movers, puts it: “Moving furniture for a living is a tough gig. Movers like to feel as though they are appreciated for moving all the things you hate to move yourself. At the end of the day, they are doing you a favor. A successful relocation requires quite a lot of skill and a lot of hard work.”

So if they transport your Barbie Glam Getaway House without smashing it (accidentally or on purpose), don’t cheap out on them. In addition, Matt adds that you should consider “following up with a phone call to their manager thanking the crew for doing such an awesome job.”

The average hourly wage for a mover in the United States is $12—which amounts to about $1600 a month after taxes. So the question is not do you tip your movers, but how much? If you’re like me, however, and you break into a cold sweat at the thought of doing math in your head, then this article is a must-read. Not only will we tell you how much to tip, but we’ll show you how to slip the movers a couple of crisp Jacksons like a politician trying to stifle a rumor.

Do movers expect a tip?

“Who wouldn’t appreciate a tip!” says Michael Keaton, Director of Communications for American Moving and Storage Association. “But tips are not expected and it’s up to the customers to decide if they’d like to tip the movers. Tips are a great way to show your appreciation for a job well done, though.”

The rules and attitudes around tipping vary from country to country, industry to industry, and cheapskate to cheapskate. Some people believe that not tipping a worker is helping to support the cause to increase wages. Um, okay…. That’s like me saying that by eating every last morsel on my plate I’m supporting the cause of starving children worldwide. Right. Meanwhile, I’m getting fat and the kids are still hungry.

But as Matt points out, “It largely depends on the type of move they are undertaking. Small jobs generally not. Larger, grueling jobs—definitely.” He is quick to add: “Size matters!”—an old adage that is true in many scenarios—because “the more stuff you have to move the more likely a tip is on the cards. When the guys have put in a hard day on a large mover, if they walk away empty handed they will feel a little disappointed and under-appreciated.”

How Much To Tip Movers So They Don't Break Your Stuff

Will they really break my stuff if I don’t tip? 

Only if you act like an ass. Unless you’ve hired the Good Fellas Moving Co., you movers are not going to block the entrance to your new home with a menacing look and an outstretched hand. Occasionally you hear about a moving company that behaves this way, but chances are the customer found them on Craigslist right next to the “Human Piñata Available For Children’s Parties” ad.

You can easily avoid being confronted by unprofessional yahoos by ensuring that the moving company you choose is registered with the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration). How do you know they’re FMCSA-regulated? Look them up on and see if they’ve got any complaints registered against them. You should also verify that the moving company is insured and bonded—which is required by law.

Are movers like waiters—you tip a percentage of the bill? 

No, you don’t tip a percentage of the bill plus a few bucks for the extra breadsticks. If you’re going to tip movers, give them a flat rate. Michael says that “how much you tip may depend on how many items you’re moving and how long it takes to pack the truck. For a half- to full-day move, anywhere from $10 to $20 per mover would be appreciated by the crew. If it takes longer than a day, you might consider something in the $40 range.”

Can you provide them with lunch instead of a tip? 

If you’re just going to buy them a couple of 99-cent tacos from the nearest fast food joint, my advice is to quit trying to poison them with sub-par food and shell out some cash. Remember, these people just carried everything out of your old house and then carried it all back into your new house—often in the hot sun, freezing winter, or middle of a downpour.

On the other hand, providing your movers with a legitimate meal and hot or cold beverages is definitely a good idea, especially for all-day moves. Just be sure to ask them what they prefer. Pizza gets real boring real fast. “Beer is also considered currency in the industry. A slab of beer is happily accepted,” states Matt. He feels that providing lunch or snacks is always a good idea. Why? “Food and drink equals energy, and energy equals better performance. Keep the boys hydrated and fed all day long.”

But just because you provide snacks doesn’t mean you can’t tip them, too. If they’ve done an especially good job, slip a couple of sawbucks into their grateful hands at the end of the day. Okay, you don’t have to do it on the sly, but you’ll feel like James Bond if you do and that’s always fun! 

How Much To Tip Movers So They Don't Break Your Stuff

Do you tip the foreperson and just let the crew duke it out?

What, are you trying to start a revolution or something? Do you give one of your kids all the Christmas presents and let the others fight it out? Matt says that the best thing to do is to “tip the guys individually for sure. And hand over the tip in front of the foreman so there can be no arguments amongst the team later on.”

When it comes to tipping the foreperson more than the movers, there is a little wiggle room here. Matt says, “Definitely not! The foreman makes more money than the crew as it is. Tipping equally helps to maintain a sense of equality and fairness.” On the other hand, Michael suggests that “it’s really up to you and the service you were provided. The foreperson is probably already paid more per hour than the rest of the crew, but if they led a successful move or went above and beyond, you might want to give them an extra reward.” And while you should tip each mover equally, if one of them really went above and beyond the call of duty, feel free to give him a little more. 

What’s a scenario where you wouldn’t tip the movers?

“If they turn up late with no sincere apology, are rude and crude, fail to listen to the customer’s instructions, and, needless to say, if your furniture turns up scratched or damaged,” says Matt. Or if they work in the nude (besides, where would they put the cash?). The point is, use your common sense and don’t feel pressured to be the ‘nice guy’ and tip them despite a lousy job. However, before posting a ranting review on Yelp, “address any concerns with the guys directly,” says Matt. “If they are responsive to your concerns then great, if not, get straight on the phone and give the company a piece of your mind.” Also, ask about the naked thing.

So unless Dave Hester himself shows up, curses at you while snapping your IKEA lamp over his leg, and tries to rent your furniture out to your new neighbors, then just tip the movers already. As Michael reminds us, “These may be college students or folks who could use a little extra spending money for themselves and their families. Your generosity will always be greatly appreciated!”

Selena Templeton

Selena Templeton is a writer and editor who sees the world through Giggle Glass, a type of wearable technology with an optical head-mounted display plus false nose and mustache. It reveals the absurd, amusing, and inappropriate goings on of daily life and displays it in a lap top-like hands-on format, from which she posts to various blogs such as Self Storage Finders, Romantically Challenged, and As a former professional organizer and a current Virgo, she is a self-diagnosed authority on storage, packing, organizing, and general neat freakishness.

Latest posts by Selena Templeton (see all)