Tipping culture in America is a matter of great debate and controversy. Most Americans – love it or hate it – seem to have an innate understanding of where and when (and how much) to tip, but even these details can be muddied and debated over between two red-blooded Americans, much to the confusion of the typical tourist or newly-landed immigrant.
Consider the famous tipping scene from Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, where Mr. Pink (played by Steve Buscemi) argues “You know, I used to work minimum wage, and when I did, I wasn’t lucky enough to have a job that society deemed tip-worthy!” Although released in 1992, tip culture has accelerated and now many jobs – regardless of whether or not they’re traditionally “tip-worthy” as Mr. Pink might say – are now asking for or expectant of tips or gratuities.
We’re one of the only countries (along with Canada) where tipping is not only customary but often expected. Most other countries around the world have some minor form of gratuity, e.g. Trinkgeld “drink money” in Germany, which is essentially rounding up to the nearest euro. Nowhere else on the planet do people tip as they do in America, and with so many businesses that never traditionally relied on (nor do they to this day) tipping, some people wonder if it’s appropriate to tip an auto locksmith for their services.
Do you have to tip an automotive locksmith?
The short and simple answer is no, you don’t have to tip an automotive locksmith. Indeed, auto locksmiths do not normally expect a tip. Therefore, tipping is completely up to you. In all likelihood, they won’t say no to a few bucks as a “thank you” for a job well done, however.
If you absolutely feel like you must tip, feel free to pay your locksmith a little cash or keep reading for some alternatives that are even better than tipping in cash that truly reward good and honest businesses.
When is it appropriate to tip an auto locksmith?
There may be times when you feel like you might want to leave a tip for an automotive locksmith, even if it isn’t necessary at all. Some common examples of when people might want to tip an auto locksmith include:
- You’ve requested services at odd hours (e.g. middle of the night, on a holiday, etc.);
- The locksmith went above and beyond and repaired things like your door or steering column that weren’t necessarily asked for;
- Your locksmith gave you a fair quote, showed up on time and charged you fairly for their services;
- The locksmith worked in terrible weather conditions like pouring rain or snow.
Just keep in mind that all of the above points are part and parcel of being a car locksmith. A locksmith enters the industry knowing full well that they may need to work in these types of conditions, just like how a nurse might be expected to pull continental shifts and deal with all sorts of problems you or I might not want to do, all without asking for tips.
Nevertheless, you might feel like a tip is warranted for going through the trouble and performing a stellar job when you need help with your vehicle.
When should you NOT tip an automotive locksmith?
There are some times when you should not tip at all, most of which should be fairly obvious:
- You don’t have any spare money on hand;
- The locksmith didn’t show up when they said they would;
- The locksmith was rude or didn’t provide you with quality customer service;
- The job was not done to your satisfaction.
If you’ve received poor quality service, not tipping will not really punish the locksmith at all. Instead, one way to rectify a poor experience could be to leave a negative review online which can damage their reputation. If the locksmith damaged your vehicle or scammed you, you may wish to consult a lawyer to pursue legal action.
What’s an appropriate tip for a car locksmith?
Since tipping is not customary for automotive locksmiths, there are no hard and fast rules like there are for restaurants – heck, even in restaurants it isn’t hard and fast, but for the sake of argument let’s say that around 20% is reasonable nowadays for good service. If that sounds a little vague (and it is), the tip amount for a locksmith is a total shot in the dark.
A very rough rule of thumb, if you feel that you must leave a tip, is to leave around $20 or so for a typical emergency car lockout job.
Keep in mind that some automotive locksmiths working on your vehicle are paid employees working for a small and independent business or a franchise, while others are sole traders working for themselves. Locksmith employees generally make around $19/hour on average, whereas business owners don’t have an hourly wage at all. Either way, the pay is generally higher than minimum wage and a locksmith is not reliant on tips to pay the rent.
Alternatives to tipping a locksmith
If you’re the type of person that likes to pay it forward and to reward good, honest business, there are many great ways to do that which don’t involve tipping. In fact, since tipping is not customary or expected for automotive locksmiths, these alternatives are a lot better for them, especially the small and independent locksmith businesses trying to compete with franchises:
- Write a helpful and positive review for the auto locksmith on TrustPilot, Google Reviews or Yelp. While there are many ways to write fake reviews and testimonials, it can be a lot harder to fake them when you leave a personable and genuine review on these platforms;
- Give the locksmith a cold non-alcoholic beverage, coffee or a snack. Most automotive locksmiths travel quite a bit and may work all night servicing customers many miles away, so some food and a beverage can help sustain them and keep them satisfied for long shifts;
- Remain calm and attentive and give them praise for their work. Like many tradesmen, car locksmiths often work long hours without much feedback on their work (unless they make a mistake, then they never hear the end of it). A simple comment on the speed or quality of their work can lift their spirits and reassure them that they’re doing a good job to the satisfaction of the customer.
Is it becoming customary to tip auto locksmiths?
While many small businesses are increasingly leaving tip jars where there never used to be any, the automotive locksmithing has so far been pretty safe from the whole tipping culture. Tipping an auto locksmith is not customary and likely won’t ever become customary.
Tips are nevertheless appreciated and welcomed, but the wages paid to locksmith employees and the rates charged by sole entrepreneur locksmiths running their own businesses are generally fair and cover their operating costs, so they certainly don’t rely on tips to survive.