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To tip or not to tip?


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#1 Paperbackrider

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 11:12 AM

Howdy,

I've heard various unofficial opinions about tipping on Amtrak long distance sleeper train travel.

 

My question: are the staff (dining and car attendants) well paid, or do they depend on tips and if so how much is acceptable? 

 

Many thanks,

Hugh Martell



#2 Lonestar648

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 12:41 PM

This subject has been discussed in depth recently in another thread, including a survey of AU members.


Trains Traveled On:
Texas Eagle                                      Sunset Limited                            California Zephyr                                Southwest Chief                Empire Builder            Capitol Limited           Lake Shore limited (NYP & BOS)      Crescent
Kentucky Cardinal                             Cardinal                                       Pere Marquette                                  Wolverines                        Lincoln Service            Empire Service          Keystone Service                               Acelas
NE Regionals                                    Pioneer                                        Desert Wind                                       Broadway Limited             Three Rivers                Southwest Chief        Coast Starlight                                    Empire Service
 
Amtrak Miles Logged: over 206,000


#3 maxbuskirk

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 12:47 PM

Indeed. It's beat to death by now.

I have ridden Cascades #516 (SEA-STW), Coast Starlight #14 (LAX-SLO), Southwest Chief #4 (LAX-CHI), Cardinal #50 (CHI-NYP), Northeast Regional #85 (NYP-WAS), Capitol Limited #30 (HFY-WAS), Coast Starlight #14 (LAX-PDX), and many Pacific Surfliners with Amtrak. I have seen, including the previous, California Zephyr #5 at SAC (with luck), what I guess to be Crescent #19 (at WAS) and Silver Meteor #97 (at WAS), and Empire Builder #28 at PDX. I have also ridden the Hokutosei in Japan, Ueno - Sapporo (now discontinued).


#4 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 12:53 PM

Howdy,
I've heard various unofficial opinions about tipping on Amtrak long distance sleeper train travel.
 
My question: are the staff (dining and car attendants) well paid, or do they depend on tips and if so how much is acceptable? 
 
Many thanks,
Hugh Martell

 
Amtrak staff are extremely well paid and they enjoy employment and retirement benefits that dwarf those of most Americans.  Unless you're extremely well compensated chances are you're tipping up on Amtrak.  Imagine tipping your boss for a job well done.  That's not to say you shouldn't tip, just that tipping on Amtrak is rather different than tipping down in most restaurants, bars, hotels, etc. where the staff are poorly compensated and enjoy few if any employment or retirement benefits.

Edited by Devil's Advocate, 19 April 2017 - 02:14 PM.

If I had a tumor I'd name it Marla.


#5 crescent-zephyr

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 01:24 PM

The Amtrak staff are extremely well paid, and as was mentioned, have great benefits with Amtrak.

Like any service job should be, a tip on Amtrak is an actual tip, meaning "I know you are paid for a job, thanks for doing it well, going the extra mile, etc"

I usually tip $2-3 each for breakfast and lunch, and $5 for dinner.

I usually tip this way in the diner, unless it's really bad service. My experience has shown that tipping this way can increase quality of service on following visits to the diner.

If the sleeper attendant is rude, bossy, or doesn't even provide the basics, I don't tip anything. In my experience tipping a bossy or lazy SCA does not provide any better service... So why bother?

Usually I'll tip $10-20 to my sleeper attendant, and it goes up to $40 for excellent service.

Amtrak: - Coast Starlight*, Pacific Surfliner, San Joaquin*, Cascades*, Empire Builder*, California Zephyr*, Southwest Chief*, City of New Orleans*, River Cities, Illinois Zephyr*, Wolverine, Cardinal, Capitol Limited*, Lake Shore Limited, Downeaster, Acela Express*, Crescent*, Carolinian*, Silver Star*, Silver Meteor*, Maple Leaf* Texas Eagle.

 

VIA: - Canadian*

 

Iowa Pacific - Hoosier State*, and City of New Orleans Pullman*.   


#6 MikefromCrete

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 04:15 PM

Here goes the old tipping merry-go-round again. 



#7 Carolina Special

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 06:28 PM

Is there a way to ignore all topics that have the word "tip" in the headline?

#8 Sauve850

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 06:35 PM

Cant think of any trip Ive ever taken that would merit  $40 for my SCA. The rest I agree with.



#9 crescent-zephyr

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 07:01 PM

Cant think of any trip Ive ever taken that would merit  $40 for my SCA. The rest I agree with.

ever have Gul on the Empire Builder? :)

Amtrak: - Coast Starlight*, Pacific Surfliner, San Joaquin*, Cascades*, Empire Builder*, California Zephyr*, Southwest Chief*, City of New Orleans*, River Cities, Illinois Zephyr*, Wolverine, Cardinal, Capitol Limited*, Lake Shore Limited, Downeaster, Acela Express*, Crescent*, Carolinian*, Silver Star*, Silver Meteor*, Maple Leaf* Texas Eagle.

 

VIA: - Canadian*

 

Iowa Pacific - Hoosier State*, and City of New Orleans Pullman*.   


#10 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 07:11 PM

Indeed. It's beat to death by now.

&

Here goes the old tipping merry-go-round again.

&

Is there a way to ignore all topics that have the word "tip" in the headline?



Edited by Devil's Advocate, 19 April 2017 - 07:13 PM.

If I had a tumor I'd name it Marla.


#11 willem

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 07:28 PM

ever have Gul on the Empire Builder? :)

 
Twice. If I awarded medals to attendants, and the contestants were all the attendants I have ever had, Gul would take the gold and the silver. And I've had some really good attendants.

 


2003, 10,491 miles: Empire Builder; City of New Orleans; Cascades; Lake Shore Limited
2004,  5,670 miles: Coast Starlight; California Zephyr; Empire Builder
2005,  4,864 miles: Empire Builder; Capitol Limited; Silver Meteor; Sunset Limited; City of New Orleans
2006, 15,184 miles: Empire Builder; Capitol Limited; Silver Star; Silver Meteor; Lake Shore Limited; Pennsylvanian; Cardinal; Southwest Chief
2007,  5,425 miles: Pacific Surfliner; Empire Builder
2008, 10,025 miles: Empire Builder; Cardinal; NER; Downeaster; Acela; Lake Shore Limited; Capitol Limited; Silver Meteor
2009,  9,159 miles: Empire Builder; City of New Orleans; Lincoln Service; Texas Eagle; Coast Starlight; Cascades
2010,  4,875 miles: Empire Builder; City of New Orleans; Crescent; Acela; Lake Shore Limited
2011,  4,508 miles: Empire Builder; Lake Shore Limited; Empire Service; Silver Star
2012, 11,094 miles: NE Regional; Capitol Limited; Empire Builder; Cardinal; California Zephyr; Capitol Corridor; Coast Starlight
2013,  6,502 miles: Empire Builder; Coast Starlight; Southwest Chief; Missouri River Runner; Lincoln Service
2014,  2,759 miles: Empire Builder; Lake Shore Limited; NE Regional
2015, 32,198 miles: Capitol Limited; Empire Builder; Silver Meteor; Lake Shore Limited; Coast Starlight; California Zephyr; Southwest Chief; Sunset Limited; Crescent; NER; Acela; Cardinal; San Joaquin

2016, 19,591 miles: Empire Builder; Capitol Limited; Crescent; Sunset Limited; Coast Starlight; San Joaquin; California Zephyr; Lake Shore Limited

2017, counting: NE Regional; Maple Leaf; Empire Builder; Auto Train

 


#12 niemi24s

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 07:57 PM

Use the search engine at the top right corner of this page and search this forum (on the drop down menu) for "tip tipping gratuities".  You'll end up with a list of 24 threads with a total of 1,144 replies for your reading enjoyment. 



#13 ehbowen

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 08:39 PM

I've heard various unofficial opinions about tipping on Amtrak long distance sleeper train travel.

 

My question: are the staff (dining and car attendants) well paid, or do they depend on tips and if so how much is acceptable?

 

Please excuse the general frustration; this is a subject which comes up frequently and the long-time members' patience with it is largely growing thin. However, it keeps coming back up because it is a legitimate question, especially for new Amtrak travelers.

 

Tipping on trains in the United States is a custom which runs all the way back to the 19th century. I'm not saying that you should tip simply because it's traditional, but you should be aware that it is traditional. And, since it is considered traditional, the IRS does tax onboard service staff for the value of whatever gratuities the IRS feels they should receive...whether the staff actually receives them or not.

 

Again, that in and of itself is not a reason to tip; these staff members chose their profession voluntarily. In the early days, it is true, Pullman porters and many dining car waiters essentially worked for tips. These days, Amtrak onboard staff draw a living wage, with benefits. So you are tipping to acknowledge and reward professional service, not to compensate for an employer who pays only slave wages in order to keep your prices low and his profits high.

 

My own personal tipping practice, assuming competent and professional service (sleeper beds made up/put down in a timely manner; ice, coffee, juice and water available during established hours; restrooms kept reasonably presentable; being available when needed during working hours, offering to help with luggage to/from the room): $10 per night for a sleeper attendant. I generally don't tip coach attendants unless special services are provided (help with large luggage, meals served at seats [see also dining car]). In the dining car, I tip (in cash if traveling in a sleeper with prepaid meals) as I would for the same meal in a regular restaurant. If served at my seat (in coach) or in my room (in sleeper) I give the attendant the same tip I would have given to the waiter. For luggage assistance in large stations (Redcaps), I tip $1 per bag with a $2 minimum.

 

The train's operating crew (conductors and engineers) is never tipped. They work in shifts and their primary duty is to get the train and the passengers over the road safely. The onboard service crew, with but a single exception, is on the train for the entire length of the journey and their primary duty (acknowledging that passenger and train safety is always top priority) is to provide personal service to the customers. Tipping them is customary and traditional and, in my view, appropriate...assuming the service provided is worthy of it.


Edited by ehbowen, 19 April 2017 - 08:40 PM.

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#14 Bob Dylan

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 12:59 PM

Cant think of any trip Ive ever taken that would merit  $40 for my SCA. The rest I agree with.

ever have Gul on the Empire Builder? :)
Or Leo on the Silver Trains and Jim on the Texas Eagle!😊
"There's Something About a Train! It's Magic!"-- 1970s Amtrak Ad
 
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#15 Maglev

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 01:29 PM

I gave Zach on the Empire Builder $40.  I don't travel by train very often, and it was a pleasure to have an SCA who cared about doing a good job and helped make my trip special.


Northeast corridor Heritage, Amfleet and Acela, CN Super Continental, Broadway Limited, Lone Star, Sunset Limited, Coast Starlight, San Joaquin, Southwest Limited, National Limited, Champion, California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Wolverine, Crescent, Empire Builder, Cascades, Lake Shore Limited, Silver Meteor, Cardinal. 

#16 Paperbackrider

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 02:18 PM

This subject has been discussed in depth recently in another thread, including a survey of AU members.

Sorry folks if my question has already been discussed on previous threads. I searched, but after considerable effort, was unable to find any links to my questions. I'll have to try harder. A big thanks to all who kindly replied which answered my question very well.

 

Use the search engine at the top right corner of this page and search this forum (on the drop down menu) for "tip tipping gratuities".  You'll end up with a list of 24 threads with a total of 1,144 replies for your reading enjoyment. 

WOW, thanks for this info. I'll know next time.



#17 Paperbackrider

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 02:32 PM

 

I've heard various unofficial opinions about tipping on Amtrak long distance sleeper train travel.

 

My question: are the staff (dining and car attendants) well paid, or do they depend on tips and if so how much is acceptable?

 

Please excuse the general frustration; this is a subject which comes up frequently and the long-time members' patience with it is largely growing thin. However, it keeps coming back up because it is a legitimate question, especially for new Amtrak travelers.

 

Tipping on trains in the United States is a custom which runs all the way back to the 19th century. I'm not saying that you should tip simply because it's traditional, but you should be aware that it is traditional. And, since it is considered traditional, the IRS does tax onboard service staff for the value of whatever gratuities the IRS feels they should receive...whether the staff actually receives them or not.

 

Again, that in and of itself is not a reason to tip; these staff members chose their profession voluntarily. In the early days, it is true, Pullman porters and many dining car waiters essentially worked for tips. These days, Amtrak onboard staff draw a living wage, with benefits. So you are tipping to acknowledge and reward professional service, not to compensate for an employer who pays only slave wages in order to keep your prices low and his profits high.

 

My own personal tipping practice, assuming competent and professional service (sleeper beds made up/put down in a timely manner; ice, coffee, juice and water available during established hours; restrooms kept reasonably presentable; being available when needed during working hours, offering to help with luggage to/from the room): $10 per night for a sleeper attendant. I generally don't tip coach attendants unless special services are provided (help with large luggage, meals served at seats [see also dining car]). In the dining car, I tip (in cash if traveling in a sleeper with prepaid meals) as I would for the same meal in a regular restaurant. If served at my seat (in coach) or in my room (in sleeper) I give the attendant the same tip I would have given to the waiter. For luggage assistance in large stations (Redcaps), I tip $1 per bag with a $2 minimum.

 

The train's operating crew (conductors and engineers) is never tipped. They work in shifts and their primary duty is to get the train and the passengers over the road safely. The onboard service crew, with but a single exception, is on the train for the entire length of the journey and their primary duty (acknowledging that passenger and train safety is always top priority) is to provide personal service to the customers. Tipping them is customary and traditional and, in my view, appropriate...assuming the service provided is worthy of it.

 

Thanks ehbowen, for your understanding and patience with my seemingly over-used question. I now know how the topic search works.

 

But I had no idea how upsetting this is for some people on this forum - which I think is rather rude and most unwelcoming. They must see I am a newbie, so how about cutting some of us some slack?



#18 Paperbackrider

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 02:45 PM

A sincere thank you to those who replied with a useful response to my question regarding tipping.  What I find sad is how some of you long time members responded with rude and snide comments about how this topic has been beat to death. I hope I never get to be like you. So get off your high horse and cut us newbies some slack. PLEASE!    :angry:



#19 RSG

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 04:15 AM

But I had no idea how upsetting this is for some people on this forum - which I think is rather rude and most unwelcoming. They must see I am a newbie, so how about cutting some of us some slack?

Since I missed commenting on the most recent tip threads (and was too late for the poll), I'll share--for the second time, by my count--my personal Amtrak tipping philosophy.

Oh, and Paperbackrider, don't get too bent out of shape by the attitude of the regulars here; it's just kind of the way things work. Also, there are some topics (and tipping is one of them) which just seem to be uncannily polarizing---mostly because there are very strong divergent viewpoints and those on one side generally see the other side's point of view as being irrational. (Also thanks for becoming a member of the forum instead of doing a hit-and-run guest posting.)

What everyone has said about onboard tipping is pretty much true; yes, Amtrak personnel are generally well-compensated and tipping is traditional, but not required. I'm a merit tipper in general. In restaurants and the like I tip a basic amount + extra depending on service. Local restaurant staffers would tell you that I am more generous than most of the local patrons (which says more about the practice of area restaurant patrons than it does about me). So I apply the same practice to Amtrak. When it comes to the diner car, my first meal is usually dinner. I usually have an adult beverage so that, as a sleeper passenger (with prepaid meal service), I can get a receipt with a tip line. Since I carry a limited amount of cash on board I prefer to pay for most things with plastic. I tip for the total amount of meals which I anticipate having on the train (usually no more than three). Contrary to others, I've found that I receive no better service in the diner after tipping. Part of that, in my opinion, is due to the fact that service is often shared between tables so that you may not get the same staff member at breakfast as you did at dinner the previous night. (And the person who takes your beverage order may not be the person who brings your meal to you.) Another part is the general nature of diner car service: it's not unlike putting money in the tip jar at Starbucks. Since service is shared, a general gratutity is unlikely to go to a single employee/partner. You're just as likely to get good service by being friendly and polite as you are by dropping extra dinero on the counter. I calculate gratuities based on the full value of the menu items + alcohol. It's not 18-20%, but it's more than some people tip at regular restaurants for the same total menu price.

When it comes to sleeper car service, I'm very much a discretionary merit tipper. You will read in the other threads that some have the point of view that if you can spend any amount of money to travel on a sleeper, then you certainly have enough money to lay down in an attendant's palm at the end of your journey. To me, that's kind of like tipping everyone in a hotel you come in contact with, as long as they gave you some sort of greeting or smile. That said, I'm pretty self-service when it comes to the train. I take all of my meals in the diner and only expect the attendant to do those things I can't do for myself, or is in the basic job description of the attendant as something a passenger shouldn't be expected to do (such as putting down a bed). In my several years of Amtrak travel, I can only recall using the call button once. (Contrast this to some trains I've been on where it seems some passengers were told the call button is kind of like the "spin" button on a slot machine: if you press it often enough, some kind of prize will eventually drop down from the ceiling.) So it goes without saying that I rarely tip a sleeper attendant. (Perusing the threads on this board will show a fair amount of opinion on sleeper attendants who are less than attentive in their duties.)

Exceptions are when an attendant goes above and beyond the call of duty and shows that they truly care about their job. I had one attendant (who I deduced was somewhat new) who was not only unfailingly polite but always put on his blazer when he stepped off the train, even though it was quite warm in the daytime on that trip. It showed to me that he wanted to maintain an air of professionalism and took pride in his job. When I gave him a gratuity at the end of the ride he almost seemed offended: "You didn't have to do that!" Well, no, I didn't; but the fact that he didn't expect it showed me he was even more worthy of it. When I do tip sleeper attendants, it's usually $5/night (though I've been known to tip $10 on an overnight trip and sometimes $10/night). The major exception to not tipping a sleeper attendant other than above-and-beyond service would be if they brought meals to my room and/or answered numerous call button requests. In that case, I would follow the advice previously given here, plus a little extra if I was a pain (though those who are never seem to see it themselves).

In summary, use your best judgment but do so because there's service which should be rewarded, not because it's expected or because your neighbor is doing it. A fair number of people tip less because a service employee is deserving than so they can feel better about themselves for having done so. To me, that's better than being a curmudgeon who never tips, but is still not the ideal for the execution of the concept. Most of all, be a passenger whom service staff will remember as being a delight to have on board rather than a PITA who thinks a few extra bucks with smooth over any hard feelings.

Edited by RSG, 21 April 2017 - 04:16 AM.


#20 RSG

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 04:22 AM

Cant think of any trip Ive ever taken that would merit  $40 for my SCA. The rest I agree with.

ever have Gul on the Empire Builder? :)

Or Leo on the Silver Trains and Jim on the Texas Eagle!

And Stephanie on the California Zephyr...




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