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.