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Passenger Trains > Riding Amtrak, appropriate tipping amount, etc
Date: 10/06/07 03:43
Riding Amtrak, appropriate tipping amount, etc
My 8 year old son and I are riding the Sunset Sunday-Monday from LA to San Antonio in a bedroom. Since I was 5 last time I rode in a sleeper, 1963 Denver to Florida, I am curious what is a fair amount to tip the porters, dining car staff etc.
A few years ago while riding the CZ Denver to Provo, I thought I saw some meals being delivered back to the sleepers. Will they do that? Might be fun to enjoy a meal in the room.
Also, if you want to roam up to the lounge or explore the train, how safe is your stuff in your room. I am thinking of leaving the laptop at home, don't really want to cart it around the train. But may come in handy on the ride across Texas for a DVD. Are there outlets in the rooms?
Thanks in advance for any info!
Randy in PHX
Date: 10/06/07 04:47
Re: Riding Amtrak, appropriate tipping amount, etc
My standards are to the Sleeper Attendant $5pppd (or, in peoplese Rather than travelagentese per person per day).
This covers the customary housekeeping activities, luggage assistance, and one "gofer" per day. Additional "gofers' to the effect of "could you please get us a round of drinks" should have the tip raised accordingly. Likely you and your child will want to move about the train, but some folk, particularly elderly folk, do not wish to leave their room "for the duration' and even have meals brought to them (that DOES call for additional tip). I have been known to raise the tip where exempplary service is rendered, rarely if ever reduce such in the event of "lass than satisfactory'.
However, when I next take an LD trip (likely Auto Train during the '08 "season") I could well review those amounts as I set them about three years ago.
In the Diner, I use $3pp at Dinner $2 at other meals; for alcohol served at meals, I add the customary 17% to the "tab" (this of course "self adjusts" with price changes).
At another Forum, some "jerk" (in my estimation) posted that no Amtrak On-Board Service employee should be tipped saying that their remuneration approaching $50K per annam does not warrant additional remuneration directly from the passenger. This to me is "bunk'; an employee's rate of pay has no bearing whatever whether or not a tip is rendered.
finally, regarding security of personal items, use common sense. if you must bring an array of electronic gear with you, be sure it is covered up when leaving the room. Although rooms cannot be locked from the outside, Addendants have a "sixth sense' regarding 'who belongs and who does not". Additionally, Sleepers are placed either at the head or rear or the train, which means a Coach passenger has no reason whatever, save an emergency, to be in that car.
Date: 10/06/07 05:34
Amtrak staff is well-compensated and does not rely on tips as a substantial part of their income. That said, it is traditional to provide some gratuity and I do it based solely on service quality and what seems appropriate at the moment.
On my recent trip on Amtrak's best LDT service, the Empire Builder, SEA-GPK-PDX, the sleeping car attendant eastbound was clearly one of Amtrak's best (99th percentile) and received a $10 tip.
On the return segment, the sleeping car attendant was only "standard", showing no great customer service skills but also not particularly unpleasant. Still, given that the EB is supposed to be top-notch, she, by definition, was a disappointment and thus received $0.
Meals: We had 3 meals on the trains, which required no payment due to sleeper status. On the two occasions when we shared a table with other sleeper passengers, the other party left no tip, and we followed their lead. Service was fine. On the last occasion, we did leave a small tip.
Date: 10/06/07 05:47
I usually tip $5.00 a day to the bedroom porter, if he is really good then I'll double the tip. If not so good than a flat $5.00 regardless of the number of days. If terrible (as in never appearing, not taking my bags etc.) then he receives $0. In the dining car I tip a standard $1 for breakfast, $2 for lunch and $3 for dinner, if I received exceptionally good service then I will increase the tip. I don't think I have ever not left a tip in the dining car.
Date: 10/06/07 05:50
Always tip in the diner, the same percentage based on the price of the food if you had had to pay for it that you would do in a restaurant. I generally give $10 a night to the sleeping car attendant (it used to be $5 if I was in an economy room, but I've made it uniform). Many sleeping car passengers don't tip in the diner because they don't realize that they should; coach passengers almost always tip because they're paying for their meals directly rather than through their tickets. These are jobs that have traditionally been tipped for a century or more, and I'm quite sure that the current pay is based on their receiving some tips (although not as many as they used to get because people don't understand the need). The work is unrelenting, the time off is limited, and the attendants and servers make a major contribution to your having a good trip (a bad attendant or server can make a bad trip--obviously no tipping then); a tip recognizes those things.
Date: 10/06/07 06:12
If the service is great in the sleeping car I give $5 a day, if not then nothing. In the diner I usually just give 10% regardless of morning, noon, or evening. In a regular eating place off Amtrak the server usually makes about $2+ an hour plus tips. Amtrak people make over 50K a year. If the dining car service is not good, I leave nothing. It does appear that Amtrak is weeding out the useless people, and the entire service is getting much better. With that said, the tip policy is still the same for me.
Date: 10/06/07 06:23
Another good thing to bring with you
If you bring your computer or a DVD player with you, it's a good idea to also include an extension cord. The electrical outlets can be somewhat recessed, making for a poor fit with my computer's AC adapter.
jacksonville beach, fl
Date: 10/06/07 06:24
When I travel in sleepers I always tip the dining car staff a percentage of the meal price, regardless that it comes with the sleeper room. If the service is poor I adjust the tip accordingly, and up it if the service is exceptional.
The sleeping car attendant gets $10 a night if they are prompt in making up the room, help with luggage, and in general are present in the car. They get zip if they don't do any of those things. You can usually leave things in your sleeper room without fear of theft. Make sure valuable electronics are out of sight, pull your privacy curtain shut and then shut your door. If you are carrying cameras and laptops around with you, be more careful since someone may be checking out who has goodies and who doesn't.
Even though the on-board crew may make decent wages, they work atrocious hours under very tiring conditions, with some real pain-in-the-butt customers. If they are at all cordial and efficient they deserve to be tipped.
Date: 10/06/07 06:41
> Even though the on-board crew may make decent
> wages, they work atrocious hours under very tiring
> conditions, with some real pain-in-the-butt
> customers. If they are at all cordial and
> efficient they deserve to be tipped.
This is an excellent point. How many of your local dining services and hotels force their employees to be away from home for up to five days at a time, and work long days for each of those, and try to sleep up by some loud locomotive blowing its loud horn all the time? The reason they "make over 50,000 a year" is due to this. You shouldn't tip or not tip them simply based on how much they make. Sleeping car attedants often must get all three meals for anyone riding in the handicapped room, as well as potentially for other elderly travelers.
As for me, I have to agree with Mr. Norman, as my tipping is very similar to his. I tip a basic rate, with a dual sliding scale based on quality of service (good service increases tip, bad service decreases tip), and how much of a pain in the you know where I was, if I'm a pain but I receive good service, I will anywhere from double to triple the tip, if I am but the service is bad, then I cut the tip. Fortunately for me I'm usually very low-maintenance. I do find the attendants greatly appreciate the gratuity.
As for electronic gear, it is likely safe in the sleeper rooms. Keep it out of immediate view of any passers-by, and you will likely have no problem. The other advantage of closing the shades on your room is preventing a random passer-by from knowing if there is anyone in the room at that time. Simply closing the shades would likely ward off any potential problems.
Date: 10/06/07 08:50
> In a regular eating place off Amtrak
> the server usually makes about $2+ an hour plus
> tips. Amtrak people make over 50K a year.
In those states that don't allow the tip credit off the minimum wage servers make at least regular minimum wage, although access to benefits varies. In Oregon that's $7.85 an hour. People, however, tip the same in those states as they do in states that allow the tip credit. What, by the way, is the source for Amtrak attendants and servers making over $50K a year? I've heard it before, but is there any validity to it? In any case, I think that people who work as hard as good Amtrak on board service people do deserve a good living, and at present tips are part of making that possible. (To my way of thinking they contribute more to society than hedge fund managers who make millions a month.)
Date: 10/06/07 09:16
Lots of different ideas about tipping! For me, I tip as follows:
Dining Car: Your meal is paid for as part of the cost of your sleeper ticket, so when you order your food, look at the menu to see how much it costs (even though you will not be paying for it). Before leaving the table after you eat, tip whatever amount you would normally tip as if you had paid for the meal in a restaurant---15 to 20 percent. For people who get good service and leave a dollar or two for breakfast or lunch, I think that's being a little cheap.
Sleeping Car: Amtrak's employees are hit-and-miss. If you have good service, tip whatever you feel is appropriate. For two people (you and your son) for one night, anywhere between 10 and 20 dollars is good. Whatever you think is best. If the attendant is lazy and doesn't offer to help with bags, if he/she "disappears" all day, if you have to hunt the person down to put down or make up your bed----then tip nothing. As it was stated before, Amtrak employees make decent money, so a tip should be for their extra effort to make your trip an enjoyable one. If they don't do that, then they do not get a bonus. They work in a passenger service industry (even though many of them don't seem to realize that).
Date: 10/06/07 09:34
I quit tipping on Amtrak and VIA 20 years ago when, after numerous trips, I noticed that the crews didn't seem to care if you tipped them or not. Cruise trains are a different deal.
Date: 10/06/07 09:40
Sure are lots of ideas on tipping.
I tip whatever I feel is appropriate. If they do not provide good service under the circumstances, I have no problem with not leaving a tip. I feel a tip should not be 'expected', but earned. If you provide me with a pleasurable experience, you will be rewarded. If you make no effort to provide me a pleasurable experience, then you do not deserve a cash reward - aka 'no tip'.
I took an overnight on the Silver Meteor a couple of years back and Walter provided such outstanding service, that I had no problem giving him a $20 tip. My trip on the Cardinal, although much more scenic, included a car attendant that must have slept the whole trip. That person earned a $0 tip. I have also had an attendant on the return trip on the Meteor who made us exit the room to service it when we did not ask and did not wish to be bothered. She kept knocking until I answered the door. She recieved a $0 tip and should have received a reprimand.
I will say that the dining car experience has been lackluster for many meals. Typically the sleeper service attendants are much more attentive.
In summary, tip what you feel is appropriate. I prefer not to stress out over how much of my money that someone else deserves for doing thier job. If they earn it, so be it. If they don't, then consider it a missed opportunity for them. Have a great trip!
Date: 10/06/07 11:10
> Woodman Wrote:
> > In a regular eating place off Amtrak
> > the server usually makes about $2+ an hour plus
> > tips. Amtrak people make over 50K a year.
> In those states that don't allow the tip credit
> off the minimum wage servers make at least regular
> minimum wage, although access to benefits varies.
> In Oregon that's $7.85 an hour. People, however,
> tip the same in those states as they do in states
> that allow the tip credit. What, by the way, is
> the source for Amtrak attendants and servers
> making over $50K a year? I've heard it before,
> but is there any validity to it? In any case, I
> think that people who work as hard as good Amtrak
> on board service people do deserve a good living,
> and at present tips are part of making that
> possible. (To my way of thinking they contribute
> more to society than hedge fund managers who make
> millions a month.)
I would concur that hedge fund managers do not warrant a tip, and am not aware that I have ever provided one.
It is pretty clear that Amtrak employees are not dependent on tip income, as many seem indifferent to maximizing income from that source. As unionized employees, they are well-compensated and on-board staff gets substantial time off after working one or more runs. It is also their choice to seek an occupation with hours like that. Otherwise, they could opt for a standard restaurant/hotel job or an Amtrak position on a corridor train that minimizes the time away from home. I'm not responsibile for their decision.
Date: 10/06/07 12:31
I think Amtrak should give passengers more guidance on tipping. As a first-time rider, I had no idea tipping was part of train riding. I picked it up from other passengers. I wish I had given a tip to 2 of the sleeping car attendants, Lisa on the Chief and Grace on the Zephyr. They were both top-notch. I either didn't know or didn't have change to give a proper tip. Next time I'll be prepared!
Date: 10/06/07 13:23
Tipping is customary for service people in the US (IE servers in restaurants, bellhops, cab drivers), so you should always tip for meals in the dining car according to how the service is, based on a percentage of the meal price. I agree that the on-board service staff chose their line of work and does not warrant a tip simply because it is "hard" or the hours are "long."
Put yourself in their place. If you worked very hard to make someones journey pleasant... went out of your way to see their needs were attended to, especially anticipating some needs before they arose, wouldn't you like to see something a little extra for it?
Date: 10/06/07 17:05
Tipping for flight attendants
How much do people tend to tip their flight attendant on an airline, particularly on foreign flights when meals are served?
Date: 10/06/07 18:06
Re: Riding Amtrak, appropriate tipping amount, etc
I hate to tip! People should get compensated enough without expecting a tip. I'm cheap too. I ride coach.
I guess that got some attention. Really, I don't like to tip but I do tip appropriately. Usually in the 15 to 25% range for meals if the service is appropriate. I tipped nothing once at a local restaurant when the server brought our meal out, refreshed out drinks once (after we caught her and ask,) and brought the bill to us. It was a Tex-Mex place and she didn't even bring chips and dip. I always tip, but not that time. Occasionally I will pre-tip and just say that "I know the service is going to be great" and it usually is.
On Amtrak I tip in the same percentage range and while I don't ride as often as some people here, the service I've had has been pretty good and the servers have been friendly. Last year we were 9 hours late leaving SEA on the Empire Builder. The last evening that we were on the train (should have already been in Chicago by that time) they served everyone a free meal. It wasn't anything fancy, something like beef stew, potatoes, green beans, a roll and water. I think I tipped $5.00 and a few other people were doing the same thing. I look back at it now and that crew really did their best to make a bad trip better and we should have tipped more.
There was a book printed about 20 years ago, "Zephyr: Tracking a Dream Across America" by Henry Kisor. The author interview several of the staff. One thing I remember was him saying that the cooks used to use their tips to buy spices and other items for the meals that Amtrak didn't supply. I doubt that there is much of that going on today with the Simplified Dinning but it was interesting. Slightly off subject but I thought it was great book. The first 60 pages were about some of the behind the scenes stuff and what the crew does to prepare a train for a trip at Chicago. It has some pictures of people that were involved with the train at that time. I think the person working at either Grand Junction or Glenwood Springs is the same person that is there now. It sure looked like her.
The snack bar usually has a box on the counter for tips and when I go I usually leave a tip. Since I'll probably hit it several time along the trip, I may skip it one time and then leave a generous tip the next time.
As I said, I ride coach. Last year I went CIN-CHI-LAX-EMY-SEA-CHI. The year before I went CHI-PDX-EMY-CHI. This year it was the Cardinal from CIN to WAS and back. Total is about 15,000 miles and about 15 days. I always have a camera, scanner, GPS, and sometimes a laptop. I've never had any problems. Of course, I don't go to the diner and leave the stuff sitting in the open in my seat. I will at least put it in a bag or case and put that under my seat. If I take my laptop I take one of the security cables that lets you secure it to something solid, like your seat / armrest footrest. You can loop the cable through your purse handle, your carry on bags, etc... It won't stop a thief, it just slows them down for a minute. After all, locks are made to keep honest people honest. Those cable cost $20 - 45 and lock into a small slot, usually on the side of the laptop, near the rear. Just don't forget the combination. See the attached photo for an example of the lock.
One thing to remember, a thief is somewhat captive until the train makes the next stop. There was the case of the unaccompanied minors a few months ago that were accused of taking some stuff. I think they were just "trouble" from the start. The crew had some time while they were still captive to try and sort out things.
As a general rule, engineers, conductors, assistant conductors are not tipped. Car attendants, sleeping car attendants, diner staff, snack bar attendants, and red caps are tipped.
Security... just use common sense. Don't be paranoid but don't be stupid either.
PS: The laptop might be a good idea with an 8 year old so that you can watch a video or two. Parts of that route are pretty barren unless you get excited looking at cacti, tumbleweeds, and desert.
Date: 10/07/07 19:26
> I think Amtrak should give passengers more
> guidance on tipping. As a first-time rider, I had
> no idea tipping was part of train riding. I picked
> it up from other passengers. I wish I had given a
> tip to 2 of the sleeping car attendants, Lisa on
> the Chief and Grace on the Zephyr. They were both
> top-notch. I either didn't know or didn't have
> change to give a proper tip. Next time I'll be
I believe that the Amtrak website's Traveling With Amtrak link used to have a section on tipping. It didn't suggest an amount but did say that while tipping service personell was appropriate, tipping the crew (conductors, etc.) wasn't. I don't see that section anymore.
I just came back from a round-robin on the Southwest Chief, Coast Starlight and Empire Builder. I'll post later Monday with my overall experience (which was excellent) but as far as tipping goes, here is what I did:
$3 for dinner
$2 for breakfast or lunch though I did tip $5 for the first breakfast on the EB as the other three at my table tipped $0 and I thought the service (and food) was worth more than the list price.
I had a roomette on each of the legs. On the SWC, I tipped $10. The attendant was polite, competant and courteous however I am a do-it-yourself type of a person and I turn in very late on the train so I configured the roomette myself both nights and morning so he really didn't have to do much of anything for me so I felt $10 was appropriate as I'm sure he would have delivered good service had I requested it.
On the Coast Starlight: Our attendant Cruz was definately an over-the-top service-oriented guy who loved his job and should be teaching other attendants on how to do theirs. Tip: $20 (and I actually let me configure my room which was a first) for a 1 night trip and that was dirt cheap, IMO.
On the Empire Builder: Our attendant was a let-down. Matter of fact, so was the sleeper (more on that on the trip report). He was competant and courteous but showed absolutely no enthusiasim for his job whatsoever. I don't think I saw him smile even once. He did what he was supposed to do, and for that I guess he deserved his paycheck but he didn't deserve a tip, IMO, and he didn't get one.
Date: 10/07/07 19:42
Re: Tipping--and Princess cruises
We have taken 2 cruises in the past 11 years. Our first was Princess thru the Panama Canal where we were provided with an envelope specifically to place money in to tip our service people. (Oops, we took a river cruise in Belgium/Netherlands 5 years ago and we were given a similar envelope with suggested tips such $5./per person per day. I was pissed. Last year, we took our family on a Princess cruise to Alaska which involved 10 people----we were charged $10 per person per day, automatically charged to our bill onboard, as tip and "we could challenge and/or change that". I consider this highway robbery. We never saw our cabin attendant from the day we boarded until we left. We didn't need his services for anything and yes, he kept the cabin neat, the bathroom clean and the bed made, but what the hell is he hired for anyway??
We felt that the dining room captain who managed the crew who served our family table deserved some extra compensation and we tipped him personally for that. But the rest of it----BS.
As to Amtrak, we have tipped the car attendant $10 per nite if he or she has done their job. We have also stiffed those who have never been available or brought us the ice or etc.
I think tipping is a crock.