How is tipping done in a cash-less Amtrak world?

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Eric in East County

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When traveling, we always carry some cash in bills of various denominations ($1, $5, $10, $50) to tip our Red Cap cart drivers, Sleeping Car Attendants, and taxi drivers. If we purchase food items in the Chicago Union Station Food Court, we’ll pay cash. (Several years ago, we bought food items in the Food Court using a credit card. Not long afterwards a fraudulent charge originating from Chicago showed up on our statement which we had to get corrected.) We use our credit card primarily to pay for our hotels, rental cars, for dining in restaurants we know and trust, and for purchasing items from businesses we know and trust.

We’re a little leery of the so-called “cashless society.” A thread posted elsewhere discussed at some length what would happen if a hostile player was able to shut down the internet and/or the power grids for an extended period of time. If this would happen while we’re traveling, our credit cards would be useless.

Eric & Pat
 

joelkfla

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I think the no cash issue with COVID is BS and an excuse everywhere to not have to deal with heavy coins, different denominations of bills, and paying someone to take and receive cash. Not to mention many who don't have bank accounts or cards.
I assumed that the problem was not the cash itself so much as the close face-to-face contact of the exchange. As opposed to swiping or scanning a card in a machine while the cashier is a safe distance away or behind plexiglass.

So not so much of a problem with a quick handoff of 1 or 2 bills.
 

John Bredin

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Personally I like going mostly cashless. I have to consciously remember to bring more cash on an overnight trip for cash tips (hotel cleaners as well as sleeping car attendants). But if you like using cash, Germany is the place for you. So many places in an otherwise ultramodern country that don't take credit cards! Unless Covid has finally done it, I don't see Germany ever going cashless. If you're going to Germany, think of how many dollars worth of local currency you usually get for a foreign trip and double it.

And definitely break a few Euros upon arriving to have coins for the nearly ubiquitous pay toilets. They're clean and worth the money, don't get me wrong. Used one in a commuter train station in Munich and it busted my theory that busy train station washrooms are a horror because users are in a particular hurry.
 

lstone19

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Tipping on a cashless train today is no different than tipping in today's cashless airline club lounges. For the complementary beverages, I leave a dollar bill on the bar top and not once has it been refused due to them being cashless. :) Cashless really means no cash for transactions between you and the business; tips, being between you and the server, are a completely separate matter.
 

Ziv

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I always carry $100US hidden on me for emergencies. One time when I was in Romania, I spent an extra 2 days in Cluj Napoca and spent my reserve down to $20 because all my friends there told me that ATM's in Belgrade worked fine for their ATM cards. I didn't think about the fact that all my friends in Cluj were Europeans using a different ATM type. (Starlink?)
So I arrived in Belgrade with $20US and none of the ATM's worked for me. I ended up having to buy a $16 bus ticket to Ljubljana to find an ATM that worked for US credit cards. While I was waiting for the bus I stopped into a cafe at the train station and ordered the least expensive sandwich on the menu for $3US. I counted my change to make sure I had enough and the owner of the cafe saw me doing so. He walked up to my table, tore up my check that he had in his hand and said, "Gratis". Then he offered me a little sweet cake for desert.
Three lessons for me. One, never spend down your reserve unless you really need to. Two, there are very cool people out there and you tend to find them when you are in a bad spot. And, three, never assume when it comes to travel.
And luckily, US ATM cards worked in Slovenia at the time. But I still carry a larger reserve fund when I travel.

I generally carry cash only for emergency use these days, at least in the US. So most of the tipping I do is via credit card for LSAs. There is no convenient way to do that for SCAs so I have to remember to take some extra cash to take care of them.

There are certain other countries that I go to which are primarily cash economies. There I carry wads of cash in the money belt. :)
 

AG1

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The Amtrak employee manual used to forbid employees from solicitating tips. Does anyone have a recent copy too check that out ?
It really irks me when the FC attendant steps off the train at the door with a hand full of large bills as if five invisible passengers before me had stuffed his hand with the cash on exiting.
 

VAtrainfan

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So how does cashless work in the areas where a train leaves 4G coverage and can't process a card? Every time I take the Virginia NER, and we lose 4G between Ashland and Fredericksburg, the Cafe Car attendant always insisted on cash only for that half-hour or so when the train has no Internet.
 

tricia

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So how does cashless work in the areas where a train leaves 4G coverage and can't process a card? Every time I take the Virginia NER, and we lose 4G between Ashland and Fredericksburg, the Cafe Car attendant always insisted on cash only for that half-hour or so when the train has no Internet.
Sounds like you already know the answer: It doesn't.

The folks who decided to require onboard purchases to "go cashless" on Amtrak are obviously clueless about the lack of cellphone signals through much of where Amtrak trains actually go.
 

me_little_me

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Sounds like you already know the answer: It doesn't.

The folks who decided to require onboard purchases to "go cashless" on Amtrak are obviously clueless about the lack of cellphone signals through much of where Amtrak trains actually go.
Amtrak would rather lose sales than pay for satellite coverage or negotiate with a provider to put in a tower somewhere. They have never cared about money they never got. Usually it is because they don't put enough on board but sometimes it's "we just don't care"!

I wonder how many people attempt to give them cards that end up being declined? Probably small enough to allow the purchase then process later and just scan the passenger's boarding pass.

But then, I don't have their intelligence when it comes to making money - thank goodness.
 

Trollopian

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Last spring, in the early throes of COVID terror, I'd put on a mask, go to the nearby farmer's market, pick my produce (which had to be pre-bagged, no pawing through the potatoes), pay with a credit card, get home, wipe the credit card with bleach, wipe the doorknob, strip, and shower.

More recent evidence suggests that surface or "touch" transmission is very rare. You basically have to touch a surface with sufficient viral load, then touch your face. The overwhelming method of transmission is sharing stale air with infected and unmasked people. See Catching COVID from surfaces is very unlikely. So perhaps we can ease up on the disinfecting.

I'm still being very, very careful. (My sister, a cancer survivor, just got home from 10 days in hospital with COVID. Ironically, she had been advised last month not to get the vaccine yet, her white and red blood counts were low.) But I wouldn't hesitate to hand a $20 bill to an SCA. If I were traveling now on Amtrak, which I'm not.
 

crescent-zephyr

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When I’ve handled credit cards on trains we just enable “offline” mode when we don’t have a signal. I thought that Amtrak did the same and that was the reason they didn’t accept gift cards.
 

Cal

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So how does cashless work in the areas where a train leaves 4G coverage and can't process a card? Every time I take the Virginia NER, and we lose 4G between Ashland and Fredericksburg, the Cafe Car attendant always insisted on cash only for that half-hour or so when the train has no Internet.
I've ridden the western LD trains, I don't recall any issues about having no coverage and paying. I thought they could still ring it up
 

jis

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When I’ve handled credit cards on trains we just enable “offline” mode when we don’t have a signal. I thought that Amtrak did the same and that was the reason they didn’t accept gift cards.
I don’t think many people know that for micro charges you don’t require any connection to anything at the time the transaction is carried out. At that point it is just a local journal entry that is reconciled later. The threshold for such is set up as a parameter of the contract between the vendor and the service provider.
 

crescent-zephyr

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I don’t think many people know that for micro charges you don’t require any connection to anything at the time the transaction is carried out. At that point it is just a local journal entry that is reconciled later. The threshold for such is set up as a parameter of the contract between the vendor and the service provider.
The way we had it setup, it would automatically try to connect to a cell tower no matter how small the amount, if it didn’t connect we could retry, or “enable offline mode.”
 
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Duane Witte

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When I travel I tend to carry more cash then when I am around home due to the fact that I'm usually out away from the major metro areas and sometimes you run into places that do not take credit cards. I suppose I got lucky when I rode the Southwest Chief In October of 2019 because I had 2 very outstanding SCAs and I showed my appreciation in my tip for all their help.
 

Dakota 400

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without any credit card penalty vigorish taken out.
You are suggesting that the server's tip is reduced by whatever the restaurant has to pay because the guest used a credit card was used to pay the check? If so, I was unaware of that practice.
 
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You are suggesting that the server's tip is reduced by whatever the restaurant has to pay because the guest used a credit card was used to pay the check? If so, I was unaware of that practice.
I wasn't sure how that worked...
I used to go to a diner, where you paid your check at the counter, and when I paid and added a tip to the credit card receipt, the cashier/owner would take the cash out of the register, and give it to the server, on the spot. I have gone to a Chinese restaurant, where they asked patrons to pay all tips in cash, and not put on the charge card. But for the vast majority of places, I never learned whether the restaurant deducted the charge fee from the tip they gave the server...
 

Dakota 400

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But for the vast majority of places, I never learned whether the restaurant deducted the charge fee from the tip they gave the server...
Considering the fact most if not all restaurants pay their wait staff a very minimal amount and that the bulk of the wait staffs' income comes from tips, I am not certain the poster to whom I was responding is correct in his/her thinking.
 

me_little_me

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You are suggesting that the server's tip is reduced by whatever the restaurant has to pay because the guest used a credit card was used to pay the check? If so, I was unaware of that practice.
Any decent restaurant (decent meaning the owner was decent, not the food or service) would pay the staff the full tip and absorb the fee. For a $30 meal where you leave a 20% $6 tip, that would be less than a quarter.

However, we all know some owners are like some corporate CEOs - greed is their prime reason for living.

Only real fix is to dump the tip system entirely and raise the cost to cover staff costs so they get a guaranteed wage. If McD can do it, so can other restaurants - not that McD pays good salaries.
 
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