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Red cap question

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lordsigma

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I was just wondering what is the customary tip for a red cap? Today I was at NY ClubAcela and they got me a red cap even though I said I didn’t need one (and had no baggage) but i got the early boarding advantage as a result but felt bad as I didn’t have any cash to tip as I wasn’t expecting it them to send one. Just wondering for future reference!
 

Thirdrail7

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It depends on what they do and their demeanor. Red Cap service is free of charge. You are in no way obligated to tip them. Therefore, it is as your discretion although I would give them nothing before I gave them a quarter or penny. 

I mean, you didn't even have a bag.  Maybe a five but I wouldn't have given anything....especially since I didn't ask.

*** Full disclosure***- I have an almost borderline irrational, longstanding  grudge against the  NYP red caps despite the fact the rotten apples are probably long gone.
 
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The only place I have used red caps regularly is in Philly--I usually tip $3 if I have a suitcase. I tip $2 if I have just asked to tag along so I can get down to the platform before the crowd (and some of my wonderful red cap friends in Philly have tried to refuse that :) !).

However, that might not be considered enough in NY. Also, I don't like that they got you a red cap after you specifically said you didn't need one--that sounds like a plan to get them more tips (although I am perhaps being cynical), and in that case I would not have tipped.

Two ideas for the future: I always keep some singles in my pocket just for situations like this--where you might want to tip someone but didn't realize it was going to come up. Also, I think I would be more inclined to tip a red cap in a smaller station, where they may not get many tips, than in a huge place like NY, where I'm sure they do just fine.
 
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iplaybass

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Yeah, I have mixed feelings about being given a red cap when you haven't asked for one. It feels like a hustle, but you do get early boarding, and that is an advantage at stations where boarding frequently turns into a free-for-all rush (CHI and WAS on my most recent trips).

I keep singles on hand for such contingencies, but I tip better if I request a red cap. Last time in DC at the lounge I got luggage assistance to 29 I didn't ask for... but I discovered I'd torn a calf muscle rushing for the connection at BAL, when I headed to the platform.
 

cpotisch

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It depends on what they do and their demeanor. Red Cap service is free of charge. You are in no way obligated to tip them. Therefore, it is as your discretion although I would give them nothing before I gave them a quarter or penny. 

I mean, you didn't even have a bag.  Maybe a five but I wouldn't have given anything....especially since I didn't ask.

*** Full disclosure***- I have an almost borderline irrational, longstanding  grudge against the  NYP red caps despite the fact the rotten apples are probably long gone.
That’s some nice fine print you got there, Thirdrail. ;)
 

cpotisch

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Yeah, I have mixed feelings about being given a red cap when you haven't asked for one. It feels like a hustle, but you do get early boarding, and that is an advantage at stations where boarding frequently turns into a free-for-all rush (CHI and WAS on my most recent trips).

I keep singles on hand for such contingencies, but I tip better if I request a red cap. Last time in DC at the lounge I got luggage assistance to 29 I didn't ask for... but I discovered I'd torn a calf muscle rushing for the connection at BAL, when I headed to the platform.
As far as I can tell, you can still head down and board early at NYP without a Red Cap, so long as you know the tracks. Just take the stairs down to the platform from the lower level, instead of the main Amtrak concourse from which access to the tracks is restricted.
 

Dakota 400

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I once gave a Red Cap a very generous tip at Chicago.  He picked me and my two small carry-on bags up on the platform, went to Baggage Claim and got my two large pieces of luggage, and then took me to the taxi line-up (which appeared to me was a location that "jumped the line").  He unloaded his cart and got my luggage into the taxi.  I truly felt that the $20 I gave him was well deserved.  It was "service beyond my expectations".
 

lordsigma

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As far as I can tell, you can still head down and board early at NYP without a Red Cap, so long as you know the tracks. Just take the stairs down to the platform from the lower level, instead of the main Amtrak concourse from which access to the tracks is restricted.
You can - I did it the last time I was there and was planning on doing that today until they said my red cap was there.
 

FrensicPic

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Twice, returning to LA Union Station, the Red Cap took us into the parking garage all the way to our car. We were his last "fare" and had everything to gain. And gain he did...I more than doubled his tip!

For reference, I start at $2 per bag and go from there...we usually have two suitcases and another carry-on plus my wife's walker. Normally, the Red Caps just takes us to the entrance of the parking garage at the East Portal.
 

Hytec

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Normally I give $5 for one bag and a ride in WAS or NYP. However I had one exception in WAS. I had 10 minutes to transfer from a very late #20 to an Acela. A Redcap in a cart met my Viewliner vestibule, raced down the platform around in front of our still connected diesels, across three tracks, and down the Acela to the Quiet Car vestibule with 5 minutes to spare. Needless to say, I gave him $20...gladly!  BTW, my SCA arranged that transfer, so he got $20 also, again, GLADLY!!!!!

I tip for exceptional service. Most give it gladly without question when asked. Unfortunately there are those few who are merely collecting a paycheck. Fortunately I have never run across them, and hope I never do.
 
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iplaybass

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As far as I can tell, you can still head down and board early at NYP without a Red Cap, so long as you know the tracks. Just take the stairs down to the platform from the lower level, instead of the main Amtrak concourse from which access to the tracks is restricted.
CHI and WAS (LD-Don't know about NEC) not so much. CHI, you're likely to get run over by coach pax as soon as they see one petson head through the boarding door. Nearly impossible for two people to hold back the tide. I plan on getting a red cap in LA for the San Diego run, not sure about CHI on the SWC. We'll see how my calf holds up. 3 days to go!
 

AG1

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I was just wondering what is the customary tip for a red cap? Today I was at NY ClubAcela and they got me a red cap even though I said I didn’t need one (and had no baggage) but i got the early boarding advantage as a result but felt bad as I didn’t have any cash to tip as I wasn’t expecting it them to send one. Just wondering for future reference!
I have been with people from the NY Club Acela that were escorted  to the platform early without asking for such assistance. The Red Cap acted as a guide and did not carry bags or overtly solicit a tip. The Red Caps are reportedly well paid union employees of Amtrak and are there to help all customers, not just the affluent tippers.
 

Skyline

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Some great anecdotes here about Red Caps giving exceptional service. Refreshing...

I don't begrudge anyone in the service industry a livable wage and benefits. A minority get decent pay and some level of benefits. The rest do not! Still, for the normal level of service or better I like to tip. For better than average, the tip increases. Because no matter how much they make before tipping, there but for the grace of God go I.

Most Amtrak employees and others in railroading do OK, but that's not a reason IMHO to automatically withhold tipping. Poor or surly service is.

In other employment situations employees like restaurant servers, bartenders, kitchen staff, etc. hardly make anything before tipping. Until that changes, I only withhold tips if they are super incompetent or lazy. 
 
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In other employment situations employees like restaurant servers, bartenders, kitchen staff, etc. hardly make anything before tipping. Until that changes, I only withhold tips if they are super incompetent or lazy. 
I agree, and would add hotel housekeeping staff to this list. I leave a tip each day for them, instead of at the end of a stay, because it could be a different person each day.
 

Shanghai

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I tip the Red Cap five dollars everywhere.  Most are helpful and take by luggage into my room.
 

Skyline

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I agree, and would add hotel housekeeping staff to this list. I leave a tip each day for them, instead of at the end of a stay, because it could be a different person each day.
Excellent points. I also tip housekeeping, but tipping daily is a good idea as different staff may be involved day-to-day. Never thought of it that way but you're right. When you check out, just leaving $$$ on a desk is all you need to do. But if staying multiple nights, how do you handle it one day at a time so the right people get it? If it was me working, I'd be hesitant to take $$$ on a desk left there by guests who hadn't checked out for fear I'd be accused of theft...
 
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I leave it on the pillow. I used to add a note saying "For housekeeping--thank you," but I think that leaving it on the pillow on the bed is good because they will know for sure it is for them. I sometimes get a note back from housekeeping saying "Thank you," so I think leaving it on the bed is commonly accepted practice.
 

AmtrakBlue

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I put the daily tip in an envelope (I bring them with me) and write housekeeping on the envelope and leave it on the dresser.
 

Devil's Advocate

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I don't begrudge anyone in the service industry a livable wage and benefits. A minority get decent pay and some level of benefits. The rest do not! Still, for the normal level of service or better I like to tip. For better than average, the tip increases. Because no matter how much they make before tipping, there but for the grace of God go I. Most Amtrak employees and others in railroading do OK, but that's not a reason IMHO to automatically withhold tipping. Poor or surly service is.
Amtrak OBS enjoy both a higher wage and better benefits than the vast majority of front line service staff.  I'm glad they have it this good and I see no reason to take any of it away from them.  That being said, I also see no reason for passengers who are worse off (wage and/or benefit wise) to feel obligated to tip their financial superiors.

That is what I do as well.  If I am in a hotel on Christmas Day, I leave a more generous gratuity than I normally do.  I appreciate the person sacrificing their holiday with family and friends to make provide me with a clean and properly cared for room.
Back before mass shootings were "resolved" by the unilateral dissolution of hotel room privacy, I used to place a "Do Not Disturb" sign on my door and hope the staff got home a little sooner by not having to bother with my room that day.
 
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Dakota 400

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add a note saying "For housekeeping--thank you,"
That is what I do as well.  If I am in a hotel on Christmas Day, I leave a more generous gratuity than I normally do.  I appreciate the person sacrificing their holiday with family and friends to make provide me with a clean and properly cared for room.
 

cpotisch

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Yeah, I have mixed feelings about being given a red cap when you haven't asked for one. It feels like a hustle, but you do get early boarding, and that is an advantage at stations where boarding frequently turns into a free-for-all rush (CHI and WAS on my most recent trips).

I keep singles on hand for such contingencies, but I tip better if I request a red cap. Last time in DC at the lounge I got luggage assistance to 29 I didn't ask for... but I discovered I'd torn a calf muscle rushing for the connection at BAL, when I headed to the platform.
As far as I can tell, you can still head down and board early at NYP without a Red Cap, so long as you know the tracks. Just take the stairs down to the platform from the lower level, instead of the main Amtrak concourse from which access to the tracks is restricted
Today we went down to the platform (track 12) and boarded with no issue, well before they actually nnounced it and started the full boarding process. The only benefit of a Red Cap in this regard is that they’ll know for sure which track the train is on. But it also isn’t the worst thing in the world to go down to the wrong platform, see the train on another track, go back up, and then back down to the correct ones. It cost me maybe 30 seconds today, and I’d much rather waste 30 seconds of my own time going up and down stairs, than to have an employee take the time to bring me and my bags down.
 

Skyline

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Amtrak OBS enjoy both a higher wage and better benefits than the vast majority of front line service staff.  I'm glad they have it this good and I see no reason to take any of it away from them.  That being said, I also see no reason for passengers who are worse off (wage and/or benefit wise) to feel obligated to tip their financial superiors.
Point well taken re: passengers who are worse off financially.

I'm going to take a guess that most folks who can afford to ride in an Amtrak sleeper these days are not worse off tho. But tipping is certainly voluntary regardless, not an obligation. 
 

AmtrakBlue

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Point well taken re: passengers who are worse off financially.
 
I'm going to take a guess that most folks who can afford to ride in an Amtrak sleeper these days are not worse off tho. But tipping is certainly voluntary regardless, not an obligation. 
I was worse off in my early days of traveling in a roomette. I was able to travel in the roomettes using points from the credit cards. I’m doing better financially now but still use points for roomettes.
 

Skyline

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I was worse off in my early days of traveling in a roomette. I was able to travel in the roomettes using points from the credit cards. I’m doing better financially now but still use points for roomettes.
Same here, in the '70s and early '80s. Back then, the venerable, affordable Slumbercoach saved the day on some routes. Gee, those are missed! But to keep this on-topic, even then I did tip those who did their jobs well enough to earn it -- just not that much because of my own situation. Usually a buck or two for a single overnight.
 

iplaybass

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Today we went down to the platform (track 12) and boarded with no issue, well before they actually nnounced it and started the full boarding process. The only benefit of a Red Cap in this regard is that they’ll know for sure which track the train is on. But it also isn’t the worst thing in the world to go down to the wrong platform, see the train on another track, go back up, and then back down to the correct ones. It cost me maybe 30 seconds today, and I’d much rather waste 30 seconds of my own time going up and down stairs, than to have an employee take the time to bring me and my bags down.
Wander around platforms at CUS even if you do make it past the locked doors and you'll have an encounter with Amtrak police.
 
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