Tips for meals and Sleeping Car attendant

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My husband and I haven't been on a long distance train for 5 years. We're taking the Zephyr next week in the large bedroom from EMY to CHI. We used to tip $5 for breakfast and lunch, $10 for dinner, and $20 for the Sleeping Car attendant. Is that still appropriate or should it be more?
 

Dakota 400

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For dining car server, I try to estimate the cost of the meal and offer a 20% gratuity if the service has been what I expect. If not, the gratuity gets reduced.

For the SCA, $10/night is sufficient if the service has been what I expect. If it has been exceptional, I will increase that to $15-20/night.

And, if used in the Lounge/Cafe car, a gratuity to the attendant there is quite appropriate. Too often, in my opinion, the individual receives nothing from customers, even when the attendant is doing a very good job, pleasant, and personable.
 

Lonestar648

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If I receive good service, I tip about what you have been tipping. If service is excellent, I will tip more, PLUS write a letter to Amtrak to complement them. Now if for example the SCA is one that can not be found except when I get off expecting a tip, they only get a letter sent to Amtrak about the poor service.
 

jis

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In the Dining Car I consistently use the 2-3-5 formula, $2 for Breakfast, $3 for Lunch and $5 for Dinner. SCA per night is nominally $10 for me. I have not had food delivered to my room except where that is the only choice, and then the same as Diner formula is used. Exceptions on both better and worse side are handled on a per case basis. In Cafe it is the same as would be in any other self serve place. Not quite 10% nor quite 0%, but somewhere in between depending on the quality of service.
 

Devil's Advocate

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Too often, in my opinion, the individual receives nothing from customers, even when the attendant is doing a very good job, pleasant, and personable.
I generally consider myself to be a generous tipper, with the exception of walk-up service counters, but many of the typical reasons for tipping (wage recovery, special requests, stronger drinks, etc.) don't really exist on Amtrak. Nor do I need help with most of the usual tasks (moving my luggage, making my bed, using my room). The one service for which I still had a strong desire to tip was easy access to ice. It seems like such a simple task to me, but on my last trip it took three hours from initial request until actual delivery. The SCA kept putting off requests with vague excuses and eventually ignored us so long she started forgetting which passengers had asked for what. She was friendly and pleasant but also displayed a disturbing lack of awareness. I'm sorry but I just cannot bring myself to tip for service such as that.
 
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Dakota 400

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Devil's Advocate,

Please note that the quote you copied from my post was related to my observations of the attendant in the Cafe/Lounge Car. On my Silver Meteor trip in January, I sat in the Cafe Car with a view of the attendant and the serving station. Customer after customer appeared and he did his best in fulfilling their requests. None that I saw left a gratuity. The man was glum in appearance, clearly unhappy. I decided to have another glass of wine after finishing the one that I had brought with me from the Diner. After efficiently serving me and paying with my credit card, I left a couple of dollars in his tip jar. Seeing what I had done, he smiled and thanked me. He felt good; I felt good. I hope the gentleman's mood improved.
 

jis

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I always add the tip to my credit card payment. You would have no way sitting at a table far away to know whether I tipped or not ;)
 

Dakota 400

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I always add the tip to my credit card payment. You would have no way sitting at a table far away to know whether I tipped or not ;)
Sorry to disagree, but I was close enough to watch the transactions taking place. I saw cash exchanging hands and I saw no cash being placed in the attendant's tip jar. Credit cards were being used, but, of course, how would I know of the bottom line for that transaction?

What I did see was an obvious thankfulness from the attendant when he realized that I had left a gratuity.
 

jis

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Sorry to disagree, but I was close enough to watch the transactions taking place. I saw cash exchanging hands and I saw no cash being placed in the attendant's tip jar. Credit cards were being used, but, of course, how would I know of the bottom line for that transaction?

What I did see was an obvious thankfulness from the attendant when he realized that I had left a gratuity.
So you agree with what I said, that you had no way of telling whether a tip was included in a credit card payment. Now tell me again what is it that you disagree with?

Anyway. Here is an interesting article on tipping.


http://on.theatln.tc/iMPQnVI
 
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As a follow up question, HOW do you actually tip? As meals are already paid for, do you just leave some cash on the table? What about the SCA? When and how should they be tipped?
 

Maglev

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As a follow up question, HOW do you actually tip? As meals are already paid for, do you just leave some cash on the table? What about the SCA? When and how should they be tipped?
I always leave cash on the table for meals. I think if you buy alcohol or something, you can charge it and add a tip to your credit card charge. As for the SCA, I slip him or her a $20 bill outside the train when I disembark at my destination.
 
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Dakota 400

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I always leave cash on the table for meals. I think if you buy alcohol or something, you can charge it and add a tip to your credit card charge. As for the SCA, I slip him or her a $20 bill outside the train when I disembark at my final destination.
That is what I do as well. At lunch and dinner, I will usually have a glass of wine or two (maybe a bottle) and will use a credit card to pay for it. I'll add the tip to the credit card charge usually.
 

Sauve850

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My tips are always in cash. As a single I fall into the $2-3 for breakfast, $3-4 for lunch and $5+ for dinner. Depends a lot on the service received. In a bedroom my SCA gets $5-$10 per night if service with beds, ice etc is timely. More if help with luggage ( almost never happens), extra blankets, friendly, engaging, etc. Ive had some really good ones lately. As far as the Cafe goes I walk down and grab my own beer and he/she rings it up. That's just a cashier and Ill give them the half a dollar change and that's it. If i purchased food I'd tip a little more.
 
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We also add the tip to a wine bill. As far as SCA, I like to tip as I get on to make a connection with the SCA plus anticipate good service. If the service doesn’t follow through on the by the morning, no further tips.
 

Devil's Advocate

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Devil's Advocate, Please note that the quote you copied from my post was related to my observations of the attendant in the Cafe/Lounge Car. On my Silver Meteor trip in January, I sat in the Cafe Car with a view of the attendant and the serving station. Customer after customer appeared and he did his best in fulfilling their requests. None that I saw left a gratuity. The man was glum in appearance, clearly unhappy. I decided to have another glass of wine after finishing the one that I had brought with me from the Diner. After efficiently serving me and paying with my credit card, I left a couple of dollars in his tip jar. Seeing what I had done, he smiled and thanked me. He felt good; I felt good. I hope the gentleman's mood improved.
I think what you did was both kind and thoughtful, and I don't doubt that it helped improve his mood and yours, but I'm also okay with allowing strangers to tip differently or not at all. By their very nature tips are at the discretion of the customer, and when it comes to gratuities I feel Amtrak is a rather unusual situation that defies obvious protocol. The only time I get nosy with how other people tip is when they're joining me on the same receipt. Other than that I feel it's up to them to find whatever path suits their conscience.
 
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Qapla

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Since most of the Amtrak employees make more than I do - I find tipping the amounts some say to tip out of my reach ... guess I'll stick to riding coach and bringing my own food and drink.
 

anumberone

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I think what you did was both kind and thoughtful, and I don't doubt that it helped improve his mood and yours, but I'm also okay with allowing strangers to tip differently or not at all. By their very nature tips are at the discretion of the customer, and when it comes to gratuities I feel Amtrak is a rather unusual situation that defies obvious protocol. The only time I get nosy with how other people tip is when they're joining me on the same receipt. Other than that I feel it's up to them to find whatever path suits their conscience.
I tip an appropriate amount and like you, if I'm sharing a bill I get nosy and quite annoyed at someone dropping a dime and saying that's fine. I do have to do the math for my wife who I think goes by the smile rather than percentages.
 

anumberone

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Since most of the Amtrak employees make more than I do - I find tipping the amounts some say to tip out of my reach ... guess I'll stick to riding coach and bringing my own food and drink.
Whatever works for you
 

RSG

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I generally consider myself to be a generous tipper, with the exception of walk-up service counters, but many of the typical reasons for tipping (wage recovery, special requests, stronger drinks, etc.) don't really exist on Amtrak. Nor do I need help with most of the usual tasks (moving my luggage, making my bed, using my room). The one service for which I still had a strong desire to tip was easy access to ice. It seems like such a simple task to me, but on my last trip it took three hours from initial request until actual delivery. The SCA kept putting off requests with vague excuses and eventually ignored us so long she started forgetting which passengers had asked for what. She was friendly and pleasant but also displayed a disturbing lack of awareness. I'm sorry but I just cannot bring myself to tip for service such as that.
I have to agree with all of this. I've never quite understood the compulsiveness of some to tip on Amtrak. Almost all are union employees and are well-compensated on a base level. As noted, the extra service that one would tip for doesn't usually exist and building a rapport for future visits also doesn't usually exist since it's rare to get the same employees on future trips given the number of crews and the volume of passengers they encounter.

Then there's the attitude issue. Many employees approach service like the passenger/customer has a communicable disease for which the company does not provide adequate protection. The result is often an arm's length type of service, at best. I am also quite self-sufficient and don't require much assistance, but it would be nice to be asked more often than not asked.

I've also had similar experiences with ice service now that it is no longer self-serve in most cases. I don't expect a three minute window from time of request to completion, but I've had it take up to an hour to receive ice. On some occasions, I've noticed the attendant chatting with the dining car staff or doing side work that could wait until some true downtime. Likewise, these attendants are usually pleasant and even friendly, but have no sense of awareness. As a result, I no longer tip the TASC/SCA unless they have gone above and beyond the call of duty (and I read the job descriptions which are occasionally posted here to help manage my expectations and be aware of deficiencies).


[Edited for grammar.]
 
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Gary Behling

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Has anyone ever tried tipping in advance? I have and often do and it works surprisingly well. One time, on the Coast Starlight when they still gave you a small bottle of wine at the start in Los Angeles, my room attendant offered me extra bottles that other passengers turned down. I took them, hell yes! I also do it at other venues in order to get special treatment, but that's another story
 

RSG

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As a follow up question, HOW do you actually tip? As meals are already paid for, do you just leave some cash on the table?
In my experience, most people leave cash on the table. I usually order wine with dinner and that allows me to place a gratuity on the payment card tip line (for which I do the anticipated tips for all of my meals for the following day, since I don't order alcohol with breakfast or lunch).

I will note that I am often seated out of ordering sequence so that my dining companions receive their meals and finish them first. They will often excuse themselves to go back to their rooms or the lounge leaving me to finish my meal alone (perfectly fine with me). I mention this because they usually leave a cash tip behind and if I were unscrupulous, I could easily pocket it without either them or the diner car staff knowing.

It happens so often that if I were leaving a cash tip, I would attempt to give it to the dining car attendant who serviced my table just in case.
 

RSG

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Has anyone ever tried tipping in advance? I have and often do and it works surprisingly well. One time, on the Coast Starlight when they still gave you a small bottle of wine at the start in Los Angeles, my room attendant offered me extra bottles that other passengers turned down. I took them, hell yes! I also do it at other venues in order to get special treatment, but that's another story
As others have pointed out when this subject has come up before, isn't "tipping in advance" more akin to a bribe?
 

Dakota 400

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As others have pointed out when this subject has come up before, isn't "tipping in advance" more akin to a bribe?
I participate on the Cruise Critic Forum and the gratuity in advance issue has been widely and debated for years. Some see it as "a bribe". Some "swear" that results in better service from their SCA. Some believe, as I do, that it makes no difference in the service received.

I follow my "on land" tipping procedure. I will offer a reasonable gratuity, in my opinion, for the service that I receive in whatever venue I patronize.

When it comes to the issue of what, if any, gratuity for whatever service I ought to offer, it is a truly personal decision. Is such a decision always easy? No.
 
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