Tipping a Valet: When, Who and How Much Should You Tip

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Valet Photo

Have you ever found yourself impatiently waiting for your car to be returned to you after a fancy date or work outing? Maybe the restaurant entry way is crowded and it’s a bit too cold to comfortably wait after the valet jogs off with your keys. 

It is important to keep in mind that we often do not see what is going on behind the scenes when waiting for our vehicles to be fetched from the valet. Impatience, scrambling, and a growing line of cars can cause an unpleasant situation for everyone involved. 

A Necessary Kindness

A lesser-known fact about the valet’s job is that many valet companies do not have designated parking lots; therefore, drivers must wander around until they find a spot. This means that for each transaction, a valet needs to look for a parking spot, recall the spot, and then jog back to the vehicle when the owner is ready to pick up. Even when the valet keeps a record of where he or she has parked, shift changes can still mess it up. The individual returning the vehicle will likely not be the same as the individual who parked it, making the task of finding the parked vehicle more difficult and stressful.

With all of these challenging aspects of valet service, it is necessary for customers to tip valet workers. This shows kindness, appreciation of service, and understanding of the difficulty involved in the job.

How Much Should You Tip Your Valet

The average tip for a valet in the USA is currently anywhere between $2 – $5 at both drop off and pick up, making an average total tip of $4 – $10. The hospitality industry has varied average tip percentages across the USA. Some states, on average, recommend a higher percentage while others recommend a much lower percentage.

USA States that recommend the highest %:

  • Alaska: 17%
  • Arkansas: 16.9%
  • North Carolina: 16.8 %

Some factors for higher tipping percentages in these states include that these states tend to have higher job growth in several industries. These states also may not have imposed state sales tax (such as Alaska) and therefore a little extra in the pockets of the mass can go a long way, leading to higher tipping rates.

USA States that recommend the lowest %:

  • Delaware: 14%
  • Hawaii: 15.1%
  • South Dakota 15.3%

What May Cause the Recommended % to Change

One factor that may cause the recommended tipping percent to change is the advent of more technological means of tipping. Accessibility and efficiency are often two factors impacting this percentage.

When to tip your valet

When exceptional service has been given, such as the valet driver running to fetch your car or braving the elements during bad weather, a tip is definitely well deserved. Even with non-exceptional conditions and service, you will probably feel obliged to tip — and besides how much to tip a valet, you may not be sure exactly when to tip.

You should give a tip to your valet when you feel that the opportunity or timing is right. As you park your vehicle, leaving the car on and key in the ignition, the valet will hand you a ticket to hold onto. This is the prime opportunity to hand the driver a tip.

When returning to pick up your vehicle and the driver hands you your keys, this is also the time to hand over a tip. The individual that parked your car might be different than the individual returning your car. Therefore, it is best to tip both at drop-off and pick up.

Where does my tip go?

Like most hospitality businesses, tips are often distributed in one of two ways. One method is that the server or valet given the tip is the individual who is directly receiving the tip. Alternatively, all tips collected from the day are combined into a pot and divided at the end of the night. A great example of a valet business who divides up their tips is Royal Valet.

How to tip your valet?

There are different methods on how to tip a valet in 2020 — the first method being a cash tip.

  • A pro to this is that you are directly handing the tip to your valet, sharing your gratitude for their service. It’s uncomplicated and simple!
  • One con, on the other hand, is that you have to be sure to carry small bills on you at all times.
  • Of course, if you don’t have the exact amount in bills for your desired tip, you can give your valet a $10 bill and ask for change.

The second method is tipping via a virtual tip jar. This is a popular solution for today’s cash-less society, since we often do not carry small bills in our pockets anymore. Services such as our own, eTip, give customers the ability to tip valet drivers and other employees of the hospitality service on a mobile device.

  • An upside to this method is that you can easily control the size of your tip, since you don’t need to deal with exact cash. 
  • Additionally, tipping through this method is contactless, so it’s more health-conscious for everyone involved.
  • Another pro is that you have the time to consider the service and tip after the fact. If a driver was exceptional and you wanted to give a larger tip, you have the ability to do so.

To tip or not to tip. That is the question.

In the USA, we live in a society that depends heavily on tips. Certain employers are able to pay their employees at a level far below the federal minimum wage with the assumption that customers will provide a tip for employees allowing them to meet or exceed the federal minimum wage.

It is vital to remember this detail to understand that tipping a valet person is also important. Using a valet tipping calculator or other various tools, such as the recommended tip amount table, can help you navigate the valet tipping industry.

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