That’s usually the other way around. Normally, readers ask me a question. But this is a time we can figure out what we can do for each other. While more people are working remotely and avoiding public transportation due to the coronavirus, not everyone has the luxury of working from home. How do you show people in consumer-facing industries that you appreciate all they do? Delivery staff may be busier than usual, but wait staff are going to see their income drop as people stay home.
America is battening down the hatches. Restaurants are closing. Music festivals have canceled. Broadway has gone dark. There are lines outside some supermarkets with people on the hunt for fresh fruit and vegetables, cleaning products, hand sanitizer and, yes, oat milk. You can’t get toilet roll on Amazon for love or money.
So here is my question: How much should you tip the delivery person or Uber driver during the coronavirus pandemic? They are, after all, potentially putting themselves in harm’s way.
In New York, studies show people tend to tip 15% to 20%. It’s often less than that in other parts of the country. Wages are higher in metropolitan areas such as San Francisco, New York and Seattle, among others. Service-industry workers may be feeling extra anxious going to work and dealing with members of the public. They are, after all, among those Americans who do not have the luxury of working from home. To quote a slogan of yore from an Irish credit union: Every little bit helps.
You may care more about whether COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, is more deadly than the flu, worry about how long coronavirus lasts on surfaces, or wonder if recirculated air at 30,000 feet increases your chances of getting sick. I’m turning my gimlet eye to etiquette. My recommendation: tip service-industry workers 5% more, if you can afford it. For me, that’s 25%. Likewise, if you usually tip 10%, perhaps consider 15%.
Also see:Meet the most generous tipper in America
I asked Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach, Fla. “Exchanging money is not the best thing to do at the moment,” she says. “Use a credit card or an app, and tip at least 15% to 20%. I usually tip $4 on a $20 pizza, but it’s not going to make or break me by giving them one more dollar. However, I am also aware that there are a lot of retirees living in this state, and not everyone tips like I do.” ( This Square survey says Floridians tip about 16%.)
As economists warn of a looming recession, some industries may be less secure than others. “Declining consumer confidence, potentially severe retail-traffic declines, and temporary store closures are evolving risk factors that depend on uncertain variables like the geographic spread of the virus and the timing of containment/eradication solutions,” analysts at Cowen, a financial-services company. wrote in this research note.
That said, there’s one thing (almost) better than an extra dollar: Acknowledging that people in the service industry are turning up for work. When I greeted the man who gave me coffee in the local bodega last weekend, and a Lyft driver, I told each of them to stay safe and stay healthy, and I thanked them for showing up, and I tipped the driver 25%. I gave them the peace sign and said, ” V for Victory. We’re gonna beat this!”
Coronavirus update for readers:
Ride-hailing rivals Uber and Lyft earlier this week suspended shared-ride services. Groups representing drivers had complained about still being asked to pick up multiple riders. “No one should be riding around in a car full of strangers right now,” said Moira Muntz, spokeswoman for The Independent Drivers Guild, which advocates for drivers in New York City.
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As of Saturday evening, there were 304,544 confirmed cases and 12,974 deaths worldwide, according to data from the database of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering; the database also reported 91,540 recoveries. The U.S. has had at least 25,493 confirmed coronavirus cases and 307 deaths, John Hopkins added.