Should you tip a countertop installer?

Let me get you involved in one of my marital arguments. Yes, I want you in on this so that you can decide for yourself which action you would take in a similar situation.

I had carpet installed in my bedroom a few weeks back. It’s the kind of lush carpeting with extra thick padding under it that just makes your feet sing when you step out of bed in the morning. When the carpet installer came, I offered him a drink, which he took with appreciation. I try not to hover when workers come to the house, simply because I don’t like being watched when I’m working. After he left, my husband yelled at me for not tipping the installer.

Here began the argument about who deserves to be tipped. I feel that America has become heavy-handed with tips. However, in most European countries, tipping is considered an insult. Without making this a social commentary blog, this discussion on who should be tipped should be addressed. The truth is whether you choose to tip countertop installers is truly up to you.

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That being said, you should take into consideration both sides of the argument. Search any home renovation chat page and there will be arguments and discussions for pages on what the right answer is. Here, we’ll look at both sides and give you the best opportunity to make your decision.

To Tip…

When my husband heard my argument (“I gave him a soda,”) he scoffed and told me offering a drink was simply hospitable not in lieu of a tip. The truth is that some companies do not provide a salary according to how difficult it is to complete their job. Someone lifting heavy boxes all day seems more labor-intensive than writing this blog. Delivery people, for example, tend to only make minimum wage, and tips are greatly appreciated though not expected. This is why many people believe tipping the sofa delivery guys is a good idea.

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Going above and beyond is the one time I feel I will relent on this topic. Take for instance the rug installer. Everything had been removed from the room, as requested. However, if I had been a single woman attempting to move a queen-sized bed by myself, it would have been an issue. Some workers, like a hypothetical carpet installer, may go against company policy and help to move the furniture. This warrants a tip for his help and understanding.

For countertop installers, you may find that they have a difficult time installing the counters. Maybe the original one to measure did it incorrectly, and they need to come back a different day with a new piece. Maybe the granite cracks in half as they carry it up the stairs. Maybe they sand down the edges even though it isn’t part of the job.

For example, let’s imagine that the installer spends extra time making sure that the seams disappear in the corner to make the granite appear as one cohesive piece. It is at these times that I might feel they have gone above and beyond what was originally required of them. If this is the case, sites like Angie’s List and AARP suggest offering them a tip of no more than $20-$50 per worker.

…Or Not to Tip

Okay, so let me get back to the European tipping concept. To give them credit, Europe typically provides a livable wage, whereas this isn’t always the case in America. Europeans feel that the wage they earn is what they earn for doing their job. They do not expect to receive a bonus tip for going above and beyond, because they feel they should anyway. That is their work ethic, and one I find admirable.

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That said, the industry that tends to underpay their workers in America because they anticipate tips supplementing their income is the food industry. Waitstaff and bartenders are often provided wages below minimum wage. If it makes you feel better, Federal law requires that restaurants make up the difference to the waitstaff if their tips plus hourly wage do not equal minimum wage.

Sadly, the Federal minimum wage since 2009 in America has been $7.25 – not nearly enough for a person to live on in most states. We can now begin to see why there were so many issues with restaurants remaining open during the Covid-19 pandemic. No customers = making up for the lack of tips in pay (plus the restaurant lost money from lack of customers).

Laborers

So, this rant may seem in favor of tipping, but this specifically refers to restaurants and bars. Countertop installers, like carpet installers, fall under the construction field. These (wo)men are paid decent wages. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), as of 2020, construction laborers and helpers earned a median salary of $37,080 or $17.83 an hour. True, they work very hard for their earnings, but don’t waitresses? When compared to the possible $5 an hour that Disney World pays its servers, we can see there is a huge pay gap there.

What does this mean to me? The countertop installers are completing their job and rarely go above and beyond for customers because it is just another job on their list. I believe offering these hard workers a cold drink and maybe even some snacks or a hot lunch is fair considering I’m already paying the construction company a ton of money for the installation.

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Contractors

Now, what if the guys installing the countertops are independent contractors or business owners? In that case, I definitely don’t tip. Etiquette says that it is not necessary to ever tip someone who is the owner of a business. All monies go directly to them, so there is no fee held back by the owner or business. If you pay $100 for installation on top of the cost they chose to charge for the product, then the owner/contractor is making that $100 as additional profit. Though some may argue they need to pay business taxes on that.

However, some construction workers offer discounts if you pay in cash rather than by check or card. The reason for this is because they do not have a paper trail that means they need to claim it as income on their taxes. It is illegal, but you hear about it all the time. In fact, I had a sink fixed by a plumber once that said straight out that it would be $100 by check or $85 cash.

In other words, there is no right or wrong answer to this controversial question. Maybe after researching long enough or visiting other sites on their opinions on the subject, you’ll come to a conclusion for yourself on whether to tip or not.

 

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