The Moneyist: Is this the most outrageous tipping request you’ve ever heard? ‘I looked at the sales person with a confused expression’

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Dear Quentin,

I read your response to the person who was asked to tip using a touchscreen in a coffee house and an ice cream parlor, among other places. I also have a story. 

I recently paid $3,000 for new windows. When the salesman came by to collect the payment and see that the job was completed, he handed me his payment device. There were “15%, 20% or other” tipping options across the top. 

I looked at the sales person with a confused expression, and I tilted the device to show my husband. I could not believe they were asking for a tip on a $3,000 purchase! Is this the most outrageous tipping request?

I love the new windows, but I probably won’t use that company again. Was I wrong to refuse to tip? 

Still in Disbelief 

Dear Disbelief,

It’s not customary to tip people who work on your home, whether they’re installing windows or putting in a new kitchen, but if you are pleased with the results and liked the contractors in question and bonded with them over a cup of tea, it’s not out of the question to tip them a nominal amount (approximately $50 each). The reason is that they are often paid an hourly rate by the company, and their labor is baked into the price.

It may be that the window-pane company was using software that included a tipping option and it was there “accidentally on purpose,” or they genuinely overlooked it as a potential problem, given that such digital tipping has become so ubiquitous. If a person installs your air conditioner, you might happily tip. But if the A/C installer asked for one? Yes, I would also regard that as overstepping.  If you liked their work, don’t let it stop you from employing them again.

In a survey of 5,000 home professionals released last month by the online marketplace Angie’s List, home remodelers said they only expect a tip 6% of the time, while only 7% of painters and handymen said they expected a tip. Plumbers, electricians and the cable guy don’t expect tips, the survey said. Ditto interior decorators. You could choose to give a gardener or house cleaner a little extra every visit or — as many people likely do — wait until the holidays to give them a bonus.

If you had a good experience and want to tip, no contractor will refuse it. “It’s still OK to tip contractors if they go above and beyond to provide outstanding service, or even if you just feel like it,” according to Angie’s List. “How much you should tip is very much up to you. Was it a big job? Did they have to deal with terrible weather? Was it back-breaking work? What extra services did they perform? Do you simply feel like showing some extra gratitude today?” 

The upside of having a tipping option is that you are free to silently choose “No tip.” Your experience is not so dissimilar from someone handing you a credit-card receipt with a tipping option to sign in a department store or a bodega. In those circumstances, most people would draw a line through the space for a tip. Your window-company representative did not ask for a tip.

If you do not wish to tip, tap each option as gingerly as you can, and employ your best poker face.

Yocan email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

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