Tipping or feeding movers is a hotly debated topic every year. Families moving for the first time ask in moving support groups or local base pages if they should tip or feed the movers and the responses range from “heck no” to “we always go all out for our movers.” This year, the DOD has updated their guidance on tipping of feeding the movers. As of January 15, 2021, the updates are found in the printable PDF from USTRANSCOM about moving found here.
Prior to 2021, the Move.mil guidance on tipping or feeding the movers was at the discretion of the individual. This was vague and allowed for a wide variety of responses by military families. The updated guidelines found within the “It’s Your Move” PDF from TRANSCOM now state “tipping and/or supplying meals, snacks, or other refreshments to moving company representatives is discouraged. Providing monetary tips and meals as a “cost of doing business” sets unrealistic demands on service members and civilian employees least capable of providing this “service.” Please report any TSP requesting or requiring a tip to your Joint Personal Property Shipping Office (JPPSO) for possible punitive actions.”
Per the FAQ on Move.mil, “supplying meals or refreshments is never required. Moreover, providing monetary tips is discouraged. If your TSP requests either, please let your local transportation office know.” This is in line with the new updates within the TRANSCOM packet and the update from the DOD.
Many military families feel that providing food and drink to movers is a sign of goodwill. And they hope that this gesture will mean that their belongings will be packed well, sustain less damage and help the move go quickly and smoothly. In fact, the moving guide from move.mil still says at the time of writing the following, “Packers are experienced professionals. They can make sure your breakable stuff has the best chance of arriving unbroken. Learn their names. While it is not required you might consider offering them lunch and make sure the fridge is stocked with water and other beverages.” One family expressed that they will continue to provide meals and drinks, stating “a little kindness goes a long way.”
Tipping many crews or large crews can be expensive. Often times the packing crew is different than the loading crew and unloading crew. If packing is completed on more than one day, there are often different packing crews each day. At a tip of $40 per person, that could mean a family is spending $400 for just the crew packing and loading. Then the unloading crew can be totally different, and depending on the size of the crew, a tip could cost $80 – $160. This is not a reimbursable cost. Add to this the already out-of-pocket expenses of a move to replace household items that are replaced every move (I’m looking at you trash cans, toilet plungers, and shower curtains). And the costs to replace broken or missing items as compensation from the moving company does not always match the full replacement cost. One military family shared that she tipped at the end of her first move and then overhead one of the movers on the phone talking emotionally to the person on the other end of the line, saying, “he was going right to Walmart with the tip money to finally buy his son the bike he wasn’t able to get him for his birthday” and after that, they have always tipped.
While the guidance was meant to clarify, the word “discouraged” is seen as vague to some. Families will continue to do what they have done, as many shared within a military PCS support group online, so much so there were over 200 comments on a post with the update.
The question is – will you feed your moving crew? How do you feel about tipping? What do you think about the new guidance?