Tipping in the Los Angeles Limo Industry
When it comes to tipping in the private car service market, our chauffeurs get asked several questions. Does the passenger need to tip? How much should I tip? Does the chauffeur get all the tip? When should I tip? While each LA Limo company is different there are some industry standards that have taken shape over the last twenty years. Many of them shaped by tradition and necessity, while others have been shaped by legislation. To gain a clearer understanding and avoid an awkward faux paux in the field, it helps to take a look at customs for tipping in the Los Angeles limo industry.
Culture of tipping and Invoiced Gratuities
While in some countries tipping is considered offensive, in the US and particularly in LA the general rule of thumb is if a service employee carries a bag, props open a door or provides a personalized service of some sort, above and beyond the mundane, tips are appreciated and expected.
While in many service industries cash is king, multiple Los Angeles limo companies have followed the cruise ship or country club model of adding an automatically invoiced gratuity to the final bill. While some passengers consider this to be rude or presumptuous, the policy is steeped in tradition, necessity and experience. Many executive car service rides throughout the years have typically been arranged through third party bookers such as executive assistants or travel managers. The last thing they want their VIPs worrying about is fumbling with cash in the field or concerning themselves with time consuming calculations. This is one reason why the majority of private car service companies add on the gratuity to the bill…its a matter of convenience for the passenger.
Driver Vs Chauffeur wages
Our experience has also shown that a professional hard working chauffeurs relies on the kindness of strangers for tips, however, many times they get stiffed. The expected and standardized gratuity in a high level service industry can be anywhere from 18-20%.
It’s important to understand the distinction between a driver and a chauffeur. Drivers are usually behind the wheel of a cab or rideshare vehicle. Chauffeurs are seasoned and trained professionals behind the wheel of an immaculate luxury vehicle. They often go above and beyond traditional expectations. From route selection to stocking and cleaning of the vehicle, top tier chauffeurs are cut above drivers, whose responsibilities , decorum and duties are minimal at best.
Quite frankly, talented chauffeurs expect to not only be well paid but also appreciated. We’ve found that if they are unable to earn a liveable wage – which in California often includes their gratuities – they will simply pack their bags and find other work. Many LA limo companies share a certain percentage of the base rate of a standard fare with their driver. In addition to this, they pass on the full amount of added gratuity to their chauffeurs. This gratuity is a large part of their living wage, and in addition to any medical and dental benefits has proven to be a consistent incentive for career chauffeurs.
Recent Legislation and the Discretionary Gratuity
As a direct result of litigation over the past few years regarding invoiced gratuity percentages and their qualifying status as “tips” under state and federal laws, the language has changed. Many private town car service and limo companies have begun labeling invoiced gratuities as discretionary or suggested tip. This can be defined as an amount that is added to the invoice of a client’s ride. This discretionary amount can be increased, subtracted from or completely eliminated based upon the passengers end experience. This essentially has changed perception of the added amount from an imposed charge to an actual tip that the customer has full control over. While many passengers have a clear understanding that the drivers receive this on their paycheck, they also know that cash is still king, and may dole out an additional amount in the field directly to the driver.
While additional cash gratuity from hand to hand is not expected, it is certainly appreciated. Some of our top tier chauffeurs in the field have seen $20 bills or even $100 bills from clients that have been wowed by their service experience. Whether or not you decide to hand out anything additional is entirely up to you and is one additional way of saying thanks. Whether it’s airport car service or a limo for prom, the Los Angeles chauffeured service market is a unique one, with it’s own set of implied and defined rules regarding tipping.
Ultimately, the appreciated chauffeur will know his quality of service gauged by the tips he receives for the most part and that is if he doesn’t get stinked by a cheap client. Car and driver are the two deciding factors to a positive and memorable limo ride.
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