Tipping Mystery on Amtrak: Who and How Much?
In chatting with other passengers during my frequent long-distance train rides, it long ago became clear that tipping in a train is an endless source of confusion and uncertainty.
This is an interesting subject, so let’s talk about it over the next several posts. OK, here’s my best advice on tipping … starting with the sleeping car attendant.
First, understand that, if done right, it’s really a tough job. He or she is responsible for the needs of as many as 40 people: making up the berths; toting baggage; fetching meals from the dining car if someone wants to eat in their room; boarding new passengers, often in the wee hours; making sure that the people in Roomette 5 are awakened in time to leave the train at 6:00 a.m.; trying to find and fix an annoying rattle somewhere in Bedroom C … and on and on.
And remember that a Chicago-based sleeping car attendant on the California Zephyr has to deal with all of that for the better part of three days and two nights while en route to the Bay Area. Then, after 12 hours in an Emeryville hotel (less if the train is late, as it often is), he or she gets to do it all over again all the way back to Chicago. That’s why, as a general rule, I cut ‘em a little slack.
So, OK … how much to tip one of these folks?
For minimal-but-adequate service, I suggest $5.00 per person per night. So if you and your spouse have spent two nights on the Zephyr, that’s $5 for each of you, or $20. If you’ve taken a couple of meals in your roomette, add another $2 for each meal for each person. But if, throughout the journey, the car attendant worked quickly and efficiently, if he anticipated your needs, and was genuinely-but-respectfully friendly, bump it another $10.
Besides, if we’re traveling across the country in a sleeping car, we can afford it.