Tipping Your Sleeping Car Attendant.
What follows are my recommendations for tipping sleeping car attendants on long-distance Amtrak trains, whether Superliners running west of Chicago or Viewliners on most of the overnight trains in the east.
If it’s done right, sleeping car attendant is a tough job. The California Zephyr, for example, is a two night trip from Chicago to Emeryville, followed by 14 hours in a hotel and that’s assuming the train arrived reasonably close to on time. Then comes another two nights on the return trip to Chicago.
(And let me say here that the fact some Amtrak sleeping car attendants get a week or more off between trips is not a valid reason for skimping on their tip.)
Of course in either direction an uninterrupted night’s sleep is seldom possible. On the Zephyr’s westbound trip, a number of people will always be getting off and boarding at Salt Lake City. The scheduled arrival time at the end of the line in Emeryville is 4:10 p.m. If the train is late into Emeryville, the car attendants don’t get much sleep on the night before the return trip.
In the meantime, each sleeping car attendant is are looking after the needs of 40-some passengers: making up berths at night, restoring the rooms the next morning, repeating all of that for the second night; bringing meals from the diner to people who wish to take meals in their accommodations; keeping four lavatories and a shower room clean; and attending to any number of other chores.
For instance, if you choose to have have your car attendant bring your meals from the dining car to your accommodations, it’s appropriate to tip five dollars per person each time. That probably seems like a lot, but as I explained in a previous post, your car attendant has to make three trips to the dining car for each meal you take in your accommodations: one to place your order, two to fetch it when it’s ready, and three to return the tray and utensils to the diner when you’ve finished.)
Bottom Line: Assuming he or she does a conscientious job and maintains a friendly, helpful attitude throughout the trip, I suggest a tip at the end of your journey amounting to $10 dollars per person per night. Bump that amount by whatever seems right if the attendant works efficiently, does a good job, and has a cheerful, friendly attitude.
My only experience at boarding or deboarding a train in the middle of the night is at Newton (Wichita) where I catch the Southwest Chief. Every time it’s been a conductor supervising those operations (also the conductor making sure departing passengers are awake about 20 minutes or so before reaching Newton).
I’ve always assumed that was the normal Amtrak policy in order to let sleeping car attendants have as much of a normal night’s sleep as possible.
Wouldn’t the same thing be the case for middle-of-the night stops for the California Zephyr?
I got off the Chief in Dodge City a few years and it was the car attendant who opened the door and let me out. I do agree, however, that it’s also likely that the conductor would make sure passengers get off in the wee hours when they’re supposed to.