Insider Secrets on Limousine Gratuities … or … How Much Should I Tip My Chauffeur? | Sonoma Sterling Limousines

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Insider Secrets on Limousine Gratuities … or … How Much Should I Tip My Chauffeur?

How Much Should I Tip My Chauffeur?

Champagne’s flowing, laughs are plentiful and everyone’s having a great evening. Then it strikes – tip anxiety. You want to give a decent tip … maybe if your chauffeur has been simply unforgettable, you want to give a truly impressive tip. But for limousine newbies, the question of how much to tip can be intimidating. We at Sonoma Sterling Limousines are here to help you overcome tip anxiety, and you don’t even have to make a trip to the therapist’s couch.

A great chauffeur won’t ask for a tip. Our dedicated and safety-conscious chauffeurs certainly appreciate their passengers thinking of them at the end of the run, but in our limousine company, our chauffeurs will never, ever hint about tips, suggest a tip, or subtly put a hand out with raised eyebrows and a hopeful smile.

For the frugal-minded, we suggest that they consider this: tipping originated centuries ago when nobility and the well-to-do began a custom of paying a bit extra to servers who’d bring them food that they knew had not been surreptitiously tainted or allowed to spoil. Regular customers recognized that these servers literally had their clients’ lives in their hands, and wanted to thank them for their awareness and vigilance. That is not too far from the reason why we tip good restaurant servers today, and the same standard of tipping applies to chauffeurs – 20 percent or more.

Like the vigilant server of old, any driver, designated driver or chauffeur literally has her or his passengers’ lives in their hands. Beyond this, our chauffeurs are constantly thinking of your comfort, your convenience and your pleasure as they negotiate turns, keep your glassware and your seating area tidy throughout your day and open the door for your entry and exit at every stop. Very few people would dream of tipping any server 10 percent today, and a small percentage would tip 15 percent. The majority of our patrons reward attentive service with 20 percent or more gratuity each and every time (unless, on the rarest of occasions, they feel there is a lapse in quality or attentiveness).

We used to leave tipping entirely to the discretion of our clients. But that occasionally sent our chauffeurs home empty-handed after some long days of excellent service, and that hardly seemed fair.

For a short time, we adopted the standard of most luxury transportation companies in our area, and booked in an automatic 20 percent gratuity on all runs. We’ve chosen not to take that path. We found that a fraction of our drivers didn’t seem as motivated when they knew they’d get a 20 percent gratuity even if they underperformed. And that’s how we arrived at our current gratuity protocol – we add a 10 percent tip to just about every run, and we leave the rest of the tip to our clients’ discretion.

So far, this has worked out very well. Our drivers are happy because they never go away empty-handed. Our clients are happy because they feel like they still have some say in the matter of how much their chauffeur should be rewarded for the job they did that day.

Here are the very few occasions when we do add an automatic 20 percent gratuity:

Weddings: We’ve found that very few brides and grooms carry cash, and most are so caught up in the joy and the splendor of their special day that they — more often than not – forget to tip. So as a policy, we add a 20 percent gratuity for each of these runs.
Proms: Minors are, understandably, typically unfamiliar with tipping guidelines. We are sorry to say that on a number of occasions, parents have told us that they are giving cash to their children to give to the chauffeur at the end of the run. In the 20 or so times that parents have told us this, the chauffeur has actually been tipped maybe two times.
Nightclub Runs: A certain percentage of nightclub runs (I’ll decline to say what percentage) involve some fairly heavy drinking. At the end of the night (or it could be as the sun is rising), the person who booked the run may have forgotten all that the chauffeur did for the safety and comfort of the group.

We respectfully suggest that at the end of an exciting day or night marked by exceptional service, that our clients put themselves in their chauffeur’s place as they consider how much to tip. We hope that, even though times are tight, the chauffeur will go home with a tip of 20 percent or more and your thanks for a job well done.

COPYRIGHT 2011 MOIRA REYNOLDS BESSETTE AND SONOMA STERLING LIMOUSINES, INC.