Angie's List: How to determine who to tip and how much

LEWISTON, ID - When it comes to people working in your home, tipping isn't a given as it is in the restaurant and personal grooming trades.

Should you tip your plumber? What about your dog walker? Who and how much to tip is a question that many homeowners wrestle with. To help answer it, Angie's List recently polled nearly 5,000 home service professionals to find out if they expect a tip and if so, how much.

"What we found are services that are more personal, house cleaners, for example, even movers tend to be tipped, while general contractors, plumbers, and electricians usually don't," said Angie's List owner Angie Hicks.

Movers, haulers, house cleaners and pet sitters are the most-commonly tipped service professionals. Contractors like plumbers, roofers and electricians, say they rarely receive gratuities.

"Unfortunately, there is no hard or fast rule about whether a company won't accept tips," said Hicks. "Your best bet is to go straight to the boss and ask whether the company allows it. That way you're not putting the workers in an awkward position."

When trades-people do get a tip, cash is the most-common, followed by food or beverages on the job, and personalized gifts or gift cards.

"On occasion we are in the homes of our clients many months and we have guys on staff that work for us," said remodeling contractor Geoff Horen. "Where I see it are going to be in cases where one of our guys say, "hey Mrs. Jones gave me $20 today," or Mr. Smith said "Hey, Cokes are in the fridge and whatever you guys want throughout the day make yourselves at home and feel free. So sometimes it's a direct tip and sometimes it's just those nice offers and thoughts."

No consumer should ever feel obligated to tip, you could reward the service by spreading the word. Writing a letter or posting a positive online review can make a big impact.

When tipping with cash, it's typically less than 20% the job, but remember these jobs are usually more expensive. So it's not like you tip when going out to dinner.