My grandfather recently passed away from pulmonary fibrosis and had all of the medical equipment one associates with the disease. All of this stuff was rented through a medical company, which came to pick it up on the day of his death. The guy came with a truck and hauled away a hospital bed, air tanks, oxygen machine, etc. It took about an hour.
At the end of it, he came back in the living room in a full sweat and we signed the paperwork and then he started talking about how the company prides itself on customer service and how sorry he was for our loss. This went on for an uncomfortably long time, well over the couple of minutes needed to check paperwork and move along. Finally, 10 minutes later he left.
Was he looking for a tip? Does one tip the guy who comes and picks up your dead grandfather’s rented medical devices?
Confused in Michigan
It’s possible he was just offering his condolences. It’s more possible that he was also looking for a little extra cash-in-hand. Had he merely offered you his condolences in a somewhat long-winded and awkward manner, I would suggest that (a) he may have been new to the job and/or (b) may take his role so seriously that he didn’t want to traipse in and out of your home without making some reference to your loss. (I’m also sorry for your loss. I don’t want a tip, I should add. I’m just sorry.)
As he began his speech by saying the company prides itself on the quality of its customer service, I’d say he was joneseing for a tip. The fact that he did this would suggest, in fact, that the company has a long way to go to improve its customer service. This guy was doing a job the best he could while trying to earn a living, but the company should help him (and the customer) out by issuing strict guidelines on tips. (We are currently seeing how confusion over tipping is plaguing Uber.)
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I can see how midway into his spiel you may have thought, ‘If I was going to give this guy money for his troubles, I’m not going to do it now.’ Death is a sensitive issue and to pivot from offering his condolences to wanting you to offer him a few dollars is cheeky at best and very opportunistic at worst (especially as you are grieving). I posted your question in the Moneyist Facebook Group, which has become something of a Greek Chorus of varied opinions for this column.
Also read: The $1 tip is dead?
The comments on the Facebook Group (see the link, below) ranged from, “A lot of workers like to talk and talk. Either they are talkers, or maybe have no one else to talk with, or they are lonely. He also just might be awkward” to, “Maybe he was hoping he would be offered a cold drink or cup of coffee after all his efforts?” I agree. If in doubt, offer a nice cup of tea and a biscuit, or a tall glass of water or even some lemonade.
Call the company and find out the tipping policy. If it’s a no-tip policy, politely suggest that the company should keep employees in the loop. We all have a part to play in life. Some people are inventing equipment to help save people’s lives and others deliver it. You could send him a nice note, thank him for his kind words and add $10 or $20, even if it is less for his clumsy efforts to receive a tip and more a gesture on behalf of your grandfather for the miracles of modern science.
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