Tipping Your Military Movers? What to Know About Working with Your Moving Team

Military move packout list.
Familiar sights during a household goods move. (U.S. Navy/Russell Stewart)

Are you ready for your military movers to arrive at your home? You might have a lot of questions about working with your military move team. Do you need to tip your movers? Do you need to feed your military movers lunch? What are important things to know about working with your military movers?

While there are rules and guidance around some of these things, a lot of your interactions with your military move team will be up to you. Understanding best practices can help you get started.

Do You Need to Tip Your Military Movers During a PCS?

Whether or not to provide cash tips to your military movers or give them food is a timeless debate among military families. And while providing cash tips may be common practice in the moving industry outside the military, military move officials with US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) actively discourage the practice.

"Supplying meals or refreshments is never required. Moreover, providing monetary tips is discouraged," they say in a fact sheet on Military OneSource.

Cash tips are not a reimbursable military move expense, and giving them creates an expectation that every military family will be able to do so, TRANSCOM officials said. Since many military families cannot afford to pay cash out of pocket during a move, it's unfair to create that expectation, they said.

Many military families provide food or drinks for their movers instead, though it is also not required.

Related: Don't Tip the Movers, DoD Says In New Guidance

If you provide food for your military move team, consider providing water or Gatorade and some snacks at the beginning of their workday instead of a full meal. And if your transportation provider says or insinuates they require food or tips for their work, notify your local military move office immediately.

5 Things to Know About Your Military Movers

Moving company employees have tough jobs. They go into people's private residences during some of the most hectic and stressful times in their lives, and are held responsible for handling their most precious and personal belongings. The physical labor they do is long and hard.

Still, many say they enjoy their work -- most of the time. What gets them down is seeing or hearing comments about how packers and movers are all disrespectful thieves whom clients need to hover over while they pack and load.

Here are five things to keep in mind about your military movers:

1. They're not trying to make your move more stressful.

When movers walk into a home that's messy or disorganized, or where the customers have randomly pulled items out of cabinets and closets and set them down on counters, tables and floors, it makes the movers' jobs 10 times harder. It forces them to ask a lot of questions and increases the chances of accidentally breaking something.

2. Movers are not maids.

Movers are at your home to pack up your belongings, not clean. One mover told a horror story about a house where the couches were soiled with urine and food, the floors were slippery from dog urine, and the baby's room had feces on the crib and walls. After the crew packed it all up, the owner then demanded they also pick up and pack a bunch of empty soda cans that were strewn around the floor. The filth of the home caused the mover to get scabies.

It's not fair to expect movers to work under these conditions.

3. Most movers don't steal.

Movers hate when homeowners hover over them as they pack. That's like saying, "Hey, I think you're a thief, so I'm going to stand here and watch you." They don't need anyone standing over them to get the job done.

4. They don't break anything on purpose.

Accidents happen. Most movers don't deliberately throw your items in a box so that they will break. Most take their time and treat your items with care.

5. Feeding your movers is optional -- but appreciated.

As discussed above, you are not required to feed your moving team. Movers usually show up with their own lunch and water, and they do not expect you to feed them. But it's nice when you offer. Here are some easy and budget-friendly choices:

Sandwich bar: Set out a loaf or two of bread, some cold cuts and cheese, and mayo and mustard. You can even throw in a bag of chips and maybe some carrots.

Pulled pork: Toss it into the crockpot the night before and shred it in the morning. Set out buns. For a side, buy store-made coleslaw or dump a jar of your favorite dressing on bagged coleslaw mix.

Baked pasta: This one is probably better for cooler climates or winter months. A Stouffer's frozen lasagna will warm up the house while it's cooking, which is perfect when your front door has been open for three hours and it is 12 degrees outside. (You can also do a Stouffer's lasagna in the slow cooker.)

Chili: Make it on the stovetop, crockpot or pressure cooker, and serve it with chips, over baked potatoes or plain.

Hot dogs: Boil them and serve with diced onion, mustard and pickle relish; or chili.

If you really don't want "homemade" food, there are still ways to order out and save money. While it is tempting to get pizza because it is cheap, keep in mind that movers get fed pizza a lot. There are so many other choices.

Don't take individual orders, and don't ask them what they want. Order party trays or platters or a bucket of fried chicken. A small Chick-fil-A nugget tray serves eight and costs around $25; that's a lot cheaper than eight orders of nuggets. Save any coupons that you get in the weeks leading up to the move.

If your heart and mind say that you should feed the movers, don't let your budget be the problem. There are ways to feed a truckload of movers for less than $10, maybe $20 if you include the cost of water and any other drinks you might provide. It just requires thinking outside of the (pizza) box.

This article was adapted from thoughts shared with Military.com by both movers and military families.

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