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Is a tip to another shop's workers appropriate for end of major job?


Nov 30, 2022

I'm hoping to gather input on giving tips to the workers at a shop that I sub'd work to. I don't know how much is appropriate, or if it sets a bad precedent/expectation to tip at all.

Context -
I am a 1-man shop that is more of an R&D and NPI solution for companies that don't have internal bandwidth. I bring engineering/analysis plus some inhouse short run production including robotic welding, CNC machining, plasma table, and resin/FDM and 3d scanning/inspection. Where I fall short is on labor support, so I've been working with partner shops for various skilled labor and processing of larger volumes of material.

The Job -
I landed a job in 2022 that was massive and brought on 3 shops to help:
  • Shop 1 (small company of 5)
    • Long-term relationship going back to 2017
    • Performance was good, never causing major problems and generally keeping schedule.
    • Their management is honest and supports employees 'owning' their domain.
    • Work was ~700 hrs of labor, with the split being ~100hrs on employee #1 (waterjet+forming), and ~550hrs on employee #2(assembly+welding), and ~50hrs on employee #3 (shop manager)
  • Shop 2 (medium company of ~50)
    • Brought on to scale labor for this job only.
    • Performance was terrible. A total cluster and I hope to never speak with them again.
    • Their management is criminal and their employees are a revolving door of tweakers.
  • Shop 3 (medium company of ~50)
    • Brought on to scale labor for this job, but hoping to work with them in future if needed.
    • Performance was ok... they caused numerous delays and scrapped ~$10k in material, but got their part done and likely took a loss on the job due to unforeseen complications in forming.
    • Management style is somewhat bureaucratic, so the guy actually doing the work didn't have much control of timeline, which caused some riffs.
    • Work was ~300 hrs of labor with the split being ~250hrs on employee #1 (forming), and 50hrs on employee #2 (project manager)
The workers are not dumb, and by estimating the qty of alloy handled plus the value of the material, they know the total job has a raw material cost of $1-2M.

We just wrapped up the final unit and shipped a few days ago. I'd really like to show my appreciation to my partners, but not sure how. I have longest and closest relationship with Shop 1, so they are my priority. I plan to bring a platter of tacos for a lunch party, as well as a few cases of beer for the guys to take home...but not sure what else I should offer.
  • Is tacos and beer enough for finishing a 2 yr off-and-on project?
  • Is cash tip a good idea or bad? How much, and what $ split based on the hrs workload?
  • For shop 1, should the tip also extend to the 2 employees that did not work on the project?
  • Should tip exclude the office workers, and only go to appreciating the skilled labor?

Apologies for the novel. Thank you in advance for any thoughts.
I would talk to the owner/management of the business whose workers you plan on "tipping"

At the family's business, customers often have brought lunch or donuts for the guys after some jobs, a lot smaller then what your talking, but it was always appreciated by the employees.
Gift cards instead of cash. For everyone. Nothing worse than being left out.
With food ,make sure no religious issues. Not just pork.
Check with owners.
I'm not into the whole "tip / party" part of life.
Get Johnny a trophy for finishing the job that he was hired for?

I would just pay the last invoice ASAP and forget aboot it...


Think Snow Eh!
Agree. Kind of a different situation, but we shoved a ~$100k order through here for an agricultural equipment company (local) in record time, and to show their appreciation they threw us a pizza party. Like has been mentioned, the guys kind of appreciated it, but at the same time it wasn't significant enough to change our minds about the job, our shop, or our careers. So why bother? I know why bother, but if it's not a mountainous gesture, don't even bother.
[*]For shop 1, should the tip also extend to the 2 employees that did not work on the project?
[*]Should tip exclude the office workers, and only go to appreciating the skilled labor?
The whole shop should get something, they all contributed, even those that did not work directly on your project did the other work so those that did work on yours had the time to do it.
And to be fair something for the office staff also, maybe shop guys get gift card to some tool place or? In addition to food and beer.
You might not want to be to generous, if they know you made a killing on it next time they may decide to charge more thinking the same will happen again...
For shop #1 I think the food/beer is great, but giving everyone a gift card is what popped into my head when I read your post.

Shop #2....definitely forget them.

Shop #3 might be worth something like bagels/donuts/coffee some morning as a thank you since you want to keep that avenue open in the future.

When I was in high school and college I drove dump trucks and cement mixers for a local family-owned concrete company. A couple of the local concrete contractors used to stop by with bagels/donuts/coffee in the mornings a couple of times a year and they would hang around for a short while to chat with the drivers...I know everyone appreciated it.
I'm a socially retarded machinist, and absolutely loathe this return of "tipping" culture. I have no idea what/when/where tipping is appropriate, or how much.

Do something fun / nice like the tacos and beer, or even a simple written "thank you", which means a lot to some folks.

On rare occasion, I have given my employees bonuses at the end of really shitty projects. Those are my employees though. I pay them to do a job. Sometimes they get hazard pay. We're not under obligation as consumers to pay everyone we encounter in the workplace a little extra.
Thanks to all for your input.

I could have done better on wording the ask, as I did not mean to trigger a discussion on the development of tipping culture. I regret my wording here.

On the topic, (and like majority commenting here) I am very much against tipping becoming a more frequent request for basic service. Tipping culture in USA has become insane in last few years. It's gotten so bad that I have seen tip question pop up on point of sale machines at self-checkout of grocery stores, and on a robotic barista station at trade shows. That is outrageous. Going further, old laws that enable certain industries (like food retail) to pay below minimum wage is a disservice to the general public. The solution to a stressed economy isn't to transfer the payroll obligation to customers via guilt. The solution is for owners to charge fair prices for the product/service they are selling, then take care of their employees with a living wage/benefits. /End rant.

What I should have asked is, "What (if any) bonus is appropriate for X amount of hours over a 2 year period that used ~$1-2MM of raw material with an extremely low waste rate."

I do think that shop 1 earned a bonus (not a tip), and I appreciate the suggestions here. I will go forward with the tacos + beer + sensible gift card, and will not differentiate between people who spent more/less time on the project. That was one topic I was having a hard time deciding what is 'fair', but I think Rob F.'s comment really cleared that up.

Thanks all.
Taco truck
Or BBQ truck
Or nice restaurant (maybe upmarket from say Olive Garden)
Or gift cards.

Gift cards work ok. Especially Target. Never find anybody who hates Target. Some may not like Walmart or Amazon cards

The very outstanding workers. Strip club and some cash to spend behind the curtain. You would be surprised at the number of female workers who would go to a strip club, so don't exclude the fairer sex.


I've never expected anything in return for work, except that my paycheck doesn't bounce, and maybe pizza at the end of a job
Maybe I am not old school enough, but the business relationships that I drop the fastest are the ones that try to take me to strip clubs. Ugh.

Taco truck never hurt. Gift cards are great. I would find it offensive if you were throwing cash at my employees.
Food is always a nice bonus. IMO it's a nice humble gesture that doesn't get in the middle of company relations. We've gotten stuff before that we didn't care for (like liquor chocolates, when most of us don't drink), but the gesture was appreciated. I agree though that in terms of money, paying the agreed amount, on time or earlier, is the kindest thing you can do for a company, as well as giving them more business in the future. Any monetary compensation (even bonus's) should be between an employee and employer. I've been personally tipped before and for one reason or another couldn't politely decline, so I used it to buy donuts for the shop. Accepting it as my own felt like I was being separated from the group in a way that my connection to the group was ignored or seen as irrelevant, when I'd rather be seen as a part of a successful functional group. Like giving a trophy to a 3rd baseman after a winning game and ignoring the rest of the baseball team.
If anyone tried to take me to a strip club as payment, or for any reason, they would lose me as a vendor or client forever. I can't understand how anyone would think that is acceptable.

I give my own guys a bonus if they go above and beyond what I think is reasonable to take ownership over a project. I haven't had any issues where they feel entitled to it, but can see how that could happen if there isn't an explanation as to why something is happening.

The road to hell and all....
We've never done "here's a bonus for actually doing the job" (Ox is actually a Taiwan boss :)) but have done "Yay ! That stupid job finally finished ! you guys want to go out for hot pot or karaoke to celebrate ? Our treat !"

More like a group celebration of a good result, instead of a bonus for actually doing your job.

If there was 3,000 of them tho, we'd give their manager a sum of cash and let him decide what to do. Cash is good here, people like it. Crisp red maos. But letting their manager do that instead of you might be a good idea. He can say it's from you but it's better coming from their own employer.

We had a colleague who would throw a mah jong party, have food and booze and lose a lot of money on purpose. I guess that's not totally fair if you're not a good player but it did make other people happy without making it into a "here's money for doing what you should do anyhow" situation.
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I would say no. Maybe the employees are happy at a shop that doesn't give bonuses now, but they see some outside shop giving bonuses to them as a sign that they could be doing better. Now, for no reason, morale starts to fall off. That's the worst case scenario, but still.

I think the best bonus you could give, is to keep working with the shop as a great customer. Pay your bills on time, give them good prints of stuff you need and all of that jazz.

I give my employees sizeable bonuses when they deserve it. I'm talking $2,000+, CASH. Don't be a fucking scrooge. If you're making good money, you know damn well that $2,000 per employee doesn't effect your daily life one little bit (for small shops). However, those bonuses come with an explanation that we do this when we can, and when it's earned. Do NOT give me puppy dog eyes if the shop is slow and you think you 'deserve' something.
If anyone tried to take me to a strip club as payment, or for any reason, they would lose me as a vendor or client forever. I can't understand how anyone would think that is acceptable.

This. I would NOT be happy to get offered a paid visit to a strip club, let alone money to pay for 'personal services' from the entertainers.

No tips and no bonuses to anyone other than your own employee's. If the customer makes good money off your work it is their responsibility to reward their employee's for above average performance. Your continuing to give them work shows your appreciation, a simple thank you will suffice.
Y’all got a stick in your ass. I’d be stoked for a paid trip to the titty bar, beers, illicit substances. Sinning is fun you should try it some time.
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Y’all got a stick in your ass. I’d be stoked for a paid trip to the titty bar, beers, illicit substances. Sinning is fun you should try it some time.
Do you own a business or manage one?