In the Trenches: Tipping


I’ve never really thought of our business — air travel assistance — as a service for which people would leave tips, but over the holidays I was proved wrong by one very grateful client. I realized that I needed to decide exactly how to handle gratuities.

The client’s situation was a tough one: He was flying from Europe to Hawaii, and his first flight had a mechanical delay, which would lead to a missed connection. The concierge working this trip worked tirelessly to find our client a new option and made the experience as painless as possible.

The client was so pleased with the concierge’s work that he said we hadn’t charged him enough — and paid an additional fee via our website. After the money came in, I had to figure out the best way to handle it. First, I told the client that the tip was unnecessary and that I’d be happy to refund it. However, he insisted we keep it, so I had to figure out how to divvy it up.

Should we split the money by applying the percentages we use for our standard commissions? That was my natural reaction, because that’s how our systems are set up, and it would be easy to just pay it out that way.

But that didn’t seem fair to me. When the client signed up, he paid what was required for the service he received; our company got the money it was due. So, when he was so happy with the service that he decided to pay more, it was because of the work done by his particular concierge, who went above and beyond what the client had expected.

In the end, I opted to pass along all the extra money that we received directly to that concierge. At least in this case, that seemed like the right thing to do: He was the one who’d earned it.