When (& How Much) You Should Tip a Locksmith

Written by Jim Belt in How Much To Tip

I've once locked myself out of my house and had to call a locksmith at night. Should I tip him? I couldn't find the answer online, so I've written this article.

Do you tip locksmiths, and how much? Tipping a locksmith isn't customary. There are however times when tipping can make sense. Some locksmiths will provide emergency service at night, or during holidays. In case of emergency jobs, giving them a tip for their trouble can be the right thing to do. The usual tipping amount is around $20.

If you want to know more about exactly when to tip, I'll go into more detail below. There's also something really odd about the tips locksmiths do receive. Read on to find out.

Tipping Customs

Tipping not customary

In this article:

  1. When To Tip Your Locksmith, and How Much
  2. What Do Locksmiths Make on Average?
  3. What Locksmiths Think About Tipping
  4. Great (Other) Ways To Thank Them
  5. In Conclusion

When To Tip Your Locksmith, and How Much

So most people don't really tip their locksmith or any tradespeople for that matter. That doesn't mean you shouldn't, but you definitely don't have to. It isn't mandatory, and the locksmith won't expect any tipping on your part. So if you're not the tipping kind of person, you're fine.

When I called a locksmith late at night, I did decide to tip him, because it was freezing and after dark. Of course, it's his job, but he has to be on standby for these odd jobs, I figured, and I'd really appreciate it if someone noticed that. So that's a way to use tips. Also, he was really cool when the police dropped by to check if we were burgling.

But there are more situations in which you might want to consider tipping. I've read dozens of forum threads to figure out when people tip & when they won't, and also how much they tip on average. So here's a list of possible reasons to tip your locksmith.

When to tip:

  • providing service at unusual times
  • the job wasn't scheduled
  • they fixed something extra and didn't charge for it
  • they didn't break your lock (which now doesn't need to be replaced)
  • they charge fairly and then do a very good job
  • they have to work in the rain (and don't complain)

How much to tip:

Most people seem to tip anywhere between $20 - $50 for regular jobs. It's remarkable that locksmiths receive more tips overall on ordinary jobs instead of emergency jobs, as you would probably expect. For me personally, it makes more sense to tip on emergency jobs, and I've read a couple of stories about people tipping generously for a sudden lock-picking-and-changing assignment on Christmas Eve.

When not to tip:

  • you don't have the money to spare
  • they did a bad job
  • they are rude - goes for anyone for me

You don't have the money to spare

Really, if you don't have the money to spare, you shouldn't tip, and you shouldn't feel about it either. You should probably receive tips, though (if you're doing a great job).

They did a bad job

For a locksmith, this can only mean three things. One: they pick the lock unsuccessfully, break it, and have to replace it - although this is sometimes necessary. Two: they delay the job or leave you hanging in the middle of the night. Three: they make a humongous mess. I wouldn't tip for that.

But generally, I'm really happy when the locksmith shows up because it means I'm standing outside my building in the freezing cold. He is kind of a savior. That's why it's so strange people don't tip more often.

The last one doesn't require an explanation, I think.

They are the owner of the company

Some people think you shouldn't be going around tipping anyone and everyone, and especially not company owners. They decide their own fees and are therefore paid fairly. But I disagree. Not all business owners are rich. Sometimes, people decide their fees based on competition, not the actual value.

And locksmithing is a pretty expensive business. You need a license, specialized tools, and so on. It's not pure profit. Either way, sometimes someone just really deserves a big tip for showing up and doing a great job.

What Do Locksmiths Make on Average?

Locksmiths make an hourly wage of $17.87 on average, ranging anywhere between $12 - $27 per hour. (based on 725 salaries at Payscale.com)

Some locksmith companies give their employees a percentage of the job profit, and also an hourly wage for emergency jobs.

If your locksmith isn't part of a recognized brand, he or she most likely is a one-man show. He or she is the owner and their own employer. That means they determine their own fees. It's reasonable to think that they value their service correctly and ask for a fair price.

Both types of locksmiths can make decent money and don't rely on tips for making a living. Most locksmiths think they are paid fairly and find their job highly satisfying (source).

What Locksmiths Think About Tipping

Most locksmiths can appreciate a tip, as long as it's giving out of kindness or appreciation, and not in a condescending way. You should appreciate their skill, not be a charity.

“We love tips,” Green says. “It’s not very often that we get them, but when we do, it’s really cool.”
Jeremy Green runs Castro Locksmith in San Francisco, source.

Most locksmith companies allow employees to accept gifts and tips.

Something odd about tips

As I've mentioned earlier, locksmiths don't get nearly as many tips for quick emergency jobs. They get most of their tips at prescheduled work (that can often take a little bit longer). Of course, this means that better work - working faster and more efficiently - doesn't get rewarded. There are people that don't seem to understand why they have to pay full price for a quick job. But they are, of course, paying for the fact that this locksmith is fast, reliable, and knowledgable. They are paying for the skill and experience - which allows them to work quickly.

Great (Other) Ways To Thank Them

  • leave a positive review on Yelp or Google
  • offer them a snack or soda
  • be kind and appreciative

Leave a positive review on Yelp or Google

I really like this cool tip I read somewhere. If you want to help them out, but don't want to give them cash, let them know you'll leave a positive review. (And actually do it, of course). Since a lot of locksmiths are a small business owner, this will really help spread their service word of mouth. Take your time to be specific about it, too.

Offer them a snack or soda

Most of the time, a locksmith will be on his or her way pretty soon. It doesn't really make sense to buy them dinner. You could, however, offer them a drink for the road, or a small snack for in-car consumption. It's a small gesture, but it goes a long way to those who are pulling an all-nighter in their car cabin.

Be kind and appreciative

The best way to compliment a tradesman is by appreciating his or her work. Most skilled laborers take pride in what they do. A quick remark about the speed of their work, the quality, or their service is a great way to let them know you appreciate the effort.

In Conclusion

There you have it. You don't have to feel obliged to give your locksmith a tip. If he or she comes to the rescue at Christmas Eve, maybe consider tipping them around $20 for their trouble - even if they have signed up for providing emergency services themselves. Or, you could just be extra friendly and thank them for the effort. Either way, whether you tip them or not, remember: kindness is the best tip of all.


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