The other day in North America I went through a gas station that offered both self-serve pumps and "full-serve" pumps (someone will fill your tank). I expected to help myself but I accidentally stopped at a pump where someone served me.

I have been wondering after this whether I should tip this employee. If that happens again, what is customary?

  • 4
    Wow, who knew they still exist... – CGCampbell Jun 27 '15 at 13:07
  • 4
    They still exist in countries with big enough income disparity (e.g. Italy especially in the south, but not nearby countries) and self-serving is actually banned in New Jersey and Oregon AFAIK. – Formagella Jun 27 '15 at 16:45
  • @Formagella They exist in Japan, in fact you are hard pressed to find ones that are self-service. The income disparity is not that large at all, and they don't accept tips. – The Wandering Coder Mar 6 '17 at 8:29

Tipping a filling station attendant is not generally expected in the United States or Canada. Some guides flatly deny it is ever expected, though others acknowledge there is disagreement on the matter.

Anecdotally, in all the times I've been in Oregon and New Jersey, I have never seen or heard of anyone tipping the attendant simply for pumping gas, except to leave them the change when paying cash (I have not used a full-serve pump anywhere else in the US or Canada in over 20 years, and cannot even think of where to find one).

Fifty years ago, a good attendant might have checked your oil and coolant levels, wiped the windshield, and checked your tire pressure in addition to filling the tank. An increase in electronic sensors and decrease in drivers' patience over the years means such attention is rare today. In most places, "full serve" is not really full service, and simply the term used to indicate that an attendant is working the pump.

With that noted, except where banned by local ordinance, attended stations charge a higher price, which is understood to cover the wages of the attendant for the basic work of filling the tank and collecting payment. Moreover, unlike a food server or barber, or even barista, there is very little social interaction with the attendant, and tipping usually accompanies more intimate or longer-term interactions. As an etiquette columnist wrote for a Boston Globe "Miss Conduct" column:

Tipping is customary only if there are both full-serve and self-serve options at the station and the fuel is priced the same at both.

This would exclude areas where self-serve is banned altogether (including the entire states of New Jersey and Oregon), which is borne out by anecdote— the only people who tip in New Jersey are out-of-towners.

But when extra service is rendered, some tipping may be in order— various guides suggest $1–2 for cleaning the windshields, and at least $5 for any work involving getting on the ground or checking under the hood. As etiquette authorities will note, tipping someone working in a service job is always appreciated, and never impolite. Pumping gas is a monotonous, fume-infused job which is at best unpleasant, so I would give some consideration particularly when the weather is hot, cold, or wet.

  • North America being so vast and varied, I'd be curious to know if this is the case everywhere or at least in its 3 largest countries. Like yourself however, I've never come across a full-service – blackbird Jun 28 '15 at 17:22

I am a gas attendant, in Maine, winters are rough facing negative temps, howling winds and knee deep snow.
No matter what the condition I am always there to pump your gas with a smile!
Whether it be a full tank, 10 gas cans or as little as $1, there is no up charge for the full serve, we are the same price as the self serve stations in town so if you could imagine we get busy!

We don't expect tips, but extremely appreciate it if you do!
But most of all we appreciate a sincere "Thank You" and try not to run over my foot, smash me with your door, drive off, roll my hand up in the window, honk the horn when I'm under the hood, and rolling up the window while I'm having a conversation with you.
Remember we are all human.

And I love talking about the weather, fishing, rippin on the sleds and football season, and anything else that comes up!

If you toss me a buck or two, 9 times out of 10 I'll help someone that comes in and hands me a bunch of change and says "I hope I make it home" I'll toss in $4-5 and say "oops guess that's on me haha" and put my tips in the draw.

We are not all heartless, scum bag, drop outs like we have been portrayed to be.
All I'm trying to get at is a simple "Thanks" and a buck is much much appreciated!

Tip a gas guy please!


Most of those who work at a Gas Bar that offers full service do appreciate a tip. I work at a Gas Bar in Canada. I get paid minumum wage, there are no breaks when your Gas Bar offers full service and I have no benefits. Every bit helps!

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