Skip to main content

Feeding and Tipping Movers

by Lizann Lightfoot - April 1st, 2022

Feeding and Tipping Movers

PCS means preparing your home for movers! If you’re not brave enough to tackle a DITY (Do It Yourself) move – *no judgment* – then the military will send one of their contracted companies your way.

We have already written before about the various ways you can organize your home before moving day to help things go smoothly. Today, we are taking on a different, and somewhat controversial topic.

Should I feed the movers?

Until 2021, our answer would have been a resounding "yes!" Although it is not an official expectation in the contract paperwork, it is a fact that the movers will be at your home for a full day– maybe two or three days. You will probably be ordering lunch for yourself on moving day, and movers get hungry too. As an act of courtesy, many military families offer food to the movers. Some families prepare food in a crock pot, others order a sandwich platter, and some families get pizza delivered. Depending on how things were going, some families also tipped their movers with the hope that a decent tip would mean their household goods would be treated with care.

Until recently, the official DoD guidance left tipping and feeding movers up to an individual family’s discretion. It was neither required nor forbidden.

New guidance discourages feeding or tipping movers

But in March 2021, new guidance from the DoD has put an end to feeding and tipping movers during PCS moves. The Joint Travel Regulations now read, “Tipping and/or supplying meals, snacks, or other refreshments to moving company representatives is discouraged. Providing monetary tips and meals as a ‘cost of doing business’ sets unrealistic demands on service members and civilian employees least capable of providing this ‘service.’ Please report any [transportation service provider] requesting or requiring a tip to your Joint Personal Property Shipping Office for possible punitive actions.”

There are several reasons for the new language and policy.

First, while monetary tips are often expected in the moving industry in general, they are supposed to be incorporated into the DoD’s contract with the moving companies, and should not fall onto military families. Tipping is not reimbursed with other PCS expenses, so it is not a reasonable out-of-pocket expense, especially for younger military families with lower income. By some estimates, typical moving tips outside the military community could be $40 per person per day. With a large crew or a several-day move, this could mean hundreds of dollars, which would be a huge un-reimbursed PCS expense that military families are not prepared to cover.

Another concern is lack of consistency. When meals and tips are left to a family’s discretion, some families may provide a lavish spread, while others offer nothing. If the movers expect meals or demand that a family provide them lunch, simply because that was the experience in another home, then families who opt out of feeding or tipping may be “punished” with a disgruntled moving crew.

A final concern is the problem of food allergies. Unless you have discussed a menu with your moving crew in advance, you have no way of knowing if they are lactose intolerant, must avoid gluten, are vegetarian, or only eat Kosher food. They may not be able to eat the pizza you ordered or take you up on your offer for a fast food run. It’s safest and easiest for everyone if the movers provide their own meals and the families are not expected to accommodate everyone’s tastes.

You can hear how actual movers answer this question here.

What should we give our movers on moving day?

Even though military families are now discouraged from providing meals or tips, common decency says it is still perfectly acceptable to offer bottles of water or Gatorade, especially on a hot day. If you want your movers to stay energized all day, you may want to have some simple snacks available in a common space, such as granola bars, individual bags of chips, or some cookies.

When we asked our PCSgrades audience how they will take care of movers, here are some of their responses:

Alexandra Eva: “Last time I made cookies, and they asked for the recipe…ha-ha Tollhouse.”

Alaska Amber: “I always end up giving them a bunch of stuff. Before we moved to Alaska, I gave them my bedroom set, dining table, a TV, and even a sewing machine for one of their wives. ”

Anna Blanch Rabe: “We do water and Gatorade on ice for all the days. We’ve also sent them off with a case of beer on occasion.”

Michelle Suk Richardson: “I provide a variety of drinks: water, Gatorade, and also granola bars.”

D’Antrese McNeil: “When we PCSed to Korea, I bought the movers snacks and water, but they didn’t take any of it. However, when we PCSed from Korea, the Korean movers expected it.”

Now that you know the new guidelines for feeding movers, you can plan accordingly for your next PCS!

Lizann Lightfoot

Lizann Lightfoot

Lizann Lightfoot, the "Seasoned Spouse" is a professional writer and speaker for the military community. After two decades with her service member, her family has been through 7 deployments and 6 PCS moves. Lizann has raised 5 children and published several books for military families. Her most recent book is "Open When: Letters of Encouragement for Military Spouses" published Sept 2021 by Elva Resa. You can find Lizann's articles and resources at