Ask Liz: How Much Should I Tip Parking Attendants?

Plus: Why hasn’t the city fixed the River Wards WWI monument, and who’s responsible for the upkeep of sidewalk trees?

Left: Shutterstock. Right: John Paulding’s Over the Top; photograph by Claudia Gavin

Left: Natalia Bratslavsky/Shutterstock. Right: John Paulding’s Over the Top; photograph by Claudia Gavin

It used to be acceptable, when you parked your car in an indoor lot downtown, to tip the driver a dollar for retrieving it. But sometimes I get the fish-eye when I tip, which makes me wonder: Should I be tipping $2 these days? Or $5? — Too Cheap (?) in Center City

Parking lots with human staff — what a novelty! Are there many left? The only one I know is run by SP+ Parking at the William Penn House on 19th Street, which I use — despite its high prices — because my dear, departed grandmother lived in that building, and I miss her. (Parking a car is a touching tribute, I know.) I generally tip a dollar at that lot, but I have no particular rationale for that. I mean, I also regularly put a dollar into the tip jar for a barista who does nothing more than pluck a scone out of a case for me. Are scone-plucking and car-retrieving analogous? I don’t think so, especially if you listen to the stories from the harried workers at the William Penn lot, whose jobs are physically exhausting and stressful. Finding your automotive needle in a haystack of 400 cars on a 98-degree day isn’t easy, Too Cheap, and things get even more complicated if one car is blocked by others. Meanwhile, customers get increasingly belligerent while they wait, and take few pains to hide it. According to one employee, most customers at the William Penn lot tip a minimum of $2, though some tip $5. And one longtime patron says, “I was a late holdout in the jump from $1 to $2; I probably only switched over six or seven years ago.” In other words, those of us tipping $1 are, indeed, Too Cheap.

Why hasn’t the city repaired the monument at 2nd and Spring Garden and replaced the plaque that was scavenged by some scumbag several years ago? The plaque contained the names from the middle of the alphabet of the boys from the River Wards who were killed in World War I. I’d hate to think it’s because we lost the names. So much for “We’ll never forget.” — Red, White and Blue in Pennypack Gardens

The monument you’re talking about, sculpted by John Paulding in 1920 and called Over the Top, serves as a memorial to World War I veterans who lived in the former sixth, 11th and 12th wards, which ran, roughly, from the river to 7th Street between Chestnut and Poplar. The sculpture is the centerpiece of what’s now known as Doughboy Park — a public space that opened in 2013 and was designed in part to highlight Paulding’s memorial. The sculpture is owned by the city, which is therefore responsible for its upkeep. And the Office of Arts and Culture’s public art director, Margot Berg, has good news for you: “We’re planning to repair the work in the near future with the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association,” she says. “In addition to the plaque, there was recent damage to the statue, which will be addressed.” So, no, “the boys” have not been forgotten.

If there’s a tree in front of my house that’s half dead or needs pruning, is it my responsibility or the city’s? — Overgrown in Overbrook

It’s sort of a combination. While Philadelphia Parks and Rec is responsible for all city trees between the curb and sidewalk — those not on private property, in other words — it’s up to you to alert them if a tree needs attention. You can do this by filling out a Tree Maintenance Citizen Service Request Form online or by calling the Street Tree Management Division. This goes for tree removal, stump removal and tree planting as well.

Liz Spikol has lived in Philadelphia nearly all her life, which means she knows stuff. Got a question? Email it to

Originally published as “Ask Liz” in the October 2015 issue of Philadelphia magazine.