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Tips for Tipping Etiquette: How to Express Your Gratitude in Gratuity

For a lot of American consumers, the tipping game is often more a matter of guilt or guesswork than exactitude. So in everyday life, how much should we actually tip?​​
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For a lot of American consumers, the tipping game is often more a matter of guilt or guesswork than exactitude. Even the savviest folks who anticipate exact charges might stumble when it comes to offering up an appropriate tip. And sometimes it only takes a sideways glance from a waiter or barista to shame the lot of us into forking over some dough — even if the person doesn't necessarily deserve it. In fact, according to a recent CNN Money article, most of us are ashamed not to tip, even if we've been treated rudely.

In the words of New York-based super concierge Michael Fazio, a few simple rules of thumb should apply when deciding whether to tip: "Does the employee take pride in his service? Does he look engaged? Being nice is just one ingredient of many, and a tip is showing respect and appreciation financially for a job well done."

Tipping Etiquette: How Much to Tip for Various Services

Even if you've decided that your server has done a great job and has rightfully earned the customary tip, there's still the issue of how much to leave. After all, no one wants to cluelessly leave far too much or offensively too little. The amount depends on the service, so be sure to consult our tipping guide below to discern how much you should tip.

Waiters and Waitresses: 15% to 20%

The same CNN Money article that suggests many Americans tip out of fear of "social disapproval" references the Emily Post Institute's tipping guidelines for determining just how much of a tip a person should give in daily life, travel, and dining situations. On average, for exemplary dining service on a special occasion, such as an anniversary or a birthday, don't be afraid to drop the server 30% or even more. But you should never leave less than 10% of the bill before tax ... unless, as Jeanne Sahadi suggests, the waiter does a "horrid job [and] not because of a slow kitchen, but rather a bad attitude or neglect." Little or no tip might provide recognition of such service and a civil-yet-firm comment to the manager may also be in order.

For folks who are as coupon and deal-savvy as we are, it's important to remember that when using a gift certificate, Groupon, or other dining credit, to tip on the full amount of the bill before the discount, not after.

Bartenders: 15% to 20%

The 15% to 20% range is again dependent upon the kind of service your server has provided: Is your bartender a mixer of spirits? Or does she lift your spirits, too? Many barkeeps pride themselves on superior listening and counseling skills. And while you probably wouldn't tip a therapist, the bartender who goes out of her way to console you through your breakup, and/or gives you a round on the house, probably deserves something above that 20%.

On the other hand, if you perch at the bar for an hour and only nurse a soft drink, you may still want to tip at least a few bucks; you're possibly supplanting the space of a big spender who could otherwise fatten the bartender's wallet.

Skycaps: At Least $1 Per Bag

Curbside check-in pros, or skycaps, can make quite a bit in tips; pulling down $70,000 or more in tips alone is common. But these guys work hard for the money, unloading all manner of bulky bags in all sorts of travel conditions. They're also taking a financial hit in recent years, as some passengers now tip less because of the baggage fees most airlines charge. A $1-per-bag tip is a safe bet to reward courteous service, but $10 to $20 — the tipping range for any seriously stressed flyer trying to make a plane — can really help rush luggage onto the flight. As a general rule, if you're packing golf clubs or other heavy, clumsy gear, be sure to tip at least $5 or more per bag.

Cabbies: 15%

The New York Times cites 15% as a standard tip percentage for cab fares, up from 12.5% back in 1947. It's also important to consider the economy and customs of where you're riding. And any gratuity here is far from automatic: Ask yourself if the cabbie is taking the best route, or if he's maneuvering traffic to get you out of slow lanes. Some cabbies also like to drive with two feet (one on the brake, one on the gas). Done improperly, that's a sure bet to make you nauseated at every sudden stop, and reason enough for a low tip. That said, a cabbie who knows you're in a rush and helps you arrive on time could be rewarded with at least 20%.

Hairdressers, Barbers, Manicurists: 15% to 20%

At the salon, it's customary to tip between 15% and 20%, and divide the gratuity up between the stylists who handle your color, wash, cut, and 'do. At the nail salon, too, it's customary to determine gratuity based on services rendered: the manicurist should receive a tip separate from the pedicurist and the waxer. For men, your lifelong barber should receive about a 15% to 20% tip, too.

Hotel Staff: Lots of Dollar Bills

According to Oprah's tipping guide, guests who receive help from the bellhop should offer up $1 per bag. For the doorman who hails you a cab, a $1 tip is also customary.

When it comes to staying multiple nights in a hotel, guests tend to overlook housekeeping staff because they have rare or fleeting interactions with them. Oprah recommends leaving $2 a day for the housekeeping staff when they freshen up your room and change your towels. Presently that's up from the average $1 per day tip from a generation ago.

Food Delivery: 10% to 20%, Depending on Difficulty

While tipping for service at a restaurant is fairly clear cut, the issue of food delivery seems to vary depending on opinion and certain factors. CNN Money advises tipping at least 10% of the bill, while Tip the Pizza Guy suggests 15% for normal service. It's also important to consider other factors like weather, distance, and overall difficulty; is the reason you ordered food because there's a monsoon-like downpour outside? Then consider upping the tip to 20%.

Another growing segment of food delivery includes grocery services like FreshDirect, and again, the amount here varies. FreshDirect already charges a delivery fee and explicitly states that a tip above that isn't required, but is optional if "you feel that you've received exceptional service." In that case, users seem to agree that $1 per box, plus a few dollars extra for extremely heavy items or delivery in bad weather, will suffice.

Traveling Abroad: Inquire

In the U.S. and Canada, tips are expected, but in other countries it's different. In Australia, you only tip 10% at restaurants, and that's only when dining in a very posh place. The tip for taxi drivers in Japan and China? Nothing at all. And speaking of tips in Japan and China, dolling out a few extra bucks at dinner "can be construed as rude."

Back in my waiter days, I used to equate my tips with the motto — and acronym — "To Insure Promptness." Grammatical correctness aside, the "gratuity" and "gratitude" are inextricably related.

So what say you, dealnews readers? Do you always tip a certain amount while out at dinner? How often do you tip the Starbucks barista? On the other hand, perhaps you can remember a time where you left little or no tip? Share with us your stories of gratitude and gratuity in the comments below.

Front page photo credit: Ron Martin
Photo credits top to bottom: Friend Seat,
Broke-Ass Stuart, San Francisco Gate,
New York Times, Wolf and Pack, and eHow


Contributing Writer

Lou Carlozo is a DealNews contributing writer. He covers personal finance for Reuters Wealth. Prior to that he was the Managing Editor of WalletPop.com, and a veteran columnist at the Chicago Tribune.
Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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10 comments
markrus
Emily Post's stupid advice to not be afraid to drop 30% for exemplary service on a special occasion like an anniversary or birthday makes the perfect point to why tipping has lost it's original meaning and has gotten way outta control! Why don't u just throw that 30% out the window on the drive home just because u can. I'd personally rather give it to my partner or birthday guest to show my gratitude for putting up with my obnoxious and pompous bad overspending habits!
markrus
I agree with civil war64! It's not a consumers responsibility to tip an employee on top of what we pay for a service just for providing good service, when good service shud be expected regardless of what industry u work in! It's become more and more expected to tip for services while employers just rake in the dough and are laughing all the way to the bank! Tipping has lost it's original meaning and has become a way of receiving preferential treatment for the rich, while at the same time, those who don't could very well have their food spit on by a greedy little waiter who knows he might not get as much or no tip from others. Don't be angry with the consumer...be angry with your employer who pays u $2 while driving around in a new Mercedes! Better yet, find a new job that pays u the wage u deserve for the hard work u do!
duckdodgers24
I am a waiter, have been for over 20 years. Something to consider...we make $2.50 or less an hour plus tips. We tip out the buss person 10 % and the bar 5 %...so if you leave a small tip it can actually Cost us money..some places even take an extra 5 to 10 % to cover their costs for credit cards.

Also most point of sale systems automatically tax the server as if they got 15 % tips...so again a low tip can cost us money...it is no wonder that our turnover at a popular well know restaurant chain is over 70 %....I have 3 jobs just to keep my head over water. Back before the recession I had one.
Remember to tip fairly 15% is the lowest you should EVER tip a wait person. Also I lost my health care (I had it before the new law) so now I can NOT work more than 28 hours each job....and I now pay 4 times the cost for much less coverage and a lot higher deductible.

Tip well and help folks survive...not live mind you...Survive.
civilwar64
Tipping was started to show appreciation for a job WELL done and beyond what was expected. Now it allows greedy corporate America a chance to pay their workers way less than minimum wage. It is rare i tip 15%. For normal service 10% is my normal. I carry my own bags so tipping there is not needed. No i am not cheap- tipping has gotten way out if hand.
tradderjohn
I usually tip 20% or up to the next 5 dollar increment. thats If the waiter/waitress are attentive. If they are doing the obligatory table check up, its 15%. hotel staff its 20 bucks because its Myrtle Beach in the summer, and its a week long. We keep our room clean.

20% is not the new 15%

In Australia / New Zealand you pay holiday rates. thats where the employees are paid working on the holiday rates. Their government actually looks after their constituents (for the most part). you also cant get fired for BS, they have a employment tribunal.
Al-in-SoCal
I'm a generous tipper - why you ask? Lots of folks that get tips earn next to nothing ...

Any type of 'service' restaurant like Subway, etc - I generally give a dollar. Mechanics - I give $5 to 10 because I want them to remember me and give me great service. Haircut places I give $5 minimum - and for those "dollar" people Oprah apparently gives $1 to I give $2 to - I mean housekeeping at a hotel - $2 at least, usually $5 if I'm staying longer than a couple of days.

IF you don't like the service, don't tip the food server - tip the busperson or whomever helped you.
Greg the Gruesome
Re: Tipping the pizza delivery guy

What if you get your order at a discount? For example, if you have a promo code for 50% off regular menu price, the pizza delivery guy gets just half of what he "normally" would for the same order.

@wmrodie

From what I've read, no.
Janonymouse
In Canada tipping in restaurants is not necessary. Restaurants pay workers a decent wage !
MWFplus3
Similar question to wmrodie....what about when you pick up a "to go" order (e.g. Chili's) and pay at the pickup counter...there's a place to leave a tip on the credit card slip you sign...should you leave one and if so, what percent?
wmrodie
Question, Do I tip the person who takes the order onthe machine and has a tip jar sitting next to the machine?
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