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How Much Should You Tip? A Guide to Tipping in 10 Common Situations

From waiters to bellhops, many people depend on tips. But when is it expected, and do you give a dollar or a percentage? We checked the norms.

In other countries, a tip is exactly that — a little something extra for a job well done. But in the US, many livelihoods are dependent on tips. Furthermore, there is rarely a clear consensus on how much an appropriate tip should be, and practices vary by locale. In researching this article, we found conflicting opinions at every turn. And as The New York Times reported, the questions of whom and how much you tip are getting even more complicated with the introduction of electronic payments.

To help you out in nearly every situation, we've sorted through conflicting opinions to give you a clear guide to tipping etiquette. We've also thrown in a little personal expertise (your humble author has worked in service industry jobs ranging from waiter to valet parking attendant to cabana boy) for the perspective from the other side.


Waiters and Waitresses: 20%

Despite the connotation of the word, tipping should be mandatory at any restaurant that doesn't serve your food on a plastic tray. Federal law allows restaurant owners to pay tipped employees an hourly wage as low as $2.13, with the provision that if wages and tips don't equal the federal minimum wage of $7.25, the employer must make up the difference. While eight states require tipped employees to be paid the same minimum wage as everyone else, 19 states have only the federal minimum in place. (The other 23 states are somewhere in between.)

As such, a waiter's paycheck never amounts to much more than enough to pay taxes. Depending on location, taxes are calculated either based on sales or credit card tips, which tend to make up the bulk of a waiter's gratuities. In short, tips are a waiter's livelihood, so when the service you receive is acceptable, you should tip 20%.

While some articles would have you believe 15% is adequate, that hasn't been the case in decades and we'll be sending those authors a fax and/or a message to their beeper. Sure, if the service you receive is lousy and is clearly the fault of the waiter, you can leave less, but exercise good judgement. Tipping poorly will always reflect poorly on you if unjustified.

While you can calculate your tip pre-tax, the difference is negligible. Also if you use a coupon or gift card, remember when you get your adjusted total or credit card slip to tip on the original amount. Also, remember that service at a restaurant is a team effort and there are people whose job it is to bring you your food, fill your water glass, and clear your table, and your waiter is sharing his tip with them.

If it seems strange to you that a person's salary could be based entirely on the whims of the public, you are not the only one. In the past few years, we've seen a growing number of restaurants do away with tipping altogether. Instead, they've raised their prices slightly to include service.

While the higher prices take a bit of adjustment, they will seem reasonable when you realize you won't be adding on an additional 20% at the end of the meal. And it is especially nice not to have to do any math. Look for something along the lines of "service included" to be printed on the menu.


Bartenders: $1 to $2 Per Drink

Like waiters, bartenders are usually paid lower than the minimum wage and essentially live on the tips that they make. And those tips are directly proportional to the number of drinks they serve. You should tip accordingly. So sure, if you are just drinking beer, a buck a brew is fine.

But if you're ordering a fancy cocktail with a laundry list of ingredients that is going to take several minutes to make, you should throw down a Jefferson ($2 bill) or a couple singles. It's also worth noting that tipping your bartender well (without being obnoxious about it) almost always results in prompter service and frequently free drinks after a few rounds.

Note: If you run a tab, just tip 20%.

Barista: $1 or Less

It wasn't that long ago when the word "barista" was absent from most people's vocabularies. There was simply the guy who poured your cup of Joe. In the age of Starbucks ubiquity and all sorts of frappe-ed and latte-ed creations, making coffee has been taken to a new level. As such, people are more compelled than ever to leave a tip.

While the Washington Post says "tipping less than $1 on anything can feel a bit chintzy," you shouldn't feel weird just throwing a few coins in the jar. Whatever you call him, the guy making your coffee gets paid at least minimum wage, so tips really are an added bonus.

Food Delivery: 10% to 15%

Although a food delivery person won't be refilling your water or clearing your plates, he has to schlep your food across town and possibly up a flight of stairs or three or four. As such, you should reward him accordingly, with additional dollars if it's raining or snowing or is particularly cold outside. Remember, chances are if your delivery takes longer than expected to arrive, it's the result of something going on at the restaurant and not the fault of the delivery person.

Note: many people also consider it acceptable to always tip a flat amount in the range of $3 to $5, adjusting by a dollar or two depending on the order size, distance traveled, and weather conditions.

taxi driver

Taxi Driver: 15% to 20%

While 15% is still an acceptable amount to tip your cabbie, as Bloomberg reports, 20% has become the norm as a result of it being one of the automatic choices given when using a credit card. Of course, if your driver takes the "scenic route," you'll want to tip less (and possibly argue the fare). But if he goes beyond the call of duty to get you to your destination quickly, then be sure to throw in a little extra.

Car Service Driver: 15% to 20%

A long-running topic of debate — especially in my Brooklyn home base, where yellow cabs aren't as ubiquitous as in Manhattan — is whether or not you tip a car service driver. Many believe gratuity is included in the quoted rate. According to Gothamist, you should tip a driver the same regardless if the car is black or yellow.

In the age of start-ups, new ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft have arisen to give traditional taxi services a run for their money. Should you tip them? Uber states on its website that there is no need to tip your driver, but according to a Boston Globe article, your driver wouldn't mind if you did. Its competitor Lyft allows riders to add a tip using its app when rating drivers after the ride. As Uber drivers are only tipped 1% to 5% of the time and Lyft drivers 20% to 50% of the time, any amount would surely be appreciated.

Hairdressers, Barbers, Manicurists: 15% to 20%

According to InStyle, you should tip your hairstylist 20% for a job well done. If there are other stylists involved with washing or blow-drying your hair, they should be tipped as well. If your salon allows you to leave the tip at the front desk, they will divvy it up. Otherwise, you can divide your tip as you see fit. Guys should also tip 20% regardless of whether they go to a barber or stylist.

When getting a manicure and/or pedicure, tip 15% for each service rendered.


Skycaps and Bellhops: $1 to $2 Per Bag

When traveling, you should be sure to tip anyone who handles your luggage. For bellhops, $1 per bag is sufficient, but skycaps should receive $1.50 to $2 per bag depending on weight and bulkiness. A good tip will go a long way to insuring they get to where they're supposed to go.

Housekeepers: $2 to $5 Per Night

Hotel housekeepers are vastly underpaid and overworked, so it's always a good idea to leave a tip. It goes without saying that if your room gets skipped for cleaning then you can probably skip a tip, but otherwise leave $2 to $5 per night depending on the quality of cleaning and the price level of hotel. Many hotels leave envelopes specifically for tipping the housecleaning staff.

Valet Parking Attendant: $2 to $5

If you park your car with a valet, be sure to tip your attendant when he brings you your vehicle. (If you must, this is one of the few instances where it's acceptable to palm the tip.) If you are staying multiple nights at a hotel and are taking your car in and out, yes, you should tip every time you get your car. More than likely there will be a different attendant working that you don't want to stiff, but a good tip will also ensure prompt service should the same staff member be on duty.

What do you think? Is tipping out of control, or do you enjoy rewarding good service? Let us know in the comments.

Senior Staff Writer

Stephen Slaybaugh is a Brooklyn-based writer with more than 20 years experience. In addition to his work for DealNews, he publishes The Agit Reader music webzine and has written for The Village Voice, Paste, The Big Takeover, and many other publications.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Unless marked as a "Sponsored Deal," the opinions expressed here are those of the author and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the companies mentioned. 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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So you have a bad experience at a restaurant, your steak was undercooked. You don't tip.
That is like if you have a bad morning at your office on Monday, so they do not pay you for the week. Not fair is it? Did the server cook your steak? Is your budget their problem?
Be compassionate people, that 5 bucks won't kill you, but it may seriously hurt a single mother.
Many people do not realize that servers must pay taxes on all of their sales.
The tip is not just not paying them for their job(usually the only cash they will see), you are actually making them dig in to their pocket to pay the government to serve you.
This is because they are paid $2.13 per hour(in Texas-varies), but must subtract the taxes on the tips that the IRS thinks they should be getting.
So usually my checks were for $0.00, or I actually have had to pay the restaurant to work there.
If you do not think you should tip, that is okay, just do not let someone serve you and then have to pay the IRS to do so, that is wrong in so many ways.
These outrageously high "tips" are why tipping should be banned. Include the full cost of the service in the service and stop this ever increasing tipping creep nonsense.

It's just absurd to have to pay at least 20% more for "service" like that of a restaurant server (and, yes, I was once one in the 10% days) and even then did little more than take an order and deliver and clean service dishes. If that's too much, get rid of the servers, automate the job and be done with it.
So I go on vacation and rent a room for $300 per night, parking fees are $40 per night, and they want a $30 tip to the maid. Whoops I forgot the resort fees of $40 per night. And I only made $80 per hours for my wage. No wonder I cannot afford to travel.
Back in the '60's it was a tip of 10% and then they decided that they needed a raise so it was raised to 15% now it is 20%. These are percentages so every time the business raises their prices they get an wage increase. It used to cost $2.00 for lunch buffet but not it is over $10 to as much as $40 for a buffet. So the tip used to be 20 cents now it is as much as $8. Sorry but I still tip the 10% knowing all along they gotten a wage increase. But I have on occasion when I have received exceptional services from a waiter tip as high as the 20% but that is unusual. Usually two or more waiters. Everyone wants to make the huge wages and some feel they are entitled without the schooling or other investments.
My only comment would be on valets. I recently paid $40/night to park a rental at a hotel. An outrageous amount if you ask me and I wasn't about to pony up even more every single time I had to get my car out of the garage. I say let those valets take it up with their bosses.
My tip: Look both ways before crossing the street. Also, I shall become like Mr Pink in my tipping philosophy.
DRT1 wins the day.

Frankslide (and some others) win the award for, um, most likely to deprive a parent of being able to get their kid a birthday gift. What a bunch of curmudgeons here. I'll assume they belong to that political party (you know which one!) Sheesh.
I tipped an outhouse once.
I tip only when I receive good service, call me cheap but I think a service worker should earn their tips and not feel entitled to one just because I'm told I should tip x amount. I understand also that employers or business owners encourage customers to tip so they can keep wages low, which a load of BS.
Not to belay the point - and my last post on the topic - depending on the state there is a tip wage - here you can see:

As you can see many MANY states allow tipped wages of about $3 an hour. Very different from a "temp worker". One last thing - this is a job that is female dominated.

Not wanting to get into a political discussion as many below did - tip wages and no benefits = poverty city for most servers (Think: Alice the 1970's series) in small town USA.
"...and if you get awful service you should take it up with the manager - for sure...." Now I need to put in effort where the server did not? Nah, I don't think so. Simply leaving $0 is a lot easier and certainly consistent with the service I received.

On the issue of "no benefits", neither do temp workers. I don't see them getting tips from the FTEs. Using that as a component of justification for practically mandatory tipping is tantamount to welfare. Nope. Not going to do it.

Let me make myself clear: I'm not against tipping. I'm okay with it. However, saying 20% should be the norm, and even something like 10% even if service is bad is poppycock. Do you throw $2 into a street-performer's guitar case, even if they suck? If you're going to be in this line of work and expect me to always tip, then I expect you to ALWAYS be on the ball. It goes both ways and it ain't welfare.
jgrimoldy - say they get $300 (for the night) - subtract tipouts for the busperson, bartender, and food runner and expeditor (if nice place). Also remember they get no benefits.

Just to note as well - that rarely do all 4 tables tip 20%, and rarely do they all order $20 meals.

Of course if you get bad service - you should not tip 20 percent, and if you get awful service you should take it up with the manager - for sure.
Sooo, for a $100 tab, the server's tip should be $20? If he/she is doing, say 4 tables at once (doesn't seem unreasonable), with the same tab, they'll be making $80 for one hour? Seems a bit excessive. Now, if they're really good... well.. okay.

Let's say the service is terrible. Now it should just be $10? If all the tables do this, they're still getting rewarded just a bit too much for being terrible.
Here's another TIP for tipping: If you get bad service from your food server - BUT - get better service from the busperson - TIP the busperson.

Also - if you move into an area and know you will frequent a place - tip very well the first few times then go back to 15 to 20% - they will remember and continue giving great service.
Here's a TIP re: hotel cleaning people tips - I leave on the FIRST night w/ a note on how long I'll be staying.

Also - my partner is a server and actually in most states they are paid a "tip wage" meaning their hourly wage is about $3 an hour - and they are forced to "make it up". It's not well-known - so hopefully this will enlighten some on why tips are so very very important.
If it's compulsory, stop calling it a "tip" and start calling it a "fee" or a "surcharge".
From the article: "...Sure, if the service you receive is lousy and is clearly the fault of the waiter, you can leave less..."

Ummm.... Yeah... If the service is lousy, I'm leaving nothing... Nothing is going to guilt me into paying or lousy service.
The ignorance and arrogance in these comments is astounding.
Frank Slide
This author is out of his bloody mind if he thinks a waiter should be tipped 20%. The waiter can find a different job if he isn't making enough. This is just greed, pure and simple. I have more respect for the beggar on the side of the street than the waiter begging for tips. How about a waiter just does his job? Is that too much to ask for?

Twenty years ago a 10% tip was very generous. Then when credit cards became the norm for payment, a tip line was included with a recommendation of 15%. It did not take too many years and the number increased to 18%. Now this author says 20%? Absolutely no way!

I prefer the Japanese culture in which a tip would be an insult.

I usually tip 5 to 10%, begrudgingly, and I never, ever tip a hotel maid. I travel a few dozen times per year and my company would never reimburse for it. Shame on the travel industry for even suggesting it.
There is no hard-and-fast appropriate tipping etiquette, except perhaps for finishing school grads.
Tipping practices in the US contribute to entitlement mentality. Case in point: Years ago my wife and I dined at a restaurant in Cape May, NJ. When I asked a question about an entree, the waiter was standoffish. We also had to ask for refills, even though the restaurant was quiet--few customers that evening. We left no tip.
The next morning, we were on our hotel balcony taking in The Atlantic Ocean when this waiter leans out of his slow-moving car on Beach Ave and yells, "Thanks a lot for the tip. You guys suck!", serving only to reinforce that leaving no tip was the right decision in this case.
There should be no tipping. If anyone who choose to work at a place that depends on tips for a livable wage, they deserve it and don't whine about no tips. The customers are not the subsidies to make sure that one is able to pay their bills.
I posted a comment a few hours ago. Where is it?
Tipping is getting worse everywhere except Singapore and Australia. It is for employers to screw their employees and get away with it. I wish one day US will become a non tipping society. If you expect to be tip to make a livable wage, you shouldn't be working and whine about non tippers. I'm a good tipper reluctantly because I'm being force to. (When in Rome, do what the Romans do). The people that I tipped make more than me. The mail carrier has a union therefore they make pretty good money and I tipped my mail carrier. I work for little money with no tips. I don't expect tips for the job that I agreed to work its the amount I'm getting paid. If you agree to be suckers and get screwed by your boss, don't whine or call out the non tippers. You walk out the same way you walk in. The customers are not your subsidies of your low wages.
Let me say in advance that we tip generously based on service, however anyone that suggests that we MUST tip 20% is probably a server! TIPS came about in the 1800's with a simple meaning "to insure prompt service" it was used at bars by customers that wanted to be served before everyone else promptly. It was not used at restaurants, motels, barbers, etc.
Any business that thinks it's ok to screw their employees by paying less than minimum wage expecting the customers to make up the difference does not deserve to be in business!
Many restaurants where we live are opening NO TIP restaurants in fact there are no servers, the meals are prepared by the chef and brought to the table by that same chef. The service is better, the food is better and prices are not dramatically higher. Tipping has become what it was never meant to become, tip jars on every counter you can imagine. I saw a tip jar at the gas station where I pumped my own gas, It seems tips have become an entitlement?
Fall Guy
The 20% for wait staff is not the norm. It is for exceptional service but 15% is the norm and remember you tip off the pretax amount.
1st, for those of you think places you need to tip. Check this out!

No tip in Japan, btw. So as many other countries around the globe.

2nd, I don't believe in tipping because you really don't know how much you going to get regardless of your service. If the food & drinks are bad, am I suppose to received a bad tip? The tip should be charge from the percentage of the total bill. This is how you know if they are getting their minimal wage or not. Another good thing would be you can also get taxation correctly .

Finally, I still think these are low pay jobs. (shit jobs) most of them are under minimal wages with bad benefits & regulations. Usually a small business with narrow hierarchy structure. Except you're bartender, own a taxi cab & hair dresser can make a decent living.
Plenty of stupid, cheap, and selfish people here...perhaps they are not aware that in most states, restaurants and hotels are allowed to pay a much lower minimum wage for jobs that usually get tips. Thus these "non-tippers are screwing these lower paids over. People who usually skip over advice and recommendations (talking about tradder, for sure) are the one's who need it most. I'm all for not tipping when you're really receiving poor service for no reason, but make sure that is the case.

I also see no mention of tipping for restaurant counter was always about 5% less since the waiter/waitress had less to do...ditto when you're at a buffet.
guidelines meaning what someone else thinks you should tip. evidently 20% is the new 15%. $1 dollar drafts its not 1990 anymore. certainly am not tipping taxi drivers, it shouldn't be 30 dollars for a 10 mile trip + tip. Mail person gets a gift at the end of the year.
Why tip someone for a job I'm capable of doing myself? I can deliver food, I can drive a taxi, I can and do cut my own hair. I did, however, tip my urologist. Because I am unable to pulverize my own kidney stones.
Should I tip my mail carrier? They make more than I do.
Also when you tip your server do you ask if they share with the kitchen and bar staff? How come we don't tip our enlisted military personnel as they also make less than minimum wage. Tipping should be a way to show appreciation, not a subsidy to the business owner. So maybe I will tip my mail carrier.
I have no problem tipping restaurant servers 20-25% for good service. My Problem lies in tipping servers for the overpriced alcoholic drinks restaurants serve. Not to long ago, draft beer in a restaurant was $1 a mug to entice customers to come in and mixed drinks were reasonable too. Now chain restaurants are routinely charging $7-$8 for 20 oz. drafts. Sorry servers... if my girlfriend and I have 3 drinks each with dinner, your getting $1 per round brought to us + 20% of the food bill.
@paulie0717, tbh, they aren't really considered tipped employees. Last I knew of, buffet employees were paid a normal hourly wage. But it could depend on the chain. Some places throw their employees into the "tipped wage" category to get away with paying them less hourly, but it really isn't a tipped position.

khenry1983, in the chains that offer to go/curbside, you'd tip the same as you would a server. They do a very similar job as the servers in the restaurant, just sans the refills and table side- they're checking your order, putting it together correctly (appropriate sauces/dressings/sides), bringing it to you, etc. They're essentially waiting on you, but while you're in your car. There's a little more involved as opposed to the "counter ordering" places where you get your food to go.
American customer service plain sucks (perhaps nowadays due to how the youth are raised these days to think first of only themselves). You go to a country like Japan, and there you get the best customer service for their society puts others (even strangers) ahead of oneself first.
Tipping is ridiculous in US. Travel to Europe or Asia, there is no tipping, travel is so pleasant. You know how much everything is costing you, even in foreign currency. Taxes are included in prices, there is no second-guessing. In Asia tipping is discouraged, and rightfully so. Tipping in US is just getting worse and worse with time. It's out of control. Let's abolish this ridiculous practice, advertise honest price for goods (include taxes in the advertised price, as they vary by state and even by county). We as customers should always know the cost of goods and expect good service. That should NOT depend on a tip.
Lindsay Sakraida (DealNews)
@RudeVader We address that actually, since there are trends towards getting rid of tips in favor of full wages for servers and prices that include service. But as you noted, until the policies change, it's really pretty awful not to tip. And that's where these guidelines come in.
drt1, very good.

Watch the show "Adam ruins everything" on this subject. Annoying guy, but good facts.

Stephen Slaybaugh, if you did research this subject you would have found Tipping is actually a bad thing and this article only encouraging doing more of it. I still tip because I understand what the server is going through, but it's still a bad policy pushed on us by their employers.
Tipping is just another of the things wrong in this country. Raise the wages and eliminate it. My tip to all... don't play in the traffic.
What's to you think a reasonable tip is at a buffet style restaurant.
Thanks , Paul .....
Greg the Gruesome
Oh wow, when I order from Papa John's or Domino's, I tip at least 25% (before delivery fee and sales tax), $3 minimum, unless the driver took considerably longer than usual. I wonder if it matters that I never order unless I can get it for well off regular menu price. And I'm not sure if I should tip more than $3 if my order is, say, four boxes vs. one box.

And before anyone asks why I order pizza from Papa John's and Domino's when I live in New York City, it's because I can't get Chicago-style thin crust (a/k/a cracker crust) pizza from anywhere else.
How much, if at all, should you tip when ordering "To Go" or using the Curbside services that many restaurants provide?
If I were 'king'. I'd make every person that does one hour of anything for anyone else that does not benefit themselves (directly) be compensated.

One hour of 'not you time' (work for others/non-family) one should get one hour of compensation. Including so called volunteering for organizations where not 100% of all other effort done by that organization is not absolutely free. If anyone (CEO) gets paid, every single hour that anyone does for that organization would by law get compensated.

Now, yesterday buddies and I argued over stuff like commuting. I say, if you would not OTHERWISE be on the way/commuting, then yes, it's "FOR WORK" and should be compensated.

Now, trade, with other states/countries, would enforce trade with same labor bill-of-rights; including safety (Health and safety), benefits, healthcare, daycare, OSHA, EPA regulations, etc. IF any of those are not met, a plan to meet equality would be set, with penalties tacked on (tariffs) for not having equal product ....