Although gratuity is not required in the United States, the age-old question still exists: “How much do I tip?” Food servers, exterminators, valet parking personnel, postal carriers … the list is never-ending.
According to Debby Mayne, etiquette guide for About.com, there are three rules of tipping:
- Offer what you can afford. If you can’t afford the tip that will be expected, don’t use the service.
- If you’re unsure about a tipping policy, ask a manager.
- If the situation calls for it, consider sending a thank-you card, letter or batch of cookies to show your gratitude instead of a cash gift.
Orn Bodvarsson, a professor of economics at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota who has researched tipping, says tipping increases the quality of service. Because employers such as retailers and airlines want uniform service, they often ban or discourage tipping in an effort to ensure everyone receives the same attention.
“If people are handing out better tips, it encourages some people to get better service than others,” he says.
The following information is a general guideline of customary tipping etiquette for common services:
- Taxi driver: 10%-15% of fare, plus $1 to $2 for help with bags.
- Food delivery person: 10%-20% of the total bill (excluding tax). Take into account the type of neighborhood you live in and the weather conditions at the time of delivery.
- Barber/hairdresser: 15%-20%.
- Shampoo person: $2.
- Spa professional (e.g., manicurist, masseuse): 15%-20%. An optional $2-$5 for the attendant who gives a tour of the spa is appreciated.
- Gas station attendant: No tip.
- Full-service car wash attendant: $2 for a car and up to $5 for an SUV. 15% tip for a full detail.
- Road service assistance: $10-$20 to jump-start a car or fix a flat tire.
- Exterminator: No tip necessary, but Mayne says, “If a person does something extra, such as treat an area more heavily than normal or move furniture, you may want to tip $5-$10.”
- Cleaner/housekeeper: Tipping is optional. If you feel it’s necessary, 10%-15%.
- Contractor: No tip necessary. If someone does anything extra, $20.
- Health care worker: Small gifts with a value under $20.
- Cable/satellite installer: No tip required. $20 maximum, if you choose.
- Mover: $10-$20 per mover for a local move with no broken dishes. Consider offering up to $50 per mover for longer distances and larger moves.
- Postal carrier: During the holiday season, a gift valued at no more than $20. Carriers are forbidden by law to accept cash gifts.
Restaurants and Bars
- Server: 15%-25% of bill (excluding tax), depending on the quality of the service.
- Buffet-style restaurant: 5%-15% of the total bill, depending on how much the wait staff actually does. Some may bring over drinks and orders from the kitchen, whereas others only clear used dishes.
- Sommelier or wine steward: 15% of the cost of the bottle.
- Bartender: 15%-20% of the total tab, or 50 cents per soft drink, $1 per alcoholic beverage. Also consider the difficulty of your order.
- Coatroom attendant: $1 per coat
- Parking valet or garage attendant: $2-$5 to bring the car to you. Note how far he or she has to go to retrieve it.
- Cashier at coffee/food retailers: No tip required.
- Skycap at airport: $1 per bag curbside.
- Hotel limo driver: $10-$20 for a free ride from the airport.
- Hotel doorman and bellhop: $1 per bag ($2 for only one bag).
- Hotel housekeeper: $2-$5 per night. Leave the tip with a thank-you note each day when you leave the room; someone different may clean your room each day.
- Housekeeping room delivery person: $2-$3 for extra pillows, hangers or luggage racks.
- Tour guide: 15%-20%.
- Drink server in casino: $1-$2 per drink.
There are instances when one wouldn’t think to tip, but because gratuity is given at your own discretion, it is acceptable to opt out of it even though that may be frowned upon. When people go above and beyond the basic service asked of them, consider rewarding them for their stellar service.