Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tips on Tipping

Due to my recent fascination with the world of finance- them's words I never thought I'd hear out of my own mouth- I have been reading some financial blogs lately and came across basic yet very handy list of information on tipping, a point that gives rise to confusion or disagreement at times (what to tip a shoe shiner for the holidays? This is one dilemma to which I cannot directly relate, but I have my own quandaries.) Borrowed from the informative and useful site, Get Rich Slowly.

After browsing dozens of pages, I drafted the following guide. The amounts listed are based on averages or on consensus, when possible.

Food Service

No tip required, though many suggest throwing coins into the tip jar.
$1/drink (or 15% of total bill). Pre-tip for better service.
Delivery person (including pizza)
10%, $2 minimum (also, also)
Maitre d’
$5-$25 for special efforts
No tip required unless something special is done (also, also)
15% for adequate service, 20% for exceptional service. For poor service, leave 10% or less. It’s okay to leave nothing for exceptionally poor service, but only if you’re sure it’s the waiter’s fault.

Hotel Staff

$1 to $2 per bag, $5 minimum. (Or, just as many places say $1 bag, $2 minimum.)
$5-$20 depending on the service. $20 if he does something exceptional. Nothing for directions.
$2 to $5 per night, paid daily or as a lump sum at checkout. (Most sites suggest you tip daily.)
Parking Valet
A wide range of opinions. Everyone agrees that you should pay when your car is retrieved. Some say to pay when it’s parked, too. Most sites say to tip $2, though some suggest $5.
Room service
$5 minimum (unless gratuity is included in check)


Bus driver (not mass transit)
$1 to $2, if she handles luggage
Cab driver
10%, $2-$5 minimum
Gas station attendant
Nothing. Or $2-$4. There’s no agreement. (I’ve never seen anyone tip a gas station attendant ever.)
$1 per bag. $2 for heavy items, or if porter brings luggage to counter.

Personal service

Again, little agreement: 10-15%, 15-20%, etc. One person recommends $5 to each individual who shampoos or blow-dries your hair! (also)
Spa service
$2 or $3


Building superintendent
Varies —read more.
Coat checker
Most sites recommend $1 per coat, though one said $2 to $5 upon retrieval.
Furniture deliverer
It depends. Most of the time $5-$20. Some recommend simply offering cold drinks. (also)
Grocery store bagger
One site recommended $1-$3, though I’ve never seen one tipped in my life.
$10-$25 per person (also)

What about tipping at holidays? Tipping service people with whom you have regular contact can build goodwill. I found these recommendations:

Holiday Tips

  • Babysitter: one week’s pay
  • Doorman: bottle of wine or box of chocolates
  • Garbage collector: $15 to $25
  • Gardener: one week’s pay
  • Housekeeper: one week’s pay
  • Janitor: $15 to $25
  • Mail carrier: $15 to $20 (up to $20 non-cash)
  • Nanny: one week’s pay
  • Newspaper delivery person: $15 to $25
  • Parking attendant: $15 to $25
  • Personal trainer: $20 to $50 (tip discreetly)

Some points regarding tipping etiquette:

  • If you use a coupon or gift certificate, calculate your tip based on the total before discount.
  • Tip above the norm if:
    • Service is exceptional,
    • You’ve been a burden, or
    • You are a regular client.
  • Don’t tip if it’s not deserved. Poor service should not be rewarded.
  • In some circumstances, if you offer an initial tip — especially a large initial tip — you’ll get better service.
  • If you take up a restaurant table for a long time, tip extra.
  • Tip discreetly.
  • When in doubt, tip.

What about public officials? When is a tip a tip, and when is a tip a bribe? My wife and I tipped the judge who married us, but even then we had trouble deciding how much to give him. (We gave him $50.)

I suspect that tipping practices vary widely from region-to-region and, especially based upon the size of the city. As always, do what works for you.

For the record and in response to the anonymous comment below, I always tip my barista and think it would be pretty shitty not to.


Cinema Journal said...

Thank you! I think people need "tipping education." So many awkward/embarrassing moments when you go out to eat with someone who doesn't tip properly. Especially if its a place you go to regularly. So--many thanks for setting the record straight!

Anonymous said...

tip your barista a dollar for each drink. why should a bartender get a dollar for a bud? i was a bartender and felt it unfair that a soy latte should yield anything less than the reward for taking a cold bottle o beer out of the fridge.

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