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