When it comes to the question “how much should I tip?”, I rarely give it a second thought. Most people in the US know that 15 to 20% is standard in restaurants. If you error on the side of generosity, your server will treat you well next time you visit the restaurant. BUT…
What about stickier tipping situations?
How much should I tip my hairdresser when she throws in an extra conditioning treatment for free? Does the wine steward at the restaurant get a tip? And what about all those countertop tip jars at coffee shops?
The other day I found myself in a bit of an awkward tipping situation. I’d just finished two days of golf lessons with a private instructor and tipping questions were flying through my head like golf balls on the driving range. If the lessons had been at a private club, it would have been easy to answer since most clubs don’t allow tipping. However, it was at a golf institute, so I was wondering how much should I tip or if I should tip at all. After reasoning that professionals such as teachers, lawyers, and doctors are not tipped, I decided not to tip.
When I returned home, I consulted my Emily Post Etiquette book just to make certain I’d made the right decision and thankfully I had. Then I read the entire chapter on tipping and discovered some interesting facts about the standards of tipping.
I’ve been under and over tipping in a variety of situations. If I’m doing it, others are too, so I thought I’d share a few common tipping situations to take the awkwardness out of the question, “how much should I tip?” Many of these suggestions come from “Emily Post’s Etiquette: Manners for a New World”. Other information can be found at USPS.com, the US Department of Labor, and the witty, interesting website, “The Art of Manliness”.
How Much Should I Tip?
Coffee Baristas and Servers
How many times have you ordered a $3.10 coffee and left the extra 90 cents in the tip jar? I do it all the time and don’t thing much about it. Should I be tipping 29% on that morning coffee?!
Sure it doesn’t seem like much money, but it adds up – for both you and the person receiving the tip. Here’s a little perspective. Employers are required to pay employees at coffee shops at least the minimum wage in their state. In most states this is around $7.25 with a few exceptions being lower or higher such as Georgia at $5.15 and Washington at $9.19. In my area, an employee at a popular coffee shop reported to me that she makes around $15 an hour due to her wage plus tip jar tips.
In contrast, servers at restaurants make a “tip credit” wage*, which is around $2.13 paid by the employer, with a few exceptions. If servers don’t make at least minimum wage including tips, restaurant owners are required to make up the difference.
However, servers who don’t make above minimum wage in tips don’t last long in the industry. Tipping is designed to ensure that consumers get exceptional service and that servers are paid commensurate with their efforts.
According to Emily Post, if you want to tip your barista because the service was good, it will be appreciated. However, you’re under no obligation to place money in the countertop tip jar. However, in sit-down restaurants where you are being served, if you tip less than 15%, you’re sending a message to the waiter and his employer that you are unhappy with his service.
This tipping guideline may surprise you; it did me! When a wine steward gives a suggestion on wine, the appropriate tip is 15-20% on the cost of the bottle directly to the wine steward, not the server. You tip on each additional bottle as well. You can either pay the wine steward discreetly with cash or add a line item to your credit card bill. In this case, you tip the waiter on the food portion only.
For me, tipping housekeepers and lawn personnel has always been a little tricky. If I start the process of tipping from the beginning, I feel obligated to tip the same amount each time. The problem is that if the service declines, I still feel I must give the same tip because I’ve set the standard of tipping each time regardless.
I’m relieved to discover that when it comes to permanent part-time household help, a one-time holiday bonus equal to the fee of service for one week is acceptable. For example, if one housekeeper comes once a week and makes $100 per cleaning, then $100 as a holiday bonus is appropriate.
You are never under any obligation to tip serenading street musicians. If you enjoy their work and would like to support street musicians in your area, a thoughtful tip is 1 to 5 dollars.
If you hire a musician for a wedding or party, the appropriate tip is 15 to 20 percent.
Spa, Salon or Barber Service
I’m a regular customer at my salon and sometimes my hairdresser gives me extra services or products at no cost. The other day after shampooing my hair, she informed me that she used a special conditioner that usually costs $20 extra, but that she threw it in for free this time.
“Hum, this complicates things,” I thought. “How much should I tip for the conditioner; or do I tip anything for it?” Though it didn’t take her any extra time, I did tip more that day as I appreciated the freebie.
For salon services, the standard tip is 15 to 20% of the service. My husband tips his barber a little more since his cut is so inexpensive that 20% would not be enough.
Don’t tip on tax or products you may purchase at the salon. Tip each service provider separately. If someone other than your stylist shampoos your hair, $1 to $2 is appropriate. For manicurists, $2 to $3.
Some salon owners don’t accept tips for their services. If the person styling your hair is the owner, ask the receptionist about the tipping policy.
$2 to $5 when the car is delivered back to you.
I have had some of the world’s nicest mail carriers. In the past, I’ve been conflicted on what to do for them around the holidays since postal regulations prohibit cash or gifts in excess of $20. For mail carriers, a “tip” can be in form of a small gift such as food perishables, a coffee mug, or some other token gift.
It’s not everyday that you go somewhere where washroom attendants are working. However, each time I fly through the Charlotte, NC airport I remember to carry a little change. Those ladies work hard! The appropriate tip is 50 cents if they are keeping the washroom clean. If they are doing nothing but standing there, no tip is necessary. For any special service, such as mending a hem or helping to remove a stain, a tip between $1 to $3 is appropriate.
Tip $2 to $3 each day. To ensure the person who cleans your room gets the tip, leave the tip on a piece of notepad paper marked “housekeeping”.
For the bellman, tip $2 for the first bag and $1 for each additional bag he delivers to your room.
When a concierge helps you with an extra service, tip him at the time of service. $5 to $10 for a restaurant reservation, and 10 to 15% on the cost performance tickets is standard. There’s no need to tip on basic services such as providing you with a map or restaurant recommendations.
Interesting Tipping Situations
If you’ve had an interesting tipping situation, share it with us. Perhaps your experience or advice can help our readers answer the sometimes tricky question, “how much should I tip?”