When you really think about it, the tipping system is kind of silly. Why should consumers have to add more on top of whatever amount they owe? Why not just charge that amount in the first place?
Not only that, but the practice of tipping carries so much baggage. White servers are often tipped more than Black servers. Blonde and slender waitresses get more tips than brunette or larger-bodied waitresses. Workers who are forced to rely on tips are exposed to more sexual harassment. And on and on.
But while the system is seriously flawed, it’s also baked into our culture and our economy — tips help to keep operating costs down, and psychologically, consumers like to see lower prices on menus and taxi meters (even though they’ll be paying more when the bill comes…). So, whether or not you think we should do away with tipping altogether and just, you know, pay service workers a living wage, the sad truth is that many workers depend on tips to survive.
So, with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s go through the basics of tipping: why you should tip, when you should tip, and how much you should tip in each situation.
Why you should tip
There are many industries that pay below minimum wage or market price — the most notable being the food service industry. For workers in these industries, tips are crucial in order to earn a living wage.
Tipping is also a sign that you are pleased with the service and that the person did a good job. Because tipping is so ingrained in our culture, when you don’t tip, the worker might think they did something wrong.
How much you should tip
In an era where every individual or retailer allows optional tipping, it can be hard to know how much you should leave. We’ve compiled a list of best practices to follow so you don’t have to worry about being a cheapskate.
Also, keep in mind that around the holiday season (from Thanksgiving through to New Year’s), it’s customary to give more, as a thank you for people working during a busy period or, if you’re a regular, for their service to you over the past year.
Tipping is something to take into account when calculating the true cost of eating out.
Tipping at least 15% is considered the bare minimum at a sit-down restaurant. If you have adequate service, consider leaving 20%. Exceptional service should be rewarded with a 25% tip. If you’re eating at a fast food or counter-service restaurant, leaving a 10% tip is appropriate and well-appreciated.
When you’re drinking at a bar, it’s customary to tip $1 for a beer and $2 for a mixed drink. This rule applies to each drink. For example, if you order two beers and two cocktails, you should tip at least $6. But if you ordered a complicated cocktail or had exceptional service, consider tipping more.
If you’re riding in a Lyft or an Uber, you should tip between 15% and 20% of the total cost of the ride. This also applies if you’re using a traditional taxi service.
If you have a short or inexpensive ride, then a 20% tip may only be around $1. You should tip $2 at the very least, even if that comes out to a higher percentage.
Everyone loves to get take-out, and you should always tip the driver who delivers your food, even when using one of the best food delivery apps. Consider tipping between 10% and 15%. If you had a challenging order, like a pint of soup or multiple milkshakes, consider tipping 20%.
You should also tip more during bad weather, like rain or snow.
Try to leave at least $1 or $2 per drink when you visit a coffee shop. If you had a complex order — think no-foam, extra-hot, half-shot vanilla soy latte — try giving a little more.
If you’re getting your nails or hair done, you should leave a tip for the manicurist or hair stylist. Adding 15% is a good tip for these services.
However, if you buy products, you are not expected to leave a tip on those items. Only leave a tip for the service amount.
Like any other salon, you should tip a masseuse between 15% and 20%.
Babysitter or nanny
If you pay a babysitter, you are not required to leave a tip. However, if they provided exceptional service or you want to reward them, the polite way to leave a tip is to round up the final bill or add an extra $5. For example, if you owe $50, you could pay $55 instead.
Most people know you should leave a tip for the housekeeper, but many end up doing it wrong. If you stay at a hotel, you should leave a tip for the housekeeper every day that they come. Leaving between $2 and $5 per day should be good.
Housekeepers rotate often, so if you only leave a tip at the end of your stay, you may not be tipping all the people who cleaned your room. Bring single dollar bills when you travel so you can tip properly. If you left behind an exceptionally messy room, consider padding the tip.
It’s also customary to tip a bellhop if they bring bags up to your room.
Tipping is customary when you’re hiring movers. At the very least, you should tip $20 for each mover. But if it was a long move or included many heavy or delicate items, consider tipping at least $50.
Movers who make long-distance moves should get a tip between 15% and 20% of the bill.
How to tip when you’re traveling
The U.S. is a tip-focused culture, but tipping is not necessary in many countries. In most other countries, waiters and other restaurant employees receive a living wage and do not rely on tips.
In fact, some cultures see tipping as rude, so you might be doing more harm than good. In that case, you should show your appreciation to the server verbally instead of monetarily.
If you feel obligated to leave a tip, 10% should be sufficient. Before you leave a tip, check the receipt to see if service is included. If it is, then you are not required to leave an extra tip. But some experts say you do not have to tip even if it says service is not included.
An exception to the no (or minimal) tipping rule overseas is tour guides. It’s almost always appropriate to tip a tour guide. The standard is 10% to 20% of the tour cost for a day tour, and $8 to $10 per person per day on a multi-day group tour (or $20 to $25 per day if it’s a private tour).
As well, it’s common, but not required, to tip at all-inclusive resorts. Tipping the bartenders, bellhops, and housekeepers is quite common for U.S. travelers. Aim for $150 total for a one-week stay.
If you want to tip while traveling, it’s best to do so in cash. If you charge the tip to your credit card, it’s less likely that the server will receive the designated funds.
It’s also better to hand the money directly to the server, especially in a crowded area where a pickpocket might swipe the cash. Try to avoid giving coins as a tip as it may seem unnecessarily rude.
Before you travel, look up tipping etiquette for the specific countries you’re visiting to ensure you won’t be offending anyone. If you plan to use taxis or rideshare services, make sure to research what the tipping culture is for drivers.
Tipping is a meaningful way to thank service workers for their hard work, but the amount you should give depends on the type of service. When in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of generosity and reward excellent service with a generous tip.
If you’re traveling abroad, research tipping etiquette before your trip to ensure you’re not over- or under-tipping in foreign countries.
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