Tipping Etiquette: The Ultimate Guide to Tipping

Geoff Williams


With a rising number of tech-savvy tipping tools and calculators in recent years, there's been growing complexity and confusion associated with tipping. How much should you leave? When do you have to provide gratuity and when should you skip tipping?

"There is no true norm for tipping," says Paul Bagdan, a hospitality professor at the College of Hospitality Management at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. "You can ask 100 people and get 100 different answers."

If you're wondering about the proper tipping etiquette, including who to pay and how much, use this comprehensive gratuity guide.

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Here's Who You Have to Tip:

How much to tip restaurant servers: 15% to 20%, pre-tax, according to the Emily Post Institute

Brian Warrener, an associate professor specializing in service management theory at the College of Hospitality Management at Johnson & Wales University, says leaving a 20% tip is standard. Warrener says there's evidence that the standard tip was 10% as far back as the 1920s. By the late 1980s, this increased to 15% and now it's around 20%. As the minimum wage has not gone up, diners have picked up the slack with higher tips, he says.

That has spread to other service professions as well, according to Bagdan. "In recent years, the list of people who will gladly accept a tip has skyrocketed."

How much to tip bartenders: $1 to $2 per drink, according to the Emily Post Institute

"Leave a few dollars per drink," Warrener says. "If you're running a tab, your tip should be calculated like your food bill: 20%."

How much to tip baristas: $0 to $1, according to the Emily Post Institute

Tips for coffee aren't really necessary, Warrener says, "but leave your change up to a dollar for your favorite barista."

How much to tip for a food delivery service: 10% to 15%, according to the Emily Post Institute

"A safe rule of thumb is 20%," says April Masini, a relationship and etiquette expert in Boca Raton, Florida, who writes an advice column at AskApril.com. "When in doubt, tip 20% percent of the amount of the product or service your tipping recipient delivered to you," she advises.

How much to tip movers: $4 to $8 per hour

Moving from one home to another? The website Moving.com suggests approximately $40 per mover for a full day of work.

How much to tip hotel valet staff: $1 to $5, according to the Emily Post Institute

The Emily Post Institute suggests the hotel's valet parking attendant receive $1 to $5 once your car is returned to you.

How much to tip a hotel concierge: $5 or $10, according to the Emily Post Institute

According to the Emily Post Institute, you don't need to pay for having questions answered, but if you ask a concierge to get you tickets or restaurant reservations, $5 to $10 is a good tip; $15 for hard-to-get tickets or even 10% to 20% of the ticket price.

How much to tip hotel housekeeping: $2 to $5 per day, according to the Emily Post Institute

How much to tip your hairdresser or nail technician: 10% to 20%

According to Bonnie Tsai, founder and director of Beyond Etiquette, a Los Angeles-based consulting agency specializing in full-service etiquette and communication training for companies and individuals, tipping 10% to 20% is standard.

How much to tip a parking attendant: a few dollars

According to Tsai, giving a few bucks to a parking attendant is acceptable.


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Here's Who You Don't Have to Tip:

There are many service professions in which you aren't expected to pay a tip. The rule of thumb is that if they are salaried or paid well, you likely aren't expected to provide additional gratuity. Learn more about when it is appropriate to forgo tipping.

Accountants, Financial Advisors and Lawyers

You're likely already paying them handsomely, through fees or commissions, and the whole point of their services is to save you money.

Doctors and Nurses

Let your health insurance worry about paying them, and you can worry about paying your health insurance.


Mechanics

You're already paying the mechanic or garage, and much of the money you pay goes to labor.

Plumbers

For the same reasons you wouldn't tip a mechanic -- you're already paying them a good amount for their labor and expertise.

Teachers and Little League Coaches

It's common knowledge that teachers deserve to be paid more, but don't ever give them money, Masini says. "When you tip someone like your child's teacher, there can be an inference that you're paying your child's teacher to give your child good grades," she says.

The only exception, she says, is when every parent is chipping in the same $10 or $20, "and the gift is from the entire class, not just you." It's the same type of scenario with coaches. "It may appear as if you're paying to get your child a good position on the team," Masini says.

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Tipping Etiquette and Considerations

Remember: Not every country has a culture of tipping. "Keep in mind that tipping etiquette can change when you travel abroad," Tsai says. "Be sure to do your research." For instance, generally, consumers don't tip people in China, Japan, Denmark or Belgium, just to name a few countries.

Being generous can pay off -- with even better service next time. "If you're concerned that someone in your party is under-tipping, make up the difference," Warrener advises. "Being known as a good tipper has its advantages, especially if you plan to return to that establishment."

If the service is bad, you can skip tipping. That said, Warrener says to be careful about that determination, especially when it comes to restaurants. "Before you penalize your server with a small tip or no tip at all, determine the cause of your dissatisfaction with your meal. It might not be your server's fault," he says.

In fact, because you may be punishing people who don't deserve it, Tsai recommends leaving some money behind: "Even if the service was bad, still leave a 10 percent tip and let management know why."