The Man’s Guide to Tipping

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DoormanThere seems to be so much confusion out there with regards to the common ritual of tipping that I decided to take the initiative and help clarify the rules when it comes to this long standing practice.

But unlike some other tipping guides I’m not just going to tell you how much to tip, instead we’re going to focus on why people earn the tips you give them, and therefore gain a better understanding as to how much to give.

Starting with the high level overview, there are two primary reasons to tip people in service industries:

  1. All, or much, of their compensation for the position in question comes in the form of gratuities.
    • An excellent example of this is a waiter. In essence they traditionally receive no base pay. Some may get a $2 base, but their check is usually $0 once taxes are removed from credit card tip receipts. They are truly on a pay for performance program.
    • Barbers and beauty salon attendants may receive a base pay of some sort, but it’s not enough money to attract quality talent so society has a history of putting some of these people’s compensation up for grabs based upon performance the form of tips.

  2. Tipping gains mind share, favor, or other benefits.
    • Greasing the palm of a manager at an exclusive restaurant or club might get you special treatment next time you need reservations and they are booked up. It has for me, many times…
    • A larger than average tip for your stylist will have them paying more attention to your hair than the person before you. My barber stops cutting to greet me when I walk in the door…

The Tipping Guidelines

Service Industries

  • Mail / Package Deliveries – Do not tip postal workers or package delivery firms such as UPS or FedEx for normal deliveries. However, feel free to offer coffee or a cold drink depending on the weather.

    During the holidays postal workers can accept gifts worth up to $20, though in my opinion they are doing their very well paid Federal job. Unless you are an abnormally demanding customer I wouldn’t recommend tipping.

  • Hair Stylists – 15 percent is standard, but never tip less than $3 if you want a decent haircut next time.

    This is one place it pays to cultivate a relationship with someone that does a good job for you as they’ll spend extra time and take a little more pride in your appearance. You can’t put a price on that so when in doubt over tip here.

    For the holidays, slip your regular the equivalent of one session as a “thank you”.

  • Shoe Shine – $3-5 for a quality shine. $1-2 if they are hurrying you out of the chair.

Personal Services

  • Babysitter – You most likely pay by the hour, so round up to the next nearest hour. Teens, why typically do this job, will feel more loyal to you when they feel you are generous with them. It might mean the difference between getting them on a night you really need them, or having them choose to go out.

    For the holidays give your regular babysitter $20 or an appropriate gift in that range.

  • Maid – Since maid services are based on a fixed hourly wage there is no need to tip for regular service. However, if you call in a last minute rush cleaning be prepared to leave an extra $10-20. After all, you’re screwing up someone else’s schedule to accommodate your emergency.

    For the holidays tip your regular maid (but only if you have a “regular”) about the cost of one session

  • Masseuse or Personal Trainer – Again, since these services are based on a fixed rate there is no need to tip for regular service.

    For the holidays tip your regular (but only if you have a “regular”) about the cost of one session

Restaurants

  • Wait Staff – 15-20% of the total bill, 20% only for first-class attentiveness. According to the Zagat Survey, the average across the US is about 18%.

    Even poor service warrants 10% unless the wait person is purposely trying to make you miserable.

    You should never, ever stiff a waiter. If the service is that bad you need to get a manager and change wait stations.

    If something is screwed up and you get your meal partially or fully comped, you still need to leave a tip based upon what the meal would have cost originally.

  • Buffet Wait Staff – If you visit a buffet with a server that gets your drinks and clean plates, leave $1 per person. These people make minimum wage plus tips and they have to clean up after you when you’re gone. And most of us act like pigs at a buffet…

    If you are at a completely self service buffet there is no need to leave a tip.

  • Bartenders – If you’ve had a drink at the bar, leave the bartender 15-20%, or at least $1 a drink. Failing to tip a bartender will likely result in slow service, or poorly mixed drinks.
  • Greeters – Give the coat-checker $1 per article. This is customary and is based on the concept that these people are looking after your possessions in your absence.

    Do not tip a host or hostess for seating you at your table unless you are at an exclusive eatery and they purposefully do you a favor with regards to special seating. In that case $5-10 would be appropriate and will ensure that they remember you the next time you come in.

Hotels

  • Housekeeping – Personally I consider housekeeping more of a liability than a benefit at hotels. I’ve known too many people who have had stuff disappear from their rooms, so I’d recommend leaving the do not disturb sign on the door most of the time.

    If you’re going to allow them to clean your room, generally there is no reason to leave a tip. These employees are earning normal wages, and hotels have to pay the going rate to fill these jobs.

    If you are staying at a luxury hotel and receive turn down service and other personal attention from housekeeping you may optionally leave a tip in an envelope on the day of departure.

    If you call down and have non-standard items delivered to your room a $2 tip would be in order. This does not include items which should have been there such as toilet paper.

  • Concierge – A good Concierge is an invaluable resource. They spend a lot of time cultivating resources and gaining knowledge and their salaries do not reflect this. If you receive general directions or information there is no reason to tip. This is what they are there for.

    If the Concierge makes you dinner reservations a $5 tip is in order. $20 would be appropriate for theater tickets or other special favors such as custom flower delivery, etc.

  • Valet Parking – Valets usually work long hard hours. They receive a small base pay, but they only take the job for the tips. These folks have to run around in the heat, cold, rain, etc. and have tremendous pressure to be safe with your vehicle. (They can get fired for even one accident.) In most markets a $2-3 tip is the minimum warranted.

    If you are driving an expensive vehicle (Mercedes, Jag, Lexus, etc.) bump the tip up to $4-5 because they are usually extra cautious with your vehicle.

    If you leave an exotic vehicle and they put it in front you’re looking at a $10-20 tip because they’re giving you extra special treatment and attention.

  • Doorman / Bellhop – These folks also brave the elements and do physical labor so you don’t have to. Even though they have a small hourly wage, they are working for tips. Give $1 per bag for delivery to your room.

    Give $1 for hailing a cab, $2 if they help handle your luggage.

Transportation

  • Taxis – Taxi drivers usually earn their pay based upon the number of fares they take in a given night as well as the miles traveled. If you know the area and believe your driver is purposely running up the miles do not tip. Unfortunately I’ve seen this happen a number of times, especially on slow days.

    If your driver is friendly, helpful and efficient, 15 – 20 percent is appropriate.

    If you use your driver like a hotel Concierge, increase the tip for the additional service.

  • Limousines – If you’re booking a limo, hopefully you understand that you’re also acquiring the services of a professional driver. These people are going to place themselves in your servitude and attend to your every need. A good driver will warrant a $20-100 tip at the end of the evening depending on how much you put them through.
  • Airport Skycap – The Skycap is the person who stands outside, in the heat, cold and rain, to take your bags and issue your tickets so you can carry them the shortest distance possible. Tip $1 per bag checked, plus an extra $2 if they move your seats around on the flight.
  • Car Wash Attendants – If you go through an automated car wash no tip is required.

    For a full service job with interior cleaning, etc. $2-3 is appropriate.

    $5-10 would be appropriate for a full service hand wax.

Delivery Services

  • Groceries to the Car – Remember, often these are the neighborhood teens, and this is their first job. Reinforce their work ethic by slipping them a buck or two.
  • Furniture / Appliances – First, always offer delivery people a cold beverage – in a can or bottle, not in a glass. If it’s a small, simple drop off job, no tip necessary.

    If they are hauling multiple large items, especially up stairs offer $10 to the team and tell them “lunch is on me”. These folks are breaking their backs so you don’t have to.

  • Food / Beverage – Delivery drivers typically have to supply their own vehicle, pay for gas, maintenance, etc. and generally receive an hourly wage and sometimes $1 per delivery. Without tips they are in the hole for the vehicle costs alone. Even though they don’t serve you, 15% is standard for deliveries or 20% for large party orders. $5 should be the minimum tip, otherwise go get it yourself.

Magellans has also assembled an excellent overseas tipping guide which should be reviewed prior to any international trip. In some countries tips are already included, and in some they are just plain insulting.

The final thought here is that all service has intrinsic value. In many professions, such as the ones noted above, people are rendering their service in advance based upon a faith that you will reward them accordingly. Make sure that you fulfill that obligation both for yourself, and for those that come after you.

Article Written by
John P.

John P. is CEO of Livid Lobster and co-host of Geek Beat TV. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Comments

  1. anie says:

    HOUSEKEEPERS DON’T TAKE GUESTS STUFFS IN HOTELS…WE EVEN FOLD THE GUEST SOILED CLOTHES. WE DON’T CARE ABOUT THE TIP…GUESTS ARE LOOSING THEIR THINGS BECAUSE SOMETIMES THEY JUST THROW THEIR THINGS EVERYWHERE. PUT DO NOT DISTURB SIGN, IT’S OUR PLEASURE…YOU ARE THE MOST CONSIDERATE GUEST…WE WILL LOVE YOU.

  2. Erika says:

    I disagree with the masseur tip.
    As a massage therapist I do not take the full cut of the service. I work off commission and although I am not expecting a tip, that is where I make money. Especially if you’re looking for deep tissue work, that’s a lot of extra energy our bodies are expending. So it is nice to tip your massage therapist at the low end 10%. That’s just my opinion. If at a loss on tipping your service provider just find out if the tip is included or if they just make a commission off the service price.

  3. sandi says:

    I have delivery men coming tomorrow to assembly $699 bunk beds that have a staircase, drawers etc… I paid $699 for beds, $99 for delivery and assembly, $55 for tax, and $99 for service plan… totalling $950. I was going to tip the guys between $50-$100. Thoughts?

  4. Bruce Craig says:

    I found your artical while trying to decide how to tip hotel staff. I used to travel extensively and always found it amazing how little theft there is considering the opportunity. So Inve always left $5 or $10, but was worried this may not be enough now. I am giving the valet $1 every time I get the car and again when I bring it back, and was wondering about turn down service, since it is a different person. I would never give a concierge $20 for theater tikckets since they usually get a commission on the other end. Anyway, I found your artical helpful in confirming that my tipping habits are not out of line. If you had ever visited a country which doesn’t tip, like the USSR, you’d know why our service is so much better.

  5. TJ says:

    This is an old article, but I still feel compelled to write a comment specifically to completely disagree about not tipping the housekeepers at hotels. It’s incredibly hard work cleaning up hotel rooms – I’d like to see you do their job for a week then come back here and decide if they should be tipped or not. You mention other workers who are doing things for you so you don’t have to. It’s the same with housekeepers. They are paid a “going rate” as you say, but it’s not much for the back breaking labor they do. If you stay for more than a few days and use the “do not disturb” most of the time, then at least tip something at the end of the stay. $3-5 is appropriate and appreciated.

  6. Erika says:

    Not all cab drivers are paid by the company. Many actually pay to rent the cab from the cab company (for $70 or more per day) and have to pay for their own gas. They don’t make a profit until they’ve paid for the cab rental for the day. And out of that profit, they have to pay their own social security, medicare, and income taxes.

  7. vincent says:

    Over all a well balance view on tipping but I do have to disagree with the furniture delivery guys tip.. $10!! It cant be simplified to that extent as service varies so much. Firstly, as a Furniture delivery guy, I see a tip as a thankyou but secondly as a reflection of the work I put into the delivery. Wages are not that high for driving a van. If its a quick drop off a $5 thankyou would be sufficient but if the piece is carried up your stairs and positioned in your house without a scratch.. well thats a $20 tip worthy service (remember $5 of that is a thankyou, $15 says welldone). People dont seem to realize that the furniture is picked up assembled and then delivered by at van driver (and team) more often than not, so a lot of work goes into getting things ready for those few moment you meet us. I am strongly considering delivering the boxes as is to my next non tipper and assembling the stuff in their front room so they realize how much time and skill this behind the scenes work takes and how messy it can be. Then they may think twice about not tipping for that “quick drop off”. But how do you know the amount of background work put in? Have a chat.. its friendly to enquire about a persons day/work and will give you an idea of how much effort the deliverer put into the service you received. Tipped amount can be reduced if: a) You help with the delivery beyond holding open doors and leading the way. b) the furniture is mishandled. c) the delivery is late or unscheduled d) other service related bad habits.

    $5 thankyou min and up to $20+ good service, welldone

  8. John P. says:

    Andy,

    That is a great question and one I should probably add to the guide. But your instinct is correct, you are not expected to tip the gift delivery people. That should have been taken care of on the other end.

    Besides, if we go back to the two primary reasons at the top of the page neither of them apply to these folks.

    John

  9. Andy says:

    Should we be expected to tip a flower/gift deliveryman if we are the ones receiving the flowers/gift? The majority of times, we answer the door not expecting a delivery and therefore have no cash on hand. Additionally should the tip not be included by the person sending the flowers/gift at the time they ordered it? Thanks.

  10. John P. says:

    Well, obviously for this guide to have any value you have to first believe that tipping is warranted. If you don’t believe in tipping to start with then why even read this page?

  11. gbowen99 says:

    haha! Don’t make me laugh. How about these hard working service persons ask their boss why they are not getting paid? Perhaps they should have read the fine print when they started. When I take a taxi I pay the fair and say “See ya”. Did you know taxi cab drivers get 30% of the fair you just paid. Not too bad. So why tip them? I say down with tipping it is really out of control.

  12. Roberto Torres says:

    I found your information very practical and very very helpful for those sticky (tipping) situations. I feel more knowledgeable and more confident that I will be tippping accordicngly.
    Thank you very much.

  13. John P. says:

    PC,

    You have certainly thoroughly enumerated the other side of the tipping debate, so thank you very much for all the comments. You also did a good job of taking me to task for some of my language and statements that sound quite absolute like “if you can’t afford it, you shouldn’t be dining out”. :-) Frankly, I don’t think I could have played Devil’s Advocate as well as you did here.

    I would like to make just a few points:

    • With regards to the comment that tips should just be included in the price, that is what most of the rest of the world other than the US does. The bad news is that prices are higher and service there generally sucks since its not really a pay-for-performance model. I mean, they would just build the price into the cost of your meal, so you’re going to be paying it anyway.
    • With regards to stiffing a waiter, by all means if you sit through an entire meal with that person go ahead and stiff them. But recognize that you could have called a manager over and relieved you own suffering. And believe me, I’m not shy about doing so! Also realize that the next time you go there you may be recognized as a non-tipper and perpetuate the bad service.
    • With regards to the $30-40 per hour calculation, this is generally way off the mark. Waiters normally have only 2-3 tables. They often stand around with table empty during several hours of their shift, interrupted by short bursts for lunch or dinner. You are not taking into account the average wage, nor the fact that they have to “tip share” with the busboys and bartenders. Their average wage is normally going to be in the $10-20 per hour range after all is said and done. And I don’t know about you but generally speaking I find that waiters give me more service than anyone else I come in contact with on a daily basis.

    I certainly understand the sentiment about it seeming like the whole damn world wants a tip now. And you are right, tips are voluntary and at times inappropriate. Just remember that you can really make someone’s day by doing a little something extra for them, and I think that is what the whole spirit of tipping is about.

    John

  14. proud cheapskate says:

    I guess I’m a cheapskate but the whole idea of tipping has become ludicrous to me. I keep reading about what the word actually means – VOLUNTARY gratuity for EXCELLENT service, or as someone suggested to me “To Insure Prompt Service -TIPS”. So then how is “You should never, ever stiff a waiter” even if the service is bad Voluntary? If 10-20% is expected, no, required, then just put it on the menu and let me decide if I want to eat there. Everyone says that “EVERYONE KNOWS” that waitstaff only receive $2/hour base. I don’t KNOW any such thing. I imagine that there are places where that’s true but I also know where it’s not true. But let’s not argue that point, let’s just take it as a given that waitstaff make $2/hr base. Where does it say I’m their employer and required to ensure that they’re making a living wage? In fact, why is the pay of the person tipping not taken into account when deciding how much to leave or even whether or not to tip? Surely Bill Gates should be required to “voluntarily” leave a far higher tip than the everyday joe. I’ve been to airports where you can’t call your own taxis. You have to queue up and have the skycap do it. Then you’re not allowed to put your bags into the taxi, again the skycap has to do it. Same for hotels that require that your car is parked and retrieved by a valet. I’m suppose to tip for services I didn’t want in the first place? I don’t like having anyone drive and park my car, so why am I paying for it? The retort of “if you can’t afford it, you shouldn’t be dining out” misses the mark for me. I can afford to have someone cook for me, and I pay for it, but I don’t WANT to afford to give handouts to people for doing their jobs. If tipping were a phenomenon associated with waitservice only I could understand, given we “know” they all don’t make minimum wage (althoug if you’re at a restaurant where a ticket for two people could cost about $50, and the waiter has four tables, at 15%-20% that’s $7.5-$10 per table, with people generally eating about an hour that’s $30-$40/hr our below minimum wage waiter is now making). But now you’re serious about tipping for carryout?? So now not only have I the responsibility for ensuring living wages but I’m required to dole out “bonuses” too? You say that we should tip for various reasons, such as the furniture movers are breaking their backs so we don’t have to, or the coat check person is looking after our things, but isn’t that the JOB DESCRIPTION?? I pay for the moving service don’t I? Or was that free and the $600 was just me being overly generous with the pre-tip tip? I could go on ad nauseum about every service job now expecting a tip or the proliferation of tip jars on every counter, but I think you get my point. Between tipping every person I see who’s doing the job they applied for and the incessant gift giving (high school graduates are not registering at stores like brides), I have to go look for a second job. Maybe I’ll bring a tip jar with me everywhere so people can tip me for the pleasure of my patronage.

  15. Beavis says:

    Thanks John! I agree with you, and I appreciate the quick response. Take care!

  16. The Man says:

    Beavis,

    Thanks for the compliments. ;-)

    Certainly there are exceptions to every rule so the comments that follow should be evaluated with common sense in each instance. Having said that, here is my philosophy in this regard:

    Fast food joints that happen to do delivery often include the tip line on the receipt in the restaurant merely because it is their one and only credit card processing machine. When you call in the order with a credit card that is the machine they use to print the receipt that they send with the driver. There is no other reason for it, and the employees in the establishment should be treated no differently than the ones at McDonald’s or anywhere else that receive a full hourly wage.

    If you are dealing with an establishment that does not offer delivery, or seating, and they have a machine that is printing out TIP lines… well, that is either wishful thinking or inappropriate pressure. Some people will succumb to that pressure, but I would not. Begging is unattractive, and rather than feeling pressure I would suggest being angry at them for putting you in that situation. So, when I encounter this I personally draw a line through the space where the tip would go, write the total in the box below and take my food.

    In your second example, if we’re talking about a place like Chili’s, Outback, etc. this changes the philosophy a bit. In one of these restaurants we all know the wait staff works for tips (they literally have a $2/hr. base). And it is this same staff that has to take your call in order, put it in the computer, print a receipt, run it out to your car, etc. In this case you need to reward them commensurate to their effort.

    Since they are only going to be doing a fraction of the work to bag up your meal for you, your tip should be a fraction of what it would be if you were eating in. For example, lets say you were sitting down to a $50 meal. You’d be there for an hour, and during that time you’d probably use 10-15 minutes of your servers time between the order process, refills, etc. Calling in the order will probably use 1/3 to 1/2 that time, so decrease your tip accordingly. Remember that they look at call in orders like “bonuses”. You don’t take up a table, you leave quickly, can’t complain. It’s already very good for them.

    Hope that helps,

    John

  17. Beavis says:

    First- love your Blog! Wanted to get your thoughts on this one, since we are on the subject of tipping… My wife and I disagree on this, and I wanted to ask your opinion. I notice at Carryouts (subs, pizza, Chinese food, etc… nothing fancy- typical Carryout with no seating), the receipt always has a place to leave a tip. The wife says that this is now the norm and that it is proper etiquette to tip the Carryout! I used to work in the service industry and believe me- I KNOW it’s hard work and I tip quite generously all around. However, when I call in to a Carryout, get in my car and pick up my food, pay them to hand me my bag of food and ring me up, then drive it home, I do not feel compelled to tip. Am I wrong here?

    I have also noticed at a certain restaurant that I frequent (NON-carryout) that when I call in a to-go order and go pick it up, they seem to expect a tip. They smile at me when I do and are more polite, but basically blow me off if I don’t. Their food is expensive and I go there frequently. Still- it’s a to-go order and I drove there to get it myself. How do you feel about this? Should one tip when getting Carryout, period? How about carryout from a restaurant, vs at a designated Carryout?

    I’d love to hear your opinion.

    THANKS!

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