The Etiquette of Tipping
modern America, the rules for tipping are difficult to grasp because the
etiquette standards have
changed. What once was a gratuity to
reward personal service has become something expected by
who do not provide a personal service.
When you ordered a cup of
latte at a restaurant, the waiter came to you for your order and returned
you with the latte; you tipped the waiter because his personal
attention freed you from the task of
getting your coffee.
Nowadays, you go to Starbucks and stand at a counter to fetch your own
and there is a tip cup at the register! The notion of
earning a tip by providing a personal service has
wonder folks are confused about when to tip and how much to
I’m here to explain the etiquette of tipping.
Before you go on vacation, stock
up on $1 and $5 bills. If you plan to go to an airport, use a
cab, check into a hotel, eat at a restaurant, take a cruise, treat
yourself to a spa, or stay with friends
who have a country house
staffed with a few servants, you will be tipping lots of people. Planning
ahead and having small bills at hand will save you from many
are not always based on a mathematical formula based on the total fee for
For example, I know that many travel books advise
you to tip 15% of the cab fare, but that’s very out
Instead, tips ought to reflect the quality of the experience: did the
driver go beyond merely
driving you to your destination? If he
helped you with your luggage or baby stroller or wheelchair, or
he cheered you up with a compliment, or he took a route you asked for
– then the tip ought to be
based on how much you valued his extra
3) When giving a
person a tip, do not draw attention to the act. Tipping should be subtle.
say “Thank you” to the person you are tipping.
You do not tip business owners
but you will tip the owner’s employees who provide a service
you. If you’re a regular patron at an establishment, you can ensure
continued good service by
tipping a little more generously than
etiquette does not mean you have to leave a tip every time. If you receive
in a situation where tipping is expected, don’t wait
until the end of the experience to complain to
leaving a tip. Complain as soon as you’re dissatisfied so the manager or
remedy the situation and preserve the tip for a more
Cab Drivers: The
amount that appears on the farebox when the driver starts the meter is the
minimum you should tip. Add $1 for every 10 minutes of the trip.
Tip extra if the driver helped you with
your luggage or a baby
stroller or a wheelchair. Pay with the smallest note you have. A good rule
thumb: if you’re expecting change that is greater than 50% of
the face value of the note, it is too
large. For example, do not
use a $20 note if you’re expecting more than $10 in change.
shuttles: If the driver takes your luggage on and off the shuttle, tip $1
Skycaps: The people who check your bags on the curb at the
airport deserve $5 per bag. In larger
airports, tip $5 per bag
plus $10 for the convenience. Tip more if you have a baby stroller that
special checking. Many people think $1 a bag is proper, but
in these days of reduced airline staffing,
skycaps are valuable
for the time they save you.
Airport golfcarts: If you need special
help in getting to your gate because you’re late or you’re
handicapped, tip the person who helps you. A small gratuity is proper
-- $1 or $2.
Bellmen: Tipping the person who
delivers your luggage to your room depends on two factors: the
quality of the hotel, and the location. If you’re in a 5-start hotel,
tip $5 per bag. If you’re in a location
where the major industry
is recreational (Las Vegas, Disney World, Niagara Falls) or in a world-
class city (New York, Paris, London), tip $5 per bag. If you’re in a
modest hotel that caters to
business travel in a city where
visitors do not come for fun (Albany, Birmingham, Nantes), $2 or $3
a bag is proper.
Valet Parking: Minimum $2 to the person
who delivers your car. You do not have to tip the person
takes your car away. However, if you ask for special consideration when
you drop off your car
(you’d like your car to be ready in 30
mins), tip both the person who takes your car and the one who
Doorman: You don’t have to tip him for opening
the door, but you ought to acknowledge his help with
you.” If he helps you to catch a cab, or helps you with your packages as
you exit a cab, a $2
or $3 tip is proper.
Desk Clerk: You
do not have to tip the person who checks you into the
Concierge: Minimum $5 for routine help, like altering your
plane reservations, or helping you with
tickets to a play; if the
concierge has performed a rare feat of getting you tickets to the hottest
town, or found a way to upgrade your plane reservation at
no cost to you, be generous and tip $20. If
you can afford a
center aisle ticket to “Spamalot”, then you can surely afford to reward
who helped you score.
Chambermaid: Minimum tip
is $5 a night for a modest hotel, more for a 5-star hotel or a vacation
destination hotel. If you’ve made a particular mess – you’ve left
liquor bottles in the room, or you left
the detritus from a
shopping spree, add an extra $5 or $10. I prefer to leave the tip daily
when I’m on
a long stay. Put it under the first page of telephone
pad, and write “Thank you” on the page so the
maid knows you
intended to leave a tip.
Room Service: If an extra fee is added to
the bill, no a separate tip is expected. If there is no delivery
charge on the bill, though, tip 10% - 15% of the
If you use a credit card to pay
the bill, your servers will think well of you if you use cash for the tip.
sure to write “cash” on the line for the tip to ensure that no
one can alter your charge slip afterwards.
However, if the meal
is a business expense and you use a credit card, add the tip to the charge
you have proof of your expenses for the taxman.
Parking: Minimum $2 to the person who delivers your car. You do not have
to tip the person
who takes your car away. However, if you ask
for special consideration when you drop off your car
you’d like your car to be ready in 30 mins), tip both the person who takes
your car and the
one who delivers it.
At the coat check:
Tip $1 per item (coat, briefcase, hat) when you retrieve them.
the bar: The tip is based on the complexity of your order. You can tip
less for a beer and more for
the perfect dry martini. Some
bartenders do a little show when they mix a drink, and this deserves a
reward. Tip a minimum of $1 a drink for a simple order, and $2 a
drink for a complicated order. If you’
re at a restaurant bar
waiting for a table or for your companions, settle this bill before you
at your table.
At the table: You do not tip the
hostess or the busboy, and you usually don’t have to tip the more
fancy maitre d’ unless you were shown to a particularly desirable
table or you were seated in a
section you specially requested.
Base your restaurant tip on the cost of the food, but remember the
bartender or sommelier if you also ordered drinks or wine. Your
server shares the tip with everyone
else who helped at your
table, so add a few extra dollars to be passed on to the bartender. If
wine is delivered by the wine steward, that tip is a
percentage of the cost of the bottle.
Note: The relationship
between your server and the kitchen can be a tense one. Chefs do not like
diners who meddle with their recipes. If you order off the menu
or ask that a dish be prepared with
or without a usual
ingredient, be aware that the server will have to negotiate on your behalf
chef. Reward your server generously if he/she is
In the bathroom: Don’t ever go to the bathroom without
money because you might have to tip an
attendant. Tip $1 each
trip. Put the money in the dish on the counter; do not hand it to the
At a salon: Don’t tip the salon
owner, even if he/she performs a service. However, you could give the
owner a yearly present (flowers, a good bottle of wine) to show your
appreciation. Only tip
employees: $2 to the person who washes
your hair, minimum of $5 to the manicurist, and a 15% –
of the total bill to the person(s) who styled your hair. Tip the
hairwasher at the end of the
appointment when you tip the
stylist; it us usually too awkward to tip at the point of
At the spa: Don’t tip the salon owner, even if he/she
performs a service. However, you could give the
owner a yearly
present (flowers, a good bottle of wine) to show your appreciation. Tip
performs a service, but you’re not expected to tip
at the point of service since many times you will be
not expected to have money with you.
On a cruise: I believe every
cruise ship cabin contains a tipping chart. Each company has its own
customs, and the best rule is to follow local custom. In general,
though, expect to tip cabin stewards
and waiters $5 a day (you’ll
get to know these people very well in the course of your trip), and tip $2
day to the servers who are less personal.
At a country
house: Very few people will find themselves in this situation, but if
you’re invited to be a
guest at a house with servants, watch
“Gosford Park.” Don’t be like Maggie Smith.