Personal Advice

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Standards for Tipping

Tipping is a familiar dilemma, but one that leaves many people unsure about whom to tip and how much. You find yourself in an uncomfortable position when you are not sure how much to tip for the particular service you just received. The proper tipping etiquette for tipping your server at a restaurant differs from your hairstylist or your taxi driver. To help take the mystery out of the standards for tipping, below are some tips.

Where to Tip

There is much confusion over where it is appropriate to tip. Tipping should be a personal decision and a way to acknowledge and attribute the value of the service you received. However, it is often clouded by cultural traditions.

For instance, although it is not mandatory in most of the U.S. to tip, it is customary in most situations such as sitting down in a restaurant and being served. The wait staff often relies on tips as a significant portion of their wages. They generally "expect" the gratuity, viewing it as a social contract. When you sit at their table and accept their service, it is as if you have acknowledged your obligation to provide a tip at the end of your visit even though it is not legally required for you to do so.

When to Tip

The anxiety around tipping develops from the need to know the full terms of gratuity, including when it tipping is expected or appropriate. If you fail to tip, you could offend someone that’s providing a service to you.

Not knowing when it is appropriate to leave a tip is another concern for many people. With gratuity, there's no definitive guide. It is sometimes complicated and far from being straightforward. That is because tipping to reward for service well done is not the only reason these days. Now, many Americans do it out of a sense of obligation, guilt reduction and social approval.

How Much to Tip

The confusion regarding proper tipping protocol does not end with where and when to tip, often the biggest decision regarding tipping has to do with how much to tip. If you do not tip enough, you risk offending your service provider. On the other hand, if you tip too much, you could impact your budget.

There are some standard guidelines on how much you should tip according to Real Simple, which include the following:

  • Restaurant: The standard tip here is 15 to 20 percent, depending on how you felt the service was.
  • Bartender: The standard tip is $1.00 per drink.
  • Food Delivery: Between $2 to $4.
  • Hair Stylists:Between 15 to 20 percent is the norm.
  • Movers: Around $20 to $50 (per mover), but generally the bigger the load, the bigger the tip.
  • Valet Parking: Between $2 to $5.
  • Hotel: Typically around $1 to $2 to have your bags brought to your room and $2 to $5 for maid service.
  • Room Service: This is around $5, unless your bill includes it already.

Of course, there are other opportunities for you to tip such as when you receive services from a door attendant, delivery person, dog groomer, and more. Since you may tip for emotional or social reasons, there may be cases where you leave a bigger tip than normal. For example, if you are dining out and your server tells you about their life story, which hits your heartstrings, you may feel that you would like to leave a bigger tip.

Before you leave a gratuity, make sure it was not already factored into your bill. Tip respectfully and discreetly using the full amount to calculate your tip, even if you use a gift certificate or coupon.

Remember, giving a tip is your personal decision. Because it is customary in many circumstances, it is a good idea to learn the standard guidelines for tipping. When in doubt, there's no reason why you cannot just ask if leaving a tip is customary and how much would be appropriate.