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Bargaineering’s General Tipping Guide

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The Tip JarPart of our society involves tipping others for services rendered. From eating out, to travel, to having your hair and nails done, tipping those who do work on your behalf, tipping is often expected. And it’s not just holiday tipping; tipping is a major part of our society.

While there is some debate over whether tipping should be done at all, if you are going to do it, it helps to do it right. What’s tricky is that it can be very difficult to know how much you should be tipping. Not all tipping conventions are as cut and dry as a restaurant bill, where you give 15% for good service and 18%+ for exceptional service, but then again, not all tipping conventions are as controversial!

Here are some general tipping guidelines from the Emily Post Institute, which is widely recognized as an authority on etiquette:

At the Salon/Spa

When you go to the salon or spa, you are generally expected to tip those who help work on you. The general rule is tipping 15% to 20%. There used to be a practice of not tipping the salon owner. However, if the salon owner does work on you, he or she would be happy to accept a tip. And don’t forget shampooists with a tip of $1 to $3.

When more than one works on you, you can ask to divide the tips between those who provided service. Manicurists, waxers, and masseuses also warrant tips of 15% to 20%.


What you tip at a restaurant depends on where you are, and who is providing the service. Some of those that warrant tips include:

  • Servers: 15% to 20% for sit down, and 10% for buffet servers. It is worth noting that, in cities, tipping is often a little higher.
  • Bartender: 15% to 20% of the tab, or $1 to $2 per drink.
  • Host/Maitre d’: You don’t need to tip for showing you a table. However, if some effort has been made to get you a better table, a tip of $10 to $20 (or more) is accepted.
  • Valet: When you get your car back, you should tip $2 to $5.

Restroom attendants, when you go to a restaurant or a club, or elsewhere, it is appropriate to tip between $0.50 and $3, depending on the level of service accomplished.

You should also tip those that bring you food to your home. 10% to 15% is usually appropriate, but take in mind the size of the order and the difficulty. There is no obligation to tip when you have take out, but you should tip 10% for curb delivery or for a complex order.

I found it interesting that the Emily Post Institute doesn’t deem it necessary to put money in the tip jars on counters as a matter of course. However, if you are a regular, or if you have received good service, it makes sense to add something to the jar.

When You Travel

Often you are provided with plenty of service as you travel. In general, you should tip a skycap or bellhop $2 for the first bag and $1 for each additional bag. The doorman should be tipped for carrying luggage ($1 – $4), hailing a cab ($1 – $2, plus extra if it rains), and providing extra service ($1 – $4).

Taxi drivers should be tipped 15% to 20% of the fare. Also, consider taxi drivers and shuttle drivers that handle your bags. As with skycaps and bellhops, it is appropriate to tip $2 for the first bag and $1 for each additional bag.

If you get help from the concierge, remember to tip. While you don’t need to tip the concierge for answering your questions, you should tip $5 – $10 for restaurant reservations and tickets. If you are getting the benefit of hard to get reservations or tickets, tip $15 for reservations, or 10% – 20% of the price for tickets.

How do you tip in different situations?

{ 18 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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18 Responses to “Bargaineering’s General Tipping Guide”

  1. Kris says:

    Tips, tips, tips, everyone wants a tip these days! Seriously, it is hard to think about how much to tip all the different service providers you come across. And while I do hate the tip jars you see in so many businesses these days, I do put spare change in if the service is good and/or comes with a smile!

  2. Sorry but I totally disagree with tipping a bartender 15-20%. Is it such hard work that a minute of their time is worth that much? Personally I take into consideration the total number of tips they would be receiving and how much time it takes to serve me. I never tip a bartender more than $1. I don’t get why restaurant tipping jumped up to 15-20% from 10-15% for servers either. Why did inflation only hit their tips and not their base salary?

    • Ray says:

      I guess it really depends on how often you come back for more drinks. I always tip at least a dollar and follow the rule of 20% for larger orders. Bartenders remember both good tippers and those who stiff them and they service them accordingly. Its a bit sad that this is how are society functions, but I don’t blame them for trying to make a living.

      • Steph says:

        When I was in college, I would start with a “big tip” ($2-3) making sure they saw me put it in the jar or on the bar. After that, they got $1 every other drink or $0.50 each drink if I got coins back. However, I usually get beer, so it’s not like their bottle opening or draft pouring skills were worth more than or if that!

        And 15-20% now being the standard for servers!?! If I get average service, they are lucky to get 10%, and I’ll only give 20% for outstanding service or if my order is complicated.

        And don’t get me started on coffee shop tip jars! Tipping is for those who make less than minimum wage, and baristas get minimum or more.

  3. Scott says:

    I was just at JFK last week and witnessed a “baggage helper” (don’t know official title) there ripping into a lady who seemed to not be from the states for tipping him only $3 for helping get her bags from the terminal to the hotel shuttle bus pickup. He said anything under $5 was offensive, and I guess given that it’s New York and the airport and (as he told her) he did all the work for her, she should have done better. But to her benefit, maybe she didn’t realize the high price of where she landed and that she needed to tip much higher than back home.

  4. Shirley says:

    My husband was a bartender/manager for 30 years and this is what warrants a bartender tip:
    1- Greets you with a smile and remembers your name and your preferences for a drink
    2- Asks about family that you have spoken about
    3- Notices and responds when you are close to finished with your drink
    4- Keeps the bartop clean
    5- Never speaks badly about anyone
    6- Thanks you for the tip

  5. Mary says:

    Tips seem like a hassle, but when you consider that some people are paid $2.13 an hour, tips are crucial to their survival. I always tip based on service, regardless of what service. If it was friendly, timely and the best possible effort was made on my behalf, I’ll be generous. But, as the mother of a restaurant server, I would seldom not tip.

  6. Ron C says:

    We just don’t go back to restaurants where the service is poor or the food is poor. We have a half dozen that are on our good as it gets list. We learn the names of the servers. Greet them with a smile. We ask about family that we have spoken about. We notice if they are closing and ask for the bill early so they can close the register and we thank everyone. Shirley’s advice works on both sides of the counter.

  7. JoeTaxpayer says:

    I walked into a diner to meet someone for a business discussion. The place was pretty empty, but I asked the waitress if she minded that I’d be meeting someone and odds are, we’d just drink coffee. She had the greatest attitude, left a menu if we changed our minds, and for 2 hours topped off our coffee. The bill was ridiculous, $3 for what must have been two or three pots of coffee. I left a $20, and she called after me that I forgot my change. I told her it was hers and thanked her for the great service. (I’d never do this during actual meal time, by the way. This was 2-4PM.)
    Sometimes percents mean nothing. A $5 lunch buffet where I’m attended to with clean plates and drink refills still deserves a $5 tip, in my opinion.

  8. Winkie says:

    How much should you tip a grocery store person who takes out your groceries, or should you be expected to tip?

    • Shirley says:

      In my experience at grocery stores, courtesy clerks are not allowed to take tips. In fact, none of the employees are allowed to take tips.

  9. Grandma says:

    Since I am not working, I wonder if it really is necessary to tip more than the minimum wage per hour if someone only helps me for 15 minutes. And, let’s not forget that most tips go unreported…

  10. Cal says:

    And when you go to other countries and try to tip they look at you like you came from another planet….

    Why do we NOT pay people accordingly in this country and rely on the customer to give them their extra money….

    And it does not matter whether we tip them or not… if they are bad at their job they are bad at their job and if they are good they are good…

  11. Rob says:

    I deliver for a daddy of the pizza chains and Florida just recently forced them to pay a more living wage of $7.67/hr that is pay for when a driver works inside and what they saw was only right to do was to lower the already low delivery pay from $5.50/hr to $5.25/hr.
    Some customers think the delivery fee goes to the person delivering, but that fee is kept by the daddy pizza company.
    So thinking that they just sign or give exact payment in check or cash.
    Does a waiter take the order to your home with their own car?
    Pay for wear and tear on that car? With special auto insurance. Tires for my car cost $210.00 ea! I put 25000 miles on my car just from delivering in under a year!
    Just think about what it takes to deliver during a hurricane like Isaac.
    Does a waiter do that? So shouldn’t we at least get what a waiter is tipped?

  12. jenah says:

    Huh? Tip the owner of a salon. When paying $300 plus for a salon owner to do my hair I know he’s making more money than me! As I understand it, tipping is to supplement the wages of low-paid employees when they do a good job. If they are already demanding and getting paid what they are worth why do we tip on top of that?

  13. MrCoffeecup says:

    Tipping is saying thank you for a job well done. After traveling for 45 years, I’ve learned a few secrets that always(99%of the time) provide me with excellent service.
    1. Secret Valued Currency
    2. Pleasant approach to your service partner.
    3.Precise instruction on what you want up-front, to help them do their job.
    4.Compliments during and after service is performed; if deserved.
    5.Questions during if something isn’t happening as you expect.
    6. Tell the boss if someone does something well. Do this on the way out. Tell the boss his staff is a reflection of their(his/hers) good management. Smile
    7. Tell them you are coming back if this is true. Smile

    Let’s start with some truth:
    Servers are not paid minimum wage, it’s always much lower.

    Therefore, tips are an equalizer on earnings for the serving staff. They must share with busing staff in many places.
    1. Secret Highly Valued Currency: aka the $2.00 bill.
    I started tipping with these years ago and the appreciation shown for giving them is just amazing; from young to old, it’s a valued item(which 9 out 10 say they save not spend). The banks in the US have over 2 Billion of these bills. Go and demand them from your banker.
    2. Smile and say hello. That’s another human being you’re talking to, not a despicable slave. Oh, you can be oh so busy, rushed and important, but show courtesy at first meeting.
    Whether it’s a waitress, Host/Maitred’,doorman, bellhop,parking lot attendant.. Make a comment if asked a question: “how are you today?….Gosh I’m just starving, or happy to be here..something pleasant.
    Table server: Look up from your menu’s and look that person in the eye, say something pleasant…smile. Put your phone-Ipad-smart device down. You are absolutely rude when trying to speak with a server and texting, surfing, phoning.
    Help the server(s) help you. Time is money.. Get your thoughts together and submit your preferences, or ask questions(when the last time you’ve had the “baked Alaska”? your server will guide you on what’s good. Sometimes servers are trained to suggest the most expensive special on the menu offerings ; ask them if they themselves have tasted it yesterday. Listen carefully.
    Drinks, the most profitable item offered in a restaurant.
    Start by asking for a big glass of Ice water and watch the response. After they bring you your ice water, order wine or alcoholic beverage. If served the water cheerfully, you have a good server on hand.
    Give preferences with your order: “Sally”(speak their name if you can see it) I would love some extra butter and rye rolls with dinner. and oh bye the way an extra two napkins or a special condiment you don’t see on the table.
    When your meal is served…thank them by saying “oh this looks so good”. Why?
    Because they are now part of the process of pleasing you…and this comment anchors the server to the meal..not just the kitchen.
    Your server is supposed to return throughout your meal and check on you. Tell them to in a nice way, “Sally check on me in about 5 minutes”.
    Signal your server if something is not going well or a bad meal is in front of you. Tell them your problem, and ask if they can fix it. They will or do their best to see management does.
    Desserts and after dinner drinks cap off a wonderful experience. Keep complimenting the server about how good it was and how nicely the server did throughout the whole process.
    If they did a good job let them know it, speak their name, on the way out tell the assistant mgr. “Meal & drinks were excellent and our server “sally” did a great job.
    Tips: 5%-10% for a mediocre job, 15-18% for good work..20%+ for excellence. And this is done at the local barbecue joint or Maison de beouf with white table cloth amenities.
    Upscale Hotels will try to tip you to death…as they are designed to do. If the door man greats you, ask questions and give directives to handle your luggage to the check in desk. This avoids an interim tip from cab to steps from step to check-in. Give the command and let the doorman handle it. If it is done well, your baggage will be handled by one person to your room.
    Check-in desk are people as well, be pleasant and smile. State your business and clarify your reservation as you understand it. “A non-smoking room, king size bed with sitting area, mini-bar, or whatever. It is at this point that some hotels will catch unsuspecting travelers to up grade at higher costs. No deal..You have a reservation with CC guarantee. I want what I ordered. If they can’t then demand an upgrade. You ordered, you paid up front, they deliver what is ordered or better. Porter/bellman and extras: ask the bellman to get you two extra wash cloths 1 extra hand towel, on bath towel. This practice of not providing you with ample amenities is an old game designed to get an extra $5.00 for something they should have done. Make the porter who handles your luggage bring part of his tip.
    This includes ice in your ice bucket. Ask questions about hotel restaurants, bar, times, work-out gyms, pool before you get to your room. Needing a gym to keep you in shape,then finding it closed is not part of the package that you expect. Go somewhere else if it’s important to you. Tips: Upscale $3.00 per bag if all the service is done by one person. Use the $2.00 bills. they love them .
    In each unique server circumstance, a smile, courtesy, good manners win the day for you.
    They will remember the nice guy/gal with the $2.00 bills. (How do I know this? Because a restaurant server in Twin Falls Idaho, who served me 6 months prior, remember me again as soon as I walked in and said hello “Oh you’re the man from Orlando with $2.00 bills”. Now that’s great service.

    Like the old Alka Seltzer commercial: “Try it…You’ll like it..!”
    MrCoffee Cup

  14. Beej says:

    I agree with those who say that a living wage should be paid to all service people, so that tipping shouldn’t be essential for them to make up the shortfall. This is uncivilized and puts everyone in a bad position. I know of at least one country where, last time I checked, tipping (still) didn’t exist: Japan. In my experience, the service there is always great, and tipping is neither expected nor (even) allowed.

    Here, though, because things are the way they are, I tip as I would wish to be tipped: generously. I do take issue with the notion of tipping always as a percentage of the service cost. With taxis and restaurants, OK, because that’s the protocol. . .but salons? Delivery guys? I tip the person who does my hair the same amount every time, regardless of what the service costs; the same with the person who washes my hair. When I have groceries delivered, I tip the guy the same amount regardless of what I spent on the groceries. All parties seem very happy with this. Thoughts?

  15. ace carolla says:

    in an american restaurant, it’s all about turn and burn. get the punters in, then get em out. speed is volume, volume is profit.cause you blokes work for tips.

    in a european restaurant, the custom is to not tip very much, so we just let punters sit all day.

    american life is very confusing.

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