Charm School: Tipping Etiquette

An anonymous commenter brought up the subject of tipping in various situations.  I answered her the best I knew at the moment, but I realized this is an area that truly should be addressed.  Emily Post does not fail to note this area of good manners and so I will share what I learned in reading this week.

I recall watching a long ago episode of Third Rock from the Sun, in which the alien Dick entered a restaurant, laid down a stack of $1 bills and added or subtracted based upon how well or poorly he felt the waiter was performing at the moment.  It was hilarious but it is hardly the way to go about tipping.  The following is the correct way to tip.

Appropriately, Mrs. Post notes that courtesy should always be your first and foremost response to anyone who serves in any capacity. 


20% of your total bill is standard although the rather dated information in the book suggests 15%.  I would say that 15% would be for below standard service and I do mean truly below standard service,  not just a minor mistake or error in serving.  Do not dock a waiter or waitress for orders which are not cooked properly.  They have nothing to do with the cooking of a meal.  Their job is to place the order and bring it to you from the kitchen.  Poor service would be if they do not bring requested condiments, fail to bring drinks or to refill, act surly when you make a request, etc.  It's rare but there have been a few times when we've truly received poor service. 

If service is exceptional by all means feel free to increase your tip accordingly and by as much as you would like to.

If you are eating at a buffet in which a waiter merely brings drinks to the table and perhaps might remove trays etc., 10% of your total bill is considered standard.

Generally one does not tip Host or Maitre 'd unless you arrive without a reservation and he manages a table for you on a crowded night.

Takeout food should not be tipped for.  If a tip jar is on the counter, it is merely a suggestion and to be used if you would like to tip.  If however, you are placing a very complicated order then by all means tip at least 10% to the server who assembles the order.

Delivery food service people should be tipped 15% of the total bill, and the suggestion per Post is that pizza should be $2-$5 but I think 15% is more appropriate.

Bartender: $1-$2 per drink, ditto for the waitress who brings the drink to the table.

Valet Parking: $2-$5 at time car is returned to you.

Skycap $2 for the first bag, $1 for each bag after the first.

Doorman: "Thank you" when he opens the door, $1 for hailing a cab with an increase to $2 if it is raining.

Bellhop: same as Skycap for bags.  $2-$3 for deliveries he may make to the room and other services.

Housekeeper: $2-$5 per day with a note that says "Housekeeping - Thank you".  I must share that we have been good about this one but we tended to tip at end of  our stay.  I'll correct this with our next stay and make sure it is done daily.

Taxi:  15-20% of the fare, $1 at the very least.  $2 for first bag and $1 for each additional bag.

Salon/Spa:   15-20% for each person who serves you in a spa.  So if you have multiple services be prepared to tip each one. 

In a hair salon 20% to be shared between those who served you.  I find it far easier to tip $2 to the shampoo girl and then deduct that from the stylist's portion.

I hope that these tips will help you meet tipping situations with aplomb, confident that you are tipping correctly.


Kathy said...

Interesting! Sadly I don't usually travel to expensive hotels, so I don't have to worry about skycaps and such.
I wonder about the housekeeping tip though. We usually rent a cabin at Christmas with my brother and his family, and the company charges a $90 cleaning fee. I don't tip the housekeepers since they don't come in every day with fresh towels or make the beds etc.They only come after we leave to clean for the next guests. Don't you think the $90 cleaning fee is sufficient?

Anonymous said...

Kathy, I don't think you have to tip with a cleaning fee.

We usually tip 20% amd add a dollar since we drink water and they refill that for my husband who drinks a lot of water.

Jenny C said...

As an Australian, I find tipping in the usa a minefield.
1. I usually never know what to tip for any service. I thought the tip for a meal was 15% -20% so my last meal in the usa I tipped 17.5%.
2. Tipping is not front of my mind when I am staying at a hotel. In fact, although I know I have to tip for meals. I didnt know I had to tip in other places as well.
I wish I had read this blog prior to traveling to the usa. I've been there three times and I'm sure I've gotten wrong.
I wish the docket would tell me what was right and appropriate to pay and I could be done with it.

Debby in KS said...

I'm not a fancy girl so most of those tips are for things I'm too cheap to pay for!!

I've always prided myself on being a good tipper and am always courteous to the wait staff...heavens, some people act like they're old time royalty dealing with indentured servants! My standard restaurant tip at our *fancy* place, Applebees :::tee hee::: would be like this....say our bill is $28.00. I do 20% and round up. So, the tip would be $6. I do the same with my hair stylist. For hotels, I've always left $3 per day if there for one night. $1 each for me, the hubs, & the pup. If staying longer, I don't request service each day, but will tip about $10 for 3 days. When we stayed in Minneapolis for a week, I left $25, knowing that a week of dog hair was going to be a job. Also, we typically go to Cracker Barrel on Easter morning, which is, of course, a holiday. I tip either $10 or $15 flat(for 2 of us and about a $20 bill) & offer a personal thank you for working the holiday. The servers always tell us that it's one of their best tip days and they request to work that day. I was glad to hear that others feel the same way.

My tipping nightmare was a friend I used to go to water aerobics with back in Cali. A group of us went out on Tues. to a little Mexican place that had $1 tacos on Tuesday. After a hard workout in the sun, most of us had 2 tacos each and went thru' about 5 glasses of ice water! We'd all throw in a $5 to cover our $2.17 bill, knowing that a big table, lots of chips and salsa, lots of water,etc. was a busy table. My friend would pay her bill exact and leave a quarter for a tip. DROVE ME CRAZY!!!! Seriously, where can you go for a delicious sit down lunch (big tacos) for $5. I thought that was a huge bargain. Someone once mentioned that the tip should be on the regular price, but she insisted the regular price was $1 tacos on Tuesday. While she was technically right.....grrrr.....

Iris Dondlinger said...

What about home cleaning? Since I've been diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer I've had a local cleaning company come and clean our home once a month. It is a free service through Should I be tiping them? If so how much? May was the first time and they were here 4 1\2 hours.

Deanna said...

Standard tipping advice I've read says you don't tip a salon owner but I wonder if this has changed. When I used to go to someone who just rented booth space I tipped 20%. Now I get my hair done by a salon owner and I am never sure how to handle that. Anyone know what current recommendations are?

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