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Tips for Tipping

At the end of a restaurant meal, do you sit there with a perplexed look on your face asking yourself: What should I tip?


Tipping varies by the type of service delivered, and also culturally and regionally. In some cultures, tipping can even be construed as an insult, but in America, that’s generally not the case. Not tipping at all is the bigger insult.


A friend and I were leaving a restaurant after lunch one day and had honestly forgotten to leave a tip. The owner flagged us down in the parking lot, frantic that we hadn’t tipped because we had received bad service. Realizing our oversight, we shoved money into her waiting hands, trying to assuage our guilt. It was embarrassing on all sorts of levels.


That same thing seems to happen at restaurants like Hoss’s and Ponderosa, which I frequent with my aunts, where you pay when you order. It’s very easy to forget to leave a tip at the table when you leave.


Generally, many people who work in the service industry -- delivery people, wait staff, hairdressers or masseuses, often don’t make a living wage, and depend on tips to survive. So what should you tip? Here are some guidelines, but again, the amount of the tip may depend on where you live:


  • Restaurant wait staff: 15 - 20 percent
  • Buffet wait staff: 10 percent
  • Bartenders: $1/ drink or 14 - 20 percent per tab
  • Doorman at hotel: $1 - $2 for carrying luggage; for hailing a cab: $1 - $2
  • Bellhop: $2 for first bag, $1 for each additional
  • Hotel housekeeper: $2 - $5 per day
  • Hairdresser/Manicurist: 15 to 20 percent
  • Taxi driver: 15 percent of tab (plus $1 - $2 per bag if driver helps)
  • Dog groomer: 15 percent or $2 per dog

Two tipping guidelines which surprised me were that:


  1. . . . we should probably tip furniture/appliance delivery people ($5 - $10 per person). I have offered to buy the lunch of delivery guys when we needed something additional moved in the house or taken to the curb and they have always been happy to do that.
  2. . . . it is completely optional whether to drop money into those ubiquitous tip jars at coffee shops, sandwich counters, etc. I always feel like I should leave a tip because the clerks aren’t getting rich on their wages, either. But again, it’s up to you.

If it’s Tuesday…


Speaking of restaurants, ahem, I was out with some friends the other night and ordered a salad with chicken added to it. When I asked for some bread to go with it, the waitress said, “It’s Tuesday. We don’t have bread on Tuesday.”


Curious, I waited for her to say more, and after a moment, she said she’d check with the kitchen to make sure. She came back and told me that, “Nope, sorry, it’s Tuesday, there’s no bread.”


Now my friend had a sandwich made with two slices of bread so we know there were things made of gluten in the place.


It was one of those moments when I wished I could say what I was really thinking: “No bread on Tuesday? Does that mean I get a discount for the meal? (I know they usually have great bread to go with their salads which is why I asked I the first place.) Or, “Does that mean on Wednesdays, you don’t have coffee? Lemonade? Salt? What’s missing on Fridays?”




By Teresa K. Flatley



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