By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, Tribune newspapers
May 13, 2010
Tipping is a favorite pastime in America, where nothing says "thank you" like a few dollar bills. But there is often a moment, after you get your car washed, or your furniture delivered, or your flat tire changed, when suddenly a wave of anxiety strikes. Are you supposed to tip? And if so, how much?
Here's a guide to what's customary for tipping in the U.S., compiled using information from the Emily Post Institute (emilypost.com), The Original Tipping Page (tipping.org) and "The New Rules of Etiquette," by Curtrise Garner.
And remember: "The whole point is to thank the person," said Peggy Post, great-granddaughter-in-law of etiquette maven Emily Post and director of the Emily Post Institute. "Instead of just throwing a dollar bill at someone, the key thing is to say 'thank you.'"
Waiter: 15 percent to 20 percent (pre-tax)
Buffet: 10 percent
Bartender: $1 per drink or 15 percent to 20 percent of the bar tab
Takeout: No need, but 10 percent for special favors
Host or maitre d': No need, but $10-$20 on occasion if you're a regular patron
Sommelier: 15 percent of the cost of the wine
Restroom attendant: 50 cents-$3, depending on the service
Cloakroom attendant: $1 per coat
Food delivery person: 10 percent of bill (pre-tax); $2 minimum
Doorman: $1-$2 for carrying luggage; $1-$2 for hailing a cab; $1-$4 for going beyond the call of duty
Bellhop: $2 first bag, $1 per additional bag
Housekeeper: $2-$5 per day, left daily in an envelope or with a note clearly marked for the maid
Concierge: $5 for tickets or reservations, $10 if they're hard to get
Room service: Check the bill to see if gratuity is included (delivery charge doesn't count); if not, tip 15 percent to 20 percent
Taxi driver: 15 percent, plus an extra $1-2 if he/she helps with bags
Airport sky cap: $2 first bag, $1 per additional bag
Tour guide: 10 percent to 15 percent of tour cost
Hair dresser: 15 percent to 20 percent
Shampoo assistant: $2.
Manicurist/Masseuse/Waxer: 15 percent to 20 percent
Car washer: $2-$5
Gas station attendant: $1-$2 (if they pump your gas), $5 if they clean windshield and check fluids
Movers: Head mover is tipped $25-$50; crew members tipped $15-$30. Can do a lump sum to be split among the crew
Furniture delivery: $5-$20
Dog groomer: $2-$5
Shoe shiner: $2-$3
Tow truck operators (jump-start, tire change, tow): $3-$10
Grocery store bag loader: $1-$5
For people with whom you have a regular and personal relationship
Babysitter: One evening's pay and a small gift from your child
Live-in nanny: One week's pay and a gift from child
Building superintendent: $20-$80
Yard/garden workers: $20-$50 each
Housecleaner: 1 week's pay
Dog walker: 1 week's pay
Mail carrier: Non-cash gift up to $20 (Postal Service policy)
Hairdresser: Cost of one session
Personal trainer: Cost of one session
Newspaper delivery person: $10-$30 or a small gift
Peggy Post's additional tips on tipping:
If the service is bad…
You tip based on quality of service – more if it's exceptional, less if it's terrible – but giving nothing is extreme. Especially at a restaurant, consider if it was really the server's fault.
If you don't have the right amount on you…
It's OK to ask the person for change to break a big bill. If you're not carrying enough cash, give what you have and assure them you'll tip them more later. If there will be no later, just thank profusely.
If you can't afford much…
Tip what you can, or give a non-monetary gift, such as a nice card or homemade cookies.
Read up on tipping customs outside the U.S. Conde Nast Traveler published an excellent tipping guide at concierge.com/cntraveler/articles/500117