Tipping Etiquette: A Definitive Guide to Gratuity
Whether you’re checking into a hotel, getting a massage, or accepting a delivery, not knowing the proper tipping etiquette can be extremely embarrassing, turning a situation that’s supposed to be relaxing or enjoyable into an unpleasant one. While gratuity guidelines for certain services can vary somewhat depending on region and who you ask, there is a general consensus as to whom you should tip, and about how much. Consult our definitive guide on gratuity and never again be in doubt as to the polite amount to tip any service professional.
How Much Should You Tip?
The most important part of tipping etiquette is knowing how much you should tip for different types of services. Read on to learn the appropriate amounts to tip, depending on the type of service and other factors.
Food and Drink Service
Waiter/Waitress: 15 percent of the total bill (pre-tax) is standard; 20 to 25 percent is recommended for exceptional service; 10 percent is generally considered the minimum socially acceptable tip for poor service.
Bartender: $1 per alcoholic beverage, or 15 to 20 percent of the total tab
Restaurant/club washroom attendant: $0.50 to $1
Restaurant/club coatroom attendant: $1 per coat
Restaurant/club parking valet: $2 to the person who brings your car to you
Maître d’ at a restaurant: Not necessary to tip, unless they go above and beyond to get you a table or you are a regular
Food delivery person (including pizza): 10 to 15 percent of the total bill, but no less than $2 (drivers typically do not receive any of the “delivery surcharge,” if one is charged)
Takeout food (pick-up): Tipping is optional. However, some sources recommend tipping 5 to 10 percent of the total bill. If you want to err on the polite side, a good rule of thumb might be to tip a dollar or two.
Barista: Tipping is optional, although some people recommended tipping mom-and-pop coffee shop baristas a dollar or your leftover change; tipping at corporate coffee places is generally unnecessary, unless you have a regular rapport with a particular barista who knows you and makes your drinks just how you like them.
Drive-through pick-up: Tipping is not necessary, though as with coffee baristas, mom-and-pop establishments might appreciate it if you tip a dollar or some change.
Taxi driver: 10 to 15 percent is standard; $2 is the minimum
Limo driver: 15 to 20 percent is standard
Bus or shuttle driver: $1 or $2, if they help you with bags (does NOT apply to mass transit drivers)
Tow truck driver: $3 to $5 (even if the tow is covered under AAA)
Hotel door attendant: $1 per bag they help you with; $1 for hailing you a cab
Hotel bellhop: $1 per bag brought to your room, $2 minimum
Hotel housekeeping: $2 to $5 per night
Hotel concierge: Nothing for providing you with directions; $5 for getting you tickets or reservations, and $10 for hard-to-get tickets
Hotel room service: 15 to 20 percent of total charge; no tip necessary if there is a charge for gratuity
Overnight car storage: $2 to $5 per car
Airport skycap: $1 per bag they help you with
Tour guide: 10 to 20 percent the cost of the tour; for sightseeing bus tours where drivers double as guides, tip $1 per person, per day (don’t tip tour guides at national parks).
Casino dealers: Typically, $5 chip per dealer rotation, or 5 to 10 percent of winnings
Drink server at a casino: $1 per drink
Golf caddy at a country club: Varies depending on how high-end the course is. Usually about half the caddy fee, or $15 per person, is sufficient.
Museum guide: $1 per participant
Disc jockeys: $5 for requests
Salmon fishing guide: 10 percent for larger companies, 15 percent for independent guides
Barber: $2 to $3
Hairdresser: 15 to 20 percent
Masseuse: 15 to 20 percent
Spa service (e.g., facial, spa package): 15 to 20 percent
Manicure/Pedicure/Wax: 15 percent
Furniture or appliance delivery: $10 to $15 per person; $20 per person for very heavy or difficult deliveries
Dog groomers: 15 percent
Tattoo artists: 10 to 20 percent, depending on the amount, quality, and difficulty of the work performed
Body piercing: 10 percent
Auto detailers: 15 percent
Car washer: $2 to $3 per car
Grocery baggers: $1 to $5 if they carry your groceries out for you and load your car
Wedding officiant: $50 to $100
Movers: $40 to $60 total, or $20 per person
NOTE: Whom and even whether you tip during the holiday season depends a lot on your lifestyle. For example, if you employ a housekeeper and live in a building with a doorman, you can and should give them a holiday tip or gift. However, the average renter or middle-class homeowner might just need to tip the babysitter and make some cookies for the mailman. Gifts can also be provided in lieu of cash tips.
Nanny: A week’s salary
Personal trainer: Price of one session
Gardener: One week’s pay
Hairdresser: $25 to $100
Manicurist: $10 to $50
Babysitter: An evening’s pay
Dog walker: A week’s salary
Newspaper carrier: $5 to $15
Superintendent: $30 to $100
Mail carrier: Non-cash gift worth up to $20 (mail carriers cannot accept cash)
Housekeeper: One week’s salary
Elevator operator: $20 to $50
Doorman: $25 to $100
Parking-garage attendant: A third of your monthly bill
Garbage collectors: $10 to $20 per person
Do Not Tip
- Government employees (e.g., police officers, postal workers, firefighters, city transit workers). One exception is if a judge or another civil servant performs your wedding ceremony.
- Health care professionals (doctors, nurses, chiropractors, therapists, etc.)
- Carpet cleaners
- Flight attendants
- Dry cleaners
How to Calculate Tips
Part of the trickiness of tipping is having to do some quick mental math when calculating percentage-based tips. When possible, use the calculator your cell phone to calculate tips.
Another good rule of thumb when figuring out a tip at a restaurant is to tip double the sales tax on the bill (depending on the sales tax in your state, this usually equates to a little over 15 percent of your bill; you may want to round up to the nearest dollar after doubling the tax).
Increasingly, restaurants and even taxi drivers will provide you with the dollar amount you should tip if you want to tip 15 percent, 20 percent, or another amount, on a printed receipt or digital display. This way, you don’t have to calculate the appropriate gratuity amount yourself.
You might also want to try learning some mental shortcuts to help you calculate percentage-based tips on the fly.
Other Tipping Tips
- Always carry some small bills with you, especially when you are traveling.
- Tip discreetly. Being ostentatious with your tipping might turn off other members in your party and even make the person you’re tipping feel uncomfortable.
- Calculate tips based on the pre-tax, pre-discount amount.
- Provide service workers in your home with cold beverages, regardless of whether you tip them.
- Tip extra if you make a huge mess or have otherwise been a burden.
- When traveling in a foreign country, respect local tipping customs and tip in the local currency.
- While this might seem to go without saying, you don’t have to tip when gratuity is included in the bill.
- When in doubt, tip 15 to 20 percent.