Monday, November 5, 2012

Manners Monday: Tipping Etiquette

I hope everyone had a fabulous weekend and enjoyed the extra hour of sleep (or time spent anyway you pleased). Today's Manners Monday post was actually prompted by a reader, Amber Y., who wrote me a message on my Facebook wall last week and requested more information on how much to tip for various services (things that go beyond just restaurant tips).

Every classy woman should be armed with the knowledge of what to tip and when. So, today we'll explore various venues and general amounts that are appropriate as it pertains to everyday tipping etiquette in North America. We'll explore international tipping as well as holiday tipping at a later date so this post doesn't become insanely long. ;)

Everyday Tipping Etiquette 

Restaurant Services:

1.  Host or Maitre d'- $10-$20 if they have gone above and beyond to provide you with a special table with a view, in a particular location of the restaurant, for a special evening or occasion or on a busy night. Nothing is required if they offer the standard of greeting and showing you to your table.

2. Restaurant Server (full service/sit down)- 15-20% is customary, the higher amount showing that you were quite pleased with the service, atmosphere and food. Tipping percentages are based on the before tax amount (there is no need to tip on top of tax). If an automatic gratuity is built into your check, you are not required to provide anything further, it is optional to tip on top of the amount included which is typically 18% for upscale restaurants and is typical when dining as a party of 6 or more.

3. Restaurant Server (basic service/buffet)-10% is customary before tax since these servers are generally replenishing drinks and clearing plates vs. taking full orders, specific requests and serving you multiple courses of your meal. 

4. Take Out- 10% is optional if the order was large or complex, otherwise you are not obligated.

5. Curb-side pickup-Same rules apply as take-out, they'll bring it out to your car.

6. Home Delivery Service-10-15% of the bill is sufficient. Usually $2-5 dollars for pizza delivery depending on the size of the order and how difficult it is to get to the location is standard. (Think long country roads in the snow at night)

7. Bartender-$1-$2 on a per drink basis or 15-20% of the final tab

8. Tip Jar- Optional. Many people feel obligated to leave a tip when they see a tip jar but it's set up for Baristas at cafes, dry cleaners, etc. Anything is acceptable and is shared among the staff.

9. Valet- $2-$5 is customary upon the return of your car.

10. Restroom Attendant- Anywhere from 50 cents to $3.00 depending on the service offered. Such attendants usually supply paper towels, lotion, feminine products, mouthwash etc inside the restroom of upscale restrooms, special events and clubs for your convenience. You can simply avoid the extra service by not using any products and simply saying, "No, Thank you." 

Salon & Spa Services:

1. Hair Stylist- 15-20% for hair cuts, color, highlights & updos. If you're service pertains to your wedding day and you feel more is appropriate, your stylist will be grateful for the extra. *Please note that if you cannot afford such a tip on top of the cost of a pricier salon, you may want to receive your services elsewhere or stretch out the time between visits. Know what the cost is going in and calculate the tip so there are no surprises and yours stylist gets what they deserve.

If you have one person that provides the cut and another the color or shampoo, be sure to either pay each person individually in cash or indicate on the receipt who gets what amount if paying by credit card. Many used to follow the rule of not tipping the owner who provides the service, modern etiquette recommends otherwise-tip no matter what as they are still providing good service to you.

2. Special Shampoo service-$2-$5 is the average for those who provide your shampooing service. If they are gentle, avoid splashing water on your face, use products that stimulate the scalp and most importantly provide a wonderful scalp and neck massage, do tip them! They'll remember the next time you come back and you'll be sure to get a relaxing shampoo experience again.

3. Manicurist-15-20% is the standard for all nail treatments for manicure and pedicure. Extra credit goes to those who give a relaxing forearm and hand massage or foot and calf massage for more than just 2 minutes. If they provided something extra or did an ultra amazing job on the polish   20% or more should be given.

4. Massage Therapist-15-20% can be given for massages although be aware that some therapeutic massage establishments actually frown upon tipping (make sure you ask ahead of time when you make the reservation). If you are receiving treatment after a car accident or injury and the massage is being billed via insurance or you are being reimbursed, use your discretion on tipping in such cases as it is more about body restoration than relaxation.

5. Waxing services- Again, 15-20% as it is a salon service.

6. Makeup Application- Anywhere from 10-20% tip. If they take a few minutes to show you how to apply eye shadow like a pro or provide tips for you on how to get a more dewy look (or whatever questions you may have or that they feel they want to share), tip them accordingly. 

Hotel & Travel Services:

1. Door Man- $1-$4 for carrying luggage or anything that involves them going out of their way for you and is not in their description. $1-2 is recommended for hailing a cab for you.

2. Bell Hop-$2 for the first bag and $1 for each additional bag thereafter. For each additional service (such as room delivery), tip $2-3.

3. Housekeeping- $2-5 per day depending on the level of service. Always include a hand written note that thanks the housekeeper and indicates it's for them. It's best to do this on a daily basis as you may likely have a different person each day.

4. Concierge-$5-10 if they got restaurant reservations of special tickets for you. Add an extra $5 if the tickets or reservations were hard to come by. Of course, you need not feel obligated to tip for having them answer a few questions for you.

5. Taxi Driver-A minimum of $1 for very short rides, 15-20% of the cab fare. If they are assisting your with luggage/bags, add $2 for the first bag and $1 for each thereafter.

6. Sky Cap (air travel) -This is a specialty service for air travelers to make life easier, $2 for the first bag and $1 for each bag thereafter (as with other venues) is appropriate.

Tips on Tipping:

It's important to remember that tipping is a personal gesture and at the discretion of the giver, while guidelines are set, if you have been extremely disappointed by someone's service provided or delighted when someone has gone above and beyond, your tip should reflect. A lady knows that certain things are done in private and the act of tipping is no exception. Tipping should be done discreetly, it was never intended to be an opportunity to appear as the big spender nor should you compare amounts with others, everyone's experience is different. Also, be mindful that for many in the service industry, their tips are the bulk of their income as hourly compensation can often be meager and as such tips are always greatly appreciated.

Today, it seems that even when someone has experienced horrific service, many feel compelled to leave the standard 15%. In such cases, it's best to speak to management and make them aware of the issue (without causing a scene or fuss of any sort), only then can they help correct what you were displeased with and speak to the person in question. It is considered poor taste to leave pocket change or nothing at all upon receiving services, especially within a restaurant environment, for poor service a tip of 10% of the check's total should be the absolute minimum. Other members of the restaurant are often affected (in many restaurants bus boys, dishwashers, food prep and chef receive a portion of the server's tip and they should not be penalized in the process).

***A note on gift certificates and Groupon or group coupon deals. Even if your gift certificate covers a large portion of your meal or spa service, tipping is always made on the full value of the services or meal before tax and not on the portion that remains after your gift card.

Have you had someone provide exemplary services and have re-warded them as such for their thoughtfulness and/or skill? I'd love to hear what they did to make you so happy, please share the positive vibes in the comments section! :)

Thank you for reading!


*image credit


  1. Great post as I always wonder if I am tipping enough when at hotels. Restaurants I usually do the 20% but if it is bad service, I will do less than that or maybe nothing. Nothing is rare but if it is really bad, I am not afraid to not leave a tip. From what I have read above, I am doing it the right way. Thanx !!

    1. Thanks Rosemary! :) I think a lot of people get confused with what to tip at hotels. Once when we gave a tip to our bell hop he also let us in on the best places to eat in the area, particularly a perfect Sunday brunch find. I've found that most hotel staff will go out of their way for you after they know you appreciate them.

  2. I have a question...I am going on a cruise next week, tips each day are supposed to charged to my credit card, about $12 a day and I am assuming this is for housekeeping, restaurant but do I also need to tip any staff on the ship extra cash for services, like room service etc? Thanks! Kelly

    1. Hi Kelly! I've been on several cruises with an array of cruise lines and they all typically run the gratuities the same way. You'll be notified of the amount (which I can see you have been-$12/day) and that is the amount you would essentially be tipping at the end of the cruise (it gets billed via your credit card automatically)-the last evening of your cruise and sometimes a day or so later. It's also the same evening that any billing inquiries etc., are made known to front desk.

      You do not need to tip the baggage handlers unless who take your bags for transport you are hiring a porter when claiming bags and getting from the baggage area to transportation at the end of your cruise. In terms of dining, you'll typically have the same server and assistant server every evening and if they provide fabulous service, you may want to tip extra-we usually do. You'll want to give them each their tip at the dinner of the last evening of your cruise. Anything in the spa would also be separate of course. Room service is included in the ship's daily gratuity fees of $12 but if they've done an outstanding job and have attended to multiple room requests, something extra for them is always nice.

      Have a blast on your cruise! :)


    2. Kelly, if you are interested I also wrote a post on Cruise Ship Etiquette here:

  3. Hi Karla! I've always wondered if you are supposed to tip the bagger boy at the grocery store whole helps you take your bags to your car? Good post!

    1. Hi Erin! Thanks for your question. Many stores (like Publix here in the south) have their staff trained not to accept tips, it's the store's way of going the extra mile. Since each store is a little bit different, you could inquire at the customers service desk. If they are allowed to accept tips, for a regular to large size load of groceries $1-2 would be acceptable or whatever you see fit. :)

    2. Thanks Karla! That is what I had heard, that they were not supposed to accept tips but I have never been sure if that was the case or not.

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you! I appreciate you stopping by and leaving a comment. :)

  5. Here is my dilemma ... my hair stylist works by herself out of her home. Would I still offer a tip, seeing as she keeps her entire fee? What are your thoughts on this?

    1. Hi Laura, thanks for your question! :) Even though she works out of her home, you should still tip her. Remember that tips were never meant to be an action of a paid percentage out of obligation or based on the level of overhead a company has, they were meant to be a gesture of showing appreciation for wonderful service on top of the cost of that service rendered. So, if she provides wonderful services to you from her home, regardless of the fact that her expenses may be minimal, I would give her a tip as you see fit. She will still have some expenses for products and tools and the trade off as an in-home stylist is that she won't have nearly the same amount of clients or foot traffic so I'm sure she would appreciate it. P.S.-I'm originally from Toronto, it's nice to 'meet' another fellow Canadian in blogland. ;)

    2. Thanks Karla ... great tip! I have lived in Toronto twice, but am currently in Guelph ... love your blog!

  6. 4 years ago my sister and I went to NYC for my 30th birthday. Since then I've stayed at the same hotel 3 or 4 times a year for other trips to the city. The concierge has been the same man every time, and every time he remembers my birthday and asks about family or other things that may have previously been mentioned. The fact that he takes the time to note these things in a hotel that probably has thousands of guests every weekend really means a lot. He alwasy asks what night I'd like a reservation at my favorite restaurant (and he never asks for the name of the restaurant) and lets me know if there's anything special going on in the hotel that I might be interested in or to steer clear of! I've written notes to both him and the hotel manager on several occasions, so that might also account for the fantastic service, but even so, he really helps to make me feel welcome. I always slip him an envelope with a handwritten thank you note and a very nice tip!

    1. Hi Sylvie! Thanks for sharing your experience here, I loved reading about it. How lovely that the concierge remembers you even after serving many people daily. Those are the kinds of establishments that I enjoy going back to-they make you look forward to the visit. :)

  7. Coming from a service industry, people sometimes don't realize how much you rely on your tips. This is a great post!

    1. It's so true, Jesse! I've always said that I think everyone needs to be a server in a restaurant at least once in their lives for a couple weeks. You see things from a different perspective afterwards and realize that it's not an easy job, especially when a restaurant is really busy. It allows you to have more grace for servers when they might be having an off night.


Thanks for stopping by, your comments make my day! I read every single one and will answer any questions you have. I hope you'll visit again soon! :)


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