As a former server in many different types of restaurants, I remember the days when my only source of income was tips. OK, I did get a little paycheck, but at $2 an hour for a server, it didn’t amount to much. Tipping isn’t about bestowing generosity on a person, it’s about being grateful for their service. Whether they cleaned your hotel room — including those nasty hairs in the shower (yeah, I’ve done that job too) — or brought you your meal four times because it was never done just how you like it, it’s important to show your gratitude for it.
Now, because I’ve worked service jobs before and was very, very good at it, I also tend to be very discriminating about the servers I get at restaurants. If you’re going to ignore me or forget stuff, I’ll likely let you know with my scanty tip, but I’ll tell you why. However, if you work hard or are obviously the go-to person for everyone else, you’ll get a very nice tip from me.
As a general rule, don’t ever go lower than the average recommended tip amount. Even if the service is bad, but not nonexistent, you should never tip below that amount. Even the worst newspaper reporters get a basic wage to live on and so should servers. If you received your food, even if the guy who brought it was snotty to you, you should still tip him the bare minimum.
Not sure if you should tip? Always err on the side of tipping. If you’re wrong, at least you made the effort to show your appreciation.
Bartending is not as easy as it looks, especially when you have a lot of thirsty people wanting strange and innovative new drinks! Generally speaking, bartenders should get 15 to 20 percent of the tab, or 50 cents per soft drink and at least $1 per alcoholic drink. This is true even at your sister’s open bar wedding reception.
Waitstaff are likely the most underrated, hardest working people in the service industry. And I don’t say that just because I used to wait tables. In addition to only making the bare server minimum, servers are expected to clean restaurant bathrooms, make the salads, clean most of the appliances in the server station, mop restaurant floors, wipe down the tables and do many other chores. And that’s at the minimum server rate, which in most states is about $3 an hour. No tips for that work. Is your restaurant nice and clean? Thank a server. Is your silverware polished and the glassware without spots? Thank a server. Servers should get at least 15 percent of the bill. And if you bring a lot of kids who make a big mess (which I usually do) leave more (which I also usually do).
You are not obligated to tip the maitre d’ or host at a restaurant unless they’ve gone above and beyond for you in getting you a table. If you’ve come in without a reservation or didn’t want the table by the bathroom and they found you another, you can tip them $10 or $20.
For basic service, tip about 10 to 15 percent of the bill. If the delivery was heavy or complicated, it’s nice to tip the extra service accordingly.
It’s sits there, looking at you at your local coffee shop or take out place. The tip jar. In an old Seinfeld episode, one of the main characters is wracked over the tip jar, hoping that the person from whom he orders food will see that he’s placed a good tip in the jar — and then, of course, is caught with his hand in the jar when he tries to retrieve the bill so he can be seen placing it in there again. Don’t let a tip jar throw you for a loop. If you just ordered a small cup of coffee and you can spare it, put some of your change in the jar. But you are under no obligation to do so. If you feel like the service is exemplary, tip at your own comfort level.
Valets, Doorpersons and Bellhops
Generally, valets receive $2 to $5 when the car is brought back to you. Doorpersons get a few dollars for extra — or consistent — service, like hailing a cab, helping you to the car, that sort of thing. Bellhops get a dollar or two per bag, as do Skycaps at the airport.
Assume 15 percent for most taxi drivers and an extra $1 or $2 per bag if they help you. This also goes for limo drivers and bus or shuttle drivers if they help you with your bags.
Whether they fix your hair, nails or give you a massage, tip those in the salon about 15 to 20 percent of the total bill.
Hotel Concierge and Room Cleaners
The concierge, if he or she has been very helpful to you, should receive around $20 when you leave. If you stay longer than a few days, this can increase accordingly. Room cleaners should get a few dollars a day as well, depending on just how messy you are. Remember, if you have kids — or teenagers — you may want to leave more in appreciation for not making you clean up after them.
Remember, when in doubt, offer a tip and if you’re not sure how much, always err on the side of a little too much, especially if service was good. Nothing hurts a waiter or other service worker more than knowing they went above and beyond and weren’t appreciated for the effort. However, if you can’t spend more — leave a little note and tell them. This way they won’t feel hostile and will likely understand.