The Gentleman’s Guide To Tipping

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 24, 2008 · 170 comments

in A Man's Life, Money & Career, On Etiquette

A gentleman knows when and how to tip those who serve him. The unmannered and uncouth do not. Tipping an individual, while not mandatory, should always be done. The only occasion you should not leave a tip is if the service was completely horrendous and the person providing the service made no attempt to remedy the situation. When tipping, you should do so discreetly. Showing off how much you tip does not impress people, but only shows you are a shallow cad. Nonetheless, gray areas in regards to tipping often exist. So read on gents, as The Art of Manliness answers all your tipping questions.

Why Tip?

The difference between regular jobs and many jobs that require tips is that they are service jobs, and they are called service jobs because they are directly serving you. They personally and intimately affect you. You do not need to always tip people like tow truck drivers or baristas, and you do not have to tip people for doing their job per se. But you might think about tipping people for the following reasons:

1) If the person went above and beyond regular service. It is just a way of showing gratitude for a job well done and going the extra mile. Some people say, “Why do I have to tip people for doing their job?” To them I respond, “Does the company you work for give bonuses after a project is completed successfully?” And what is a bonus if not just a very large tip? When bonuses are offered, people do not generally say “There is no need to give me a bonus. I was just doing my job.”

2) To show your gratitude. Another word for tip is “gratuity.” Many people in service jobs are overworked, underpaid, and unthanked. At your job when you do something right, your supervisor says “thank you,” and “job well done!” Who says thank you to the trashmen? Many service jobs are jobs we don’t want to do, and we are grateful people are there day in and day out doing them for us. Our trash gets taken away, our mail gets delivered, our food is served to us. Their pay often does not match their effort. Who thinks that teachers’ pay is commensurate with the work they put in? Tipping is a way to say “thank you” to those who rarely hear it.

3) Tipping ensures great service. This is especially true of people who perform service for you regularly. If you tip a barista at a coffee shop you frequent, or a waiter at your favorite restaurant, they will give you even better service next time. For example, I used to work at a pizza place and when an order came in, if the pizza delivery guy recognized the name, and remembered they were a big tipper, they would bust their butt to get the order out. They would even take the tipper their order BEFORE orders that had come in earlier. If an order came up for a name they recognized as a bad tipper, they would deliver that order later. Similarly, when I worked at smoothie place, this one customer would tip us very heavily every time she came in. So during her visits we were practically falling over ourselves to get her order out. We would start making it even before she paid. And we would always throw in extra goodies. So in things you do regularly, generous tipping is certainly not essential, but can guarantee you better service.

4) That person’s livelihood depends on our tipping. An unsettling number of people don’t seem to realize that many service workers in the US, like waitresses, do not get a regular hourly wage. They get paid something like $2.50 an hour. If you don’t tip, they could end up making less than minimum wage. Tipping in these cases is not optional, but necessary. I know our non-American readers will criticize a system that doesn’t pay everyone a decent wage with benefits. But such criticism will not change the current reality. Plus, if companies were to start paying everyone a living wage plus benefits then the cost of goods and services would rise. Thus, you would end up paying out of your pocket anyway. So if you deeply believe in everyone receiving a fair wage, then why not do your part to make it a reality now?

“What money is better bestowed than that of a schoolboy’s tip? How the kindness is recalled by the recipient in after days! It blesses him that gives and him that takes.” ~William Makepeace Thackeray

How Much Should You Tip?

(Note: Tipping guidelines differ from country to country. This guide is intended for those who will be tipping in the United States.)


  • Housekeeping at the hotel. A good tip for housekeeping is between $2 to $5. Don’t just leave cash on the nightstand. It might not be clear to your maid that the money is for her. Make sure to leave the tip in an envelope marked for housekeeping.
  • Tour guide. Tip between $1 to $5 per person in your group.
  • Skycap or bell hop. $1 to $2 per bag they lug for you. If you’re running late and the skycap books your luggage to your plane so you can get there on time, bump up the tip.
  • Doorman. Only tip the doorman at a hotel if he gives you a hot tip on the best places to eat or visit while in town.

Personal Services

  • Massage Therapist. Give 10 to 20 percent of the total cost.
  • Nurses. Usually tipping nurses at hospitals is not permitted, but don’t tell that to my wife’s Italian grandma. She’s a retired nurse and believes you should definitely tip nurses and other health assistants. Any time she’s at the hospital you can guarantee she’s getting the best service because she gave her nurse “la boost.”
  • Valet parking. $2-$5 for the valet who parks your car, and $2-$5 for the valet who later retrieves it.
  • Baristas/Smoothie Makers/Ice Cream Scoopers. It seems like all these types of establishments have tip jars nowadays. Spare change is always appreciated. If the barista starts making your order as soon as you walk in so that its ready for you by the time you get up to pay, tip a little extra. If they sing a song when you give them a tip, ask them to not sing it or you’ll take the tip back.
  • Hairstylist. Tip 15% of the cost of the haircut.
  • Takeout. If you order takeout from a restaurant make sure to tip the cashier a bit. While they weren’t waiting on you hand in foot, they did have to bust their butt to get your order together and ready. If they help you take your order out to the car, tip a bit extra.
  • Car washer. $3 bucks is good for a basic car wash. If they take extra time in when detailing it, give 10% of the cost of the wash.
  • Tattoos/Body Piercings. 15% of the total cost. If the tattoo artist does an amazing job of capturing the image of your mother on your arm, tip extra.
  • Tow Truck. It depends on what services the person provides. If they jump your car or change your tire, tip about $4. If they tow it, $5 is good tip. If they are towing you away from a no parking zone, give them the finger.
  • Bagger at the grocery store. Typically, people no longer tip grocery baggers. It’s not necessary, but definitely a nice gesture. $1 is a good tip.

Delivery Services

  • Newspaper deliverer. During the holidays, give them a card with $20. My in-laws do this every year and as a result, they have their paper delivered straight to their door instead of just thrown on the driveway.
  • Pizza/Meal delivery. 15% is customary. If the weather is bad, i.e. there’s snow and ice or a tsunami, and you’re risking the delivery guy’s life so you don’t have to risk yours, tip extra.
  • Furniture/large appliance delivery. $5 per person. If they stick around and help you assemble or rearrange your furniture, tip extra.

Out on the Town

  • Waiters. 15 to 20% is customary. If they do an exceptional job, pay more. If you come in with a large group make sure to ask if gratuity is added into your check so you don’t tip them twice. (Of course, as a former waiter, I always appreciated it when someone gave me a little extra in addition to the gratuity.) Be extra generous when you’re on a dinner date with a new lady; she’ll be sure to steal a glance at the tip line of your bill to see if you are a cheap loser or a real gentleman.
  • Bartenders. 15 to 20%. Again, if they do an excellent job give more. If you come during happy hour and down 20 $.99 cent draws, don’t just leave 15%. Bartenders have to bust their butt to get those things poured for you and deserve more than just your change.
  • Casino. There are lots of people you could be tipping at a casino. First, you have cocktail waitresses. 15% is customary. Many people tip dealers when they have a successful run, ensuring the continuation of good karma.
  • Taxi. Standard tip is 15%. If they get you to your destination quickly, tip extra.


During the holidays, it’s customary to give a little more for the everyday services we receive. Here is just a short list of people you should consider giving “la boost” to during the holidays.

  • Mailman. It’s against federal law to tip federal employees, but they can accept gifts of less than $20. But most will probably look the other way if you give more.
  • Garbage/recycling man. These guys have a dirty job, recognize their work around the holidays by giving them a tip. $10 per person is nice.
  • Teachers. If you have kids in school, it’s usually customary to give their teacher a small gift at Christmas time. It doesn’t have to be big. Here’s a tip: teachers get box loads full of body lotion, candles, and various apple themed knickknacks (no, you’re not the first person to think of giving them an apple-shaped paperweight). Give them something they’ll really enjoy like a gift card to Borders or Target.
  • Babysitter. A gift in addition to their normal pay is nice. Gift cards are always appreciated.
  • Cleaning person. An extra week’s pay or a nice gift.

{ 166 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Justin December 14, 2009 at 12:15 pm

I don’t care what anyone here tries to say, tipping leads to better service. But only after service led to a good tip in the first place.

I am a server where the wages we are paid for coming to sell the restaurant’s food is only $2.13/hr. That is just enough to cover fixed rate taxes.

I give good service to every table I wait on, even when I know they probably won’t end up tipping well. But when a table comes in that does appreciate the service I give, and rewards me with a good tip (20% or higher), you better believe that I remember them (I also remember the tables that tip horribly (10% or lower)). My service essentially led to them tipping well.

Now whenever that table comes in and sits in my section, you had best believe that I am going to put them at top priority. They are a customer that has shown that they appreciate good service. Likewise, known poor tippers are placed at the lowest priority.

I also used to bus tables at this restaurant where tipping out anyone else wasn’t required. But when I worked hard for a server, and they tipped me out at the end of the shift, believe that afterward I always made sure to keep their sections clean a priority.

That being said, if you don’t believe in tipping then don’t complain when you don’t receive the same great service as a table sitting down from you is. Chances are that they are a known good tipper and you are the opposite.

102 Justin December 14, 2009 at 12:17 pm

PS: If you cannot afford to tip 15% on top of what the bill is going to cost you at a restaurant, then you cannot afford to dine at that restaurant.

In example, I don’t make the money that most people do, therefore I don’t dine out at the fancy, expensive steak houses. I just couldn’t afford to tip acceptably. When I do go out to dinner, I am mostly at wing houses on wing night. I can afford to the bill, plus a nice tip.

103 Charlie December 14, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Also, you should calculate your 15-20 percent tip before deducting coupons, discounts, and deals. The waiter works just as hard whether you get to take a little off the bottom line or not.

104 Jason March 2, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Tipping the Barber:

When my barber does a good job (every time so far), I tip him a clean 5 bucks. I don’t care if it is only a $12 haircut. If he can make my head look and smell awesome, and I walk out of that place with a bounce in my step, then it’s well worth the little bit extra. $1.80 (15%) just won’t cut it.

Don’t be afraid to be thankful for things; it’s not gonna kill you or break the bank.

105 Daniel April 10, 2010 at 2:59 pm

I worked a cash register at a big wine retailer during the busy months (September-December). If someone had a really big order, or was unable to load their purchase into their car, the cashiers were supposed to help them out. That job was hectic and the pay wasn’t good; it always felt good to get a tip for busting my butt loading a case of wine or beer into a car, even if it was just one dollar. The people who tipped always got good service when they came back.

106 JP April 10, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Do yourself a favor: Never tip a nurse. I work in a hospital as a nurse and this is an incredibly offensive and rude thing to do. When people try to tip me, I assume they have Alzheimer’s or are borderline retarded. Or assholes.

107 Matt April 15, 2010 at 12:15 am

If you can’t afford the tip, you can’t afford to go out. Stay home.

108 Michelle April 15, 2010 at 1:52 am

It’s pretty obvious who has and has not worked in a service position. I’ve been a waitress for about 6 years, and if it weren’t for the tips, there’s no way I would have stayed in this job. It’s too hard, too stressful, and not rewarding in the slightest. I give good service to everyone, because that’s my job, but let me tell you, my job is hard.
After taking your drink order, I run to the kitchen to get the drinks set up and a manager is yelling at me to run someone else’s food out. I have to do that, then come back and get your drinks before you realize it’s been too long. Then, the table next to you just remembered that they wanted more ranch, and I have to deal with them, you, and up to four other tables (sometimes more). The bussers don’t pre-clear, so I have to take all the heavy plates back to the kitchen, set them in the proper places, wash my hands, run more food out, print up your check – whoops! the computer just froze – take payment (and thanks for paying your $15 check with a $100 bill because I don’t have enough change on me and have to get it from the busy bartender who only cares about his own customers), and do it all over again.
Oh, and when you sat down, the hostess also sat three other tables at the same time. THAT doesn’t deserve a tip?

Also, company policy at my restaurant is that we have to claim 12% of our sales in tips. This is after we have tipped out the bartenders, food-runners and bussers. If we don’t claim enough, we get in trouble and can get fired. So if we only make an average of 15% in tips and have to give 3% of that away at the end of the night, we just barely squeeze by. If the average for the night is less than 15%, I still have to claim that I made 12% after tipping out my bussers etc., but then I lose money for that night because I have to claim to the IRS that I’ve made more money than I actually.

@Kyle- Thanks for grouping tipped positions into “lower educated teenagers” and “greedy teenagers trying to suck money” [out of your pocket]. I have a B.A. and am going back to get my Master’s next year. Waitressing allows me a flexible schedule for my classes. Believe me- when I’m done with school, I’ll be happy that I won’t have to wait on people like you anymore!

109 Abundance April 18, 2010 at 3:40 pm

I like to act as if I live in abundance. That is not to say that I live conspicuously (I drive a cheap ’92, but it’s a fun convertible) or that I flaunt money. I’m not rich either. All this means is that I don’t concern myself with nickels and dimes. If it’s worth haggling over a few dollars, I don’t go out to eat or buy the item in the first place.

To elaborate. Don’t leave coins and don’t ask for change. Round up to your smallest bill and forget about it. Compute the tip *fast*, and don’t use a calculator. This way you don’t hesitate as if wondering whether it was worth tipping, and you don’t interrupt conversation, and it’s discreet, and above all it appears confident. To compute 15% fast, round generously, compute 10%, then add half again. If it’s a $35 bill I think, “35 is about forty, 10% is four, add half of that is six.”. Then if I notice I only have five dollar bills, that’s my mistake for not being prepared, so I leave $10 with a decisive attitude instead of digging for quarters or asking for change. Above all, I do it confidently and without regret.

At a bar, I tip as I go starting with the first drink. I give them a card to keep a tab, but I don’t wait for the tab to start tipping. Often they appreciate my generosity and conveniently forget a drink or two. In any case, a fun bartender in a good mood is easier to make friends with. Cash puts people in a good mood, and a friend will introduce me to his friends. I’m not “buying friends”, but surely you can see how putting people in a good mood is advantageous.

I always leave a cash tip. If the bartenders aren’t stupid and the owner has made it unofficially okay, then they can just pocket the tip and it’s worth 30% more because they don’t have to pay income tax, social security, medicare, etc etc, plus the owner doesn’t have to take his cut to cover his half of social security etc. Such a policy will obviously be unspoken, but it is smart. Also, cash feels better. It’s immediate. There’s no 2% fee for the credit card company. There’s no check to clear. It’s simple and discreet. There’s no record of it.

110 Tom April 23, 2010 at 7:38 pm

I usually tip about 25% at most restaurants, regardless of whether they went above and beyond or not, give or take a little bit depending on service quality. Thanks for the excellent advice though. There are some services that I never really though to tip.

111 Tim May 15, 2010 at 12:29 pm

You should add ‘normal’ delivery services to the list above- UPS and FedEx drivers work their asses off during the holiday season, and an envelope with 10-20 bucks sure makes it go easier. I worked UPS over Christmas, and it’s at least 12 hr days (no break) during the holiday season, more if there’s bad weather, treacherous walking/driving conditions, and bitter cold depending on your part of the country. The houses that tipped the driver the previous holiday season definitely got extra attention.

112 dpmason May 17, 2010 at 10:41 am

I worked in restaurants in my youth – I think that everybody should have that experience, it will change you views on tipping forever. A few observations about restaurant tipping, for whatever its worth: Women are generally awful tippers.A group of women eating out together will demand lots of extra devices and then leave a poor tip. Mothers Day is the absolute worst day for restraint workers, the owners make out great but the servers work like dogs, put up with resentful teenagers, crying kids who spill everything and very tense and demanding parents trying to make sure “Mom gets everything she wants” – they are displeased and exhausted and leave poor tips. Restaurant tabs are a lot bigger when the party has a few drinks – Since I don’t drink I will adjust my tip upwards in compensation – the waitperson has to work just as hard!

113 Marti May 18, 2010 at 12:30 am

After reading through the above comments of the same opionions being stated over and over gain with two apparent sides to the issue, I still feel that an important question has been left unanswered. If gratuity for service was done away with entirely and employers paid all employees a fair wage,

How much should a waiter/waitress make per hour?

Of course the wage has to reflect the area of employment, so inculde that in your answer as well. I would like realistic answers that take into account skill level, education, and put in the perspective of other professions and their wages (it’s not realistic for a waitress to be making more than a nurse). Obviously the wage would also have to depend on the prestige and quality of the restaurant, so lets say its a restaurant where the average plate is twelve dollars.

Thanks for your thoughts

114 Grumpy May 24, 2010 at 9:40 am

Remko Tronçon
Service workers usually don’t come under minimum wage laws, and the employers expect they will receive tips and set pay scales accordingly. As a side effect of this system, those doing a substandard job soon quit and move on resulting in the customer being better served.
Tipping the waiter/waitress personally ensures the intended person gets the tip rather than the busboy or whoever. Tips added to the bill usually end up in a pot that is split with the owner sometimes getting a cut as well.
Of course in the context of this site, a gentleman should ALWAYS express his gratitude.

115 Grumpy May 24, 2010 at 9:48 am

You wrote, (it’s not realistic for a waitress to be making more than a nurse). This, of course, is true. No more than it is that an actor or athlete should make more that a doctor or teacher, but then it still happens.

Welcome to the unrealistic, unfair world.

116 Blade June 9, 2010 at 7:47 am

bartenders…100% i know it seems like a lot, but hit the same places and you will be amazed at what you save. :)

waitresses/waiters…50% …same as above

everyone else 20%….

now if you jack with me, its a penny……leave nothing and they think you forgot.

i know i worked my way through college behind the bar.

117 B-Doc June 26, 2010 at 6:29 am

As a former “Courtesy Clerk”, AKA bag boy, I recommend tipping discreetly. Unlike some establishments with a tip jar on the counter, begging to be filled, the courtesy clerk is usually prohibited by his employer from accepting tips. If you do it in plain sight, he must decline or he will be reprimanded. Slip it to him on the down-low.

118 Blaise June 30, 2010 at 6:30 pm

As a former waiter, I always tip. Usually I can recognize when bad services is given due to the fact that the waiter/waitress is having a bad day, or if the bad service is given for no good apparent reason at all.

When going out to a restaurant and I order something small, where my bill is only a few dollars, I typically would tip somewhere between $3-$5. One could imagine that 20% of a $2 is pretty small. If I was to keep getting small billed tables all day, I wouldn’t come out making much in the end if they all tipped 20%. As the price of my bill gets larger, so does the tip, naturally.

One thing I must stress is that if you’re paying in cash, hand the tip directly to your waiter. At the restaurant I worked at we had what were called Food Runners. They were responsible for getting the food and drinks, and to assist the waiters in any way, when things got too hectic. We paid tip share to Food Runners, which meant that we took a percentage of our tips and pooled them and that pool was divided up and distributed to the food runners at the end of the night for their help. On a high night it would normally be a total of $30 per runner, and on slow days it could be as low as $2 per runner. The Food Runners were also responsible for getting the finished plates and drinks off the table as soon as the guests left. If you have left the tip on the table, they could swipe the tip and pocket it, and on a slow day make more than they would have if they had waited for getting tip out at the end of the night. It happened to me on a number of occasions on tables I busted my butt. Sometimes I would actually see the guest put the tip on the table and later when I would come back to wipe the table off and collect the tip, it wouldn’t be there.

So I must highly stress handing the tip to the waiter personally.

119 Matt July 22, 2010 at 3:32 pm

I work at a local grocery store, I started out as a bagger and am currently a cashier. This is not the original store i started at, at the original store we were only allowed to accept a tip after attempting to deny the tip several times. At my current store there is no exception, we are not allowed to accept under any circumstances. Since becoming a cashier Ive had to turn down a ten dollar tip..when I bagger I was given a few very generous tips, one women gave me 20 dollars and another gentlemen gave me 5. It always made my day to be given a tip because it told me that they appreciated my service.

120 Bryan July 22, 2010 at 7:56 pm

How about a wedding bartender? Been paid on the basis of a headcount? Is the tip the grooms responsibility?

121 Hilton July 24, 2010 at 10:17 am

I would also just recommend giving the tattoo artist the finger as they are mostly for chavs. Why would you want someone’s artwork on your body?

122 b'tender July 25, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Tipping: just do it, and at least 20%.
Especially if you are a “regular”; it bumps you up into VIP territory. At that point, every server will be scrambling to seat you in their section. Every little trivial eccentricity you have will be properly mediated to the kitchen and bar, your water will be constantly filled. From time to time, you’ll have this or that “comp’d” for you. I’m more likely to ring your five separate glasses of wine in as a bottle, saving you money. I might forget about that 20oz of beer. You’re more likely to sit at your favourite table, have the music turned up or down, and you’ll be known by name by the staff. You’ll be anticipated and loved. In an independently owned place, the owner or manager might comp your meal or drinks or whatever every once in a while because you’ve always been a “good customer”. I’m sure this happens likewise in other industries. And it starts with the tipping.
(You’ll be treated like royalty if you get up into the 40% range, but that’s advanced class, so no one expects it from you.)

In short, tipping makes myself and everyone else in the service industry happy to deal with your ignorant palate, miserable attitude, and that hideously loud bartender shirt you wear when you go out on “special” occasions.

123 Justen July 26, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Even when I was a stagehand, we would sometimes get tips from the higher rollers during conferences for helping them set up or delivering their packages to their booth. It would always make our 12 hour days seem that much shorter, and it would usually buy a case for the crew after the shift, making for a happier crew in general.

Also, thanks for putting the tipping advice for tattoos and piercings up there. From what my friends in the industry tell me, tipping is a lot less common than you would think or hope…a lot less. So make sure to tip you tattoo and piercing artists.

124 Jim July 26, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Anyone know about tipping fishing guides, rafting guides?

125 Andrew July 31, 2010 at 5:51 am

I have read several ” how to tip” guides if only to read the ensuing battle in the comments section. Tipping is by and large one of the most polarizing issues in the US aside from pick a political hot topic and my sports team can beat up your sports team. In fact if I had a dollar for every time someone quoted Mr, Pink from Reservoir Dogs I would be a rich man. Personally, I do believe that the system is flawed, but it’s a system that is putting food on the table for my family while i work through law school.

@ Bryan: tipping a wedding bartender depends on who they work for and if the bar is a cash bar or open bar. For example, if the bartender works for the wedding venue and the wedding party foots the bill for an open bar a gratuity is generally added to the cost and everything on top is gravy. However if the bar is cash then treat the situation like any other bar. If the bartender works for an independent caterer then the alcohol is furnished by the wedding party so it is up to the wedding party to decide whether the bartender can place out a tip jar or if the tip will be paid as part of the final catering bill.

126 Courtney August 2, 2010 at 11:41 am

Tip baristas! Even just a “keep the change” is fine, as long as it’s over 20 cents, if not, give an extra quarter or two. I worked in a small drive through coffee shop for a year and half, so I don’t know what working in a chain like Starbucks is like, but the pay was short, we had barely any space, it was ALWAYS extremely hot and sweaty so loud we could barely hear the customers, it was near the woods so we constantly had flies and misquitos and hornets. We also worked one person at a time, so no breaks, no one to talk to for hours, and we had to do all the serving and cleaning by ourself, and when there’s a lineup, it can get stressful. At this place we also had to maintain and clean all of the coffee, ice, and ice cream machines, while still waiting on customers, and we did all of the ordering, organizing, and inventory. No manager, and all the owners handled was the banking, scheduling, and hiring. I even had to go all over the city to buy the cheap supplies, sometimes on my day off. I realize not all coffer shops are like this, but if this sounds even a little like a place you frequent, leave some spare change. We’re all broke college students.
Another tip for coffee drinkers- be patient. Unless your getting plain drip coffee, don’t think all we do is just push a button. It doesn’t take 30 seconds to make a drink, it takes aroud 2 minutes, maybe more if it’s a complicated drink, not to mention orders with multiple drinks. I was very fast at serving, but I still dealt with many impatient and rude customers. Be nice to people who serve you!

127 Rachel August 5, 2010 at 1:19 pm

I’ve waited tables in Wisconsin ($2.33 an hour) for a chain restaurant and I’ve never been compensated if I’ve made less than minimum wage. I’ve closed and opened the restaurant, which is usually an extra hour of set up, cleaning, etc. and always only made $2.33 forr that hour. There are lots of things that restaurants are supposed to do for employees but don’t, for example breaks.

128 Stew August 7, 2010 at 4:53 am

I’m not sure if any other readers live abroad, but I’ve had many conversations on tipping with Americans as I’ve adjusted to life in the UK, and traveling Europe for work and pleasure pretty intensely for 4 years. My argument was that tipping depends on location; theirs was that you should tip 20% no matter where you go. I think its important to say I tip 20%….when in America. I don’t do this other places and some friends have called me cheap. I think there’s a lack of understanding.

The simple fact is that on the whole, points 3 and 4 are not common outside the US. It’s chicken and egg; if the wages earned don’t depend largely on tips (point 4) then it makes little sense to strive for them (point 1). So for Americans traveling, keep this in mind. The message you intend to send by leaving a tip is not received the same way it is in America. (This should be no surprise since you’re not in America). In many European countries there is a flat charge for service. Not good service; just service – common now @ 12.5%. Disassociate the “level of service” with “amount you tip” in your brain.

For those who think anything less than 20% when abroad is low; I saw ‘why’? 20% is a number based on *how you were nurtured, in the US*. It’s reasonable to suspect that when you leave the US, your standards/expectations should not come with you. If you disagree, explain why the commonly held American belief is 20%? Why not 17%, 30% or 45% then? My point is only that the number is culturally appropriate. S when you change your location, change your mindset. :)

129 Tommy August 8, 2010 at 12:02 pm


I don’t know about anywhere else, but if you’re a server in a restaurant and tipping was done away with, you should be making at least 14 an hour. That’s what a bad waiter would make in an hour. You’re on your feet all day, if it’s busy everything is chaos and you have to constantly multi-task with no downtime, you’re dealing with customers which sucks cause there’s someone always getting mad at you for someone else fault like a bad busy boy or a cook who didn’t cook their food properly or food runner giving them the wrong plate, and you’re always working horrible hours either closing and opening the next day, working holidays with no compensation and night shifts every friday and saturday night when most waiters/waitresses are in their late teens early 20′s working the nights their friends are out having a good time. It’s a horrible job and people only do it cause it pays very well. If it didn’t pay well, you would find other work that was much easier.

130 Noah M August 9, 2010 at 10:03 am

Man, some of the people here have real contempt for people in the services industries. What’s up with that? The places I’ve gone to and decided I liked, I’ve tipped accordingly, and when I’ve gone back, I’ve gotten excellent service. And when you make a good relationship with someone in the service industry, you might get great deals. A group of friends and I showed up to a tapas bar once, and one in the group knew our waitress. We ended up getting a couple pitches of margaritas, beer, and some snacks, and the tab turned out to be only $18 — we were pretty much just charged for a margarita pitcher. We probably tipped 100% for being hooked up like that, but when we go back there (without the one of us who’s friends with the waitress), excellent service is now the norm.

Another thing. If you’ve had very poor service, don’t leave a tip of zero — the waiter/waitress might not think their service is poor; they might think that you forgot, or you’re a rude and entitled customer (and trust, they’ve encountered plenty of those). If you leave a quarter, I think they’re probably more likely to get the message.

131 Anna August 12, 2010 at 8:37 pm

I make sure to always tip in cash. I know a few restaurants whose policy is to split a tip placed on a credit card among all the employees working. Also, if it’s on the credit card, they have to tax it.

If the service was really great or even if I just see that the waiter is really trying, I usually write a note at the top of the receipt.

132 Dusto August 16, 2010 at 4:59 pm

i’m not sure if its like this in all of europe, but in germany, you round to the next dollar, or euro, and the added change is the tip

133 DREWTW August 20, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Dear AOM, as a long time waiter for a restaurant, (whose name i wont mention but i will say it’s a factory that produces cheescakes) THANK YOU for this post!

134 Johnnyboy October 2, 2012 at 11:02 pm

You forgot to mention why it is called “TIPS”:
To Insure Prompt Service!

135 Chris October 4, 2012 at 10:27 am

I worked my way through university in an independant pizza shop as a cook, delivery driver and occasionally waiter.

As a resident of Nova Scotia, Canada there is a base minimum wage that any business can pay, but the tipping customs are much like the US.

It pained me to see the waitstaff banking double or more what I was paid because they carried food to a table. The worst was waitstaff who complained when customers didn’t tip for a pick-up order. Seriously? All you had to do was walk a bag from the kitchen to the front counter.

Personally, I tip based directly on extra service. If the waiter didn’t add anything to my experience of dining at a restaurant, I don’t see why I should add to their pay.

As for anyone who complains that the wages are small in relation to the work required, there is a simple answer; The skill set required is minimal. There are millions of people out there who can write down orders and carry food to tables.

The few who can hold a conversation with any customer or recommend a wine to go with a dish, or adjust their personality to suit their clients, are the ones who deserve extra compensation.

And as per any profession, the best at their jobs tend to make more money, either by making their value known to their employers or by moving into more lucrative positions.

136 Vinit October 8, 2012 at 9:47 am

It would have been awesome if the article would have mentioned something about HOW to tip. Being younger than my servers almost always, I’m usually very shy about tipping when the tip has to be handed to someone directly. Any advice?

137 Hairyboy October 14, 2012 at 5:22 pm

I live in Australia – we don’t tip – often round the bill to the nearest 5 or 10 but tips aren’t the done thing…that said wait staff here make $16+ an hour.
However when i travel abroad i am never sure whom or how much to tip and prior to this article would just double the tax that appeared on the bill…looks like I’ve overtipped some and under tipped others…whoops

138 Howard Burkhart October 21, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Can someone explain to me why the tip percentage should change? When I was a child the tip % was 10, and a cup of coffee was $.25. Now coffee is much more, but so is the tip %. As prices for goods and services have risen, the servers have also gotten a raise, even at the same 10%. Who decided that the tip % should rise, and why didn’t patrons just SAY NO?

139 Howard Burkhart October 21, 2012 at 11:12 pm

As someone who has had many careers over the years, and dealt with legislation, two suggestions: 1) if you feel the current pay system, as allowed by law is unfair (less than minimum wage, etc.) then get legislators to change it; 2) if you’re unhappy about what you make, leave the career and find something else to do. Low wages are typically a reaction by employers to an oversupply of workers for the demand, or to low skills required to do the work. If you stay where you are and gripe about it, you have only yourself to blame.

140 UK tipping November 23, 2012 at 5:14 am

Let me add some insight into tipping in the united kingdom. At a restaurant typical is 10 percent although many places recommend twelve and a half. Taxis you would round up a couple of pounds or just not tip at all. These are the only times a tip is normal.

141 Conor November 23, 2012 at 12:12 pm

I have always wondered what to tip Chinese buffet “waitors” that just bring you drinks and the check. I usually put nothing down, because I got all the food, but then again they bring the drinks and take away the dirty dishes. I think they should get something but not 15-20%. What do you guys think?

142 Bob November 25, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Great article.

I do feel compelled to make an observation that contradicts the higher tip = better service in a restaurant: Higher tipping in an establishment that I frequent has led to servers sitting down at my table and sharing their life/love stories, etc. While I appreciate the ‘friendliness’, this somewhat of a nuisance as I am there to share dinner with my wife, not the server……

143 Mark November 29, 2012 at 9:52 am

Tipping isn’t a big deal if you do and is a big deal if you don’t. I bartend and it is suprising to find out how many people think you don’t have to tip the bartender because they might make more hourly. tip the bartender, he makes your drinks, pours your wine and beer, hopefully the right way. It is skilled labor paid hourly accounting for assumed tips.

Many times people sit a the bar and wait for their table to be ready; cash out at the bar for your drinks or tip appropriately for the services provided if the bill is transfered. If a group sits at my bar while waiting and has a cocktail, glass of wine or beer while waiting and just moves to the table, I see no taste of tip from the server. Even if nothing is ordered and I just put a glass of water for you, personally i do not expect a tip, but if i get just $1 it is greatly appreciated, also I sense your grattitude. Keep in mind, if you ask to sit at the bar and order nothing while waiting for a table, that takes up room for the bartender to make money from diners who choose the bar for their experience.

People should sit at the bar more, you get a little conversation if you express that desire, great service (bartender’s always behind the bar to see your plate or drink is empty) and I make my bar guests drink first, plus you may learn a little something.

144 Mark November 30, 2012 at 9:52 am

In regards to tipping for beer:

145 Dan Smith November 30, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Thank you very much for the helpful post!
Small question though, I have trouble knowing what to say when tipping in certain situations. For example, when tipping a waitor, simply placing the tip in the tray will suffice, but what should one say exactly when tipping a pizza delivery man? Clearly something needs to be said, as opposed to leaving the tip on a table. What would be the best thing to say, without overdoing the compliments (considering that a pizza was simply handed to me, and assuming no particuarly oustanding service, just what is expected / the norm).

A helpful tip would be much appreciated! :)

Thank you,

146 Richard December 4, 2012 at 8:31 am

A few other notes…

Hotel housekeeping staff may change during the week. The people who tidied up your room on Friday may not be the same people who tidied up on Sunday. Leave your $5-$10 tip *each day*. I place mine on my pillow when I’m leaving the room in the morning.

In general, if the service was so bad as to compel you to stiff a person on the tip, instead you should quietly ask to see the manager as you are leaving. Explain to them exactly what dissatisfied you so much, and they should take steps to correct it. The waiter (or whoever) will often have no clue as to what went wrong (and will probably just dismiss you as a cheapskate), and the next customers will get the same lousy service.

Likewise, if you get truly exceptional service, you should also let management know (in addition to leaving a *huge* tip)!

147 Ben December 10, 2012 at 4:59 pm

One thing the article missed, it is not customary to tip the owner of the establishment. For example, if your barber owns the shop, he is assumed to be making any profits generated, and thus it is not necessary to tip.

The biggest unanswered question is, when eating at a buffet where you also get your own drink and throw away your own (paper) dishes, do you need to tip? I tend to throw a buck in the tip jar every few visits, since there is not really much service that occurs.

148 Johnathan February 24, 2013 at 2:06 am

A note on tipping for pizza delivery: The delivery charge is not an automatic gratuity. The delivery drivers usually get little or none of that money.

149 John Morgan March 20, 2013 at 1:22 am

I have two things to add, both from mens etiquette books I’ve read in the past.

1. I’ve read and have been told that you generally make a percentage tip based on the pre-tax amount of the bill; though, as the article has said, it does not hurt to tip more.

2. I’d have to find the book again, but I believe Essential Manners for Men by Peter Post (related to the famous etiquette expert of yore, Emily Post), mentioned tipping bartenders a dollar per drink, which is higher than the percentage tip for most drinks.

150 Matt Rieke March 20, 2013 at 10:31 am

I really like to leave a 15% tip on a tab when I go out to eat. I always pay with a card but I know it gets going to get taxed. I slip in extra cash to bring the tip up to somewhere around 25%. The waiter can pocket that extra 10% and have no problems with getting in trouble because they have documentation of only getting a 15% tip. It also really makes up for when they get a small or no tip from another customer.

151 Bob Collins March 20, 2013 at 10:47 am

Very good, very helpful article on a topic where there’s lots of confusion. I do believe the wage laws should be changed (and I’ve nagged my state legislators voraciously and will continue to), but I’ll still tip until the laws are changed. Also, I believe strongly in giving, in addition to the money-tip, a review tip in the case of very good service. Oftentimes, the comment card, survey, or simple note is placed in the employee’s file and will be part of the manager’s considerations about advancement. I’ve even gone on chain websites to brag on a couple of “stars” who’ve clearly been outstanding in their jobs.
Vinit: If the server is older than you (or even if not) simply say, “Thank you, Sir (or Ma’am)” as you hand the tip to them. Make eye contact, and smile.
Conor: I’ve asked some of the table servers at buffet establishments what is best, and I’ve always been told that a dollar or two is about right for keeping glasses filled and dirty plates taken away.
Dan Smith: The pizza delivery person is one who ALWAYS gets a better tip from me because they really go out of their way to serve me. As to how to give the tip, look ‘em in the eye, put the tip with the payment, and say, “Thanks Dude! (or Dudette), be safe!”

152 Ed White March 21, 2013 at 11:12 am

Great tips. ;-)

I’ll add two points…
1) While I’ve never tipped nurses cash, there are ways to ‘tip’ to show appreciation. It gets you better service and rewards those who did a job above and beyond. I have brought in a tray of breakfast pastries for nurses, for instance, or given flowers to a particular one, or left a restaurant and instructed a waitress to put a serviceman’s meal on my charge. It doesn’t always have to be ‘cash in hand’.
2) Many times, such as at the tattoo that was mentioned above, the service provider is not on an hourly wage and the money charged is split between them and the shop owner (in varying degrees of percentages). The tip is usually there’s and there’s alone and how they make more than the next guy that was just ‘mailing it in’. Additionally, if the person providing the service is the owner / operator (such as a stylist that owns a shop vs one who works at it), many times a tip is not necessary as they are getting the entire fee charged.

153 Rick March 23, 2013 at 1:23 am

Wow. I must be grossly undertipping. Undertipping my tattoo artists I’ve used. I’ll have to remember that, nothing’s more important than permanent ink. Towing? Never occurred to me. Ditto mailman/ups/fedex/garbage. Garbage?? They’re city employees with government benefits who pick up my can with a mechanical arm…. is that really considered customary? My own wages are just now maybe on a par with UPS. I suppose I need to think about the bottled water service, now. Always try to tip waitresses well as its common knowledge they make far less than min. wage, unless they are absolutely abysmal and have a bad attitude, kitchen messups/slow food/etc aren’t considered their fault and they should not be punished for that.. Hairdresser? She never charges enough, anyway- tip extra well especially holidays.

I used to clean carpets for a living, sometimes I’d get tipped, but not usually, and it never really bothered me not to be tipped, I didn’t consider it a required thing, though I’d be lying if I denied the occasional tip brightened my day, and there were one or two regulars who always tipped, always try to do extra for them, but that was just as much because they were good customers (nice, courteous, appreciative, and non-combative) as the fact they tipped, in fact tipping just made me slightly uncomfortable, especially if I’d done nothing special for it. Much more valuable to me were customers that were plain nice people that I didn’t have to dread going to.

154 Edmund March 23, 2013 at 1:52 am

Does one tip after each drink, or after finishing however many drinks he has?

155 bob March 23, 2013 at 8:01 am

When I am at a hotel , I leave a tip on a piece of paper marked “tip for housekeeping” , so they know it is for them .,

156 Bob March 23, 2013 at 8:16 am

Tipping is an escalated scam. 10% of the bill used to be the accepted practice. Then it jumped to 12, then 15% ostensibly to compensate for inflation. But this reasoning ignores the fact that the bill itself has increased. Some restaurants now charge 20% and the tip has morphed into a service fee that completely ignores the quality of service. In addition, the fee is not mentioned on the menu or otherwise and a sales tax is calculated including the service fee.

157 Charlie March 23, 2013 at 12:00 pm

You really needn’t tip on the tax part of the bill.

158 OGRE March 23, 2013 at 12:03 pm

re restaurant server wages:

I’ve worked in restaurants for a long time, been in every position, and now currently am a part owner and manager in one.

1. Servers DO make minimum wage. It is illegal not to pay them minimum wage. They are not paid 2.13 an hour. What does happen is that the store can claim a tip credit up to 5.12 an hour against their wages. But the server must be working in a position in which they can receive tips (i.e. not a cleaning shift, staff meeting, etc) and they must actually receive enough tips to cover the tip credit. Otherwise the tip credit can not be taken, or it can only be taken partially. Also, the server can not be performing more than 20% of his/her time on sidework or other non-tipped work. IN NO CIRCUMSTANCES can the server be allowed to earn less than minimum wage.

2. Servers are taxed on their actual tips. There is no “taxed on 12%” or anything like that. That is for reporting purposes only, if the IRS sees that a restuarants servers are reporting under 8% tips in sales then it sends off a red flag to the IRS that all is not well at that business. But that is all that happens. The server is only taxed on the tips that are actually reported as being earned…never on some estimated amount based on sales.

Sorry for being a grumpy gus on this, but the disinformation I see about server wages and taxes gets to me. I know servers want their tips, I’ve waited tables plenty myself, but I don’t need to spread falsehoods in order to make people feel sorry for me so that I can get better tips. Just want to clear the air on that is all…

159 Robert March 24, 2013 at 10:49 pm

I have an Aunt that is fairly well off. She always tips a minimum of $50. It is amazing the service she gets! We stopped by a little cafe that she frequents. We got the best table and excellent service. It was quite a show. When I was younger I didn’t realize I was supposed tip other than in restaurants. I wish I could go back and make it right.

160 connie March 25, 2013 at 5:56 pm

OK so I have a very nice boyfriend who worked as a cook/chef in his family businesses and for whatever reason he is a minimally adequate (15% or close to) tipper, despite going to expensive places to eat. I as a former waittress would be so impressed and relieved if he would tip better, but hate to bring it up outright. Maybe I should just add a few bucks to the tip? It’s awkward when he pays by credit card. Any tactful suggestions? I don’t get a good look at the bill, usually, but last time I contributed toward the bill itself so I knew what it was. I am poor but maybe the answer is just to insist I pay for the tip. He says no but maybe he’d let me if I act like I really want to and can afford to. Then he’d see that I believe in being generous. Best thing is just to eat at home.

161 Sam March 26, 2013 at 11:40 am

I was a bartender and agree with most of what is here. As a result of my earlier career, I consider myself a generous tipper.
Here is an interesting “other” view of tipping. I read an article about corruption and bribery and how common it is in various countries. “Tipping” is viewed as bribery in many places (Scandinavia, etc). The US is about 1/2 down the corruption scale worldwide. India is closer to the bottom and there one has to pay a tip (or bribe) to school teachers to get them to provide tests and grade students rather than simply outright failing kids. All government forms submitted require a “tip” to see that it doesn’t get sent to the trash can. In many countries that don’t operate on a tip system, leaving money on the bar or table will prompt a waiter running after you to return the change that you forgot!

Just an observation!

162 brainiac3397 March 30, 2013 at 7:44 pm

I never tip the regular amount required. I have a terrible habit of overtipping.(not that I mind). I once tipped $10 for the $5 dollar I spent. I didnt get to see the waitresses face when she went to pick up her tip though.

163 JR April 5, 2013 at 12:02 am

I worked at a lumber yard (a local lumber yard, not home depot/lowes) during high school making minimum wage. I loaded hundreds of boards into people’s trucks at a time, searched through entire units of lumber for the perfectly strait and knotless board for housewives, made every cut in a guy’s baseboard because he didn’t own a miter saw, swapped 200 pieces of trex for a different color for some dude, etc.

Nobody tipped. Contractors, homeowners, boy scouts (who we gave free wood to and loaded it for them), nobody. We still did our job. It’s not like we could load one less 2×4 or cut a board 1/2″ too short, we still did a good job.

Over the two years I worked there, I only got tipped once. It was $2 and it made my week just to see that someone appreciated the help I gave them.

So I have kind of a unique relationship with tipping: I always tip because I know how important it is, but I am tired of hearing restaurant workers complain about tipping issues and how it affects your level of service. Everyone should do a good job all the time, regardless of the customer. And you should definitely tip the guy who helps you load up a few sheets of plywood or a couple 2x4s at home depot.

164 jaime May 4, 2013 at 7:31 am

any suggestions for adventure guides? fishing charters? instructors for surfing, kiteboarding, etc.

165 CassieAlex May 17, 2013 at 2:27 am

If you’re serving UK customers, you might want to casually hint at a tip beforehand (something along the lines of: “would you like me to add a tip to your bill?”, or leaving the total line blank on the machine will be taken by many as a polite hint), because in England, tipping is not only less usual, but in some cases it is actually considered inappropriate or weird at best to tip, often it’s actually kind of offensive… most of the time a UK ‘stingy’ tourist, will have simply not thought of it, or be worried of causing offence.

It’s not as customary to tip in the UK as the minimum wage is £6.31 ($9.66 so more than 3 times as much as in the USA) per hour and most earn more.

Taxis: don’t need to be tipped, but a lot of people will pay in notes only and tell them to keep the change. If they have loaded and unloaded your luggage for you or done something else helpful, then you should tip.

Waitresses and other food service: if there is a tip jar, you should put something in to match or raise, not everyone does, but unless the service was noticeably below average, you probably should. (Don’t put a couple of copper coins into a jar with 1 and 2 pound coins(1.5-2 dollars apiece) but feel free to put silvers in a jar filled mainly with coppers.

With takeaway in the UK, if you collect it DON’T TIP unless there is a jar, it’s kind of inappropriate, some people might be okay with it, but most would be either bewildered or offended….. If they bring it to you, tipping is optional, telling them to keep the change from a £10 note for an £8.50 order is fine, alternatively just tip a small amount. If you make a really big order, or you need them to help you carry it because you can’t balance everything(kind of a faux-pas, but easily rectified with a nice tip) you should tip, even if only a little.

Restaurants fall into different categories:
Fast-food: Tip jar if they have one, otherwise no tip, it is weird/inappropriate to tip in this situation.
Casual (no dedicated waiter or waitress): Tip jar, or not usually more than a pound or two per person if in a group, if alone 2-3 pounds unless you ordered a lot, if you intend it for a specific person, hand it to them, otherwise anyone who waited your table.

Any restaurant where you/your group have your own waiter/waitress who is the one who brings you things and takes your order etc. 10+%, just the service charge, or service charge plus extra.

If ‘Service not included’ is anywhere, that’s a polite request for a tip, ~10%
Don’t tip bartenders you don’t know, if you’ve had the same one on several visits and you want to tip (it’s pretty unusual) when you order, say and ‘one for yourself’, this is a tip of about a pound (generally) if they’re allowed to drink on the job, they could have a drink instead.

I don’t tip by card, and will often ask to pay the automatic service charge, plus a little extra tip in cash (there isn’t always a service charge and it might not be optional).

Basically, you intend to tip the person/people who served you, however, the restaurant can, and some do, keep up to 100% of the tip you put on your card for that nice waiter who was incredibly helpful.

If there is a service charge that IS the tip, if the service is mediocre, don’t tip on top, if the service is not bad, don’t feel obligated, if the waiter was incredibly helpful or you have a wailing baby, or an unpleasant friend with you, you should tip.

Cash handed to a waiter, or clearly intended for them is their legal property, so they are guaranteed to get the tip they earned.

Also, tipping isn’t always expected, I tend to just stick some in the jar in casual situations, or tell them to keep the change, at a high-class restaurant, you should probably tip at least 10%.

If it’s someone who performs a regular service and you’re not sure if it’s appropriate to tip, the occasional gift card to somewhere popular/you know they use fills in the gap between gift, bonus. and tip very conveniently. It’s appropriate for pretty much anyone who works for you on a regular basis, especially if they put a lot of effort in. (housekeeper, babysitters, delivery people……)

Tour guides that say: “I hope you enjoyed your tour.” and don’t immediately hurry off, generally want a tip.

Hairdressers, 10%, other people like masseurs/masseuses generally aren’t tipped.

166 kelso January 22, 2014 at 2:23 am

dont forget your cable guy, if you have em do some off the wall job that takes extra time and they bust their ass, slide them a 5. i hate when some guy wants me to do some rediculous thing and its going to take hours extra to get it done, and then theyre a prick about it.

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