How Much To Tip? Best Practices In 10 Common Situations

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There are no set-in-stone rules for tipping, but tips are always expected and appreciated in which workers are paid the minimum either per hour or by commissions. The workers you tip are serving you in some compacity and by tipping them, you are showing respect for their help.

According to a recent US Consumer Reports survey of over 1,000 American adults, 27% noticed an increase in tipping situations compared to a couple of years ago. And with the increase in tipping situations, there is even more confusion regarding the process.

It’s important to know how much to tip. Underpaying can create a lack of service while overpaying can affect your wallet. We can help you be confident in common tipping situations and show you when it’s appropriate to be generous if you have the funds.

Why do I have to tip?

Tipping is not required; it is a personal choice that you make when someone serves you. By choosing to tip you are encouraging the service worker to consistently excel at their job while providing the money they need to live independently or raise a family.

In a perfect world, service workers would be paid a fair wage for their work. Unfortunately, for example, the current average wage of a general food service worker is under $12. Other services such as delivery drivers and valet workers earn less than minimum wage. The low hourly amount is not considered a livable wage in the United States and therefore voluntary tips are requested to make up the difference.

Yes, the system is flawed. While a server has the potential to make an unlimited amount of money serving you food through tips, line cooks often make minimum wage with no tip option. However, if you have a bad experience or bad food, its best to speak with the manager directly. The manager or owner can offer a discount or free meal to compensate for your bad experience. Use this method instead of simply not leaving a tip.

While you may think it’s unfair that the price of your takeout or morning coffee continues to rise, keep in mind that any extra profit generally goes into the owner’s hands and not the employees who prepare it.

How do I calculate a tip?

The easiest way to leave a 15-20% tip is to use the doubles method. This is a great way to leave a fair tip without trying to complete math equations or downloading a fancy tip calculator on your mobile phone.

The first way to determine a tip is to double your bill and move the decimal point. For example, if your meal total is $15, take $15 times two ($30), and then move the decimal point once to the left. Your tip will be $3 or 20%.

You can also double the tax. Keep in mind this can vary widely depending on the tax rate in your location. For example, if your bill is $15 and the tax is 8%, your total tax would be $1.20. Double the tax ($1.20) and your total tip would be $2.40 or 16% of your bill. In this example, doubling the tax results in a lower tip, however, if the tax rate was higher you may end up giving more using this method.

What is the standard tip?

The standard tip across the board is 15% to 20%. You should also consider tipping more if you requested more service than usual, your pizza guy drove through a rain/snow storm, or your kids left a mess that only caution tape could cure.

Take a few minutes before you go out to eat or travel to think about the amount of money you will need to tip. Add the amount you are comfortable tipping to the total cost. Can you still afford to go out or take that trip? Don’t skimp on the tip or you may notice a dip in service.

Even when given a standard range, it can cause anxiety to tip in certain situations.  You don’t want to look cheap, but you don’t want to spend all your discretionary income tipping either. Instead of avoiding restaurants, letting your hair grow wild, or hitchhiking versus calling an Uber, consider using our tip guide below for everyday tipping suggestions.

10 Common Tipping Situations and How Much to Tip

1. Restaurant Server

10% to 25%

When dining in a restaurant, it’s important to tip your server for a job well done. Keep in mind they are probably earning less than minimum wage and your tip contributes to their overall pay.

Servers are responsible for getting your food out to you hot and fresh from the kitchen. They also provide drink refills, handle special dietary requests, and take your food back to the kitchen if it’s improperly prepared.

Tip generously when you are impressed with the service. Servers who are paid well and have a loyalty to the restaurant have less turnover, which can provide a better overall experience.

2. Bartender

$1 per drink in cash or 15%-20% if paying with a card

If you are going out for drinks, chances are you won’t just be having one. When tipping a bartender, it’s important to carry a few small bills. You can tip on the card when your tab is complete, but having a few dollars in cash to tip your bartender after the first round will ensure you have a better overall experience.

If tipping in cash, a general rule of thumb is to leave $1 for every drink. If you are drinking in an upscale bar, consider leaving $2 per drink. If you must tip on your card, tip 15% to 20% of the total bill.

Tip generously if you order a specialty drink that requires time and knowledge to prepare. Also, consider tipping more if you frequent the same bar and go there often because you like the service.

3. Barista

$1 to $3 depending on the complexity and quantity of order

While you can get away with not tipping your barista, at least 20% of their salary is based on the tips they receive. Leaving $1-$3 or even your spare change from your order is acceptable.

Think about it this way, most of us don’t order a black cup of coffee at our favorite coffee shop. We order it with extra pumps of caffeine, whip cream, or milk alternatives and our day would certainly get off on the wrong foot if the drink was botched.

Tip generously if you order a specialty drink or you are a regular customer.

4. Food Delivery

$3 to $5, or 20% if ordering for a large party 

You have your food brought to your front door because you don’t have time or want to put in the effort to pick it up yourself. It should be easy for us to give up a few dollars for this convenient service.

Most delivery drivers earn less than minimum wage and some even pay for their gas. Your driver isn’t required to have a pleasant conversation with you or even greet you, but they still drive to the restaurant, make sure your food doesn’t shift or get cold in transit and bring it to your front door so you don’t even have to change out of your comfy clothes.

Tip generously when a delivery charge is not already included or they have to brave bad weather to get your food delivered on time.

5. Hairdresser

10% to 25% depending on the complexity and cost of the service

Tipping a hairdresser or barber can be stressful, especially since it’s more complicated than dropping a $1 bill into a jar. While most people tip for hair services, it’s not required. However, if you plan on using the same hairdresser, tipping can build a better relationship between the two of you. Tipping lets the hairdresser know you like their service and appreciate their hard work.

If you are going to a hairdresser for the first time, 10%-15% is the norm. However, going to a new hairdresser is a delicate process in itself as you may not like the result. If the final cut is less than stellar, as awkward as it may be, let your hairdresser know. Tipping is common if you like your haircut/style to help establish a positive relationship. Only tip on the high side if you are planning on coming back though.

If you have a favorite hairdresser and request them each time you need a haircut (or emergency hair surgery after you have tried to DIY box color your hair), 20%-25% tip is the goal you should shoot for. Again, if you always tip your hairdresser 20%, but you have a mediocre experience, communicate it instead of not leaving a tip. Any reputable salon should agree to help fix the issue at no cost.

Salon helpers deserve tips too. If you have a separate hair washer or color assistant, $5 to $20 is suggested. The amount varies depending on the level of service and how much time they spend on your hair.

Tip generously if you have been going to your hairdresser for a long time or they spent a long time (over 1-2 hours) on your hair.

6. Masseuse

10% to 20% of the service cost 

Before tipping at a spa, check to see if your services are all-inclusive or a tip has already been added to the final bill (common for destination spas). You can also ask the front desk about tipping policies if you are unsure.

A masseuse who works for a spa only receives a portion of the cost of the massage. If you liked the treatment, tip 20%. Bonus points if you tip in cash. Cash tips can be taken home the same day. If you tip on a credit card, a masseuse will likely have to wait until the spa adds the tip to his or her regular pay.

Tipping in cash can be more cumbersome at a spa where you are changing in and out of a robe and may not be near your handbag. Try seeking out a tipping envelope inside the spa when you arrive or use the pocket of your robe to hold cash so you can offer the tip at the end of the session.

Tip generously when you are pleased with the service.

7. Manicurist/Pedicurist

10% to 20% of the service cost

While the average nail technician makes more than minimum wage, they are also shelling out a significant amount of money for tools, equipment, supplies, and salon booth rentals. These hidden costs can affect their livable wage, which increases the need for tips.

The average cost of a pedicure is under $40, and a manicure $20. Even if you splurged for both services (assuming no discount for the combo), an acceptable tip range would be $6-$12.

Tip generously when you receive both services, your feet and hands need extra care, and with the addition of nail art.

8. Movers

$10 to $40 per person

In the United States alone, over 35 million people move each year. Moving companies don’t include tips in their quotes so tipping is appreciated (especially after 3 flights of stairs).

You can use a percentage method to tip movers (10% – 20%). However, using this method generally requires more math and a lump sum that is handed over to the foreman or manager of the move. Tipping each mover in cash directly ensures that each person receives 100% of the tip and it is divided equally.

Tip generously when the move requires multiple flights of stairs, an abundance of heavy items, when fragile items like family heirlooms are properly taken care of, or the movers correctly followed detailed specialty instructions.

9. Taxis and Rideshare

10% to 20% of the total fare

If you are using a traditional taxi service, 10% to 20% of the total fare is common. Keep in mind this percentage applies to the United States, some other countries do not tip service workers.

Rideshare services were created with an all-inclusive mindset with no need to tip. However, currently, the major rideshare services such as Uber, Lyft, and Fasten, all have in-app tipping features that allow you the opportunity to tip your driver anonymously after your trip is complete.

Tip generously if your driver knew the best route, helped you with bags or luggage or provided an exceptional experience.

10. Valet Parking

$2 to $5 (drop-off and pick-up)

If you have never valet parked before or have and are still confused about what to tip, you are not alone. Using a valet service can be free or paid. Valets make an average of $4 an hour and rely on tips to make a livable wage.

You may think tipping the valet only when retrieving your car is necessary. However, tipping is requested both when you drop off the car and when you retrieve it. You may have a different valet for each service, and the only way to ensure they both get a tip is to tip them separately.

Preferential treatment is often given to people who tip a valet above and beyond. Even if a parking garage is full, a large tip might just secure you a spot.

Tip generously when you are driving a luxury car, you forget something in your car that a valet has to retrieve, you lost your claim ticket, or when you prefer a specific parking area or spot.

You can’t go wrong tipping too much.

Don’t view tipping as a requirement but more as a responsibility. Always consider how much to tip on top of the service you are receiving to calculate the total cost.

Put yourself in their shoes. Whether you have worked in the service industry or not, keep in mind how little most service workers make. If you appreciate their hard work, tipping is the best form of acknowledgment.

Regardless of the service, the amount you tip says a lot about you. Give generously when you can afford it. A kind tip respects the service worker and provides an overall better experience for both.