How much should I tip? Should a tip be a percentage of the total price? Should it be based on service? And who gets tipped and exactly how much? If you have any of those questions, we have answers.
Photo credit: franckreporter/iStock/360/Getty Images

Everyone wonders how much they should tip. Is it based on percentage? On service? And who gets tipped and exactly how much? We asked etiquette experts and the people on the tipping receiving end to find out if you're over or under tipping and what you need to do about it.

Maryanne Parker is the owner of Manor of Manners, a company for business, social and youth etiquette located in San Diego, California. As a mother of two young children, she is very passionate about contributing to society by making it a better and more pleasant place for all of us through etiquette, civility and good manners.

^Parker explains that there are three reasons why we tip:

  1. To show appreciation to the person who provides the great service and makes us happy doing so.
  2. To close the wage gap; many people work for very low wages in the service-providing industries.
  3. To secure an excellent service in the future.

Now the questions we've all been asking — who do we tip and how much?

Barista, ice cream scooper and smoothie maker

SUGGESTED TIP: SPARE CHANGE-$1

These treats can be hard to serve and are always a pleasure to receive. But are they tip worthy? Etiquette expert Constance Dunn is author of the presentation handbook Practical Glamour. She says, "If your order is complicated or numerous, a dollar tossed in the tip jar is a welcome acknowledgement of their effort. Likewise, if you are a regular customer and are consistently given good service, an occasional tip will pay dividends in terms of ensuring that good service continues. But tossing a dollar into the tip jar each time you order a simple cup of coffee is a sure way to erode your disposable income." And DeVault says, "It seems like all these types of establishments have tip jars nowadays. Spare change is always appreciated."

Bartender

SUGGESTED TIP: $1 PER COCKTAIL

Busy nights at the bar mean your bartender is working (really) hard. Etiquette experts agree that this is a time when your wait time isn't a reflection of bad service and therefore shouldn't dictate your tipping amount. Dunn says, "Tip bartenders $1 per cocktail. If a bartender is particularly busy and takes longer than usual to deliver your drink, don't withhold a tip based on this alone. The issue of understaffing is typically beyond a bartender's control." DeVault's opinion is that the bartender's tip should be similar to what you would tip at any restaurant. She says, "Tip 15 to 20 percent of your bill."

Home service

SUGGESTED TIP: $2-$10

Service at home is beyond helpful and makes everything from errands to dinner more smooth. Your tips should reflect your gratefulness and the service you received. Manor says, "Tip the person who delivers your pizza or other food 10-15 percent or $2-$5. They make our lives easier. For grocery delivery, tip the same based on the service. If someone helps you outside the store, $2-$3 tips are appreciated. And if it's a home delivery, you can increase the tip. The grocery store charges you a delivery fee, but the proper etiquette suggests for you to be generous and tip the grocery helper as well. Between $5- $10 is appropriate."

Hotels

SUGGESTED TIP: $2 PER SERVICE

If you're staying at a hotel for more than one day, there are likely several people who make your stay a good one. Show your appreciation — and ensure quality service — by tipping per service. Manor says, "Housekeeping is very essential for a pleasant stay in any hotel, so it's good etiquette to leave a couple of dollars on the pillow with a small note to thank the housekeeping staff. You should leave $2 per day, because the staff changes daily." Nicole DeVault is a certified etiquette and protocol consultant in New York City who served as the Etiquette and Protocol Consultant at the Plaza Hotel, in New York City for several years. She believes that we all value the person who is polite and simply knows how to make others feel good and that this is what etiquette is really all about. For your hotel housekeeper, DeVault says, "Leave tips in an envelope marked, 'housekeeping.' Write thank you on the envelope or on a card with a line or two of appreciation. $2-$5 per day is an appropriate amount."

Manor adds, "Tip the hotel bellman $4-$5 per bag. And I suggest you tip before rather than after, but either way works. If you utilize the expertise of the hotel concierge, they do play a pretty important role — they arrange your transportation and dinner reservations and they can give you great inside tips as to which places to visit and which ones to skip. You can tip the concierge between $5-$10. And if you order room service, consider this similar to restaurant service, you should tip them 15 percent on the bill. Check if gratuity is included. Usually it is, and if so, you can leave an additional $2."

Housekeeper

SUGGESTED TIP: $0

Housekeepers help our households run smoothly and they're a service provider whom we see regularly and want to show our appreciation and create a positive working relationship with. But are tips necessary in order to do this? Dunn says no. She explains, "Beyond prompt payment for services rendered, and in cash if you can, no gratuity is expected beyond a thoughtful gift at holidays and on his or her birthday. A practical item, such as a gift card to their favorite store or restaurant, is a smart choice."

Movers

SUGGESTED TIP: $0-$30

Movers work extremely hard, but are also well paid. Do we tip on this service? Dunn says, "A tip isn't expected, although it's thoughtful to offer a cash gratuity to individuals who have gone the extra mile, such as handling precious or particularly bulky cargo. If your moving team is working swiftly and handling your items with care, be a good egg and buy them a healthful and tasty lunch." And Manor says, "This is a hard job and we should tip the movers based on the work they did, especially if they were really careful with our belongings. If there are two people doing the job, $25-$30 each is appropriate."

Pet groomer

SUGGESTED TIP: $0 - 20 percent OF THE BILL

This is a paid service for someone who works hard to take care of your precious cargo. Do you tip them? Manor suggests, "Try to tip the staff around 15 to 20 percent. More if your beautiful pet will be returning there often."

Restaurants

SUGGESTED TIP: 20 percent OF THE TOTAL BILL, dependent on SERVICE AND TIME AT THE TABLE

Tipping etiquette at restaurants ranges from 20 percent as a flat rule to service-based personal discretions. Here's what our experts have to say. Manor says, "We usually tip (pre-tax) 10 percent for mediocre service, 15 percent for good service and 20 percent plus for excellent service. The thing is, if the service is really bad, there's no obligation to tip the waiter. In many good restaurants in the U.S., we have a so-called gratuity or a tip already included into your bill. So, check if there's a gratuity included into the bill. If the service is great, you still may leave an additional tip — it's completely up to you. If the service is really bad, well, I suggest you speak to the manager. Your money, your way."

Adeodata Czink owns the oldest international etiquette consultancy in Toronto, Business of Manners. Czink agrees with Manor that tipping in a restaurant should be based on how good the service is, but adds one more thing to consider: how long you stay at your table. Czink says, "If you linger, appreciate that the server cannot make money on your table because you are still sitting there."

And Tanner Agar, the founder and CEO of The Chef Shelf, says, "While I was a server I felt strongly about tipping and I still do today. I will start with the assertion that you should tip 20 percent, which is often common knowledge. Some people feel that they shouldn't be required to tip on wine; after all the server wasn't responsible for making it. This is incorrect. Always tip on wine. You pay for the expertise of your server in aiding your selection whether you consulted them or not. Look beyond 20 percent to the value that the server offered. And always be generous with breakfast servers, they deserve it and it front loads your day with good karma."

Manor adds, "Also consider tipping the coat checker $1-$2 per coat, usually after you pick up your coats and the Maitre D (which means 'head waiter') a generous tip before you are seated. The Maitre D plays a very essential position in our pleasant restaurant experience, finding a nice table with a great view that's close to the window or very secluded, whatever your needs might be. So it's a good idea to start with a good first impression. $10-$20 is appropriate. And musicians in restaurants should receive between $2-$5 tips; if you make a special request, you should tip a little more, between $5-$10."

Salons and spas

SUGGESTED TIP: 20 percent, Dependent on LOCATION, SATISFACTION AND FREQUENCY

Getting haircuts, facials, massages or manicures already feels like a big expenditure, so do you add more to your bill by tipping the people who pamper you? The short answer is, "Yes." Manor says, "Fifteen to 20 percent is a good amount for the people you see to split between each other. But it's always up to you." And DeVault says, "Tip 20 percent of the total cost of the service."

And the long answer includes using your own discretion. Liliana Aranda LE COE is the owner of Mobile Spa for All Skin Types and she agrees with Manor that tipping for salon services is optional saying, "As a business owner, I make sure to say to clients, when the subject comes up, that tipping is optional, appreciated always, but at their discretion. It's important to me as a business owner that I don't assume that they will give gratuity or give the impression that it's required for their service." But she also speaks to if you do choose to tip, considering how you do so. Aranda says, "As a recipient of gratuities, I notice more of my guests asking directly how I wish to receive tips: cash, on the card or by check. I greatly appreciate them giving gratuity and asking at all, since more and more clients are aware of fees I incur when using a credit card reader service. They're more confident tipping with the fee in mind, even though I do not pass that fee on to the client."

And Emily Bilodeau, LMT, is a massage therapist who says whether or not you should tip for beauty services is location dependent. Bilodeau explains, "I'm a licensed massage therapist. I've been in practice for eight years and after the underpants question, this is what my clients most frequently ask. The tricky thing about tipping an LMT is that it's location specific. In a salon or spa environment, you are expected to tip 20 percent — this is formulated into the pay scale, so like a server if we don't make tips, we don't pay our bills. In a clinical setting or private practice, however, tips are not expected. A living wage is factored into our service fees. I've worked in both kinds of tipping environments, and have coached clients through this daily."

Skycaps

SUGGESTED TIP: $1 PER BAG

Traveling is tricky. Do the people who make it smoother for you deserve a tip? Dunn says, "As a baseline, tip a sky cap $1 per bag. If the bag is particularly heavy or awkward (think a surfboard or skis), top off your gratuity with an extra dollar or two. If I am checking only one suitcase at the curb, I typically offer the sky cap $2-3, particularly if he or she offers an additional service, such as detailed instructions to the gate." DeVault agrees, saying, "Tip $1-$2 per bag."

Taxi services

SUGGESTED TIP: 15-20 percent OF THE TOTAL COST

Etiquette experts agree that taxi drivers need to be tipped a percentage of the total cost of the drive. But they do remind you that you should be checking if this tip has already been included in your bill. Dunn explains, "The straightforward days of tipping your yellow cab driver an even 15 percent, more or less, are gone. With Uber, for instance, 20 percent of the metered fare is automatically added to your fare as driver gratuity. If someone orders a car service for you, it's very likely that they've paid the gratuity in advance. Don't be afraid to ask your driver if a gratuity has already been paid, and at what percentage. This way, you can bump up a 10 percent or 15 percent gratuity if you wish." And Manor says, "Always make sure your driver is paid around 15-20 percent."

Tour guides

SUGGESTED TIP: $0-$5 PER PERSON

Tour guides spend the day with you and make your trip what it is. Do you tip them for this service? Dunn says, "For tour guides who provide a personal or all-day service, such as driving you to the best sites on the island, a tip is expected. For group excursions, such as a city bus tour or riverboat cruise, no tip is expected, but it's not unheard of for pleased customers to offer a small cash tip to a guide who has provided a particularly pleasurable or interesting experience." And DeVault adds, "Tip between $1-$5 per person in your group."

Valet parking

SUGGESTED TIP: $5-$10 BEFORE AND $3-$5 AFTER

Most of us tip the valet after we get our car back, but valet experts say we're doing that completely wrong. Ed Ryder's special expertise is valet parking. He did this work for two years and in that time moved at least 10,000 cars. He's the man behind the "Real Valet Control" approach to using valet parking services and he has some thoughts on the right way to utilize valet tipping. Ryder says, "Tipping only at the conclusion of the valet parking transaction isn't the way to go unless you have an established relationship with a particular valet service. Instead, consumers should tip on arrival and departure. I advocate deploying the bulk of the tip when you arrive in order to influence the level of care your car is about to receive. Leave the money on the dash. Make sure the one parking it is the one who gets it... When I was a valet worker, if somebody 'pre-tipped' me, I would park their car in a better, safer spot — with more space around it — to lessen the chances of dings, dents scrapes and scratches. I wanted to give added value to the considerate customer who helped me out. When the car is returned to you, you must do a vehicle damage audit before you get in and drive away. After you verify that no new damage exists, and that nothing else is amiss, then you give a smaller tip as a courtesy. I know of valets getting paid less than $3 an hour. They rely on tips. The tradition is you just tip when you leave. But when you tip like that, the money you give does nothing to undo any lack of care your car received. It's too late. Whatever was done, was done... Effective tipping influences the level of service received. And tipping only on departure is not effective, unless you are a regular.

Last thoughts^ As Dunn says, "Cash is king when it comes to gratuities," but a kind word offered in addition to a tip is always welcomed by busy service people in today's harried world. She adds, "Most service people take pride in their work and should be rewarded with the standard gratuity. However, on the occasion that you receive poor or surly service, remember that a tip is payment for service, and not required when the service has been nil, customs be damned. It's in no one's interest, particularly these days, to reinforce bad public behavior. When it comes to tipping people who you rely on to provide an ongoing service, such as housekeeping or gardening, be conscious of the power of precedent. Once established, the expectation of a regular tip will be difficult to break without engendering sour feelings and no matter where you go, local custom dictates the size and frequency of your tip, so do your research before traveling abroad." And Manor adds, etiquette dictates that in the U.S. we do not tip government workers, the mail man and or our trash pick-up workers. Rather, she advises to show our appreciation around the big holidays.

More on things you need to know

Playdate etiquette in the age of the helicopter parent
Do women apologize too much?
Should you give to the homeless?

Topics: