Best practices for common tipping situations.
Err on the side of generosity. No one ever complained that they received too large a tip. That doesn’t mean just dropping big bills or shaming your companions to tip well over social norms. Still, if you’re wavering between 18 and 20 percent, go for the higher amount, if for no other reason than the fact that it will make you—and your recipient—feel better. And yes, those in service definitely remember how well you tip.
Do as the locals do. Customs surrounding gratuities vary by country and region (particularly when it comes to dining), so it makes sense to check with your local acquaintances as to what is expected. If you’re really not sure, don’t be shy about asking the person you’re considering tipping. More often than not, you’ll get a reasonable answer.
Tip as a reward, not a punishment. You should always have a minimum tip in mind that you dole out for any level of service. In many U.S. states, waiters and bartenders receive far less than the minimum wage, so a tip isn’t merely a bonus—it’s a primary source of income. What’s more, they often share tips with bussers, bartenders and maitres d’hotel. If service was exceptional—or if you made special requests—leave more to show your gratitude. Never stiff or under-tip without explanation. Offer your reasoning to the person in question or his or her supervisor. And don’t blame the messenger: The person you’re under-tipping may not be responsible for your unsatisfactory experience.
Fixed Tips: Most incidental tips are simply a way of saying thank you, and can range from $1 to $5 depending on service levels.
Here are a few examples:
Barista: $1-2, depending on size of order
Coat Check: $1-2 per item upon retrieval
Bellman/Porter: $1 to $2 per bag, $5 minimum
Concierge: $5-$20 depending on the service
Housekeeper: $2 to $5 per night, left daily
Parking Valet: $2 to $5 when your car is retrieved
Percentage Tips: In a few instances, expected tips are based on the size of the bill. While you often hear 15-20 percent bandied about, the truth is that anything short of 20 percent of the pre-tax bill is considered something of a slight. Who falls into this category? Waiters and bartenders, of course, but also taxi drivers, chauffeurs and personal service providers such as hairstylists, barbers and manicurists—including business owners.