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Tipping The Service Industry-Don’t Let Society Tell You How Much To Give

Updated on June 20, 2008

Why Do People Tip?

Most people claim they tip to reward the service person for a job well done, but in reality, most people tip to avoid being thought of as cheap. One poll shows the quality of service actually has very little to do with the amount of money people give at the end of the service. Some people say they might even tip more if they feel they are more financially well off than the person performing the service-a sort of guilty, sympathetic tip. But the proper, and guilt-free way to tip is to give the amount you feel is warranted for the quality of service given. A person in the service industry must legally earn minimum wage or close to it based on a system based on the average amount of tip money a server makes at that particular restaurant. So, a person who chooses to work in the service industry understands his or average take home will fluctuate depending on many factors. If he or she isn't willing to deal with an unstable income, there are other jobs in the service industry requiring the same amount of experience that will yield a more stable paycheck.

Give Only What YOU Feel Is Appropriate

Some people in the service industry say 15% is too low. But I feel if the service was acceptable, and you had a nice meal, there's nothing wrong with 15%. But, if during the meal you had several special requests and the waiter was working overtime to ensure a pleasant experience, let your appreciation show in your tip by leaving more than 15%. Some people use the argument, "What's the big deal between leaving 15% or 20%? A few dollars?" But this argument can put people on a slippery slope; how soon until people are asking, "Well, what's the big deal between tipping 20% or 25%?" until before you know it, you're shelling out a tip equal to half the bill.

If you feel your service left something to be desired, 10% is the proper amount to give. 10% might seem like a big tip for someone whose performance you don't approve of, but by stiffing someone on a tip, you're not just teaching him or her a lesson, you're hurting other people behind the scenes who might have done their jobs exceptionally well. A waiter's tip is often divided up between him, kitchen staff, and the cleaning crew; so even though the waiter might have forgotten your order and later dumped a Coke on your lap, when you sat down, the table was sparkling clean with not a crumb in sight. If you're unhappy about the way your dinner or haircut panned out, don't let your anger be known passive-aggressively in a small tip. Let the manager know why you felt your service was sub par. People won't change the way they do something if they don't know it's being done incorrectly.

How Much Should I Fork Over?

While it may seen there are a lot of rules to remember when it comes to tipping, the standard rule for most tipping situations is 15%. If the service includes handling of additional items, the rule is $1-$2 per item

  • Wait Staff-15%
  • Hairdressers-15%
  • Taxi Drivers-15% + $1 per bag (unless the bag requires special attention, e.g. it is oversized)
  • Valet-$2
  • Bartender-15% or a dollar per drink
  • Manicurist-15%
  • Food Delivery Person-15% (some people argue 10% is sufficient, so it's your call what you feel like giving)

When you're using hotel services, however, the tip should be increased.

  • Concierge-$5 for tickets/reservations
  • Housekeeper-$2-$5 per night depending on the service and the quality of the hotel

Beware of Using a Card To Pay

You should also be aware that some states pay the fee used to process payment with a credit card out of the waiter's tip (usually about 2-4% of the total bill). The fairest way to pay a service bill is with cash, but if you only have a card and you know you live in a state that charges waiters card fees, take that into account, and leave a large enough tip to cover the cost.

Dining With A Large Crowd

When dining out in a large group, the bill may come with tip figured in. If you feel the service was lacking, and you don't agree with the amount of tip calculated, you are not legally required to pay that amount. However, don't just leave a lower tip, speak to the manager and let him or her know why you feel the amount is unfair. He or she might comp part of your bill to make up for the poor service. As mentioned before, no one will know what the problem is unless you speak up. On the other hand, if you feel the service was exceptional, be sure to tell the wait staff as well as the manager. Too often, customers only bother to speak up when something was wrong, and compliments always go farther than complaints. A lot of restaurants have reward systems in place that give a great server a little something extra, like a gift card or a free meal.

Eating Out On Holidays

One of our family traditions is to eat out on holidays. Working on a holiday when you'd rather be out to a nice meal with your family is a bummer. I like to let my wait person know I acknowledge and appreciate the fact he or she is pending part of his or her holiday making sure I have an enjoyable meal. Holiday meals are an instance when I tip even above 20% as long as the quality of the service warrants it. In Australia, if you eat out on a holiday, an automatic, mandatory fee is figured into the bill at the end. I think paying more money for a service on a holiday is more than fair.

The Ever-Present Counter-Top Tip Jar

I've heard more than one complaint about the counter-top tip jars that now seem to be on display in every service business. But there shouldn't be any complaining, because the most important rule to remember in tipping is that you should only tip what you feel is appropriate to the situation. If you don't see why you should have to tip just because the café is set up that someone else pours your drip coffee, then don't tip. The people that work in these industries knew what their wage would be when they were hired. You shouldn't feel the need to place any money in the tip jar just because it's there. Some people say they feel fine dropping a dollar or a handful of change in the jar of the person went above and beyond what's normally expected of them. If you're a regular, perhaps they've taken the time to learn your name and engage you in a friendly chat as they pour your coffee, or maybe you have an extra special request and they ensure your order is made to your specifications. I'm lucky to have a wonderful stylist who always goes above and beyond what any other stylist has done for me. I look forward to seeing him every time I make an appointment. He takes the time to listen to exactly what I want, engages me in entertaining conversation that makes the time fly by, and recommends new product to me when I need it. I always make sure to tip him above the norm to let him know I appreciate everything he does for me. Whatever the case may be, the bottom line is: if you feel like throwing in a little extra, do it; if you feel like paying for what you ordered is enough, then don't throw down any extra, and don't feel guilty about it.


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      RachieH 6 years ago

      I saw a tip jar next to a liquor store cash register. As a waitress who was busting my butt, I felt frustrated because people are getting "tipped-out" thanks to such practices!