Tipping is an ingrained part of American culture. However, things may be changing. In a recent Bankrate survey, 66% of people say they have a negative view of tipping and an additional 30% believe it has gotten out of control. Truth be told, it seems a bit ridiculous when self-service kiosks are even providing a tipping option. Although there are certain instances when expectations are very clearly defined, it can be difficult to know when tipping is necessary. Nowadays, many are questioning what is proper tipping etiquette as these lines become more blurred.
Learning When to Tip and When to Skip
Gratuity is an important source of income for tipped workers, especially since it is the bulk of their earnings. While the minimum wage is hardly enough to get by, it is usually much lower for tipped workers, with an embarrassing rate of only $2.13 in many states. For most people, their paychecks won’t even cover the taxes they have to pay. But, knowing when and how much to tip depends on many factors including the quality and type of service, location, and other extenuating circumstances.
And, it has gotten more confusing for consumers as more companies have introduced the option to tip, even when employees make more than minimum wage. Most of us want to make sure people are fairly compensated, especially when service-industry employees rely on gratuity. Therefore, it’s important to learn when it’s appropriate to tip or skip the extra fees.
Proper Tipping Etiquette
Knowing how much to give is more of an art than a science. In some situations, the expectation for tipping is clear. But, changing definitions and more frequent requests for tips can make it confusing outside these contexts.
As a general frame of reference, it’s typical to give 15-20% for these services:
- servers and bartenders
- delivery and transportation drivers
- salon services
- child care providers
- people providing a free service
However, less is expected in other situations. Tipping etiquette usually only requires 10% for buffet-style restaurants, counter service, and pickup orders. And when dealing with pay-as-you-go situations, such as when you order drinks from the bar or pay hotel attendants, it’s better to leave smaller cash tips after each interaction.
On the other end of the spectrum, you may want to tip more than 20% if you receive exceptional service or if members of your group created additional work.
When Not to Tip
The last part of tipping etiquette is knowing when not to tip. My general rule of thumb is that when you are dealing with salaried or higher-paid workers, there is no need to tip. Professionals are well-compensated by their employers for the services they provide, so they don’t expect added gratuity.
Most people will also agree that it also isn’t obligatory if you only receive counter service. And, there is no need to double up at the payment terminal if you gave a cash tip.
Cultural context is also important. Tipping isn’t common in other countries. And, it’s even considered offensive in some cultures. So, do your research when you are traveling abroad.
Keep in mind that there will always be gray areas, so it’s impossible to write a complete guide for every situation. But when in doubt, it never hurts to ask to ensure those in the service industry are receiving fair compensation for their services.
Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.