Tipping Guidelines

Dinner TipDec 04, 2012: This summer, during our cross country US Tour, we had to pay quite a lot of tips to bellboys, skycaps, waiters and waitresses at restaurants, taxi drivers, food delivery and room service. Since our travel lasted for nearly 8 weeks and spanned across ten expensive US metropolitans, we ended up paying hundreds of dollars in tips.

Sometimes we were left wondering with the question "Are we tipping too much?" At other times, when we were treated unprofessionally, we wondered whether we should leave a tip for such shoddy behavior? In the end, being generous souls we tipped whether they treated us good or bad, knowing that the poor souls would not make much of a living if we did not tip them. The federal minimum wage for tipped employees is $2.13 per hour, so wait staff depend on tips to earn a living wage.

But we were determined to find out the national standards for tipping once we returned home. Our research led us to a guideline by Liz Pullman Weston: Here's a tip: 20% is the new 15%.

Waiter / Waitress: 15% to 20% of pre-tax bill

Bartender: $1 to $2 per round or 15% to 20% of tab

Wine Steward: 15% of bottle's cost (less as price rises), clearly earmarked on bill

Room Service: 15% to 20% of pre-tax bill (if not already included)

Valet Parking: $2 to $3 when car is returned

Taxi Driver: 15% plus $1 to $2 per bag

Hotel Doorman: $1 to $2 to hail cab; $1 to $2 per bag for help with luggage

Hotel Bellhop: $1 to $2 per bag

Hotel Maid: $2 per night, paid daily, clearly marked 'Housekeeping'

Skycap: $1 to $2 per bag, $2 minimum, in addition to any fee

Hairdresser: 15% to 20%

Manicurist: 15% to 20%

Spa Services: 15% to 20%

Food Delivery: 10% to 15% with $2 minimum

Golf Caddy: $20 or 50% of the caddy fee, whichever is greater

Whew! That's quite a guideline. We do acquiesce with Ms. Weston's suggestion:
Like me, Post would like to see the U.S. adopt the European system of paying wait staff living wages so that tips return to their original intent: rewards for really good service. Until then, though, we're stuck with what we've got.
We sincerely wish that the U.S. corporate world would start treating people providing personal service with more care and respect. They should be provided with living wages along with other benefits that are provided to professionals. This act would free us to reward them amply for their good service.

Dinner TipIrrespective of the quality of services provided to us, the current U.S. system coerces us to provide for people who are not paid well and look up to us for their living wages.

Not only that, we're not even sure whether the tips that we pay really reach the waiters/waitresses at all restaurants. During our trip, at some restaurants when we asked the person serving us how he/she wanted us to leave the tip (cash or on the credit card), they replied that it did not matter since the tip would go to the owner of the restaurant! We were shocked when some of them shared their stories of abuse (by employers). Let's pray that the tipped employees of U.S. are treated in a better manner asap.

Meanwhile we hope that the above guidelines would help us to tip well. If we're in a situation where cash is tight, we feel that it's best to avoid using tipped services rather than using them and leaving no tip or a meager one. But this is our opinion. Everyone is free to have different perspectives on this issue. We are looking forward towards hearing your views or experiences with tipping.

Image Source(s): iStockPhoto

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