A Guide to Tipping Etiquette

A Sensible Approach to Tips

Tipping is not an option in the United States- it’s a fact of life. For many people working in service industries such as restaurants, spas, hair salons, or bars, tips make up at least half of their total income. So while it may seem that everywhere you go, someone expects a tip, it’s important to remember that these workers depend on gratuities to make a living.

The average salary of a waitress or waiter in the U.S. is around $4.38. If that seems low to you, it’s because it is. The Federal minimum wage law doesn’t apply to workers who receive tips so their actual base salaries can be as low $2.50 an hour. It’s easy to see why tips are so important.

The truth is, if you think it will “break the budget” to leave a reasonable tip, you should probably not be going to whatever place of business you are considering. Whether it’s a dinner out, getting your hair styled, having a massage- if you are worrying about the tip, you most likely shouldn’t be buying the particular service.

When dining out, a 15 to 20 percent tip is considered normal. 20% of the total bill is usually reserved for top-rated restaurants. Regular eating establishments can rate anywhere from 15-18% depending on the quality of service and food. For food that you have delivered to your home, 15% will be considered a generous tip.

If you have no problem with tipping but have received really poor service, rather than leaving no tip, ask to speak with the manager and explain the situation. A good manager will want to know about any problems encountered by the customers and will work hard to make improvements. For example, your meal may have been slow to arrive due to problems in the kitchen- something your server had no control over.

When in doubt, it’s always better to leave a tip. Your server may be totally aware that it’s been a bad day or night, but will be especially cheered by a nice tip in spite of the less than perfect service.

Hair salons and spas normally follow the same guidelines as far as tipping. Your hair stylist or massage therapist should receive a 20% tip for services rendered. A manicurist or facialist usually gets 15%. A styling assistant who shampoos your hair should be given a couple of dollars, also.

Furniture delivery workers, car washers and detailers, your pet groomer, and even the shoeshine person are all providing a service to you. Since these are all probably things you don’t wish to do yourself, show your appreciation to them and tip generously.

If you are traveling to Europe, get ready to enjoy some time away from tipping, at least as far as restaurants are concerned. If you check the menus, you will notice that most indicate that the prices include service and taxes. Gratuities are not expected at European restaurants. The servers are paid a regular salary and do not depend on tips to supplement their income. If you’ve enjoyed a particularly delightful meal, feel free to leave some small change (a Euro or so is sufficient) with your bill. It will always be appreciated.