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Personal Finance Articles
A cheat sheet on tipping do's and don'ts
(posted on Bankrate.com)
By Heather Larson


Take the confusion out of tipping

Tipping can be daunting. While most of us know that it's appropriate to tip our server at a restaurant, it's not always clear whether to tip the hotel concierge, funeral chaplain or dog groomer.

If you leave a tip, how large should it be? Is 20 percent an across-the-board solution? Will your tip leave you looking like Donald Trump or Ebenezer Scrooge? Are there situations where tipping isn't necessary?

This list from Bankrate should help you answer these questions, as well as give you specific gratuity guidelines.

Cash for the hotel staff

Thomas Farley, a New York-based manners expert for WhatMannersMost.com, says be prepared for a variety of tips at hotels. If the hotel is a five-star property, the service expectations are greater and the tip should be, too.

Farley's suggestions:

  • Hotel porter toting your bags: $2 to $3 per bag.
  • Room service with gratuity included on the bill: $2, if server sets up the meal in your room.
  • Room service without gratuity included: 20 percent of the charge.
  • Toiletry/towel delivery: $2.
  • Doorman if he hails your cab: $1 to $5.
  • Concierge after guest's request: $5 to $25, depending on how difficult the task is (like procuring sold-out theater tickets).
  • Housekeeping: $1 to $5 per day.

Etiquette coach and trainer Constance Hoffman, of Social and Business Graces Inc. in St. Louis, says, "Don't leave the maid's tip on the nightstand as that has sexual connotations. Instead, put it on the desk or a counter."

Also, the cleaning person may change daily, so give a tip each day before leaving the hotel so the housekeeper who makes up your room will get the money.

Tipping the wait staff

The size of a restaurant gratuity depends on how well you are served, including whether your order is correct or if your server checks on you after you receive your food, says Hoffman. Don't base your tip on the food's taste; the server has no control over it.

Hoffman's tipping guidelines:

  • Restaurant wait staff: 13 percent to 20 percent of the bill.

When your party stays through the time that the restaurant could seat and serve others, tip twice the amount. Hoffman says you should always leave a minimal tip, even with abysmal service. Tips are generally shared by the restaurant's workers.

  • Takeout: Nothing is necessary. But if you receive some service, like a waiter packaging your food, then tip $1 to $2 or up to 10 percent. For sushi, tip 10 percent for its preparation, Hoffman says.
  • Tip jars at fast-food counters: Nothing required; it's your call.

Travel tipping

When you're on a trip, how much you tip can be a quandary. Patricia Rossi, a Tampa, Florida-based business etiquette expert at PatriciaRossi.com, sorts it out.

Rossi's tipping instructions:

  • Cruise employees: Tipping policies vary among cruise lines, "but each one tells you when you board what is appropriate," says Rossi, who wrote "Everyday Etiquette."
  • Airport curbside check-in: $1 to $2 per bag, more for oversized bags.
  • Taxis: 15 percent of the fare.
  • Airport shuttle bus drivers: $2 to $3.
  • Limousine drivers: 10 percent to 20 percent of the bill.
  • Roadside services for a rental car: No tipping required.

Farley adds, "Roadside service is situational, like if someone changes your tire in subzero temps, you should tip them."

Special events

With all that happens at major events like weddings and funerals, giving gratuities might be easily overlooked. Farley, the manners expert, offered these recommendations.

Wedding tips guide:

  • Wait staff: $20 to $25 per server.
  • Bartender: $20 to $25 per bartender or 10 percent of the total bar tab.
  • Coat room/bathroom attendants: $1 per guest, paid by the host.
  • Disc jockey: $50 to $100.
  • Presiding official: Some prefer a donation to their house of worship and others have a suggested honorarium.
  • Altar boys: $10 to $15.
  • Wedding planner: $50 to $100. If it's for the planning firm's owner, don't tip.

Funeral tips guideline:

Presiding official: $50 to $300 if an honorarium is not preset.

"Any tips for funeral home staff are handled by the funeral home," Farley says. "Sometimes those fees are itemized on the bill (as a gratuity), or they can be included in the overall price that the family pays."

Reward salon and spa workers

Many workers in the beauty business get paid a commission only or minimum wage plus a small percentage of the fee. Remember them with these gratuities suggested by etiquette coach Hoffman.

Salon/spa tipping suggestions:

  • Massage therapist: 10 percent to 20 percent of the charge.
  • Hairstylist: 10 percent to 20 percent.
  • Manicure or facial: 15 percent.
  • Barber: $2 to $3.

Don't forget your four-legged friends:

Pet groomer: 10 percent for short-haired, if well behaved; 15 percent for long-haired, well-behaved dogs; and 20 percent for the not so well-behaved.

Your best gauge is to consider the service you're getting and to give what's appropriate, says Hoffman. "Any tip given with a genuine smile and a 'thank you' is better than nothing at all," she says.

"They will owe income taxes on the extra money they didn't put in their 401(k)s," he says.


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