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    Updated on Apr 10, 2020. Posted on Apr 10, 2020

    The Ultimate Guide To Tipping In Just About Every Situation

    Because you can’t blame “being bad at math” anymore.

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    If you’re receiving any sort of service across the United States, be it a haircut, housekeeping, or a drink at the bar, you should be tipping. But knowing exactly how much — or heck, even whom — to tip can get confusing, fast.

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    “It’s more challenging than ever with the onset of tip cups at quick-service restaurants and coffee shops,” says Pamela Eyring, etiquette expert and president of The Protocol School of Washington. “Tipping is about service, both what’s expected and above and beyond. It should be a person’s choice whether to tip or not, but an understanding about the field of service providers and their pay structure helps.”

    Of course, the well-established standard of a 15% to 20% (pre-tax) tip is a discernible starting point. But alas, there are no hard and fast rules for giving gratuities, and it’s in the particulars where everything gets more confusing than it should be. As for how you should tip? You can never go wrong with tipping with cash or a digital-wallet app like Venmo or Square, which ensures the money goes straight to the individual’s pocket. Credit card tipping, on the other hand, can create issues (more on that later). Below, you’ll find some of the most vexing tipping scenarios, along with just how much extra dough you should be dishing out.

    Hair Salons

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    Even if you’ve spent years — or decades — getting your hair cut or colored, there still might be some mystery around tipping in salons. Let’s start with the stylist. In general, 20% of the cost of service before tax is what’s expected, but that can vary depending on the location (city versus burbs, for instance).

    If your stylist uses an assistant to wash or blow-dry your hair or mix color, you should also throw a little cash their way. In some studios, like Kery Montana’s Escape to Serenity in Cooperstown, New York, it’s protocol for stylists to tip out assistants at the end of each day. But that isn’t a guarantee. Depending on the level of service these assistants provide, Angela Soto, owner of Baja Studio in New York City, suggests putting a little extra on your total payment. “You could add a general $5 to $10 for shampoo, and $10 to $20 for a blowout.”

    Spa Services

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    If you’re visiting a facialist, massage therapist, acupuncturist, or nail tech, you should also tip the customary 15% to 20%, Eyring advises. If you’re particularly happy with the result — especially when the provider is dealing with a prominent area, like your face — consider the 25% range, adds Karin Palmer, owner of Glow Facial Bar in Denver.

    And while every provider deserves a fair tip for exemplary performance, it’s particularly important at nail salons. In 2015, the New York Times exposed widespread labor abuse and revealed that nail technicians in New York City made an average of $3 an hour despite the nail industry raking in upwards of $8.5 billion. Some places allow tips to be put on a credit card, but Eyring cautions that there’s often a service charge — and you won’t know if your nail tech actually receives it. (PS: If one artist did your mani and another your pedi, tip both separately.)

    Ride-Sharing Services

    While the ability to tip directly in ride-share apps like Uber and Lyft is a relatively new feature (Lyft launched it in 2012, Uber in 2017), tipping your transportation provider isn’t. (Um, remember taxi drivers?) But a recent report found nearly 60% of Uber riders never tip and a measly 1% always tip.

    These are sad statistics, given that ride-share apps often take a considerable cut from the take-home pay (35% and 38%, respectively). But drivers get 100% of tips, so please throw a couple bucks their way. Eyring says that 15% to 20% — around $1 to $3, depending on the length of your ride — is customary. Think about the actual experience when counting those bills too: Were they a friendly driver who loaded your bags and got to your destination quickly? Was the car clean and smell-free? Tip and rate accordingly.

    Kevin Valente / BuzzFeed

    Restaurants and Food Delivery

    If you aren’t tipping your server, who is on their feet dealing with patrons all day, you’re doing something very wrong. Many sit-down restaurants make it insanely easy now, straight-up calculating the 18% to 20% breakdowns for you at the bottom of the bill. (And if you’re in a group larger than six, they may even build an 18% gratuity right in.)

    But what about the person bringing food to your front door? They may not be refilling your water glass, but they trek through crappy weather so you can eat in your sweats. They should also be tipped 15% to 20% — more if they’re traveling through rain or snow, Eyring recommends. Oh, and if you’re using an app like Postmates, note on the order whether you’re tipping in cash. If a driver sees no note and your tip in-app is low or nonexistent, they can reject the option to deliver, meaning your order gets bounced from driver to driver until someone decides your cheap ass is worth it.


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    As for your beloved bartender, they deserve some hard-earned cash for pouring drinks too, especially if they’re whipping up cocktails. Eyring mentions that the typical go-to of $1 per drink is great, though again, the level of skill and service required can impact your final amount. Does that Bloody Mary have only a celery stick, or is it chock-full of bacon, olives, lime, and celery salt? These things should help determine whether you give a little extra. Oh, and tipping 15% to 20% on credit is fine if you’re buying a round, Eyring adds.

    Kevin Valente / BuzzFeed


    Tipping in coffee shops is less clear-cut. Or at least, it was. If the barista is simply pouring you a cup of coffee — not making a special latte or even adding in milk and sugar — there’s no need to tip, according to Eyring. But if they make a fancier order or add Instagram-worthy foam art, a 10% to 20% tip is appropriate.

    “I get plenty of customers who will get one cup of coffee for a little over $2, hand me $3, and tell me to keep the change,” says Stephen Hoag, owner of Dogwood Java mobile coffee shop in Fayetteville, North Carolina. “For me, that’s a very reasonable tip.” Again, cash is easy — everyone likes getting rid of spare change in the pocket — though Hoag says he tends to see more customers tip when there’s a gratuity line on a card transaction.

    Hotel Staff and Travel Guides

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    Whether traveling for business or pleasure, you need to tip more than just the housekeeper. (Who, by the way, you should give $2 to $5 per night, Eyring advises. Leave it in an envelope or with a thank-you note before each service, as housekeeping staff can change daily.) Your rule of thumb: Anyone providing an extra touch deserves a couple bucks.

    That goes for the doorperson hailing you a cab, the valet driver parking your car, the bellhop carrying your luggage — which, BTW, calls for a bigger tip if you have a ton of bags or they’re super heavy — or anyone delivering extra towels or toothpaste. Don’t forget about the hotel concierge, either. The amount can vary depending on the difficulty of your ask, but if they score you tickets to a sold-out show, you’d better be handing over more than $10 to express your gratitude, Eyring says.

    If you’re sneaking a couple tours into your trip, it’s customary to give guides 15% to 20%, says Mathew Meier, founder of MaxTour in Henderson, Nevada. Does the guide double as the driver? Toss in an extra $1 per person. Separate driver? If they make the experience more enjoyable — especially if it’s a longer tour and gratuity isn’t built in — tip as much as $10 per person.