A Brief Guide to Fair Tipping from the Etiquette Expert

A Brief Guide to Fair Tipping from the Etiquette ExpertWhere do you fall on the tipping spectrum? Do you hand the pizza delivery guy a $20 for your $14 pizza and declare with a grin, "Keep the change," or are you the type who slips the bartender a folded-up $1 bill and hopes he won't notice until after you've downed your $16 martini and skedaddled?

In honor of Larry Fox, the New York City deli delivery guy who outs bad tippers on his website, 15percent.tumblr.com, (and got fired for it), DailyFinance offers a guide to avoid winding up among Larry's gaggle of gratuity grinches. We turned to Jacqueline Whitmore, the founder of etiquetteexpert.com, for advice on how much to tip.

Food server: "I know it's hard to believe, but 18% is the new norm -- 15% is the absolute lowest," she said. "These people work very hard. They're even bussing tables now. This is their livelihood."

To diners' credit, many are following the new standard, she notes. Though you might think people would tip less because of the recession, they're actually more generous these days, said Whitmore. "People going out to eat are eating less and tipping better."

Barber or beautician:
"There is a standard -- 15% to 20%," said Whitmore.

Coat check: $1 to $2 an item.

Manicurist-pedicurist: 15% of the bill.

Taxi driver:
10% of the fare.

Bartender: 10% to 15%.

Bellhop or airport skycap:
$1 a bag, $2 if the bag is heavy.

Usher at theater or ballpark: "I've never paid an usher," said Whitmore.

Caterer: 15% to 20%. "Sometimes they'll include the tip, because they don't want anybody stiffing them," she says.

Cable guy: "You don't tip those people."

Concierge after he procures tough-to-get theater tickets:
$10 to $20. "if you can afford to pay $300 a ticket for seats, $20 is nothing," Whitmore said.

Exterminator: Whitmore recommended calling the company ahead of time to see if a gratuity is customary and how much.

Fox, the aggrieved delivery guy, gained notoriety when he publicly criticized the staff of the CBS show The Good Wife for giving him a $3 tip for an $89 lunch order. "Three dollars sounds a little small for me," Whitmore said. But, the manners maven added, food delivery tips should not be based on a percentage of the bill like waiters' tips, because delivery people don't take care of customers like servers do. Her solution: Anywhere between $3 and $10 -- aiming more toward the upper end of the range if the order was expensive, or if the deliverer had to brave a storm or climb many stairs to bring you the order.

Whitmore's rule of thumb: If you're ever in doubt in any tipping situation, go with 15%. "You can hardly go wrong with that," she said.

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18% is not the new norm. 15% is the norm because the price of food goes up, then so will the tip follow accordingly. At a table you should not tip based on the total bill as it includes tax. take out the tax. next if your table had four beers they probably charged $3.50 to $5 apiece. you don't tip on alcohol as part of a meal because you have been soaked by the restaurant. the only difference would be if the wait staff was running back and forth to your table with beers and you only had a pizza. then you would be tipping for the fast service. other wise it is about 15% on the food only. Wait staff tend to overtip when they go out because they're in the same biz. but to expect 20% on principle is ignorant and vain. I have never had a waitress or waiter look at my food and apologize for how badly it was cooked. I've seen very few stand up to the kitchen help. Hey if you're not making good money get another job that requires higher training.

May 12 2011 at 12:05 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to patmanaz's comment
Da Mayor

You're right about the tax...and wrong about everything else. Don't want to tip on the drinks? Then just admit you're a cheapskate and stop rationalizing it's the restaurants fault for charging more than you'd like.

If you're half as arrogant in person as you are in this post I bet when you go out the servers draw lots to see who gets stuck with you. Try being pleasant and you'll get better service.

May 12 2011 at 4:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sorry, but I simply can't accept the idea that tipping is obligatory. IF the person gives good service, then I tend to be pretty generous. But if I get rotten service or a bad attitude? No tip. And I won't patronize restaurants that force tipping, either. Period.

May 12 2011 at 3:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Luxurious Liquid

Who decided 18% is the norm now? I certainly wasn't consulted. It's not as though servers suddenly started working 3% harder all of a sudden. Oh wait, it's the servers who respond to these kinds of articles, that's who! I always tip 15% rounded up to the nearest dollar for good service in a restaurant. Not enough? Too freakin' bad. Nobody tips educators.

May 11 2011 at 5:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Luxurious Liquid's comment
Da Mayor

Actually, servers are working harder...more than 3% harder. Restaurants have cut back on employees like bussers & dishwashers, and even janitors...because they generally make minimum wage or more...and required servers, generally paid well below minimum wage...to pick up the slack.

May 12 2011 at 1:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Da Mayor

Why do you suggest bartenders deserve less than servers? They provide the same service. They don't merely service drinks but in almost all establishments they also serve food.

Plus, they are in the unique position of being production workers as well as service workers. Cooks prepare food. Bartenders prepare drinks...many complicated and time consuming.

May 11 2011 at 3:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This week's blog on Burnandrotinhell.com talked about the Brooklyn delivery guy's bad tipper blog. They think he's off the wall with his tipping delivery expectations. That site is great. They let you talk about anything. I use it every day.

May 11 2011 at 9:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What about a taxi driver? Are tips different in different cities? I am traveling to Manhattan soon and would like to know.

May 11 2011 at 12:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you tip a bartender more, you get better service and don't even need to reorder. They just bring another over for you. I live in Las Vegas and I am used to tipping for better service. At least thats how I roll. Why did you fail to mention dealers ? A lot of times, they advise you how to make money and enhance your vacation. A financial advisor gets paid to do the same ?

May 10 2011 at 11:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Explain to me why a bartender should get 10-15%. The service is brief and drinks are typically really expensive. If I get a 15$ glass of win, does a 30s pour really denote a 2.25$ tip? I don't think so...
1-2$/drink seems like a more fair system to me

May 10 2011 at 8:04 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I just calculate what 10% is, add half of that to get 15%, then add a bit more to get about 18%, or round up to the next $$$ amount whatever that percentage is so be it. Sometimes I go by the before tax amount(NY 8%), other times the total bill whichever works out to an even $$$amount. I go to the same place for dinner every week and so far no one has a problem with this method, or Im sure I would have gotten the message by now.

May 10 2011 at 5:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jhrochesterny's comment
Bryan Keown

10 to 15 percent max. I'm with kissd66. These little aol blogs are more for the uppermiddle class and rich people. Not really with mainstreet reality still in the grips of a recession, yes its still here. and now we get to deal with $4.00 a gallon fuel. . We live in a Walmart Economy. Most choices that present the average wagearner are chain based restaurants. Bring down the cost of fuel and more people will want to dine out and tip accordingly.

May 10 2011 at 5:04 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bryan Keown's comment
Da Mayor

Yep...chain restaurants that are already running deep discount specials like $5 entrees to get people in the door...so double punish your server by tipping 10% on a check that is half what is should be.

Now exactly how is your server responsible for the price of gas? I missed that part.

May 12 2011 at 4:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply