Some Tips on Tipping

Ah, tipping. It’s one of those trickier areas of personal finance, when you think about it. They are technically optional, intended to reward great (or at least satisfactory) service in any number of areas. In theory, the possibility of getting tips should be a motivation for the workers to provide the very best service they

But they have become such a common, and dare I say it, necessary part of our life that it’s even included in the law. As I mentioned in my last discussion of tipping, here in the United States, the minimum wage for people in positions that tend to earn tips, say as members of the wait staff at a restaurant, is much lower (at $2.13) than the minimum wage for people who don’t have the chance to get tips. (Even that minimum wage, at $7.25 per hour isn’t that impressive; but that’s a story for a different entry.) In short, tips are more than a little bit necessary; the people getting those tips need them in order to actually survive.

Some Tips on Tipping

So, tipping is all but required, at least for many people out there. If you hope to get good service (and keep the economy going), you’ll need to leave tips when you have the opportunity. Luckily, there are some tips out there to make sure that you are tipping appropriately; read on to find out the appropriate tips for various situations

We’ll talk all about these tip jars later in this post, although most aren’t nearly this cute…

Know The Appropriate Tips: Do you think that tipping is limited to wait staff and chauffeurs? Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s far from the case; there are any number of people who should be tipped, from hair dressers to tattoo artists. (Just in case you want to know what to tip when you add some art to your body.) It can get tricky, trying to keep track of everyone you should tip and how much to give.

Luckily, there are places to go when looking for advice on tipping; I particularly like this visual guide to How to Respond to Hospitality, as it provides advice on a few dozen different positions to help you get through almost all the situations where tipping is required. It should help you get an idea of what is considered a good tip for most situations, as well as pointing a few situations where tipping, while generally considered appropriate, isn’t usually required. Although, tipping habits do change over time, which brings us to our next point:

Keep Track of Changing Trends: Tipping trends do change over time; I’m old enough to remember when a ten percent tip in a restaurant was considered decently high, while 15% was extremely generous. Now, less than fifteen percent, and in many cases twenty percent, is considered by many people to be cheap. (Although you can still sometimes get away with a low tip when the service you face is particularly bad; more on that in a moment.) It’s good to keep up on such trends, as otherwise you can end up giving only a fraction of what is an appropriate tip when going out with your friends or family. Speaking of which…

When Going Out as Part of a Group, Make Sure to Give an Adequate Tip: If you are going out with other people, make sure to include your share of the (decent sized) tip with the rest of your payment. If you don’t, you’re simply going to piss off the rest of your fellow guests, as they try to cover your share of the tip. This might not be a problem in the modern restaurant, as if you are part of a large enough group, your tip is likely included in your bill. Just ensure that you actually pay the included tip portion.

If Your Service is Bad, Talk to the Management: If you get bad service, one of your first responses is to leave a much lower tip (or no tip at all); that should show your wait staff that your service was bad and they need to be better next time, right? Well, while that will work in theory, here’s the problem: not everyone leaves good tips for good service and bad tips for bad service. There are plenty of people who leave crappy tips for perfectly good service, and others who leave good (or even great) tips when their service is lackluster. (Let’s not even start getting into groups who supposedly are bad tippers; there’s more than a bit of bias out there, which I’m not going to get into.) As a result, most waiters and waitresses (or any number of other service professionals who are given tips regularly), if given a lousy tip, are unlikely to think that it was a reflection on their service level, and instead will assume that you and your group were simply cheap.

Instead of simply relying on leaving a poor tip to send your message, you should try to talk to the management and express your concerns. That way, you can ensure that your problems are actually being understood and addressed. You can still leave a lower tip, particularly if there is no reasonable explanation for why your service is poor (such as the wait staff being new; given the level of turn over in the such fields, it’s not uncommon). By making your complaint clear, though, you can ensure that it’s not simply assumed to be due to your own cheapness.

Feel Free to Ignore Tip Jars on Restaurant Counters: Alright, one last point.  You have probably noticed more than a few businesses leaving tip jars on their counters.  This is particularly common, I’ve noticed, at fast food like restaurants; the one I’ve encountered most recently is at a Rita’s Italian Ice store.  You don’t need to put money into such tip jars; they aren’t part of an official tipping situation.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that the people working at the restaurants would appreciate the extra money (and again, they aren’t exactly being paid a huge amount for the most part, so I’m sure they’d appreciate the tips), but don’t consider it a requirement.  (At least, until the tipping trends change yet again…)

Alright, that should cover most tipping situations, and give you some ideas on how to handle the next time you need to tip. It can be a tough to keep track of every situation you should leave a tip, but there are plenty of people who depend on tipping to have a decent income, and it’s good to know when, where, and how to drop a nice tip. Enjoy all the tipping tips!

What advice do you have on tipping? How do you handle tipping for poor service? Any situations you felt there shouldn’t be any tipping but were pressured to leave a tip?

Tip Jar picture courtesy of olishaw


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