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Mind Your Manners: Tipping guidelines for service customers

By Pam Harvit
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear Pam,With the holidays quickly approaching, I would like to reward those who have provided continuous services to me throughout the year, such as my beautician, the paperboy and the gentleman who mows my lawn. However, due to the sluggish economy, my pocketbook is feeling squeezed. I don't want to appear stingy. What is an appropriate amount that should be given? Would you please provide guidelines not only for holiday tipping, but for everyday occurrences such as cabs, bellmen, etc.? -- Thank you, Dedicated ReaderDear Reader:Tipping can be confusing, but it is important. It is a way of acknowledging someone who has provided good or personalized service, as well as helping to maintain those relationships.Below is a guide to help you make an educated guess as to the amount to tip. There are no rules to tipping. It's not mandatory and will vary depending upon the size of your pocketbook, your geographic region, etc. You may want to increase the amount for exceptional service or reduce the amount if you experienced the opposite.Add a personal touch with a nice thank-you note with your tip; it does not have to be long -- two to three sentences are fine. A sincere note saying how much you appreciate his or her service can mean more than money. If you can't afford a tip, consider a small gift or perhaps baked goodies. And consider writing the person's boss to say how pleased you have been with their service.Beauticians: Some recommend doubling your usual tip (if a longtime customer). Others suggest anywhere from $25 and up. Instead of (or in addition to) cash, a gift or gift certificate is also appropriate.Paper delivery person: $10 to $25.Yard person: $20 to $50.Household helpers such as those who provide cleaning services: $50 or the amount equal to one day to one week's pay.Occasional baby sitter: one night's pay and/or a gift; daily baby sitter: two days' pay or a gift from you and an additional gift and/or thank-you note from the children; day-care provider: $20 and small gift from your child.Nanny: one week's to one month's pay and/or a gift, and a gift and/or a thank-you note from the children.Manicurist: $15 to $20.For those who work for you once a week: one-half day's to one day's pay.For those who work for you five days per week: one week's pay.
Laundry delivery: $10 to $20. Live-in or personal care givers: one week's to one month's pay.Barber: cost of one haircut.Package delivery person: Check with the company first. Some do not allow tips. However, some employers allow employees to accept small gifts in the $20 to $25 range.If you live in a residential building:Superintendent: $50 (or more depending on the region) for those who live in the building and less for those who live offsite.
Doorman: $35 to $50 (or more depending on the region and service provided).Handymen: $25 to $40.Other considerations:
  • Cash is usually preferred.
  • If giving food, consider the recipient's dietary or religious restrictions as well as allergies they may have.
  • If giving a gift card, make sure that it is relevant to the recipient's taste and interests.
  • Following are customary standard tips for those who provide a one-time or occasional service:Taxi driver: 5 percent of the total fare.Dog groomer: 15 percent of the total bill. No less than $2 per animal.Bartender: 10 to 15 percent of the drink bill or $1 per cocktail if you pay with each beverage.Wine stewards: 15 to 20 percent of the total wine purchase.Shampoo technician: $1 to $2.Food server: 15 to 20 percent of the bill (before coupons or gift certificates are subtracted). Remember that many waiters and waitresses depend on tips for their livelihood. If you have been at your table long after your meal is finished, and taken time when the table may have been used again (an opportunity for the server to make an additional tip), you may want to consider tipping more.Self-service buffet: nothing, unless your server delivers and keeps drinks refilled. In that case, a tip of 5 to 10 percent of the total bill is customary.Tips while traveling:Doorman who hails a cab: $1 to $2. If he helps get your bags out of the car or cab, $1 per bag.Bellman: $1 to $2 per bag.Parking valet: $1 to $3.Concierge who goes beyond his duty, such as getting reservations for you at a restaurant that has a six-month waiting list, $15 to $20. It is not necessary to tip the concierge who provides a small service such as giving directions.Hotel maid: $3 to $5 per day.Skycap: $2 per bag (more if your bags are very heavy).Remember, this information is just a guide and was obtained from several sources. The amount you choose to give depends on how pleased you are with the service as well as your relationship to the person providing the service.You may want to consider tipping more frequently than once a year. According to Mike Brennen, author of "Tipping for Success," many miss the boat by waiting to tip just once a year. He suggests taking the opportunity during an off month, such as June or July, to bring a small gift to someone who provides you year-round service. He believes this helps to set you apart. You don't have to spend a lot of money just to send the message that they provide good service. Again, write a nice thank-you note in addition to providing a tip.Pam Harvit is a corporate etiquette and protocol consultant. She is employed by Merck and Co. and lives in Charleston. You may email your questions to her at
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