Dear Mind Your Manners: Several years ago, you wrote a helpful article on tipping. With the holidays quickly approaching, I would like to provide a special tip to those who have helped throughout the year such as my beautician and newspaper delivery person.
While I am very appreciative, I don’t want to spend a fortune and yet, don’t want to appear stingy. Would you please provide some guidance to this somewhat confusing custom? — Perplexed
Perplexed: You’re right. Tipping can be very confusing, and there are differing opinions as to how the custom of tipping began.
Many believe the word “TIP” is a centuries old word that first appeared in England and was an acronym for “To Insure Promptness.” However, some dispute this claim, alleging acronyms were not popular in England until much later than when the word originated.
In fact, it is thought that the practice of leaving a tip started in German eating establishments as drink money.
George Foster, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of California, Berkley, believes tipping was done to send a message to the server. If he or she performed well, then he or she was provided money to have a drink at the customer’s expense.
How much you decide to give depends on your budget and regional customs (amounts given in larger cities are somewhat higher), as well as how long the person has been providing the service to you.
If your finances are tight, then consider a homemade gift instead. If you’re not good with crafts or in the kitchen, a heartfelt personal note is always a great way to express your thanks.
Below is a guide obtained from several sources to help you make an educated guess as to the amount you may want to consider giving. Keep in mind this is only a guide.
n Beautician: $20 to $50 — Instead of (or in addition to) cash, a gift or gift certificate is also appropriate.
n Paper delivery person: $25.
n Lawn person: Amount equal to a one-time service fee.
n Household helpers such as those who provide cleaning services: Amount equal to a one-day to one-week pay and/or a personal gift.
n Occasional babysitter: One night’s pay and/or a gift.
n Daily babysitter: two day’s pay and/or a gift from you and an additional gift from the children.
n Nanny: One week’s pay and/or a gift — For those who work for you once a week: one half to one day’s pay. For those who work for you five days per week: one week’s pay.
n Manicurist: $10 to $20.
n Laundry delivery: $10 to $20.
n Live-in helpers: one week to one month’s pay.
n Mail carrier: There are regulations when it comes to gifts and tips for mail carriers. According to the U.S. Postal Service website, “carriers are permitted to accept a gift worth $20 or less from a customer per occasion, such as Christmas. However, cash and cash equivalents, such as checks or gift cards that can be exchanged for cash, must never be accepted in any amount.”
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If you live in a residential building, then the following would be an appropriate guide:
n Superintendent: $20 to $80 dollars.
n Doorman: $25 to $50.
n Handymen: $25.
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Unrelated to the holidays, but helpful to consider, are customary standard tips for those who provide a one-time or occasional service:
n Taxi driver: 10 to 15 percent of total fare
n Uber: Uber’s official party line on tipping used to be that it was not necessary. However, as of May that changed.
Uber will now notify riders tips are not included in their fare, and drivers are free to hang signs in their cars stating as much.
While there has not been an official appropriate tip amount listed for Uber drivers, many consider about 10 percent of total fare to be reasonable.
n Dog groomer: 15 percent of total bill.
n Bartender: 15 to 20 percent of total drink bill. If you order a beer or a glass of wine, tip between $1 and $2. If you order a cocktail, tip between $2 and $3. The longer your bartender spends making your drink, the more you should tip them.
n Pizza delivery person: 15 to 20 percent (not less than $3).
n Shampoo technician: $3 to $5.
n Food server: 15 to 20 percent of bill (before coupons or gift certificates are subtracted).
Many servers depend on tips for their livelihood. If you have stayed at your table long after your meal is finished, you may want to consider tipping a little more. You may have caused the server to miss an opportunity to earn an additional tip
n Self-service buffet: nothing, unless your server delivers and keeps drinks refilled. In that case a tip of approximately 5 to 10 percent of the total bill is customary.
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Tips while traveling:
n Doorman who hails a taxicab: $1 to $2. Add an extra $1 if it’s raining; $1 to $4 for carrying luggage.
n Bellhop: $2 first bag; $1 per additional bag; $2 to $3 for each additional service, such as room delivery.
n Parking valet: $1 to $2.
n A concierge who goes above and beyond his or her duty such as getting reservations for you at a restaurant that has a month-long wait list, $15 to $20.
For hard-to-get tickets to the theater, 10 to 20 percent of the ticket price. It is not necessary to tip the concierge who provides a small service such giving directions, etc.
n Housekeeping: $2 to $5 per day, along with a note marked “Housekeeping — Thank you.”
n Sky cap: $2 per bag, $1 per additional bag (more if your bags are very heavy).
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Perhaps 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 also believes doing this helps set you apart.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to send a message to someone that they provide good service. Writing a nice thank-you note in addition to providing a tip is also appreciated.
Once again, a sincere note telling someone how much you value his or her service can go a long way in helping you express your sincere gratitude.
Pam Harvit BSRDH, MS, is a certified international corporate etiquette and protocol adviser. She speaks nationally on business and medical etiquette topics. You may request her services or email your questions to