How much do I tip?Back to Forum
Anonymous20 Mar 2009
Does anyone know how much to tip bell boys, porters, room service, concierges, and taxi drivers in The USA, India and Europe?
I go to these areas often and always tip, but sometimes feel I have given an incorrect amount. I know it depends on the service, but in India, for example giving US$5 is different from giving the same amount in the US.
Any tips…?20 Mar 2009
It’s a tricky one – in the US just make sure you always have small dollars on you. I heard that for taxi drivers a medium journey $2 was fine, – same for bell boys and helping with luggage. For the concierge if he/she has been particularly helpful then at the end of your stay $10 is a safe bet. I have no idea about India sorry.28 Apr 2009
Tipping in the USA
My last few visits into the US have seen an increase in the amount of pressure imposed by establishments for tipping. Examples
1. Asking whether I wish to leave a tip when paying for garage parking from the cashier taking my money. When I asked who the tip was for the reply was “me, for handling your money with courtesy”.
2. My wife went to have her “done” and was advised of the cost in advance US$ 50 including tip. I asked the question why would an establishment assume a tip would be given and why do they include this amount in a quote.
3. Being presented with a restaurant bill and being told the tip should be 22% on a bill of US$400. The service was good, but $400 for a meal for 3 is quite high. I would expect good service. I felt so offended by this that I gave the establishment owner a tip, to pay his staff better wages.
4. Being asked, please leave the tip in cash otherwise we dont receive it (from the server).
I am interested to hear from any American readers/contributors as to how they deal with these situations or is it really a case of this is expected and should therefore just be accepted by both visitors and local residents.3 Nov 2010
A short while ago I was chased down the street by a restaurant owner because I had left no tip. The food was awful, 2 of the three orders were wrong. She was claiming I was punishing the waitress for not leaving a tip, I explained the waitress was indeed the best aspect of the establishment but why would I leave any tip when the remainder of the dinner was atrocious. He just wasn’t willing to understand the concept that the whole experience is what counts. He returned to his restaurant still shouting abuse. The USA drives me nuts over this whole tip business, I agree it’s time to pay a living wage and not expect a huge subsidy from tips.3 Nov 2010
BarnesG – do you mind me asking whether your view/experience is as a tourist, exec traveller or a local?? The reason I ask is that I am hoping to get views and thoughts from Americans as to how they deal with these situations. Many thanks3 Nov 2010
MS on this trip as a tourist. Like you it would be good to hear a locals view. I work a lot in the States and its always amazing to see hard cash being left in the value it is as a tip for what was as you say either an already expensive meal or for service that was nothing special and what one would simply expect from the service industry.
So please our American cousins help us out to understand!3 Nov 2010
Well, as a long-term resident of New York, I can offer a few thoughts.
First, I don’t really know anyone who loves to tip. It makes most people – including locals – pretty uncomfortable. As a result, there is a certain “tyranny” in tipping – people don’t want to look cheap, so they tend to over-tip; or they are confused, and don’t tip enough.
Second, you are paying the wages of the staff, directly. I know it isn’t intuitive – I go to a restaurant so I don’t have to serve myself, so why would I pay the server extra for doing the restaurant’s actual business? – but it’s just the way it is. So while you find it annoying, don’t take it out on the staff.
Third, the major issue I have with tipping is that it is, in fact, in most cases, a commission paid to staff on goods purchased. That commission encourages waitstaff to sell you bottled water, more expensive dishes, etc. The more you buy, the more they get. Most staff, I find, don’t do that – but you will find some waitstaff that want you to get out if you’re not spending enough.
So what’s the rule of thumb? Well, here’s mine:
Restaurants: 18% if the service is as expected; maybe 20% or more if the service is exceptional (whatever that might be). I always tip – it is hard to know who is to blame for slow or poor service (management? the chef?). If the staff is rude, I would complain or leave.
Bars: $2 per drink for the first drink, especially if you plan to stick around. $1 per drink after that. If you’re getting table service, you could also provide 18-20%.
Taxi drivers: I tend to round up, and add $1 – unless the journey hits $20 or higher, in which case 15-20% is appropriate
Car services: 20%
Porters / Bellstaff: I don’t use them – I used to be a bellboy, and am happy to carry my own bags
So – 20% is a very safe rule of thumb. No one will be offended, and some will be happy. But you don’t get anything “extra” for the majority of your tips – just think of it as part of the price, or a VAT, or anything else that allows it to not drive you crazy.
I would add one actual “tip” that you could consider – to the overwhelmingly female housekeeping staff at hotels. They have to make ever-heavier beds in American hotels, with multiple pillows, large bathrooms, etc. They work very hard, and not very well paid. $3 – $4 on your pillow each day will sincerely be appreciated – the way a tip should be.3 Nov 2010
On a similar theme, I always carry on me a reasonable supply of $US 1 dollar bills, ordered from my bank- very handy for small tips to porters etc in not only the US but pretty much everywhere (eg if you have just arrived in Vietnam but have no small local currency)3 Nov 2010
Some recent tipping experiences in the USA.
1. Jet Blue kerb side check at Orlando and Westchester County.
If you tip and are overweight, the “handlers” will ignore the charge. No tip, overweight charging will be enforced.
2. Exactly the same happened with United at Orlando Airport. I simply do not understand the reason for having to tip for kerb side check in
3. Sheraton Hotel NJ. 22.5% tip added to a room service bill where the order was not taken over the phone and I had to go downstairs to make the order. A bottle of champagne was also charged with a 22.5% tip for room delivery which was simply delivered to the room without any “would you like me to open and serve”. In addition there was that “anything else Sir with an open hand”.
I tried to ask both Jet Blue (as a side issue, offer an excellent internal bus service, screaming and disruptive kids aside) and United about whether they were aware of teh pressure to tip, but neither would comment.
I simply refuse to pay 22.5% tip, forced or otherwise and i simply cross it out and pay 15% max. In the event of a tip being expected for just a delivery service and drop off, I am no longer prepared to pay a tip, instead suggesting that the hotel pay proper wages and demand to see the duty manager.
I have no issue in tipping, but I have a major issue now with the service industry expecting tips when providing no service.
Can someone please explain why one needs to tip kerb side check in?
The other interesting one is breakfast vouchers for breakfast. If the hotel are providing a voucher for breakfast, why do I need to tip. I will add a 10- 15% top with the comment for this to be paid for by the hotel as part of the benefit of breakfast.
Lastly, not sure if I have mentioned this one – but is it bizarre. The Westin, Tampa, have a happy hour in the exec lounge. It is all self service and the drinks are billed to your room. You take your beer from the fridge, write your room number down on a sheet of paper, so you can be billed, then there is a space for a tip. I called the duty manager and asked for an explanation of the “Tip”, when there was no service provided. Answer was, its discretionary.
I know NYJoe44 responded earlier in the year, but I would be interested to hear how travellers are coping with these experiences.11 Aug 2011
I sometime do the same for tipping in the US, If it seen unreasonable I refuse and I tell (without fear) to my American counterpart that they live a corrupted society! I may offend some but actually quite a few well travelled Americans can see my point!
Just follow your heart!11 Aug 2011
I’m in full agreement here with MartynSinclair, for some regions tipping is expected for the most minor of things. In New York recently I had a hotel doorman do no more than open the door as I walked in and he put his hand out as I passed.
My biggest grievence however is the practice of adding a place to add a tip after a ‘service charge’ has already been added to a food bill. Last week I took a party of five business contacts to a London restaurant, we had a good meal with wine and the bill was considerable, I then noticed that the bill included the following:
Group booking charge £ 5.00
Service charge 20%
Premier seating fee £15.00 (we sat outside)
There at the end was a space for me to enter a tip. I assume they had thought because this was a business meal I would be unlikely to question these little extras however these were all my sales people I was taking out so question it I did.
I was given the usual excuses:
“Industry standard practice” no it’s not, next.
“It’s on our website” Never looked at your website, next
“Company rules” who made the rules ? Next
“We’ve already drawn up the bill on the computer” Cancel it and make another one. Next
“We have extra costs in big groups” Such as ? Next
In the end the manager backed down and all the spurious charges were removed. We shall of course not be returning so they have lost all future business as well. Do restaurants think people are stupid I wonder ?11 Aug 2011
When is a tip blackmail? I travelled back from Delhi, where even entering the building was a nightmare. As you enter the terminal you need to have your luggage x-rayed and marked before check in. The machine loader takes my case and holds out his hand. What do you want I ask, a tip he says. Why should I, you have a job to do so do it, I can put the bag on the belt myself if necessary. It then became obvious if I didn’t give this guy some money my bag was going nowhere.
So you eventually and reluctantly give in, I don’t care what culture or part of the world you are in, or what the value is, a rip off is still a rip off.11 Aug 2011
I agree with Charles P about restaurants adding a service charge automatically and then expecting a tip on top. That drives me mad. Maybe we should name and shame some of them.11 Aug 2011
It’s not just America (sadly), but it does seem to be so much more prevalent over there.
I remember taking a very short taxi ride in New York – the fare came to just over $4 but the driver didn’t stop the meter when he drew up to the kerb. I handed over a $5 note which, I thought, represented a pretty substantial percentage tip on the underlying fare, but as I got out of the cab (and after handing over the money) the meter ticked over to… $5. Cue shouting and ranting from the cab driver, who pointed out rather forcefully that tips were expected – but before I could point out that I had actually given him one, he yelled that he hoped I never came back to New York again (he didn’t put it quite that politely), and roared off in a cloud of rubber smoke. Charming.
I take 10-15% as my guideline for restaurant tipping in most places. but am aware that in the U.S. the expectation is for a lot more. Heaven knows why, the service is usually no better than elsewhere and is all too often given with complete insincerity (and by the way, I don’t need the introductory speech wishing me a nice day and being told the person’s name and that s/he will be my server for the evening – funnily enough, I don’t care what your name is, and I can work out that you are my server by the fact that you turned up with the menus, I’m not a complete moron). Like some others, I generally refuse to give a tip on top of a service charge unless the service has been really outstanding (in which case I would leave cash, not add it to a credit card payment)
Back to the original question though – I can’t pretend to know all the ins and outs, but I did check the question of tips for bellboys with an American colleague once, and she suggested $2 per bag which sounds reasonable to me and is a good guideline to remember.
Incidentally, while I agree philosophically with Martyn Sinclair that tipping a kerbside check-in agent is an anachronism, I have very much appreciated it on a couple of occasions when I was indeed overweight on bags and got away with it! Well worth $10 if you ask me. If only we could do the same at check-in desks inside the building!!11 Aug 2011