How Much Do You Really Need to Tip?

"The root of the word ‘gratuity’ is gratitude, so if the service was good and I was really taken care of, I round up."

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From farmer's markets to food trucks, convenient mobile payment services like Square and PayPal Here now allow us to swipe our credit cards virtually anywhere. The downside? They’re guilting us into tipping at places we never even thought to tip before or giving more via “suggested tips” than we might otherwise—a phenomenon dubbed tip creep. In a survey by Software Advice, a restaurant point of sale system advisory firmabout 30 percent said they’d rather throw in a few extra bucks than have to select that “no tip” button.

Obviously nobody likes to feel like a cheapskate—but have we started burdening ourselves with an unreasonable expectation of generosity? We talked to etiquette experts about what everyday services require a tip, and how much we’re really supposed to be shelling out.

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Restaurant Server: 15 to 20 percent

Restaurant servers aren't covered by minimum-wage protections, so gratuity makes up a big chunk of their income. "When you walk through the door and sit down to receive table service, expect to tip 15 to 20 percent,” says Daniel Post Senning, great-grandson of famous etiquette expert Emily Post and co-host of the Awesome Etiquette podcast. “The root of the word ‘gratuity’ is gratitude, so if the service was good and I was really taken care of, I round up.”

In a newly released creditcards.com survey, four out of five Americans say they always give a restaurant tip, and the median tip is 18 percent.

If you’re just hanging out at the bar, tipping $1 to $2 per drink is standard.

Food Takeout and Delivery: 10 to 15 percent

For delivery, Senning recommends tipping 10 to 15 percent—though if the person has to walk up several flights of stairs or trek out in inclement weather, you may want to drift your tip up to the 20-percent mark.

Tipping when you pick up a takeout order, on the other hand, is entirely optional, says etiquette expert Elaine Swann: “But if you’ve had an exceptional experience and really want to tip, 10 percent is sufficient.”

Barista: Optional

My local baristas are super friendly and know me by name, so I routinely drop an extra dollar in the tip jar—but this certainly isn't required, Swann says: "When you're paying full price for a service and the person behind the counter is earning a full wage, we shouldn't feel guilty about not tipping.”

Driver: 15 to 20 percent

The normal tip for a taxi or black car driver is 15 to 20 percent. Things get fuzzy, however, when it comes to popular ride-share services. While Lyft has long given riders the in-app option to tip drivers, Uber just rolled out the feature.

Senning likes the idea of applying the same standard for cabs for Uber and Lyft drivers because the service is the same. “Even if an app isn’t pushing you in that direction, this is one of those places where I think traditional etiquette can be a guide for us as we move into new, uncharted etiquette territory.”

Health/Beauty Service Provider: 15 to 20 percent

Tipping 15 to 20 percent is customary for hair stylists, manicurists, masseuses and other health and beauty service providers. And don’t forget about any assistants (like the person who shampooed your hair) who take care of you. You can either ask that your tip be split evenly among those who served you, or separately tip assistants.

Coat Check Person: $2 to $5

Coat check attendants can reasonably expect a $2 to $5 tip when you pick up your items. "When it's elaborate and you've got a scarf, hat, gloves, umbrella and so on, I like to give a few extra bucks—up to $5," says Swann. (The same range goes when valeting your car: Experts suggest slipping the attendant up to $5 when your car’s returned.)

Movers: Anywhere from $10 to $40 per mover

According to a 2016 Today.com report, the complexity of the move—how much stuff you have, whether you’re on the first floor or fifth in a building without an elevator and how far you're moving—dictates what you should pay.

Senning says the bare minimum is $10 per mover, but the number should increase—up to around $40 per person—as the job warrants. And if someone goes out of their way to set something up for you or takes particularly good care of some precious items, it’s kind to show your appreciation with an even fatter tip.

Hotel Housekeeping: $2 to $3 per night

When checking out of a hotel, Swann suggests tipping the housekeeping staff $2 to $3 for each night you stayed. "It's not necessarily frowned upon if you don't, but it's nice to do, especially if you've had a lengthy stay," she says.

Caretakers: An Annual Tip Equal to a Regular Cost of Service

When it concerns dog walkers, pet sitters, babysitters and the like, shelling out an annual tip (usually around the holidays) is common practice.

“These people are taking care of the things that matter most to us; is there any better person to show your appreciation for?” asks Senning. “Whether you pay someone weekly or monthly, the annual tip is typically equivalent to the cost of a regular service.” Translation: If you usually pay your dog walker $50 a month, a $50 holiday tip ought to do it.

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