Makeover Monday: To Insure Proper Service

Makeover Monday topics cover a wide field and are generally not related to exercise or weight loss. I believe that many of us can benefit from focusing on the non-physical “big picture,” whether that’s related to emotional health, financial stability, intellectual curiosity, or even personal care. One area I don’t focus on nearly enough is the topic of making ourselves feel better by making others feel better about themselves or their contributions to the planet. Today’s post is my small attempt to remedy that.

I went to dinner with a large group recently and saw something that made my jaw drop. We were a group of 22 people with 22 checks (every restaurant’s dream group) and we had amazing service. Seriously amazing. It was a locally-owned, casual-type place, and when we received our checks, several of us commented that the restaurant had NOT included the normal “large party” automatic gratuity. We made sure that everyone else noticed that too.

Imagine my surprise when one of the women left a $1 tip on a $15-20 check. Apparently one of her table neighbors mentioned that the check didn’t have the gratuity included, and the $1 lady responded, “Oh, I know. I never tip more than $1. I’d never be able to eat out if I tipped more than that.”

My response (silent, of course, since I was a guest of the group) was that she shouldn’t eat meals out then. My physical response (and that of a couple of people seated near me) was to add a little extra to our tips to compensate.

Tips aren’t a requirement for any profession, but quite a few jobs have pay structures that factor in tips as part of income. This can result in an hourly pay rate well below minimum wage in some job. For example, according to, wait staff depend on tips for up to two-thirds of their incomes, and bartenders aren’t far behind at 60% tip-dependent incomes. The pizza delivery guy is counting on 40% of his income from tips. Your hairstylist earns 26% of her income in tips. And we can rest assured that none of these incomes are likely to land these folks anywhere near a Forbes Top-Whatever List.

With all that in mind, I figured it couldn’t hurt to post a listing of commonly used services and the suggested tipping guidelines for each. These are, of course, based on US customs. Check out for a comprehensive listing of US and international guidelines by country. CCRA Travel Solutions provides another good resource. And of course there’s always Emily Post.

Generally Accepted Tipping Guidelines

Dining out:

Wait staff (full service) – 15-20% pre-tax
Wait service (buffet) – 5-10% of bill. At least $1 per person.
Sommelier – 15-20% of total cost of wine
Bartender $1 per drink or 15-20% or tab
Tip jars – No obligation, but you might want to tip occasionally if you are a regular or if the person went above normal service. (I don’t generally do this, but for a few of my regular haunts, I’ll drop in my change.)
Restroom Attendant $0.50-$3, depending on service
Valet $2-$5 (in addition to any valet fee)
Coat check attendant- $1

Dining in:
Take Out – No obligation, but up to 10% if the person went above normal service
Delivery drivers – 10-15% (delivery charges usually go to the restaurant/business)

On the road:
Skycap – $2 first bag, $1 per additional bag
Doorman – $1-$2 for carrying luggage, $1-$2 for hailing cab, $1-$4 beyond the call of duty
Bellhop – $2 first bag, $1 per additional bag
Housekeeper – $2-$5 per day, left daily (I’m soooo guilty of not having small bills and rather than going downstairs and getting it, I leave the tip on the next day.)
Room Service – 15-20% of total bill
Concierge – $5 for tickets or reservations, $10 if hard to get; no need to tip for answering questions
Taxi driver – 15% plus an extra $1-$2 if helped with bags
Tour guides – $5-10 for ½ day

Vanity tipping:
Hair Dresser – 15-20%, ask to be split among those who served you
Manicurist – 15-20%
Facial, waxing, massage – 15-20%
Shoe shine- $2
Tattoo or piercing artist – 10-20 percent

A few others:
Barista – $1
Car detailer – 15 percent
Car washer – $2-3 for a car; $3-5 for an SUV or truck
Emergency locksmith – $5
Flowers – $1 to $10, depending on the size of the arrangement.
Furniture or appliance delivery person – $5-10
Pet groomer – 15 percent
Pet sitter – 15 percent
Tire changer – $4 – $5
Tow truck driver – $5

For other services, it is more customary to tip annually. An amount equal to a week’s pay for those you employ (baby sitter or regular cleaning service) is a good amount, and $15 to $25 is usually a good amount to offer those whose services you use without compensation (mail carrier, newspaper deliveries. )

Side story #1: I don’t remember where I first heard this tip on tipping, but I thought it was a good idea then and now. Given that service staff probably need their incomes just for survival, consider double-tipping between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It could add a lot to their holiday experience, not to mention a real boost for those with kids. Plus, it just feels so darned good!

Side story #2:
Many years ago while on assignment in New York, I attended a Mets game at Shea Stadium. When we showed the usher our tickets, he escorted us to our seats and wiped them down with a chamois cloth (even though they didn’t need it), before stepping to the side. I noticed he kept standing there while we got settled, but being the sometimes-clueless hillbilly that I am, I didn’t think much about it. He eventually stomped off.

A few minutes later, he went through the same routine with another group of guests and I saw the gratuity passed along. Ah, I understood then. So the next time he came by, I stopped him and gave him a couple of dollars, explaining that I didn’t realize tipping was customary for ushers. In my defense, in Memphis in those days, ushers generally looked at your ticket and pointed in the general direction of your seats. They only went to the actual seat if there was a discrepancy.

I share that not just to show my ignorant ways, but to point out that it’s always a good idea to pay attention to the happenings around us for clues and cues on tipping customs. :)

I’ve always been a pretty good tipper, but perhaps being “on my own” has made me more acutely aware that many people (and their families) are living on very little income and that in some of those cases, such as those described above, I truly can make a big difference even if it’s just a dollar here and there.

As always, I turn it over to you guys. Any tipping tips from you? Or an embarrassing tipping story to rival mine? Please share in the comments.