With a rising number of tech-savvy tipping tools and calculators in recent years, there’s growing complexity and confusion associated with tipping. Who should you tip and how much? For those seeking a simple solution, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
“There is no true norm for tipping,” says Paul Bagdan, a hospitality professor at the College of Hospitality Management at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. “You can ask 100 people and get 100 different answers.”
If you’re wondering about tipping etiquette and best practices, including when to tip and tipping guidelines for a range of services, use this comprehensive gratuity guide.
Who You Have to Tip
Who to tip and how much depends on the service provider. Here are some expert rules of thumb:
How much to tip restaurant servers: 15% to 20%, pretax, according to the Emily Post Institute.
Brian Warrener, an associate professor specializing in service management theory at the College of Hospitality Management at Johnson & Wales University, says the standard tip has grown from 10% as far back as the 1920s to 15% in the 1980s, to 20% today.
“Twenty percent is indeed standard in the United States,” agrees Nick Leighton, co-host of the weekly etiquette podcast “Were You Raised By Wolves?”
How much to tip bartenders: $1 to $2 per drink, according to the Emily Post Institute.
“Leave a few dollars per drink,” Warrener says, adding: “If you’re running a tab, your tip should be calculated like your food bill: 20%.”
How much to tip baristas: Zero to $1, according to the Emily Post Institute.
Tips for coffee aren’t really necessary, Warrener says, “but leave your change up to a dollar for your favorite barista.”
How much to tip for food delivery service: 10% to 15%, according to the Emily Post Institute.
“A safe rule of thumb is 20%,” says April Masini, a relationship and etiquette expert in Miami who writes an advice column at AskApril.com. “When in doubt, tip 20% of the amount of the product or service your tipping recipient delivered to you,” she advises.
Leighton says it’s also important to consider what the person went through to deliver your food. “If you live on the top floor of a six-story walk-up building or if the weather is particularly hot, cold or wet, your tip should be even more generous,” he says.
How much to tip movers: If it’s a small move, tip 5% to 10% of the cost; if it’s a large move, tip 15% to 20% of the total bill, according to Move.org. The movers will split the tip.
Consider that depending on the distance of your move and the volume of your possessions, hiring a moving company can cost from hundreds of dollars into the thousands.
If you find the tipping percentages too daunting or steep, Move.org suggests tipping $20 per person for half-day moves, $40 per person for full-day moves, and $50 to $60 per person for 12 hours or more.
If the move takes less than half a day, it’s a judgment call that should land under $20 per person.
How much to tip hotel valet staff: $2 to $5, according to the Emily Post Institute.
The institute suggests tipping your hotel’s valet parking attendant once your car is returned to you.
How much to tip a hotel concierge: $5 or $10, according to the Emily Post Institute.
You don’t need to tip for having questions answered, according to the institute, but if you ask a concierge to get tickets or restaurant reservations, $5 to $10 is a good tip; tip $15 for hard-to-get tickets or even 10% to 20% of the ticket price.
How much to tip massage therapists: 15% to 20%, according to the Emily Post Institute.
For massage therapists, tips often supplement an hourly income, so what they are paid is often a fraction of the actual cost of the service. So tip when in doubt, but keep in mind that some massage therapists will ask you not to tip. Read more about why in our full guide on how much to tip massage therapists.
How much to tip hotel housekeeping: $2 to $5 per day, according to the Emily Post Institute.
The institute suggests leaving that money with a simple note that says: “Housekeeping — thank you.”
And Leighton advises leaving a tip every day, rather than a big one at the end of your stay. “The person cleaning your room each day might be different,” he points out.
How much to tip hairdressers or nail technicians: 10% to 20%, according to Bonnie Tsai, founder and director of Beyond Etiquette, a Los Angeles-based consulting agency specializing in full-service etiquette and communication training for companies and individuals.
Tsai says a 10% to 20% tip is standard. Generally, if you’re happy with the service, aim for 20%. Here is our full guide on how much to tip hairdressers.
How much to tip a valet: a few dollars, according to Tsai.
There are misconceptions over parking attendant tipping etiquette, but Tsai says a few bucks is acceptable. Here is our full guide on how much to tip valets.
How much to tip a Lyft driver or Uber driver: The Emily Post Institute suggests tipping 15% to 20% of the fare for taxi services. Tack on an extra $2 if the driver lifts luggage for you, with $1 per additional bag.
Many experts suggest tipping drivers 10% if the service is somewhat mediocre. If you’re pleased with the service, aim for 15% to 20%.
Who You Don’t Have to Tip
There are many service professionals who you aren’t expected to tip. The rule of thumb is that if they are salaried or paid well, you likely aren’t expected to provide additional gratuity. Learn more about when it is appropriate to forgo tipping.
Accountants, Financial Advisors and Lawyers
You are likely already paying them handsomely through fees or commissions, and the aim of their services is to save you money.
Doctors and Nurses
Let your health insurance pay them, and you can worry about paying your health insurance.
You’re already paying the mechanic or garage, and much of the money you pay goes toward labor.
You don’t have to tip plumbers for the same reasons you don’t have to tip mechanics — you’re already paying your plumber a sum for their labor and expertise.
Teachers and Little League Coaches
You may feel that teachers deserve to be paid more, but don’t give them money, Masini advises. “When you tip someone like your child’s teacher, there can be an inference that you’re paying your child’s teacher to give your child good grades,” she says.
The only exception, she says, is when every parent is chipping in $10 or $20, “and the gift is from the entire class, not just you.” It’s the same scenario with coaches. “It may appear as if you’re paying to get your child a good position on the team,” Masini says.
Tipping Etiquette and Considerations
Remember: Not every country has a culture of tipping. “Keep in mind that tipping etiquette can change when you travel abroad,” Tsai says. “Be sure to do your research.” For instance, there are some countries in Europe and Asia where consumers don’t tip. Read our full guide on how to tip abroad.
Being generous can pay off — with even better service next time. This is especially true at businesses you frequent. “If you’re concerned that someone in your party is under-tipping, make up the difference,” Warrener advises. “Being known as a good tipper has its advantages, especially if you plan to return to that establishment.”
If the service is bad, you can skip tipping. Warrener says to be careful about this determination, especially when it comes to restaurants. “Before you penalize your server with a small tip or no tip at all, determine the cause of your dissatisfaction with your meal. It might not be your server’s fault,” he says.
In fact, Tsai recommends leaving some money behind. “Even if the service was bad, still leave a 10% tip and let management know why,” she says.
In general, while there may be more service areas that people tip for than in the past, tipping hasn’t changed all that much over the years, Leighton says.
“There’s always the temptation to try to come up with new etiquette rules for new situations or technologies,” he says. “But at its core, being kind and considerate is timeless, no matter how many pandemics we endure or how digitized our lives become.”
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Update 05/31/22: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.