Tipping may be an ancient practice, but the dilemma of who to tip, how much and when seems to be ever-changing. In fact, tipping etiquette has never been more mystifying than in today’s app-driven, rapidly changing consumer marketplace. Does your Uber driver expect a tip or not? Should you tip on that pre-made take-out sandwich just because a prompter on the credit card touch screen suggests it? What about for the person who delivers your groceries — do they really expect a gratuity on top of that “delivery surcharge?” Here’s how to handle yourself with grace when facing some of today’s trickiest tipping situations.
HOW MUCH TO TIP AT RESTAURANTS, BARS AND CAFÉS
For sit-down service: The standard rule is to leave a minimum of 15 percent of the bill, but 20 percent is preferable. There are two schools of thought about whether you should calculate the tip based on the cost of the meal before or after tax. Etiquette experts at The Emily Post Institute advise that the pre-tax amount is acceptable. But if it doesn’t squeeze your wallet too much, it’s always better to start with the more generous post-tax amount.
To quickly calculate a 20 percent tip, try the “decimal trick”: Move the decimal in the total one place to the left to calculate 10 percent, then double that amount.
For dinner with a large party: Add enough to the auto-gratuity to bring the tip up to 20 percent — or a bit more, if the group was rowdy.
For drinks at the bar: The old standard of tipping $1 per drink is still just barely acceptable, but for cocktails, $2 to $3 is recommended.
For buffet service: 10 percent.
For the wine steward: 10 to 20 percent, depending on how much time they took to assist you in choosing your wine.
For take-out service: There’s no obligation to tip, but experts at the Emily Post Institute recommend 10 percent for large or complicated orders.
For the tipping jar: No obligation, but tip occasionally if you're a regular.
HOW MUCH TO TIP FOR FOOD DELIVERY
If you’ve ordered from just around the corner, 15 percent is fine, but if the delivery person had to travel a longer distance to reach you, go for 20 percent. If the restaurant has added a delivery surcharge, you should still tip on the subtotal, as that fee is almost never passed along to the delivery person. Finally, if the weather is terrible, you may want to consider being extra generous!
For third-party delivery service: If you’ve ordered through Uber, Postmates or another app, you should still tip your driver as above, unless the delivery protocol indicates otherwise.
HOW MUCH TO TIP FOR GROCERY DELIVERY
Unless the delivery service has a no-tipping policy, a tip of $5 per delivery, regardless of delivery fees, is recommended.
HOW MUCH TO TIP WHILE TRAVELING
For taxi, Uber or Lyft drivers: 15 to 20 percent of the fare.
For airport shuttle service: $1 to $2 per person.
For curbside bag check: $2 for the first bag, and $1 to $2 for each additional bag (use your judgment); tip more for extra bulky items or an especially helpful baggage handler.
For valet parking service: $2 to $5 when your car is returned to you.
For hotel doormen: $2 to $3 if the doorman helps you with your bags. No tip is necessary otherwise.
For bellhops: $1 to $2 per bag. If you have only one or two bags, round up to $5.
For front desk clerks and concierge service: $5 to $10 if you are given special treatment (above and beyond quick directions to the nearest café). Tip more if the concierge scores you hard-to-get theater or restaurant seats.
For housekeeping service: $3 to $5 per day in a clearly marked envelope. It’s best to leave tips daily, as your providers may change.
For service in foreign countries: Every country has unique tipping customs. Before you travel, research ahead of time.
HOW MUCH TO TIP AT THE SALON OR SPA
For your hairstylist, esthetician or nail technician: 20 percent of the service fee, plus $5 for the assistant who shampoos your hair. (In small towns, a 15 percent gratuity may be closer to the norm, but 20 percent is always appreciated, if not expected). And yes, the salon owner should be tipped if they provided the service.
HOW MUCH TO TIP YOUR CONTRACTOR, ELECTRICIAN, CABLE GUY OR MOVER
Most of the time, tipping isn’t necessary. Try showing your appreciation by offering a beverage or a snack. For any technician who’s gone above and beyond the call of duty, however, $20 a person makes a very nice “thank you.”