The Ultimate Tipping Guide to 34 Different Situations So You Know What You Owe

tipping listFor some of us, tipping at a restaurant or salon or on a vacation is an activity fraught with so much drama and pain and annoyance and hand wringing. In some cases, it's SO stressful, you might not even want to go out at all.

Very often we are worried about giving too little. Or too much. Or being embarrassed.

The other day I was with a woman who tipped the cab driver, and afterwards he chased us down the street complaining about the amount. That was fun. As a consumer, the expectation of a tip often drives me crazy. Why should a person who does shoddy work get a tip?

Answer: Just because. You always tip. "Even if you are dissatisfied with your service, it's truly bad manners to withhold a tip," says Lisa Gaché, a nationally recognized etiquette expert in lifestyle,
entertainment, and family matters who runs  Beverly Hills Manners, an etiquette school.

"As intimidating as it may seem, it's better to make mention of your dissatisfaction and at least give your service provider the opportunity to rectify the situation." We consulted two experts, both Gaché and Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, for a DEFINITIVE tipping list to make it clear exactly how much to tip the following 34 professions. See below for Gottsman's answers:

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Hotel Tipping:

  1. Doorman -- $1.00 to $2.00.
  2. Bellman -- $2.00 per bag.
  3. Concierge -- $5.00 to $10.00 on general service, and $20.00 and up for a hard to get restaurant reservation or tickets to a theatre performance.
  4. Spa treatment -- Hotels generally include gratuity in the bill (18 percent) so check first. 
  5. Housekeeping -- $5.00 per day, leave on the pillow to alleviate confusion; put in an envelope and label "Housekeeping," but don’t leave on desk, they won’t take it.
  6. Room service -- 20 percent of total bill.
  7. Maintenance -- Nothing to fix a leak, etc.
  8. Special requests such as extra pillows or towels -- $2.00.


  1. Food server -- Poor service 10 percent, average service 15 percent, and excellent service 20 percent.
  2. Buffet -- If the server refills your glass and asks if you need anything, 10 percent.
  3. To-go orders -- Use your discretion, up to 10 percent.
  4. Bartender -- $1.00 per drink.
  5. Maître d’ -- $10.00 for a special request such as a table by the window.
  6. Sommelier -- 10 to 20 percent of the wine bill before tax, depending on how much assistance was involved.
  7. Bus boys -- Nothing, they will be included in the nights tipping pool.
  8. Coat check -- $1.00 per coat.
  9. Valet -- $3.00 to $5.00, sometimes more if you are requesting special service like having your car at the curb at a certain time, or keeping it up front until you return. You would tip when you leave the car off, and then again when you pick your car up, another $3.00 to $5.00. If there is a valet fee, you still tip at least $3.00.
  10. Strolling musician -- $3.00 for special request.

****When using a coupon, tip 15 to 20 percent of the meal on what the meal would have cost if you would have paid full price, not the discounted price of two for one.

Beauty and Massage:

  1. Hairstylist -- 15 to 20 percent of total bill.
  2. Manicurist --15 percent of total bill.
  3. Shampoo attendant -- $3.00 to $5.00, more for extra time and services such as a neck massage or if they work on you on a regular basis and you have developed a relationship. Some attendants do more than the stylist -- they color, condition, and dry your hair, so you would pay them more.
  4. Massage therapist -- 15 to 20 percent of total bill.
  5. Car wash attendant -- $5.00 and upwards, depending on the service you requested. He or she is usually splitting it with other attendants.


  1. Coffee shop counter attendant -- "If the tip jar is there, you are not obligated to tip; however, if they remember your name and have your drink order written up and started before you walk up to the counter, a tip would be a nice gesture," says Gottsman. Throw in your extra change or be extra generous and leave a dollar.
  2. Barista -- "If you feel like you want to offer something extra, by all means tip, but check the tipping policy of the coffee shop to make sure they can accept," Gottsman says.
  3. Babysitter -- If they are your weekend babysitter, you can pay them their hourly rate. If they do something you feel is over the call of duty, you can always give them more, depending on what you deem fair -- there is no standard.
  4. Pizza delivery and other food delivery guys -- $3.00 to $4.00, more if they are driving in the snow or have multiple orders of pizza or food. "This is not part of the delivery charge which they do not get," Gottman says. "They work for tips and have to maintain their car to work as a delivery person."
  5. When you pick up a "to-go" meal and there is a tip jar -- Not mandatory and up to the customer's discretion.
  6. Car wash attendant -- 15 to 20 percent of service.

Spa/Hotel Pros and Attendants:

  1. Instructors and "pros" -- In general, instructors are "pros" and aren't tipped. While most would be insulted to take a tip, there are always those few that would enjoy getting handed a $50.00 bill after a surf lesson! Depends on the sport and the personality of the instructor, but generally speaking, most golf and tennis instructors I have spoken with would be insulted.
  2. Caddies -- The general rule of thumb is 50 percent of the caddie fee. For exceptional service, you can add more to the gratuity.
  3. Resort fees -- Gratuities are often included for resort service fees (i.e., 19.75%) for gratuities for the service staff, shuttle drivers, restaurant staff/parking attendants, bellman, at the resort, but extra discretionary tipping may be added for above and beyond service.
  4. Babysitter -- You tip the price of the service, plus a tip because they are probably splitting the cost of the service with the company they work for. Check the hotel policy first.
  5. Pool attendant -- For an extra towel or special service, by all means, tip at your discretion. If they bring you multiple towels, sunscreen, and a drink, $5.00. For only a towel, $1.00. Again, check with the hotel before you tip in the event they aren't allowed to accept gratuity, but most are.

When in doubt, ask! Even an etiquette expert encourages that, says Gaché.

"If you have absolutely no clue what to tip, consult the salon or spa receptionist and they should be able to steer you in the right direction," Gaché says. "The bottom line is tipping is private, but the more generous the tip, the more the salon or spa will be inclined to squeeze you in on a busy day or offer you a free product just for the heck of it."

Do you find tipping stressful? Will this help you?


Image via juliejordanscott/Flickr



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sunmo... sunmoonandstar

I don't do most of the things listed but I do have some serious tipping anxiety so this is helpful, thank you!

Today I went out to eat and sat at the table waiting 20 mins before the server came over, he was obviously very busy and I don't mind waiting if I have the time but I didn't today so I apologized and told him I had to go. I felt really awful and I wasted his time and space at the table so I wondered if I should have left him something, even 50 cents for the water and needing to clear the table. What would be best to do so I know if I ever find myself in this situation again?

kebrowni kebrowni

I find it stressful after reading this list! Holy crap. I'm a pretty generous tipper, but some of those I never even considered.

rhps2000 rhps2000

Hubby and I took a shuttle bus from airport to hotel with the biggest, smelliest, most dishevelled, scary driver. Passengers were laughing and carrying on when he hit a huge pothole or something hard. My head jerked back and others were dismayed as well. The driver just scowled at his rearview mirror. That had to have been deliberate. We gave him a small tip anyway because frankly, he looked like he wanted to murder somebody. Scary individual! :S

nonmember avatar Amber B

Now a days for server bad service is 15% and good service is 20% excellent is 25% or more. There are also a couple others I disagree with. Tipping percentages have gone up. For a restaurant please don't EVER stuff the server most of the time the situations are out of their control and they're just the messenger. It's horrible to not tip in restaurants.

tbruc... tbrucemom

Why should a server get 10% for bad service? Assuming it's legitimately bad because of their neglect and not the fault of others (the cook, busy and understaffed, etc.)

nikki... nikkivolkov

To go food is prepared for you. People take your order bag it check it, deliver it to your car and run your credit card all while you sit in your vehicle. You should most definately tip them. This is especially true if you are picking up a large order. Why wouldn't you tip someone who prepped your food and included all the extra utensils sauces etc. And had it ready on a timeline of your arrival. This is not discretionary. Often times they are paid the same wage as your typical server 2.13 per hour.

Blues... Blueshark77

I've never had to go food where I didn't have to go in and get it, never had it delivered to my car. The tip jar that cracks me up is the one at the self service yogurt place. The one where half of the yogurt machines are empty, the other half have blinking lights warning that they are almost empty, the add-ins are scattered around and mixed up together. Sorry, why do you get a tip? I do tip well at sit-down restaurants.

cleo015 cleo015

I'm getting sick of tipping. I don't carry cash, like most people I know, so a dollar to a doorman isn't going to happen. I tip well at restaurants, but I tip less for poor service. You ignore me, forget my requests, mess up my order, I tip you less. It makes NO sense to me to reward poor performance. I refuse to do it. Call me terrible, but that's how it is.

nonmember avatar Momof2

The way I look at it is with expecting of wait staff, tips should be optional, not required or expected. I do tip for good service. I always tip my stylist, even though in my town it's not really expected. I've been to restaurants where the food and service we're so good we tipped 20-25% for the server and another one for the chef. I've also been to places where the staff has been so rude where they got nothing. If I tip someone it's because they earned it. I do not and should not have to tip for bad service. Those who do only encourage it.

WCURi... WCURiverRat

Only 10% for buffet? Often times, servers working at a buffet end up working twice as hard. It may not look like it when they're waiting on you, but a lot of times the set up and take down of a buffet can take several hours of work, before and after. From my experience, places like Ryan's, the extra work isn't the case because the buffet is set up and maintained by other employees. But at other places that do a special brunch or buffet certain days of the week, when other times being open would be normal dinner service, it takes a lot of extra time to set that up and take care of it. Servers would normally get there an hour or so before opening, with those special buffets and brunches, a lot of times the servers have to get there an extra two hours or more early and end up staying and extra couple hours at night just getting everything cleaned up and ready for regular business. Think about that next time you go to a buffet.

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