If you eat out at restaurants a lot, you've probably gotten bad service at some point or another. Perhaps the waiter was slow or forgetful, or perhaps the waitress had a bad attitude. Would you leave less than 15 percent for a tip? Would you skip the tip entirely?
"When you tip less than 15 percent, someone's working for below minimum wage," said Alex McDowell, a bartender at Vernon's Cafe in Niles. McDowell has been working in the food and beverage industry for more than 30 years.
The reason for this is the federal tip credit, a law that allows employers to pay tipped employees less than minimum wage. The assumption is that the employees will make up their wages in tips. However, employees' income is taxed based on this assumption, whether they receive that amount in tips or not.
Tribune Chronicle / Amber Ziegler
Money in the tip jar at the Mocha House in?Warren is split at the end of the shift.
McDowell also points out that servers tip out, or share their tips with, support staff such as busboys, food runners, wine stewards, bartenders and sometimes the host or hostess. Most servers tip out the support staff even if they're tipped less than 15 percent or stiffed altogether. That means it can actually cost the server money to wait on a table that leaves no tip.
So how do McDowell's tips stack up? He estimates that 80 percent of his customers leave the standard 15 to 20 percent tip, 10 percent of his customers leave larger tips, and the other 10 percent of customers leave little to no tip. McDowell adds that the holidays are the busiest time of the year and the best for tips. He said he makes 25 percent of his tips for the year between Thanksgiving and New Year's.
Coffee shops and other quick-service restaurants often feature tip jars, but do people still use them? The answer is yes, according to Melissa, a waitress at the Mocha House in Warren. She explained that at the end of each shift, the money in the tip jar is split based on the number of hours that each employee worked. The same goes for tips left by debit card. "The manager takes the money out of the drawer and puts it in the jar," Melissa explained.
$ Electric cart driver - $2 to $3 per person
$ Wheelchair pusher - $2 to $3 per person
$ Car service/limo drivers - 15 to 20 percent
$ Door-to-door paid shuttle - 15 percent plus $1 to $2 per bag
$ Taxi drivers - 10 to 15 percent, 20 percent if driver helps with bags
$ Valet - $1 to $2 per car during pick up
$ Barber - 15 to 20 percent for haircut; $1 to $2 shampoo, shave or manicure
$ Hairdresser - 15 to 20 percent
$ Manicurist - 15 percent
$ Salon owner - none
$ Shampoo person - $2
$ Spa service - 15 to 20 percent
$ Flower delivery - $2 to $5
$ Food delivery - 10 to 15 percent of bill
$ Garbage collectors - $15 to $25 annually
$ Large delivery - $5 to $10 per person
$ Newspaper delivery - $15 to $25 annually
$ Pizza delivery - $2 to $5 depending on distance
$ Bellhop - $1 per bag; $2 minimum if you have just one bag
$ Concierge - $3 to $5 for dinner reservations; $20 for booking tours; $25 for tickets to sold-out show; none for directions
$ Doorman - none; if service provided $1 per bag; $1 per person for hailing a cab
$ Maid - $2 to $5 per night (leave daily as housekeepers may change)
$ Pool attendant - $1 to $2 for each service
$ Room service - 15 - 20 percent
$ Valet - $1 to $2 each trip
RESTAURANTS AND BARS
$ Bartender - $1 to $2 per drink or 15 to 20 percent of tab before tax
$ Buffet servers - $1 per head
$ Coatroom attendant - $1 per coat
$ Cocktail waitresses - $1 to $2 per drink
$ Maitre d - $1 to $2 for preassigned seats
$ Parking valet - $2
$ Sommelier - 20 percent of wine bill before tax
$ Waiter and waitress - 15 to 20 percent of bill (not including wine)
$ Baby sitter - a week's pay
$ Cleaning service - a week's pay
$ Grocery loader - $1 for bringing bags to car; $1.50 to $3 for three or more bags
$ Musician - $1 to $5
$ Nanny - a week's pay
$ Takeout - $1 to $2
Outside of the food and beverage industry, though, tipping can be very different. Although tipping hairstylists is common, some salons have policies against tipping. Such is the case at Casal's in Howland, Casal's in Canfield and Encore in Poland, three area spas owned by Thom Ciarniello.
Ciarniello is well-known in the industry for his firm stance against tipping. "I don't think it's professional," he said. "We feel that our service is the best thing we can give, and we don't expect anything in return."
However, there are many reasons behind Ciarniello's philosophy. Ciarniello explained that when customers receive multiple services in one visit to the spa, it can get confusing for them to remember who did what and who should receive what tip. Ciarniello doesn't want confusion over tipping to spoil the euphoria of the spa experience.
Ciarniello's policy against tipping also resolves conflict among spa employees. He explained that tipping can cause animosity among employees who feel that tips weren't split fairly. The policy ensures equality among customers, too, by avoiding issues of favoritism. "Everybody's paying the same amount at the front desk," Ciarniello said. He adds that his employees are well-paid. "Why would we tip someone because they did a great haircut? That's why we charge our prices," he said, explaining that haircuts can cost up to $70.
Ciarniello said that despite his policy, some customers still try to tip. He's even had customers ask him how much they should tip him for his services. "That's so bizarre," Ciarniello said. However, he has advice for customers who still want to show their appreciation. "The best tip you can give us is to refer us to a friend," Ciarniello suggested.
On the other hand, tipping tends to be completely ignored when we travel, especially if it's for business, according to Mary Harris, an etiquette consultant based in Princeton, N.J. "They're not thinking about it as if they were on vacation," she said. Harris recommends that business travelers find out ahead of time who is supposed to leave the tips. "Look into who handles it and how it's handled because every company's different," Harris explained.
Hotel and other travel personnel that should be tipped include limo and shuttle drivers, bellhops and housekeepers. The amount tipped depends on how demanding the customer is and how attentive the staff are. Harris adds that although customers may see a service charge on their bill, it's not the same thing as a tip.
Because tipping practices can vary so much, Harris suggested that people be prepared ahead of time. Don't know if that masseuse you're going to this afternoon accepts tips? "Call ahead and find out," suggested Harris. It's also OK to ask the person who has given the service if he or she accepts tips, although it's better to ask a receptionist or manager. "People have never felt comfortable talking about money, especially money for themselves," she said. Harris has one more suggestion for tip preparation. Think about what services will be provided for you and plan accordingly. "You want to have cash ready. They won't always put it on a credit card," she explained.
If all this tipping etiquette is too much for you, simply remember McDowell's advice: "The best etiquette is to overtip."