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Tipping 101

March 30, 2012 | Alliant Credit Union

To tip or not to tip - and if so, how much? Ah, that's the question that confronts us every time we deal with people in service industries who depend, in part, on tips for their livelihood.

A tip is that extra payment made to a service sector worker (such as a waiter, taxi driver or hair stylist) above and beyond the agreed-upon, advertised price of the transaction. A tip is not legally required and the amount of a tip is up to you. But, tipping is a social custom. And if you don't leave an adequate tip appropriate to the service provided, you commit a social "faux pas" and risk causing somebody to resent you.

In some countries, such as Japan and Australia, tipping is not the norm. In fact, Japanese will be offended if you offer them a tip. In other countries, such as Paraguay and Iceland, a tip is automatically included in your bill from the get-go. But, in the U.S., tipping is considered a cost of doing business (although it's against the law to tip U.S. government workers). Some tipping etiquette experts suggest that if you cannot afford a proper tip, then you shouldn't order the service.

What about tipping waiters? The norm is 15% - 20% of the bill - before tax (and before any discount deals, such as Groupon). And did you know that it's usually mandatory for waiters to have to "tip out" and give 3%-7% of their total receipts to the support staff, including hosts, bus boys and bartenders (regardless of how much tip money they've earned).

Now here comes a familiar dilemma: do you reward waiters with an ample tip if the service is subpar? Some people say no way! Lousy service must not be rewarded, even if the problem is not the waiter's fault. Some say to leave a measly tip as a form of protest. Others say the thing to do is tip the usual amount and, thus, spread good karma - inspiring the waiter to provide better service to customers who come after you. Again, it's up to you.

Unsure what the norm is for tipping people for various services rendered? Here's the norm, according to the tipping authorities.

Restaurant waiters

15% - 20%


10% of liquor bill

Coat check and bathroom attendants


Car washer

$2 - $3 for a car; $3 - $5 for a SUV or truck

Pet groomer and pet sitter


Hair stylist or color specialist

10% - 20%

Shampoo or other styling assistant

$2 - $5


$2 - $3

Massage therapist


Shoe shiner


Hotel bellman/porter

$1 - $2 per bag ($5 minimum)


$5 - $20 depending on service (nothing for directions)

Hotel housekeeper

$2 - $5 per night

Hotel room service

$5 minimum (unless gratuity is included in bill)

Hotel doorman (if he hails you a cab)

$2 - $5

Parking valet

At least $2 when your car is retrieved

Disc jockey for your wedding

$50 - $100

Furniture or appliance deliverer

$5 - $20

Emergency locksmith



15% of fare

Tattoo or piercing artist

10% - 20%

Takeout counter person or tip jars at fast food counters

Nothing required.  It’s your call

Sources:,,,, and

© 2012 Alliant Credit Union. All Rights Reserved.

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